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.

Save

Advertisements

Masala chai cake

Masala chai cakeWell, it’s been rather longer since my last post than I originally anticipated! But I have been baking, so fear not. My first bake of 2017 was this rather delicious masala chai cake.

The recipe is from The Cardamom Trail, the book by one of my all-time favourite GBBO contestants, Chetna Makan. It’s a lot simpler than the recipe I came up for my own sort-of successful tea masala cake five years (!) ago – and a lot more successful at replicating the flavours of traditional Indian chai, too.

Masala chai cake
I’m a huge fan of Chetna’s recipes – they’re usually not too complicated, but they still deliver on both the flavour and texture fronts every time. This masala chai cake recipe is no exception; the sponge is beautifully soft and light, while the gorgeous combination of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger really comes through.

I chose not to make the frosting because, like many other people, I’ve been trying to eat a little less fat and sugar in the aftermath of the excesses of Christmas. I think the cake is beautiful without the frosting, but I can also see how it would add a bit more oomph if you were making the cake for a less diet-conscious crowd. Without the frosting, the cake comes in at around 150 calories per piece if you cut it into 20 pieces, which I think is very reasonable for such a delicious cake!

Masala chai cake
The recipe isn’t online, but I would strongly recommend that anyone who’s a fan of using spices in baking buy The Cardamom Trail – it’s a fantastic book and I can’t wait to make something else from it!

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.

Save

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!

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

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

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
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

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

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

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
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!

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf After some weird is-it-or-isn’t-it to-ing and fro-ing with the weather, it’s definitely autumn now – which means it’s time to bake with lots of spices and dried fruit! I decided to make this fig, orange and star anise tealoaf from Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb recipe book a few days ago. It’s her favourite recipe in the book – and I can certainly see why.

This is very much a tealoaf as opposed to a cake – there’s no butter in the recipe, only milk, but the lovely dried figs do much to add some moisture to the loaf. The other magic ingredients are orange zest and star anise. I don’t think I’ve ever baked with star anise before – I only have it in the house because it’s goes well in certain Indian curries – but it really is the star of the show with its warming aniseed flavour.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
The tealoaf was very straightforward to make, and even baked in the time specified in the recipe (praise be!). It rose a lot more than I was expecting it to, mainly because I have a history of making loaf-shaped things that refuse to rise. All in all, this was a bit of a miracle already, and I hadn’t even tasted it yet by that point.

I made this after work on Wednesday night, so I pulled it out of the oven *just* in time for GBBO. We had slices of the tealoaf warm with lashings of butter on top, which is just the perfect way to have it! There’s still some left, so I’ve been toasting and buttering slices of it as it gets a little staler.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
The flavours are amazing – I prefer dried figs to fresh, so I loved them anyway, but the slight tang of orange zest and that beautiful star anise really help this tealoaf to shine. I would thoroughly recommend this recipe if you fancy baking something autumnal in the coming months.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
As I said, the recipe is in Ruby’s excellent cookbook, but you can also find it online here.

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.

Watalappan (Sri Lankan coconut milk custard)

Sri Lankan watalappan with mango and bananaAnother week, another Sri Lankan feast! This time, my husband cooked lots of rice and curry for our friends, and I made a dessert that we had a fair bit of when we were on honeymoon – watalappan, a set custard made with jaggery, coconut milk and lots of spices.

This is a great dinner party recipe, as it can be made in advance and left in the fridge until required. I used this recipe by Peter Kuruvita, who has also written a brilliant Sri Lankan cookbook that we use and that apparently is considered something of a bible by chefs in Sri Lanka!

I followed the recipe exactly, but I served it with toasted fresh coconut, in-season Indian mango and sliced Keralan bananas, which were the closest thing we could find to the bananas we ate a lot of in Sri Lanka. I also drizzled the plate with golden syrup as recommended by Kuruvita as a substitute for palm syrup.

The only tricky thing was baking the custards – they seemed to take longer than stated, but I reckon that’s just my oven rather than the recipe being at fault. They did eventually cook after I turned the heat up slightly.

The resulting dessert was rather wonderful – the sweet, spiced coconut custard combined with juicy mango and flavoursome bananas offered a perfect balance of flavours. It’s a great recipe to use if you’re planning a Sri Lankan or Indian feast and want an easy dessert that will impress!

Save