Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yellow split pea and frankfurter soup

1 onion
1 carrot
1 clove of garlic
1 stick of celery
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp ground mace
500g yellow split peas
1.25-1.5 litres chicken or veg stock
2 bay leaves
approx. 8 frankfurters

Peel the onion, carrot and garlic. Roughly cut up the onion, carrot and celery, and put them, with the garlic into a food processor and blitz till finely chopped.
Heat the oil in a heavy based wide saucepan on medium heat, add the chopped vegetables and cook for 5-10 min, until soft but not colored

Add the ground mace – this may be a small amount but it’s crucial to the taste – give it a good stir and then add the split peas, and stir again until the are glossily mixed with the oil slicked, cooked down vegetables. Pour over 1.25 liters of stock and add the bay leaves, then bring to the boil. Cover, turn down the heat and cook for about an hour until everything is tender and sludgy, adding more stock as needed. Taste for seasoning once everything is ready. Slice up the frankfurters and throw them into the soup to warm.

This soup was from the Nigella Lawson book Feast.

I bought a pack of hot dogs the other day on a whim, but never got around to making them. We were going to just have them for lunch over the weekend but then I remembered seeing this recipe, and wanting to try it.

There was some confusion about the split peas. The pack I bought said that they had to be soaked overnight. I thought I remembered that split peas don’t really need to be soaked, and the recipe didn’t say anything about it, so I figured I’d just give it a go with the dried un-soaked peas. It worked perfectly. So well in fact that I plan to keep a bag of split peas around for any day when I just don’t know what to make.

This soup is incredibly simple and could easily be made without the hot dogs, which means that it could be made totally vegetarian, and out of staples and store cupboard ingredients. That alone makes it great find. On top of that, it’s also really tasty and comforting and filling.

This one is an all around winner.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Spicy Chorizo and avocado salad

4tbsp olive oil
1 small Ciabatta, torn into small bite sized pieces
2 x 80g packs of sliced chorizo
250g baby plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch sugar
1 large ripe avocado, halved, stoned and sliced
150g bag of baby leaf and herb salad

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the ciabatta for 8-10 minutes, tossing occasionally until starting to crisp and brown, then tip into a large salad bowl.
Lay the chorizo in the pan and dry for 2 min until it gives out a red oil. Toss in the tomatoes and cook over a high heat for 1-2 minutes, until they start to soften. Drizzle over the vinegar, add the sugar and season.
Gently toss the avocado, salad and remaining olive oil with the croutons. Spoon over the chorizo and tomatoes and drizzle with any pan juices. Serve immediately.

This salad was so good! It’s not a dieter’s salad at all, but it makes a great summertime dinner. I got it from 101 Seasonal Salads.

I used a lot more balsamic vinegar then the recipe called for, partly because I like it, and partly because I slipped when I was pouring it in. I would actually recommend going a bit heavy on it, it means more dressing.
This was just gorgeous The hot chorizo and tomato contrasted well with the cool creamy avocado, and the croutons were the perfect finishing touch.

My husband has already requested a repeat performance of this dish, and I am only too happy to oblige.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Harira (lamb, chickpea and spinach soup)

200g dried chickpeas
1tsp bicarb of soda
3tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1cm dice
200g lamb neck fillet, cut into 1cm dice
2tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp caster sugar
1kg tinned chopped tomatoes
1.2 litres chicken stock or water
juice of 1 lemon
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground ginger
a pinch of saffron strands
100g baby spinach
4tbsp roughly chopped coriander
4-6 lemon wedges
salt and black pepper

Start preparing the soup the night before by putting the dried chickpeas in a large bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and covering them with plenty of cold water – it should cover the chickpeas by at least twice their height. Leave at room temperature to soak overnight.
The next day, drain the soaked chickpeas, place in a large saucepan and cover with plenty of fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-1 ½ hours, until the chickpeas are tender. Drain through a colander and leave to one side.

Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and fry until soft and translucent. Increase the heat, add the diced lamb and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the lamb is sealed on all sides and has taken on a bit of colour. Add the tomato puree and sugar and mix well. Cook for 2 min, then add the chopped tomatoes, drained chickpeas, stock or water, and some salt and pepper.
Bring the soup to the boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Use a large spoon to skim off any scum that forms on the surface, then cook for about 35 min, until the meat is tender.
Squeeze the lemon juice into the soup. Season the soup with the ground cumin, ginger, and saffron. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
When ready to serve, bring the soup back to the boil. Wash and drain the spinach leaves, and chop them roughly. Add the spinach and coriander to the soup just before you bring it to the table.
Serve with a wedge of lemon.

One last one from Ottolenghi The Cookbook. This book is so great.

This is a lovely soup. It’s got that fresh clean taste that lemon and coriander always bring, but it is also quite hearty because of the chick peas and the lamb.

I liked that it didn’t use too much lamb. Enough that everyone had some, but not so much that it was overpowering.

The most amazing thing about this soup, was that the boys ate all of it. They loved it, even the spinach. They even asked for more.

I’d make this one again.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Couscous with dried apricots and butternut squash

1 large onion thinly sliced
6tbsp olive oil
50g dried apricots
1 small butternut squash (about 450g), peeled, seeded, and cut into 2cm dice
250g couscous
400ml chicken, or vegetable stock
a pinch of saffron strands
3tbsp roughly chopped tarragon
3tbsp roughly chopped mint
3tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
grated zest of ½ lemon
coarse sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180c. Place the onion in a large frying with 2 tbsp of the oil and a pinch of salt. Saute over a high heat, stirring frequently for about 10 min, until golden brown. Set aside.
Meanwhile, pour enough hot water from the tap over the apricots just to cover them. Soak for 5 min, then drain and cut into 5mm dice.
Mix the diced squash with 1tbsp of the olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Spread the squash out on a baking tray, place in the oven and bake for about 25 min, until lightly coloured and quite soft.
While waiting for the butternut squash, cook the couscous. Bring the stock to the boil with the saffron. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl, and pour the boiling stock over it, plus the remaining olive oil. Cover with cling film and leave for about 10 min; all the liquid should have been absorbed.
Use a fork to whisk, or fluff up the couscous, then add the onion, butternut squash, apricots, herbs, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Mix well with your hands trying not to mash the butternut squash. Taste and salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warmish or cold.

This is another from Ottolenghi The Cookbook.

I’m always looking for a new way to serve couscous. It’s easy and fast and the boys love it. This recipe was a really good one. The squash and apricots are always a nice combination, but it was the fresh herbs that really put it over the top. They make the dish taste really summer-y and light.

Cooking the squash takes a little time, but you could always do that part in advance, the rest of it is a breeze. I would make this again.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Car Cakes

So it was my youngest son’s third birthday party today. They grow up so fast!

He requested a cake in the shape of a car, so I figured I’d give it a go. In the end I decided I’d better make two, just to make sure we had enough. I could have just made a bigger one, but then I couldn’t have used my all time most favorite cake recipe ever.

This is a cool trick. It’s an old fashioned way of making a Victoria sponge. Instead of using set measurements, weigh your four eggs, in their shells. Make a note of how much they weigh, and then weigh out that same amount of flour, butter, and sugar. Equal parts of each.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully blended in before adding the next. Then add a tsp of vanilla, and blend in. Add the flour and a pinch of salt, and fold it in. If the batter is too thick, add some milk to loosen it up.

Pour into two 20cm tins and bake at 180c for 25-30 min.
Test with a toothpick to see if it’s done.

I especially like using this recipe because the cake is even better after sitting in the fridge overnight, so you have a little extra time to work with. You can bake them, cool them, wrap them and put them in the fridge the day before you need them. Then on the day of, just cut them up and stick the bits together with frosting till you get the right shape.

These came out pretty cute, and the birthday boy loved them, which is the most important thing.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


300g green lentils
200g basmati rice
40g unsalted butter
50g vermicelli noodles, broken into 4cm pieces
400ml chicken stock or water
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
4tbsp olive oil
2 white onions, halved and thinly sliced

For the sauce
4tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 hot red chilies, seeded and finely diced
8 ripe tomatoes, chopped (tinned are fine)
370ml water
4tbsp cider vinegar
3tsp salt
2tsp ground cumin
20g coriander leaves, chopped

Start with the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and chillies and fry for 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, vinegar, salt and cumin. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 min, until slightly thickened. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the coriander and then taste. See if you want to add any salt, pepper or extra coriander. Keep hot, or leave to cool; both ways will work with the hot kosheri. Just remember to adjust the seasoning again when cold.

To make the kosheri, place the lentils in a large sieve and wash them under a cold running tap. Transfer to a large saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 min. The lentils should be tender, but far from mushy. Drain in a colander and leave to one side.
In a lagre bowl, cover the rice with cold water, wash and then drain well. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the raw vermicelli, stir and continue frying and stirring until the vermicelli turns golden brown. Add the drained rice and mix well until it is coated in the butter. Now add the stock or water, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper Bring to the boil, cover and then reduce the heat to a minimum and simmer for 12 min. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a clean tea towel and put the lid back on. Leave like that for about 5 min; this helps to make the rice light and fluffy.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and sauté over a medium heat for about 20 min, until dark brown. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain.

To serve, lightly break up the rice with a fork, and then add the lentils, and most of the onions, reserving a few for garnish. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Pile the rice high on a serving platter and top with the remaining onions. Serve hot, with the tomato sauce.


Sorry I’ve been gone so long. I’ve still been cooking like mad, just took a quick break from the blogging. Since my year of a new recipe every day ended, I haven’t been making a point of making something new every day anymore, but I’d say I’m still averaging 4 or 5 new recipes a week. It’s just been so much fun, and I’ve been learning so much, there’s no way I can stop now.

This dish is an Egyptian dish from the book, Ottolenghi The Cookbook. This is a beautiful book, and the recipes are wonderful. It’s not a vegetarian book, by any stretch, but it has a stunning array of vegetable dishes.

This one sounds like It would be odd, but it’s total comfort food. Very healthy, very tasty.

I used brown rice and pasta instead of white, so I had to add a little more liquid during the cooking, and I also had to let it simmer for about twice as long, but it still came out beautifully.

The sauce was a little too spicy for the boys, but they just ate it without, and they cleaned their plates, they loved it.

It’s not quick and easy. There are many parts that have to be made separately, and then combined at the end, but it’s not that bad. I will make this again.