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

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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!!

Beyrouths – Lebanese steet food

I love Middle Eastern food, I love the flavours, the smells, and the simplicity of it all. So when Beyrouths opened in Balham a few months back I couldn’t wait to try it out and it has quickly become a favourite place for tasty food. Its tiding me over until I can get myself out to Lebanon and eat my way around the country!

Beyrouths is on Balham high road and easy to find. Its going for a simple yet rustic decor, with scaffolding poles being used on the stairs and pages from colonial newspapers plastering the walls. The staff are lovely and friendly and more than happy to leave you to your meal and chat with friends, you are never rushed. An added bonus of the restaurant is it’s a bring your own, and with Sainsburys across the road its hard not to take a bottle of wine in with you!

The food, as they say themselves draws inspiration from the Mediterranean with Lebanese food at its core. They are all about fresh food and keeping the gunk out! The menu is a good size, plenty of meze dishes and a handful of larger Kofta and Stew dishes if you are looking for something bigger. The moutabal baba ghanouj is smoky and spiced, the filled pastries delicate and the flat breads warm and perfect for picking up the fresh houmous. Whenever I go, and usually with my sister, we go for a mix of the meze dishes so that we can try as much as possible. The portion sizes are pretty big so there is loads of food on offer – I am sure that what we order should be for about 3 people but we always manage to finish… oops!

Some of the dishes on offer at Beyrouths, halloumi, lebanese beans, spinach stuffed pastries! yum!

Some of the dishes on offer at Beyrouths, halloumi, lebanese beans, spinach stuffed pastries! yum!

Giant Falafel

Giant Falafel

I have managed to work my way through a fair amount of the menu and everything on it is delicious and flavourful. The food is simply served, and lets the flavours do the talking. This is a place that you could go with a group of friends order loads of plates and quite happily sit there chatting and laughing picking your way through all the different food.

My sister enjoying her Lebanese feast!

My sister enjoying her Lebanese feast!

Beyrouths is a charming little restaurant, unpretentious, good atmosphere and great food and is just what Balham needs!

Go and Enjoy!