Moroccan-style chickpea stew with couscous

Moroccan-style chickpea stew with couscousThis Moroccan-style chickpea and red lentil stew with harissa, lemon and mint couscous is something I’ve made a few times before, so I thought it was about time that I recorded the recipe in some way so that my husband can make it for me every so often.

I’m not sure how genuinely Moroccan it really is, but the combination of spices is something I’ve come across in other Moroccan recipes before, so I’ll tentatively say that it’s in the style of an authentic Moroccan chickpea stew, if I may.

It’s really easy to make, especially if you get the stew started then prepare the couscous so that it ‘cooks’ in its own steam while the stew is simmering away. Then all you have to do is prepare your cheese of choice – I used feta here but I actually usually serve the stew with halloumi – and away you go!

Moroccan-style chickpea stew with couscous

Moroccan-style chickpea and red lentil stew with harissa, lemon and mint couscous

Serves 2-3

  • 1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 0.5 pepper of your colour of choice, finely chopped (you can also throw in some fresh or frozen spinach instead of/in addition to the peppers)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 0.5 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 200g tinned chopped or plum tomatoes
  • 50-75g red lentils
  • 400g tinned chickpeas
  • juice of half a lemon
  • chopped coriander or flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • cubed feta or sliced and griddled halloumi (see tip below), to serve (optional but highly recommended!)

For the couscous:

  • 175g couscous
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • handful of fresh mint leaves
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Cook the onions and peppers until soft.
  2. Add the garlic and fresh chilli and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and spices. Simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add the red lentils, chickpeas and enough water to cover everything. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for around 20 minutes, or until the red lentils are soft, stirring occasionally and adding more water if required.
  5. While the stew is cooking, prepare the couscous by placing it in a heatproof bowl and adding the harissa, lemon zest, mint and seasoning. You can also add a little olive oil if you like. Add enough boiling water to just about cover the couscous, then cover the bowl with a plate and leave to one side.
  6. Add the lemon juice, coriander or parsley and seasoning to the stew, and stir well. Take the stew off the heat.
  7. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and serve alongside the stew and the cheese of your choice.

Tip: to cook halloumi to perfection, simply cut it up into thick slices, heat a frying pan until very hot, then add the halloumi and fry it for 1-2 mins, or until brown underneath. Flip each slice over and cook for another 1-2 minutes until brown on the other side. That’s it! Don’t cook it in oil – this seems to take away the slightly crisp texture.

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Shakshuka (Middle Eastern baked eggs)

Shakshuka (Middle Eastern baked eggs)
I distinctly remember hoping for a normal month in November in my last post. HA! I’ve been laid low with a particularly nasty cold for the last few days, which has also coincided with the depressing news from America on Tuesday. I also haven’t done any baking yet, so I thought I’d share my recipe for Middle Eastern baked eggs, shakshuka, instead.

If you’re on Instagram, you’ve probably seen hundreds of photos of shakshuka breakfasts/brunches so far. It is a pretty photogenic dish, to be fair! However, it’s also really tasty thanks to the spicing, and is very easy to make.

The only slight downside is that it takes a little longer to make than your average scrambled eggs on toast, but it’s so worth it!

My recipe makes a rather spicy shakshuka, so feel free to dial down the chilli if you like. Also, despite the title of this post, I don’t bake the dish – I just use the hob and grill. But you can cook shakshuka pretty much any way you please (see my suggestions below).

I’ve also listed some ways you can tweak this recipe to make Indian and Mexican versions of shakshuka.

Shakshuka (Middle Eastern baked eggs) recipe

Shakshuka
Serves 2, easily halved or doubled

  • 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 0.5 onion, finely chopped
  • 0.5 pepper of any colour, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 small green chilli, finely chopped
  • 0.5 tsp chilli flakes
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 0.5 tsp paprika (or smoked paprika if you like)
  • 1-2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 4-5 eggs
  • 50-100g feta, crumbled, to serve (or plain yogurt works well, too)
  • toasted pittas or other bread of your choice, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Cook the onion and pepper until softened.
  3. Add the garlic, green chilli and chilli flakes, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, seasoning, cumin, paprika and most of the parsley, saving some for the garnish. Simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened (the sauce will cook further after adding the eggs, so don’t let it get too thick!).
  5. Make indentations in the sauce for the eggs. Crack them into each little pocket, trying to keep the yolks whole!
  6. Cook for 5-10 minutes, uncovered, until the whites start to firm from beneath. Finish off under the grill for a couple of minutes to ensure the whites are set on top, while trying not to overcook the yolks. Alternatively, you can cover the pan after adding the eggs, but they cook quicker this way, so keep checking on them! If you have an oven-proof pan, you can also cover and bake the dish in the oven.
  7. Serve the shakshuka with your bread of choice and top with the feta or yogurt and the remaining parsley. A nice finishing touch is to sprinkle a little more ground cumin on the eggs, if you like.

Variation: Indian baked eggs

Add a teaspoon of grated ginger with the garlic and green chilli in step 3, and add turmeric with the ground spices in step 4 (you could also add 200g of cooked chickpeas here). Swap the parsley for fresh chopped coriander and serve with yogurt rather than feta.

You could stir some cucumber, coriander, ground cumin, red chilli powder and salt into the yogurt to make a quick raita. You could also swap the pittas for mini naans.

Variation: Mexican baked eggs

You could add 200g of cooked black beans or red kidney beans with the tomatoes in step 4. Add a teaspoon of cocoa powder or a couple of squares of dark chocolate and half a teaspoon of ground coriander at this stage too.

Swap the parsley for coriander and the feta for soured cream (and/or guacamole if you like). Garnish with sliced jalapenos. You could swap the pittas for tortillas or just some plain crusty bread.

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Prawn and pepper curry

Prawn and pepper curryI’m back after a bit of a break to blog about this prawn and pepper curry – I haven’t baked much worth blogging about recently, but after making this curry for the 500th time or so, I thought it was probably about time that I posted the recipe.

It’s a simple recipe that makes good use of aromatic spices – as well as plenty of chilli! It’s a variation of something my mum makes. She uses fresh prawns with the shells still on (thanks to living very close to an excellent fish market) and doesn’t add peppers, which changes the flavour somewhat, but I think my take is fairly close.

This is best served with fresh chapatis, but if you’re feeling lazy (like I obviously was judging by the photo above!), rice or ready-made naan is perfectly fine. I find one portion of this is enough for a light meal, but you might want to supplement the prawns with Bombay potatoes or another side dish to make it more substantial. And yes, I’ll post my Bombay potatoes recipe next time I get a chance to take some photos!

Prawn and pepper curry recipe

Serves 2 as a light main

  • 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (available from Asian grocers)
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 dried red chilli (optional, but great for extra spice)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 0.5 medium pepper, chopped (red, orange or yellow is best)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 thin green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 0.5 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 200g tinned chopped or plum tomatoes (if using plum tomatoes, break them up with your fingers before using)
  • 200g raw peeled king prawns (if using frozen prawns, defrost them first)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a low to medium heat.
  2. Add the fenugreek seeds, cloves, peppercorns and dried red chilli (if using) to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and pepper and cook until soft.
  4. Add the garlic, green chilli, ginger, red chilli powder and turmeric. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes.
  6. Add the prawns, stir and put the lid on the pan. Cook over a low heat until the prawns are pink and cooked through – the timing will depend on how big the prawns are, but around 8 minutes.
  7. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, coriander, garam masala and salt. Serve with chapatis, naan or rice, with a side dish if you like. And beware of whole spices as you eat! You can attempt to remove the cloves and peppercorns before you serve up, if you like.

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curryHappy new year! It’s been a while since my last post, which isn’t just because I spent the Christmas break sitting around playing video games and stuffing my face with mince pies (I totally did, though). I haven’t really baked anything new in a while, so I thought I’d make my first post of 2016 all about this delicious and super healthy sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry I made tonight – perfect for those well-intentioned new year’s resolutions.

This is another variation on my staple curry recipe, with some small tweaks to tip the spicing towards a heady note. I made a similar curry for my other half a while ago, and he was obsessed with the clove flavour coming through from the garam masala (which I make myself). My current garam masala blend isn’t quite so clove-y, so I’ve added some ground cloves to this recipe, along with extra ground cumin.

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
The great thing about this recipe is how flexible it is – you can swap out the sweet potato and/or carrot for butternut squash or standard potatoes (top tip: red potatoes work best in curries, as they seem to soak up the flavours better than the white variety), leave out the spinach if you don’t have any to hand, throw in some split yellow lentils or even chickpeas instead of the red lentils… Just adapt it to whatever you have in the kitchen!

Did I mention that this curry is super healthy? Yes? Well, I’ll say it again – this is so good for you. I’m pretty sure you get your five a day with this recipe, and the vegetables are packed with all sorts of lovely vitamins. If you stick to my measures, the curry itself clocks in at around 400 calories, with yogurt and whatever carbs you fancy (chapatis or naan are ideal, but rice works fine as well) adding a bit extra on top. I had a mini naan from Tesco with mine (I couldn’t quite face making chapatis after my first day back at work!), which only added 127 calories to the total.

Do give this a go if you want something comforting during the winter months, but without the fat. I promise that it’ll cheer you up! In the meantime, I’ll think about something interesting to bake for the next post… all suggestions are welcome!

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry recipe

Serves 2, easily doubled

Approx. 400 calories per serving, not including rice/bread

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 thin green chilli, finely chopped
  • a 1-inch cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 0.25 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 80g red lentils
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 1-2 larger tomatoes, chopped
  • 160g frozen spinach (or approx. 100g of fresh spinach)
  • 0.5 tsp ground cloves (or 4-5 whole cloves)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • yogurt and rice/chapattis/naan, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. If using whole cloves, add those too.
  2. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the chopped onion and fry gently for a couple of minutes, being careful to not let the seeds burn.
  3. Add the green chilli, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and turmeric and cook – still very gently – for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  4. Stir in the sweet potatoes, carrot, red lentils and tomatoes.
  5. Pour in enough hot water to just about cover the contents of the pan and bring to the boil, before putting a lid on the pan and simmering on a low heat for 20 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, and top up with water if required (but try not to, as the spinach will release water anyway).
  6. Add the spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Take the pan off the hob and stir in the ground cloves, ground cumin, garam masala and coriander. Season with salt to taste.
  8. Remove the whole cloves if you used them (but don’t worry if you can’t find them – just warn any guests!). Serve with a dollop of yogurt and naan, chapattis or rice as desired.

Chilli paneer

Chilli paneer
Ok, so this is clearly not a baking effort, but I made this chilli paneer for the first time last week and was rather chuffed with how it turned out, and a friend asked me to post the recipe, so here it is!

If you’re not familiar with paneer, it’s one of the few cheeses that originate in India and is similar to halloumi in firmness and texture, but with a milder taste. I believe chilli paneer is actually based on Chinese cooking, which is quite an intriguing fusion! It’s a hugely popular dish where the paneer is cubed and cooked with tomatoes, peppers, copious amounts of chilli and the not-so-secret ingredient of tomato ketchup.

I’m a big fan of my mum’s chilli paneer, but as she doesn’t do recipes, I had to make it up as I went along. I found a recipe online that I used a couple of ideas from, but the rest is based on my own instincts as a now-experienced maker of Gujarati curries. It turned out pretty much the same as my mum’s chilli paneer, which I’m very pleased about! Be warned, though – my recipe is very spicy!

There’s not a lot of sauce with this curry, so it’s best eaten with naan bread or chapatis (see my recipe for chapatis and chickpea curry, which you could also serve as part of an Indian feast) rather than rice. Paneer is now widely available in supermarkets (I get mine from Tesco) and also from Indian grocers/cash and carries, so you should hopefully be able to find it pretty easily – or you can make your own.

Enjoy!

Chilli paneer recipe

Vegetarian
Serves 2; easily doubled

  • 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 200g paneer, cubed
  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 thin green chillies, finely chopped (use less if you don’t want it very spicy – 1 chilli will still be quite hot)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pepper, chopped (I like to use a mixture of colours)
  • 2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • splash of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 0.5 tsp ground cumin
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • naan or chapatis (recipe), to serve

Method:

  1. Toss the paneer in the cornflour and half a teaspoon of the red chilli powder.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Cook the coated paneer over a medium heat until brown, stirring occasionally. This should take 5-10 minutes. Set the cooked paneer aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil. Add the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds and cook over a low to medium heat until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the onion and peppers and cook until softened.
  4. Add the chillies, garlic, ginger, remaining half a teaspoon of red chilli powder and turmeric. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the cooked paneer and stir. Cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato ketchup, soy sauce, garam masala and ground cumin, then mix in the coriander and take off the heat. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Chapattis, or how I finally defeated my nemesis

Chickpea curry and chapattis

Up until fairly recently, I had a love-hate relationship with chapattis (or chapatis). I absolutely LOVE eating them, especially when they’re freshly made by my mum, but I used to hate trying to make them myself.

For one, I could never get the dough right because my mum is rubbish at giving proper weights and measures for anything food-related (“Add one spoonful of oil.” “But how big is the spoon?” *shrug*). Secondly, I was TERRIBLE at making them come out completely round. You might think it’s a bit stereotypical, but the scenario with the daughter of Indian immigrants struggling to obtain her mum’s approval due to an ever so slightly wonky chapatti – or something resembling a map of India, in my case – is very much real, folks.

So, what changed? Well, it seems all I had to do was move out of my mum’s house, put together a recipe that made actual sense, and practice, practice, practice.

Chapatti dough

Chapatti dough

First, the dreaded dough. Neither I nor my mum think you can get away with just chapatti flour (or atta, as it’s also called) and water, although this is fairly traditional thinking. The secret to the perfect chapatti is almost certainly the little bit of fat that you add to the dough – a bit of sunflower oil and some sunflower spread rubbed in.

(My mum’s top tip for buying chapatti flour, by the way, is to look for anything with ‘Gold’ in the name, e.g. East End Gold Chapati Atta, to ensure a quality atta. Seriously. I LOVE MY MUM.)

The other key to getting the dough right is to not in any circumstances add too much water. Always, always go slowly when adding it, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy dough and the vicious circle that is adding flour to counteract the sogginess, then adding water because it’s too dry again, etc etc.

Chickpea curry

Chickpea curry

Once you’ve given the dough a good knead, cover the bowl and leave it to rest while you prepare the curry to eat with your chapattis (assuming you’re going to make a quick vegetarian curry as I usually do, rather than spend hours on a luscious lamb curry). I made my favourite, chickpea curry, when I took these pictures and you can find the recipe for that below along with the chapatti recipe.

Then it’s time to roll out and cook the chapattis while the curry is simmering. The trick is to use plenty of flour in the rolling out process so that the chapatti turns by itself while you’re rolling it out, and to keep adding more flour as soon as it starts to stick. This is something my mum neglected to explain to me, hence my complete inability to turn out anything vaguely round when I was a teenager. It also helps to have a chapatti rolling pin that’s tapered at each end, although it’s not essential.

Chapatti tava

Chapatti tava

Now for the cooking. Again, it helps to have a special chapatti pan called a tava or tawa, but you can get away with a frying pan just fine. Luckily, my mum gave me loads of kitchen equipment when I bought my house, but you can buy Asian equipment at pretty much any large Indian grocer or cash and carry.

First, lay the rolled-out dough on the hot tava…

Chapattis

…then wait until it’s nicely puffed up…

Chapattis

…before flipping it over. The underside should have brown patches, like so:

Chapattis 4

Then all you do is leave to cook for a bit longer before transferring it to a plate:

Chapattis

And that’s it! Smear some butter on the warm chapatis and you’re good to go as soon as you’ve put the finishing touches to your curry.

It seems so simple now but believe me when I say the above pictures are the result of years of struggling to get it right. Luckily, now I’ve found out how to do it you can skip straight to the nice, round chapattis with your curry without the pain!

As it just so happens to be bread week on the Great British Bake Off, I’m submitting this to the Great Blogger Bake Off organised by Laura at I Love Crafty. I expect to be fully upstaged by both the other participating bloggers and the contestants’ amazing bakes on the show tonight!

The recipe – chapattis

Makes 4 (to serve 2 people) – easily doubled

  • 125g chapatti flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 60-70ml warm water
  • 1 tsp sunflower spread (I use Vitalite)
  • butter, to serve

Method:

  1. Stir the salt into the flour, then add the oil and 60ml of the water.
  2. Mix everything together until you get a fairly soft dough. Add more water if needed, but do this a few drops at a time.
  3. Rub the sunflower spread into the dough and knead for a couple of minutes until soft and smooth. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes, ideally while you make the curry.
  4. Put the tava or frying pan over a medium-high heat to get very hot.
  5. Split the dough into four equal pieces and roll each one into a ball. Gently flatten each one between your hands to create fat ‘discs’.
  6. Liberally sprinkle the surface with flour and roll the first disc out into a circle, always making sure there’s enough flour to keep it turning by itself under the rolling pin. Make sure the rolled-out dough is evenly thin – you’re looking for a thickness of around 2mm maximum.
  7. Cook the dough circle by placing it on the hot tava, making sure there are no bumps or wrinkles. Leave to cook for 1-2 minutes (roll out another chapatti while you’re at it!) until the top puffs up quite considerably and the underside has brown patches, then flip it over and cook for another minute.
  8. Transfer the chapatti to a plate, place the next dough circle on the tava to cook, and roll out another circle while it’s cooking. Repeat until all the chapattis are done. Spread a little butter over the top of each chapatti and serve with a piping hot curry.

The recipe – chickpea curry

Chickpea curry and chapattis

Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 1-2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped (note: I like my curries very hot so you might be better off with half a chilli if you don’t!)
  • a 1-inch cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 0.25 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • half a tin of chopped or peeled plum tomatoes (if using the latter, squish them with your fingers to break them up a bit)
  • 0.5 tsp solid jaggery goor (unrefined cane sugar) or 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 400g tinned chickpeas (or red kidney beans or butter beans, or even parboiled chopped potatoes and some frozen peas)
  • a splash of lemon juice
  • 0.5 tsp garam masala
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
  2. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the chopped onion and fry gently for a couple of minutes, being careful to not let the seeds burn.
  3. Add the bird’s eye chilli, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and turmeric and cook – still very gently – for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  4. Add the tomatoes and jaggery or brown sugar, and simmer for another couple of minutes before adding the chickpeas and covering the pan. Keep on a low simmer while you roll out and cook the chapattis (about 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the lemon juice and garam masala, stir and then turn off the heat.
  6. Stir in the coriander, season with salt as you see fit, and serve with your nice, round chapattis.