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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Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks + other bakes + an odd October

I can’t believe my last post was at the start of the month. A lot has happened since then! See below or skip straight to the bottom for my fig, pear and ginger flapjacks recipe.

Also, happy Diwali to everyone who celebrates!

Literary stuff

I had a great time going to three events at the Manchester Literature Festival. I’ve never been before, but there were quite a few interesting events on this year.

I went to events for The Good Immigrant (a collection of essays about what it’s like to be a second-generation immigrant in Britain); an anthology of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre called Reader, I Married Him and edited by Tracy Chevalier; and an examination of writing about the Lancashire coastline, featuring Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney) and Jenn Ashworth (Fell). They were all really inspiring and gave me a lot to think about as someone who would like to write a book one day!

I also nabbed a free, signed copy of Jenni Murray’s A History Of Britain In 21 Women as part of a festival giveaway, which I’m rather chuffed about!

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Outside of the festival, I also went to see the wonderful Becky Chambers talk about her two books – The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (READ IT NOW IT’S SO GOOD) and the newly released A Closed And Common Orbit (I’m waiting for the paperback to come out before I read it, but also READ IT NOW). She’s a really funny, intelligent woman, and it was a pleasure to hear her talk about video games, science and what it’s like to write a novel.

Goodbye, Bake Off

I did, of course, watch GBBO to the end, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a little at the end of the final (it’ll never be the same without Mary, Mel and Sue).

I was originally rooting for Benjamina to win (that pina colada roulade… oof!), but I’ve also loved Candice throughout, especially since That Pub, so I threw my support behind her when Benjamina left.

Credit: Radio Times

Credit: Radio Times

I’m thrilled that she won in the face of a stupid amount of abuse on social media over her looks, as well as the fact that *gasp* she obviously wanted to do well in the competition – rather than being all British about it and pretending that it didn’t matter if she won or not. OF COURSE it matters when you take months out of your life to practice making ever more complicated baked goods in an effort to please Paul and Mary. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t.

I’m rather gutted that there’s no GBBO at all next year, but I’m hoping that the BBC will film Candice and Jane’s baking road trip and screen that instead next summer!

As an aside, the final technical challenge was brilliant and exactly what a technical challenge should be (none of this ‘make something you’ve never heard of’ malarkey).

The horrible bit

The biggest low this month was being mugged on my way home from the Becky Chambers event earlier in the week. I wasn’t hurt, but was rather shaken up by having my bag snatched and being pushed over by two blokes bigger than me who could just jump out of and into a car and speed off.

It’s made me quite anxious about leaving the house and getting home from work, especially as the nights are drawing in, but I’m hoping that I’ll get over it soon. I can’t very well stay indoors for the rest of my life!

The thing I’m most angry about is that they took things that wouldn’t have had any value for them (although they did manage to squeeze £45 out of my bank card), but meant a lot to me. I also resent going through the long and expensive rigmarole of having the locks changed, replacing my phone and other things that were in my bag, notifying the relevant people, etc. All so some low-lifes can no doubt buy some cheap booze and fags before doing it again to another unsuspecting soul.

Baking!

I have also been baking this month, so don’t worry! Unfortunately, all of the photos were on my stolen phone, so I’ve only got some snaps from Instagram to share.

Mary Berry’s lemon and poppy seed traybake

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This was a really easy cake to make. I settled on this after my husband requested something lemony for my next bake.The sponge was wonderfully light and soft, with plenty of flavour. I deviated a little from Mary’s recipe and put the zest of two lemons instead of just one into the mix – it really made a difference to the flavour, I think.

The recipe is on Mary Berry’s website.

Banana, raisin and rum drizzle loaf cake

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This is pretty the same as the banana, rum and raisin loaf I’ve made before, except that I made a rum drizzle (50g icing sugar mixed with 2-3 tbsp of dark rum) to pour over the top of the warm cake. This seemed to make the cake exceptionally boozy, which I’m sure Mary Berry would approve of!

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks

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Last week I really wanted to bake something, but couldn’t be bothered going to buy particular ingredients, so I made do with what I had in – dried figs, a pear from my mother-in-law’s garden and my trusty store cupboard. I pretty much just jazzed up a basic flapjack recipe, with good results!

The flapjacks were wonderfully autumnal, if not a little soft due to the fruit – but still very nice if you don’t mind bits of flapjack falling everywhere! The recipe is below.

Makes 16 flapjacks

  • 1 pear, peeled and diced
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g soft brown sugar (I used 40g golden caster sugar and 135g dark muscovado sugar)
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup (I used 2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp of syrup from a jar of stem ginger)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 325g porridge oats
  • 100g dried figs, chopped
  • 1 ball of stem ginger, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.
  3. Toss the diced pear in a little lemon juice and sugar, and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup, ground ginger and cloves, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, figs, drained pear pieces and stem ginger.
  6. Press the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. It may still be soft in the middle at this point, but it should firm up as it cools.
  7. Cool completely in the tin, then turn out and slice into 16 squares.

Here’s to a more normal November!

Lemon madeleines

Lemon madeleinesSo, I finally baked something a couple of weeks ago! I wanted to make something quick, easy and small (and therefore *relatively* healthy…), so I chose a recipe for lemon madeleines from my Luis Troyano book, Bake It Great.

The recipe was actually for lemon and poppy seed madeleines, but I didn’t have any poppy seeds and my nearest supermarket didn’t have them either, so I just made plain lemon madeleines.

Lemon madeleines
This was probably one of the simplest madeleine recipes I’ve seen – others call for refrigerating and so on to get the cakes just right, but I wanted to ease myself back into baking with something I could just mix and throw in the oven!

Lemon madeleines
They were indeed easy to make, but I couldn’t quite judge whether the madeleines were done or not at the end of the stated baking time, so I left them in for a couple of minutes more.

I think this gave them a slightly denser texture than intended, but they did still taste lovely – very light and lemony!

Lemon madeleines
I found it slightly tricky getting the madeleines out of the tin (which I got from a nearby pound shop!). I think next time I make these, I’ll do what I do when I make mince pies and put a strip of baking parchment in each cup so I can just pull the cakes out after baking.

Unfortunately, Luis’s recipe isn’t available online, but I do recommend buying his book for this and other recipes!

Lemon madeleines

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Coconut cake with lemon cream cheese filling

Coconut cake with lemon cream cheese fillingHere’s a cake I made a few weeks ago in honour of my sister-in-law, who told me a while back that she really likes lemony, coconutty cakes: a coconut cake with a lemon cream cheese filling.

I’ve made a three-layer version of this before, but I wanted something less faffy (and less likely to topple over), so I combined the filling from that recipe with my usual coconut cake sponge recipe to bring it down to two layers.

Coconut cake with lemon cream cheese filling
The filling is really quite something – I bought the lemon curd, but if you’re happy to make it from scratch, then I suspect it’d be even better! The sharpness of the lemon against the unnnngggh-ness (yes, that’s a word) of the full-fat soft cheese is truly delicious!

I only used the zest of one lemon in the sponges and couldn’t really taste it, so I’ve recommended two lemons in my recipe below.

I assembled this on a really hot day and it started to droop a bit after a few hours, so make sure you eat it up very quickly if you also make it for a special summer occasion… which I’m pretty sure won’t be a problem!

Coconut cake with lemon cream cheese filling

Coconut cake with lemon cream cheese filling recipe

Serves 10

For the sponge layers:

  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 75g dessicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream (I used Patak’s coconut cream, which comes in sachets)
  • finely grated zest of two lemons

For the filling:

  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 200g soft cheese
  • one-quarter tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 100g good quality lemon curd

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Butter and line the base of two 20 cm/8 inch sandwich tins with greaseproof paper.
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Gently stir in the dessicated coconut, coconut cream and lemon zest.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and smooth the tops. Bake for 20-25 minutes until evenly golden and firm.
  4. Loosen the edges and leave the tins to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer on to a wire rack to cool. Peel off the lining paper.
  5. For the filling, beat together the butter and icing sugar, then beat in the soft cheese, vanilla and lemon juice.
  6. Sandwich the cakes with the lemon curd and cream cheese filling. Sift a little icing sugar on top and serve.

 

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Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam fillingI seem to be gravitating towards lemon-based recipes a lot at the moment – it must be the onset of spring that’s making me crave some lovely lemony flavours. I made these lemon yogurt muffins with a strawberry jam filling on the spur of the moment, when I was feeling a bit stressed/sad and just needed the joy of baking to pull me out of it.

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling
They were really easy to make – I found a basic for the muffins online and just added the jam. I’ve made some adjustments to my recipe (at the end of this post), as I think the original recipe didn’t call for quite enough sugar, and the baking time could have been reduced – you can see from these pictures that my muffins are a bit browner than usual!

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling
Aside from that, these muffins really are deliciously tangy and nicely soft thanks to the yogurt. Definitely go for the full-fat stuff here – low-fat yoghurt just won’t cut it, I’m afraid! The jam adds some much-needed sweetness considering the low sugar content of the original recipe – the muffins could still do with a bit more sugar though! (Apologies to your dentist).

Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling
Lemon yogurt muffins with strawberry jam filling recipe

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 240g full-fat yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 100ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 300g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • grated zest of 2-3 lemons
  • 60g strawberry jam (or another jam of your choice)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
  2. Beat together the eggs, sugar, yogurt and oil in a large bowl.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, then add the lemon and stir until just combined (do not overmix).
  4. Spoon half of the mixture into the muffin cases.
  5. Place a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each dollop of muffin mix in the cases.
  6. Spoon the rest of the mixture over the jam, making sure it’s well covered to prevent leaks.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden.
  8. Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Lemon and white chocolate scones

Lemon and white chocolate sconesI’m usually a stickler for scones as they should be – either fruit or plain, buttered, spread with jam and with a dollop of cream on top (especially when it comes to afternoon tea!). But I do enjoy a flavoured scone, too – and this is what I was hankering after when I decided to make these lemon and white chocolate scones.

Scones are really easy to make, but you need to follow a couple of rules to make sure they come out just right. One rule is to avoid over-mixing the initial scone mix if you can, and another is to avoid over-kneading the mix when turning it into a manageable dough. Another is to not add *too* much flour when rolling out and cutting the scones, if you can, so your dough stays nicely moist. Follow all of these, and you should end up with some delightfully light and well-risen scones!

Lemon and white chocolate scones
I added the lemon flavour through finely grated lemon zest. I only used one lemon, but I think two would add a bit more of a tang – the lemon in my scones was quite subtle! I just used bog standard supermarket white chocolate, making to sure to sample some to check it was *just* right (ahem).

I brushed the tops of my scones with milk before baking, but you can also do it with beaten egg for some nicely shiny tops.

I ate my first scone while it was warm from the oven (which meant the chocolate was a bit gooey!) and without any accompaniments, but subsequent scones were enjoyed with butter and strawberry jam. I didn’t have any cream to hand, but that’s very much optional with these, anyway!

These lemon and white chocolate scones would be lovely as part of a cream tea or afternoon tea with a difference, perhaps in the spring or summer, considering the flavours. Do try them!

Lemon and white chocolate scones

Lemon and white chocolate scones recipe

Makes around 14 scones

  • 280g self-raising flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
  • 70g cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 55g white chocolate, chopped (or use chocolate chips)
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 150ml milk
  • Milk or 1 beaten egg, to glaze

To serve:

  • Softened butter
  • Raspberry or strawberry jam
  • Clotted cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/220C/425F. Line a baking tray with baking parchment, or grease the tray with butter.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the sugar and white chocolate.
  4. Stir the zest into the milk, then slowly add the milk to the flour mixture and stir until you get a soft but manageable dough (you may not need all of the milk). Do not overmix.
  5. Lightly flour a work surface and tip the dough out of the bowl on to it. Sprinkle a little more flour on top and roll the dough out until it’s around 2.5cm thick.
  6. Dip a fluted cutter into some flour (I used a 58mm cutter) and cut the scones out of the dough, transferring them to the baking tray (make sure they’re well spaced out – you may need two trays, or bake in batches).
  7. Roll out the remaining dough and repeat until all of the dough has been used up.
  8. Brush the tops with either milk or beaten egg, and bake the scones in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until risen and golden.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve sliced with butter, jam and cream, if you like.

Caraway seed cake

Caraway seed cakeI’ve been meaning to make this Victorian caraway seed cake ever since I got my hands on Paul Hollywood’s British Baking recipe book. There’s nothing much to shout about in terms of huge flavours and spectacular presentation; it’s just a simple, old-fashioned cake to have with an afternoon brew – but that’s exactly what appeals to me about it!

The cake is very similar to a Madeira cake in terms of the texture and flavour of the base sponge. The crumb looks very dense, but it’s actually very light and not at all onerous to eat. The addition of caraway seeds (which have a citrusy, aniseed flavour), lemon zest, brandy and nutmeg, however, make this a different beast to your standard Madeira cake.

Caraway seed cake
The cake should have a flat top after it’s baked, but mine ended up with a rather spectacular peak in the middle, which I’m just going to put down to my uneven oven:

Caraway seed cake
Isn’t that rather impressive?!

Anyway, overall I would say that this cake gets a definite thumbs up from me. It does sound a bit dull, but it’s anything but. The aniseed flavour is really unusual, and the lemon and nutmeg really do prevent the cake from being a one-flavour wonder. If you like old-fashioned cakes, you can’t go far wrong with a caraway seed cake!

Caraway seed cake
I can’t find the recipe I used online, as I got it from the book, but I think you could take your pick of any of the other seed cake recipes out there and simply add lemon zest and nutmeg if they’re not already in there. This recipe looks like a good starting point!