Tomato and Za’atar Couscous

I love a simple recipe, something that can be whipped up quickly but tastes delicious like you spent hours making it. I especially love a simple but delicious dish on a sunday evening when you are faced with the prospect of returning to work in the morning, the fun of the weekend is almost over and the sun is starting to dip. For me couscous is a saving grace of many a lunch or dinner. It takes only a couple of minutes to prepare (boiling water and some seasoning) and you can add almost anything to it.

On this particularly sunny Sunday I decided to raid the somewhat bare cupboard and see what I could make from the sparse looking contents. As is always staple in my cupboards I found chickpeas, but of course chickpeas!! they bulk out many a meal so why not add them to my couscous. Throwing in a mix of herbs and a good helping of Za’atar I had myself  a fresh couscous salad that was going to make a lush dinner and of course enough for lunch in the week ( a good lunch is salvation to being locked in an office when the sun is out).

This is a super quick salad, and can be adapted to include a range of other things depending on what you have in the fridge and cupboard. You can serve it warm or cold if making it in advance or taking it for lunch the next day.

Tomato and Za'atar Couscous Salad

Ingredients

100g couscous ( dried)

Boiling Water

1 chicken or vegetable stock cube

1 tin of chickpeas (400g)

2-3 sundried tomatoes

handful of mini plum or cherry tomatoes ( if using big ones 1/2 should be fine)

2 teaspoons of Za’atar

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 lemon ( juice)

olive oil to drizzle

1. Put the couscous in a large bowl, sprinkle the stock cube over the couscous and cover with boiling water ( twice as much water as couscous). Mix with a fork and then cover for 5 minutes ( or as the packet instructions).

2. In a smaller bowl put the drained chickpeas and then sprinkle over the za’atar and herbs, lemon juice and drizzle with the olive oil. Give it a good mix. Put to one side.

3. Chop the sundried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes into small pieces and mix into the chickpeas. Taste at this point and add more za’atar if necessary.

4. Once the couscous is cooked, give it a stir with a fork to break it up ( it should be nice and fluffy), then mix in the chickpeas. Taste and season if necessary.

There you have it a fresh and delicious salad that took no time at all.

Tomato and Za'atar Couscous salad

Serve it with some fried halloumi and roasted vegetables. It will also go well with a green salad. A fabulous summer salad full of flavour that takes as long to cook as a microwave meal!

Enjoy xx

Its all gone a bit Mexican – Black Bean Quasadilla

With the sun shining and the temperature rising, the summer really did arrive in London this weekend. So why not bring some of that sunshine into the kitchen! The weather always ends up inspiring me, and the sun it really inspired me to make dishes full of colour and full of summer flavour, and for some reason I turned to Mexico for inspiration!

Now I have never been to Mexico but its very much on my list. With holidays for 2015 already in the pipe line Mexico will have to wait in line but I will go and when I do it will be an amazing foodie experience. I love the flavours and the spice that comes out of Mexican food, plus they love to put cheese on things so how could you possibly complain. The food is so simple yet full of flavour and the ingredients so versitile, its fun food to make!

So with the sun out, it of course meant picnic on the common, and once you are full of food it of course means a nap. As I dozed in the sun I pondered new recipes, food to try ( yes thats right all I do is think about food!) and new sources of inspiration, and of course something Mexican inspired popped into my head. Returning home I raided the cupboard and there they were black beans, a lovely little tin ready to cook with. With a fridge full of cheese, a quasadilla was the only way forward!

Of course I cannot just have a quasadilla on its own, and will some lovely ripe avacados sitting in the fruit bowl fresh from the farmers market they just screamed GUACAMOLE!!!

Guacamole is so quick and easy to make that it feel wrong to buy it in the shop. Here is my super quick recipe. Once you start making your own guacamole you will never go back!

Guacamole recipe

1 1/2 ripe Avocados, skinned and chopped

2 spring onions roughly chopped

3-4 small cherry tomatoes chopped in half

a few springs of coriander

1/3 chilli ( add more if you want some heat)

Squeeze of lime

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz – pop in a bowl and serve!

such simple ingredients

such simple ingredients

...... and just whizz

…… and just whizz

And Serve!! delicious

And Serve!! delicious

 

Now you need something to go with that amazing guacamole you just made so here is a recipe for a super easy and tasty quesadilla, and the best thing is you can vary up the ingredients, add in some beef or chicken, or keep it veggie and fill it with peppers.

Quasadilla Ingredients ( for 2-3 servings)

Spray oil

1 red onion thinly sliced

1 garlic clove crushed

1/2 tsp chili flakes ( add more if you want the heat)

1 400g tin of black beans

5/6 tbsp. pasata

2 teaspoons of Schwartz Fajita spice mix

2-3 small tortilla wraps

cheese…. as much as you like.

1. Spray a frying pan with a few squirts of oil and add the onions and garlic. Let the onions cook on a low heat until soft and add in the chili flakes. Then add the black beans fajita spice and pasata, stir all together and turn the heat down to low.

such dull looking ingredients but they make such an exciting dish

such dull looking ingredients but they make such an exciting dish

into the frying pan

into the frying pan

 

2. While the beans are heating through get another frying pan out and spray with a little bit of oil, put on a low heat and add a wrap. Gentle heat for about 20 seconds on each side, then on one side spoon some of bean mix onto the wrap and top with cheese. Then fold the wrap over and turn the heat up a little bit and cook on each side for a couple of minutes so each side browns and the cheese melts. If you are doing more than one then keep them warm in the oven, otherwise serve with a salad and home made Guacamole!

fill half the tortilla wrap and top with lots of cheese

fill half the tortilla wrap and top with lots of cheese

brown each side lightly until the cheese melts

brown each side lightly until the cheese melts

Serve with yummy home made guacamole

Serve with yummy home made guacamole

Enjoy! xx

Slow Cooked Chickpeas on Toast

I got the Ottolenghi Jerusalem recipe book for my birthday this year and love it! I am constantly flicking through it looking for new things to cook but also to learn more about Jerusalem ( I am desperate to go to Israel!) Now it’s not just the recipe book that is great, I regularly make the Ottolenghi recipes from the Guardian website, or stop by one of his cafe/ restaurants…. oh and I follow him on Twitter…. ok, I am now starting to think that I may be stalking Yotam Ottolenghi… ooops!

So one recipe that I found recently on the Guardian website by the delightful Mr Ottolenghi is slow cooked chickpeas. Now there is a warning that comes with this recipe – they take 5 hours to make… yes that is right 5 hours! But they are totally worth it. They are an alternative to baked beans and have a nice little spicy kick to them. Pick a Sunday afternoon, put them onto cook and go about your chores!

Ingredients – serves 4

220g chickpeas

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves crushed

1 1/2 tsp tomato puree

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

2 small red peppers chopped

1 beef tomato roughly chopped

1/2 tsp sugar

To Serve

4 slices sour dough brushed with oil and grilled

4 poached eggs

1 tsp  Steenbergs za’atar

1. Put the oil, onion, garlic, tomato puree, cayenne pepper, paprika and peppers in a food processor, season and blitz to a paste.

The ingredients

The ingredients

Blitz to a paste

Blitz to a paste

2. Put the paste in a pan and fry for five minutes, then add the tomato, sugar, chickpeas and 200ml of water. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook on a very low heat for four hours, stirring from time to time and adding water as necessary.

fry the paste in a large pan

fry the paste in a large pan

simmer for 5 hours.... yep 5 hours!

simmer for 5 hours…. yep 5 hours!

3. Remove the lid and cook for the final hour uncovered. The sauce needs to thicken without the chickpeas becoming dry.

4. To serve, grill the sourdough bread and poach the eggs. Place the chickpeas on top of the  bread and top with the poached eggs and sprinkle with za’atar! The chickpeas keep well in the fridge for a few days so you can make this ahead of time and serve when needed.

serve on toast with a poached egg... yum!

serve on toast with a poached egg… yum!

Enjoy!!

Mushroom and Pancetta Risotto

I have never made a risotto before….. I know, I know, how has this happened… I don’t know! I think risotto for me has always been a bit scary, if you do not get it right then you can end up with crunchy rice or a claggy mess. Also, risotto takes time, and finding the time to make it with the care and attention it deserves is a rare thing, but find the time I did!

For my first ever risotto I decided a recipe was needed and I need to stick to it ( I have a tendency to use a recipe as a starting point but then head off on my own). So staying Italian and traditional I am finding inspiration from two Italian cooking gods Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo and this recipe is based on the Risotto with mixed mushrooms recipe in The Greedy Italians Eat Italy book. ( I of course went off piste and changed it up a little bit!)

Mushroom and Pancetta Risotto

300g Portobello mushrooms ( sliced)

1 small onion ( chopped)

100g chopped pancetta

300g risotto rice

1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock

50g parmesan

salt and pepper to season

olive oil or olive oil spray

knob of butter

The ingredients ready to go

The ingredients ready to go

Clean the mushrooms and slice.

chopped mushrooms

chopped mushrooms

Fry the onion in some oil or spray oil, after a couple of minutes add the pancetta and fry until the pancetta is cooked.  When the onions and pancetta begin to colour add the mushrooms to the pan and continue to fry over a medium heat for a couple of minutes.

fry the onions and pancetta

fry the onions and pancetta

Add the rice to the pan and stir for a minute until all the grains are coated in the fat. Start to add the stock ( preferably hot) ladle by ladle. Wait until each ladle full is absorbed before adding the next one. This is where patience is key!

the patience game, adding the stock

the patience game, adding the stock

When the rice is al dente, remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in the parmesan and the butter.

add the parmesan

add the parmesan

stir in the parmesan to the risotto and serve!

stir in the parmesan to the risotto and serve!

Serve hot!

Enjoy!

Lebanese Spiced Couscous

How is it the end of August already?! This year is flying by at an uncontrollable rate and summer is almost over – sad times! All over the radio this morning people were declaring summer over as its now September, the schools are back in session and new fabulous scarves are filling the shelves in clothes shops( I know it’s not cold enough but I have seen the most adorable knitted snood I need to get my hands on!). As a last hurrah to summer my friend hosted the last BBQ of the season. We gathered in her back garden, buckets filled with ice and beer and lounged like lizards taking in the sun.

As usual the men folk gathered around the BBQ debating whether it was hot enough, if more coals were needed, and when was an appropriate time to start putting the meat on…. it looked quite intense, like they were debating serious world matters. What is it about men and this primeval need to take control when cooking outdoors on coals! We women on the other hand lounged listening to the tunes of summer with cider in hand. This… this is how Saturday’s were made to be spent, in the sunshine with good food and good company.

 

The ultimate man tool - the BBQ

The ultimate man tool – the BBQ

 

 

 

Summer drinking - Limencello!

Summer drinking – Limencello!

Of course, traditionally a BBQ is meat heavy, but it is not complete without some yummy salads to go on the side of that meat filled plate. As someone who likes to feed people and never goes to a party empty-handed, I whipped up a super easy and tasty Lebanese inspired couscous salad. This was just yet another excuse for me to use my new and exciting Steenberg spice mixes.

Ingredients

( This was feeding a group of about 12 people)

250g couscous

2 courgettes

1 pepper

1 red onion

150g cherry tomatoes

2-3 teaspoons of Steenbergs Lebanese 7 Spice.

To start with, I chopped up my vegetables and roasted them off in the oven for about 20-25mins ( oven temp. 180 degrees). I used Courgettes, onions, peppers and tomatoes but it’s completely up to you what roast veg you want in it.

Get those Veggies roasted

Get those Veggies roasted

 

Then once the veg is roasted you can start to prepare the couscous. Put the 250g of couscous into a large bowl and cover with 300ml of boiling water, stir with a fork and cover the bowl with cling film. Give it 5 minutes to absorb all the water, remove the film and fluff the couscous up. At this point I give it a quick drizzle of oil, and stir in the first teaspoon of Lebanese spice.

Couscous and spice

Couscous and spice

Mix in the roast vegetables

Mix in the roast vegetables

 

Then pop the roast vegetables in and stir through. Pop another teaspoon of the Lebanese spice in and give it another good stir so everything is coated and the vegetables distributed evenly. You can add another teaspoon of spice in you think necessary but its down to taste!

Lebanese spiced couscous

Lebanese spiced couscous

And there you have it, a quick and yummy summer salad that goes tremendously well with a BBQ! Fingers crossed this Indian summer we have been promised comes good!

Enjoy

Courgette and Sweetcorn Fritters

Quick and easy cooking that is what we like! These courgette and sweetcorn fritters are super quick and yummy and a great solution for dinners or lunches. They are a perfect store cupboard staple. The best way to serve these fritters is with a simple avacado and tomato salad.

Ingredients

100g Plain Flour

1 tsp baking powder

150ml milk

1 egg

150g grated courgette

2 spring onions finely chopped

60g sweetcorn

salt and pepper

Whisk the flour, baking powder, egg and milk together into a batter. Then add the grated courgette, sweetcorn and onions and mix it all in. Season well.

The Batter
The Batter
The Ingredients
The Ingredients
Adding the courgette and sweetcorn to the batter mix
Adding the courgette and sweetcorn to the batter mix

In a heated frying pan ( I used spray oil to grease the pan) spoon a tablesoon of the mixture into the pan ( you can usually get 3-4 fritters in the pan depending on the size). Let the fritters cook on each side for 1.5 – 2 mins, they should be fluffy and golden brown on each side. Pop them on a plate and put them in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the batch.

Put the batter into the frying pan!
Put the batter into the frying pan!
fry in the pan until golden brown
fry in the pan until golden brown

Serve them with this fresh avacado and tomato salad.

Ingredients

1 avacado chopped.

1/2 spring onion

1 half a tomato finely chopped.

salt and pepper

Mix the chopped avacado, spring onion and tomato together in a bowl and season well. Using a form smash some of the avacado so you get a mix of smooth and chunky avacado.

Avacardo!
Avacardo!
chopped tomato
chopped tomato
Mix the ingredients together for Avacado salad
Mix the ingredients together for Avacado salad

Serve the fritters with the avacado salad and top with some roast tomatos or salsa!

Courgette and Sweetcorn fritters with avacado salad and roast cherry tomatoes!
Courgette and Sweetcorn fritters with avacado salad and roast cherry tomatoes!
 
Enjoy!

Stuffed Mushrooms with Halloumi and Roast Tomatoes

This time of the year I can find it hard to motivate myself to cook as all I really want to be doing is drinking Pimms in the sun or sitting in the park with a good book. With the sun out and looking like its here to stay ( well at least for this week) I need to get myself kitchen motivate and the easiest way I find is quick easy meals that I can make without really thinking.

One of my all time favourite summer ingredients ( who am I kidding, it’s an all year round fridge staple for me!)  is Halloumi.  It’s an ingredient that makes you think of BBQ’s and summer holidays in the Mediterranean. It’s such a versatile little cheese and goes with nearly everything. Halloumi is best served warm, grilled or fried and because it takes barely any time at all to cook its a brilliant quick summer food.

Most recently I decided to top stuffed mushrooms with the almighty halloumi.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Halloumi and Roast Tomatoes

serves 2

2 large Portobello mushrooms

100g cherry tomatoes

100g Halloumi

olive oil

salt and pepper to season

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees ( fan oven) and halve the cherry tomatoes. Place the mushrooms on a roasting tray and season. Scatter the tomatoes around the mushrooms again, season and drizzle with oil.

Mushroom and tomatoes ready for the oven

Put the mushrooms and tomatoes in the oven. While cooking, slice your Halloumi. After 15-20 minutes the tomatoes should be oozing, the skin starting to wrinkle and crisp. If the mushrooms are soft in the middle ( and will be releasing a bit of water) take the tray out of the oven. Scoop the tomatoes up and place them in the middle of the two mushrooms and then top with the Halloumi. Place them back in the oven for another 5-8 minutes until the cheese starts to brown around the edges.

adding the Halloumi

Once ready serve with a nice salad, and that is quick and easy summer meal!

Mushroom with salad

Lasagna Grilled Cheese

Today I made the delicious Lasagna Grilled Cheese that Joy the Baker recently posted and it was yummy!!!! I added spinach to mine for a touch of green 🙂
http://joythebaker.com/2013/07/lasagna-grilled-cheese/

Grilled Cheese ingredientslayering!Into the panlasagna Grilled cheeseI recommend you all get to work and make this delicious sandwich!!!