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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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.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I’ve had a craving for something extremely chocolatey for the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d give in and bake some brownies for the first time in a while. My boyfriend had been talking about cooking something Mexican at some point, which prompted me to look for a dessert to match – and that’s when I found the recipe for these Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies.

I’ve seen a few recipes for chilli brownies before, but this one seemed unique thanks to the addition of cinnamon, which goes really well with chocolate.

As mentioned, I did want to make something *really* chocolatey, so I adapted the recipe to include more than just cocoa powder. As well as the cocoa, I threw in some chopped dark chocolate (just standard supermarket chocolate) and a little bit of the Aztec hot chocolate I got in the most recent William Curley subscription box.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies - the chocolate I used
In the original recipe, the chilli kick comes from a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I read some comments that suggested this doesn’t make the brownies spicy enough. So I thought I was well within my rights to add the Aztec hot chocolate (which has a hint of chilli) and also up the amount of cayenne pepper to half a teaspoon.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownie mix
I only thought to taste the mix after I’d transferred it to the tin, and at first I thought it still wasn’t spicy enough – so I liberally sprinkled some more cayenne pepper on top.

After I put the tin in the oven, though, I realised that I could detect a distinct burn from the bit of mix I’d tasted – which probably meant that I’d made the brownies too spicy by adding more cayenne, as I have a higher than average tolerance for chilli (I regularly complain to my mum – the curry queen – that her food isn’t hot enough!).

Oops…

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I found that I had to leave the brownies in the oven for longer than the recipe said, which is pretty standard for me when making brownies! I took them out when they still looked a bit wobbly in the middle, but I probably should have left them in for a bit longer, as the brownies in the middle were definitely a lot gooier than the ones around the edges. They were still gobbled up, though!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Gooey or not, the brownies were absolutely delicious – and not too spicy at all, in the end! The chilli kick was pretty faint for me, but everyone who tasted them also said it was just a background flavour and not too much, so that was a relief.

I’m glad I added the extra chocolate because it really did add an extra dimension, especially the chopped dark chocolate, which created little pockets of gooey loveliness throughout the brownies. The cinnamon definitely lifted these brownies above your bog standard chocolate brownies.

I would definitely make these again – but perhaps add even more cayenne next time…!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 18

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g to 100g chilli hot chocolate (I used William Curley Aztec hot chocolate)
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you’d like it spicier!)
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C. Line a 9 in x 13 in baking tin with a piece of baking parchment/greaseproof paper big enough to hang over the sides.
  2. Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan without letting it come to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, hot chocolate, flour, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and baking powder to the saucepan. Stir gently until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and tip it from side to side to get the mix into all the corners. Bake for at least 20-25 minutes – if the mix still looks wobbly and liquid, leave the tin in the oven and check at 5 or 10-minute intervals until the brownies are cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with fudgy mix on it.
  6. Cool the brownies in the tin, cut them into 18 pieces and remove them by lifting the paper out of the tin.

First bake: feta and courgette muffins

Feta and courgette muffinsOne of my favourite savoury bakes EVER is Dan Lepard’s courgette and mozzarella muffins, which are absolutely delicious and ridiculously easy to make. I had a hankering the other day to make something savoury while experimenting a little, so I decided to draw inspiration from both Mr Lepard and my penchant for Greek flavours.

I used this recipe as a jumping-off point, and added a few more ingredients – sundried tomatoes, red onion, parsley and paprika. I nearly added some black olives but decided not to in case it ws overkill, but I think I’ll add them next time, just because I do love a good olive!

Feta and courgette muffin mix

Feta and courgette muffin mix

The result was a lovely batch of soft, flavoursome muffins with a hint of spice. This being me, I would definitely add more paprika and maybe a generous amount of dried chilli flakes a la Dan Lepard, too, as I like a bit of a stronger kick. Otherwise, I would say my little experiment was a big success!

Feta and courgette muffins

The recipe

This is pretty much what I did, but with a few additions to ramp it up a bit!

Makes 12 muffins

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 115 ml olive oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 175g grated courgette (about 1 large courgette)
  • 115g crumbled feta cheese (I used Greek-style salad cheese)
  • 2-3 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • half a red onion, finely chopped
  • 7-8 pitted black olives, sliced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 175°C/gas mark 4 and place paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, paprika and chilli flakes in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Beat the eggs and oil in another bowl until smooth.
  4. Stir the courgettes, feta, onion, sundried tomatoes, olives and parsley into the oil mix.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix and stir until just combined.
  6. Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before eating.

First bake: ginger and chilli biscuits

Ginger and chilli biscuits

Ginger and chilli are two excellent flavours that go together extremely well – in curries, that is. So I was rather intrigued when I came across this recipe for ginger and chilli biscuits on the Caked Crusader blog a while ago – done right, I thought, these are surely the perfect biscuits for me!

I took the advice to make the dough in advance and chill it overnight. It was really easy to make – just cream the butter and sugar together and mix everything else in. I didn’t have any cayenne pepper, so I gingerly (ha!) threw in a little of my mum’s fiery hot red chilli powder. I did think about using paprika, but thought the flavour may be a little too subtle.

Ginger and chilli biscuit dough

Ginger and chilli biscuit dough

I followed the recipe to the letter, and got 55 (!) little biscuits out of the dough in the end. Unfortunately, as is usually the case these days, I had a mini disaster when I realised towards the end of baking the first batch that the oven dial had mysteriously turned itself down from 6 to 3 (or I was my usual absent-minded self and didn’t turn it up far enough). I whacked the heat up and left the biscuits in for a few minutes longer, and they seemed to look fine, albeit a bit more domed than I would have liked.

The second batch went in at the right temperature, but came out a little too brown, even though I took them out after the minimum 12 minutes. Doh! I was beginning to feel a bit like Goldilocks at this point, but soldiered on with the third batch (just 5 biscuits), which again came out a rather dark brown.

Ginger and chilli biscuits

I was desperate to try the finished product, and the biscuits cooled very quickly thanks to their small size. Despite all the browning, they turned out pretty perfectly – very gingery, with a hint of chilli that builds up the more you eat (and I had a lot of biscuits yesterday). They were pleasingly biscuity too, with a buttery taste and a good crunch to them.

I would definitely make these again, but perhaps either turn the oven down a touch or take the biscuits out sooner. I would also make them a little bigger to avoid the temptation of popping 5 or 6 in my mouth in quick succession, but, to be honest, I would probably do that regardless of their size!

The recipe

On the Caked Crusader blog here: http://www.thecakedcrusader.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/ginger-and-chilli-biscuits.html

Re-bake: courgette and mozzarella muffins

Courgette and mozzarella muffins

As you may have gathered, I do a lot of baking. Among the things I’ve baked the most are these delicious courgette and mozzarella savoury muffins from a recipe by the baking genius that is Dan Lepard.

This recipe has many of my favourite ingredients – with courgette, chilli, cheese and parsley all in there, this is a dream bake for me! It’s also super easy to make, employing one of my favourite methods: throw it all in a bowl, then mix and bake. So simple!

Some notes on the ingredients: courgettes are widely available now, as they’re a summer vegetable that seems to keep growing whether gardeners would like it to or not! So they’re pretty cheap at the moment. Mozzarella can be expensive, but I recently discovered that Morrisons has included the cheese in its new ‘Savers’ range, which is the equivalent of Asda Smartprice and Tesco Value. At 44p for 125g, it’s definitely the cheapest I’ve come across in all the time I’ve been making this recipe, and it tastes fine, so I would recommend finding your nearest Morrisons if you’re on a budget.

Back to the muffins, then. Being a pescetarian, I make the vegetarian version of this recipe, which replaces the smoked ham with smoked paprika. Add to this the generous helping of chilli flakes, and you have some wonderfully spicy muffins! The spice level is perfect, in my opinion, but if you don’t get on with chilli it’s probably a good idea to reduce the amount you put in by one or two teaspoons. I had to use red onion instead of white this time, and I only had frozen parsley as opposed to fresh, but that didn’t make much of a difference to the overall flavour.

As with most muffin recipes, the key is to not overdo it when stirring the mix. I always mix until the ingredients have just come together (for me, it’s when it’s mostly combined, but I can still see some bits of unmixed flour in the bowl). Overmixing can result in hard, dense muffins that fail to rise, so keep an eye on what you’re doing!

You can eat these while they’re still warm, but they’ll most likely still be a little soft in the middle, so try to resist temptation until they’re completely cool and you’ll find them easier to eat. I also think they’re tastier when cold, but then I’m the sort of freak who likes cold cheesy pasta and pizza!

Courgette and mozzarella muffins

The recipe

Get the recipe from Dan Lepard’s Guardian column here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/10/courgette-mozzarella-muffin-recipe