Dips

Mar 152017
 

Basil Pesto

 

 

Let’s just get one thing out of the way now. Fresh basil pesto will always be superior to the variety you buy in jars at the supermarket both in taste and in nutrients. The ingenious combination of six simple ingredients comes together to make a vibrant flavour that jarred pestos can only dream of having. And need I mention the intoxicating smell in your kitchen? Traditionally, pesto was made using a pestle and mortar but using a food processor works very well too. Making pesto at home is probably one of the easiest ways to get your kids to help out in the kitchen and contribute to a meal.

 

Basil Pesto is delicious tossed with freshly boiled pasta, spread in a sandwich, used as a dip for vegetables, or mixed into a salad dressing to add some vibrancy to it.

 

 

BASIL PESTO

(makes approximately 1 cup)

 

Ingredients:

100g fresh basil leaves (I usually get this from two standard sized basil plants in the supermarket)

1 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped (you can use 2 garlic cloves if your garlic is not very strong)

50g pine kernels

50g parmesan cheese, freshly grated (do not just throw a block of parmesan into your food processor as it is too hard for the blade to process well)

6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (start with 4 Tbsp and then add more as necessary)

1/4 – 1/2 tsp sea salt (or according to taste)

 

Directions:

  1. You will need a food processor to make this recipe. If you have the option, I recommend using a smaller bowl (I use the 1.2L mini bowl in my Magimix food processor).
  2. Pluck the basil leaves from the stalks (this is where little fingers come in handy!). Rinse the basil leaves and dry them on a tea towel.
  3. Grate your parmesan cheese and roughly chop your peeled garlic clove.
  4. In your food processor, add the chopped garlic and pine kernels. Pulse a few times to break them up.
  5. Add the basil leaves and pulse a few times.
  6. Add the parmesan cheese, olive oil and sea salt. Run the food processor for 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. This is when you might want to add a bit more olive oil to make the consistency smoother.
  7. Process until the pesto comes together evenly.
  8. Taste once more and add more salt if necessary.
  9. Serve straightaway or refrigerate for upto 5 days.

 

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Dec 042016
 

Muhammara

 

 

It is sometimes hard to accurately trace the origins of a dish to a specific city, but that is not the case with Muhammara. This spicy red pepper and walnut dip originates from one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world – Aleppo in Syria. Muhammara combines sweet, sour and tangy ingredients to create an addictive multi-layered flavour. Traditionally, Muhammara uses Aleppo chilli peppers to bring a mild smokey spiciness to the dip. However, if Aleppo chilli peppers are not available then using a mixture of red chilli powder and paprika, like I have done, is a good alternative.

 

 

MUHAMMARA

(makes 1 cup)

 

Ingredients:

2 red bell peppers (capsicum), roasted and peeled (directions below)

1 plump garlic clove, peeled and cut into 4 large chunks

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, lightly toasted (I toast a medium-sized piece of pitta bread and let it air-dry)

1 tsp ground paprika

1/2 tsp red chilli powder or flakes (or according to taste)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. To roast your red bell peppers, preheat your oven to 220°C (fan assisted). Wash and dry your bell peppers and then cut them in half (top to bottom). Remove and discard the seeds, membranes and stalks. Place your bell pepper halves (cut-side down) on a baking tray lined with baking parchment paper. Roast in the middle shelf of your oven for 20-25 minutes. The skin can be allowed to get quite charred without any problems, but do check from time to time to make sure they are not burning. Remove from the oven and immediately put the hot bell pepper halves into a bowl covered with a lid or plate. The steam created in the bowl will help loosen the skin and make it easier to remove from the bell peppers. After 5-10 minutes, remove the lid and peel off the bell pepper skin. Place your peeled bell peppers in a bowl. They are ready to use immediately or refrigerated and used within 5 days.
  2. Lightly toast your walnuts in a dry pan on the stovetop or in the oven.
  3. Lightly toast your breadcrumbs. I find it easiest to do this by simply popping some bread (I use a medium-sized piece of pitta bread) in my toaster for a few minutes and then letting it air-dry. I then run it through my food processor to turn it into crumbs.
  4. To make the Muhammara dip, put all the ingredients into your food processor and process until desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. Refrigerate and eat within 4 days.

 

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Oct 112016
 

Beetroot Hummus

 

A platter of freshly made Beetroot Hummus is always a show-stopper when you serve it to friends and family. The strikingly vibrant shade of pink is thanks to the pigment betacyanin which is the antioxidant responsible for giving beetroots their reddish colour.

 

Combining roasted beetroot into your favourite hummus recipe not only adds colour but also brings a deliciously subtle earthy sweetness to the dish. It is a great way to add extra nutrients and fibre to an already healthy dip.

 

 

BEETROOT HUMMUS

(makes 500ml)

 

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized beetroot (150-200g / 5-7oz)

240g cooked chickpeas (tinned or freshly boiled)

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (no seeds)

1 plump garlic clove, cut into 6 pieces

1 tsp coarse sea salt

2 Tbsp cold water

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling on top of the hummus)

Fresh herbs and toasted nuts, to garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. To roast your beetroot, trim the stalks and leaves off your beetroot (if you stalks and leaves are fresh, you can save them for cooking). Wash your beetroot, wrap it in aluminium foil and place in a baking dish. This recipe only calls for 1 medium-sized beetroot, but it is worth making more so you have beetroot available for other recipes as well. Roast in the oven for between 60-90 minutes. Your beetroot is ready when a skewer goes through it easily. When cooked, remove your beetroot from the oven, unwrap and allow to come to room temperature. Once the beetroot is cool enough to handle, trim the top and bottom off and pinch off the skin.
  3. If you prefer not to cook the beetroot yourself, you may be able to find vacuum-packed cooked beetroot at your supermarket. Make sure you do not use pickled beetroot.
  4. Cut your beetroot into 6-8 pieces.
  5. In a food processor, combine the beetroot, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, peeled garlic clove, sea salt, and cold water.
  6. Process the hummus until it is almost your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (you can add more tahini, lemon juice, sea salt or water according to your taste).
  7. Process again until desired consistency.
  8. Eat immediately or refrigerate in a covered bowl for upto 3 days.
  9. To serve, spread the hummus evenly onto a small flat plate. Run your spoon through the hummus in a circle to make a well to pour some good extra virgin olive oil into.
  10. Garnish with fresh herbs and toasted nuts (optional).

 

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Feb 292016
 

Baby Spinach & Garlic Dip

 

 

Spinach is a cool weather crop which grows best in early Spring and in Autumn.

 

It’s a very versatile vegetable and takes on other flavours well. I use spinach in so many things from smoothies to salads to curries. I hadn’t really thought to use it as a dip until fairly recently when I started seeing so many beautiful fresh early Spring vegetables emerge in the market. Fresh vegetables are good, but fresh vegetables with a healthy dip are even better!

 

You can follow my recipe below for ‘Baby Spinach and Garlic Dip’, but the truth is that baby spinach is so versatile that you could easily blend it into any dip to boost its nutritional value and it would work well.

 

 

BABY SPINACH and GARLIC DIP

(makes about 2 cups)

 

 

Ingredients:

150g / 5 oz Fresh baby spinach (roughly equivalent to 4 big handfuls or 4 tightly packed cups)

1/2 cup Fresh chives, chopped

1 spring onion / scallion, roughly chopped (white and green part)

1 plump garlic clove (2 if you really love raw garlic), peeled and cut into 4 pieces

1/2 cup walnuts or cashew nuts

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream or Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (no seeds)

2 tsp sea salt

 

 

Directions:

  1. Wash and drain the baby spinach (no need to trim the stems as it will all go into a food processor).
  2. Put all the ingredients listed above into your food processor and pulse a few times until the spinach has been chopped. You may need to push down the spinach once or twice in the beginning.
  3. Once the mixture is roughly pulsed, run the food processor on ‘Auto’ (or whichever button you need to press for continued processing) for about 30 seconds.
  4. Remove the lid and taste. If required, adjust the seasoning. Keep in mind that the flavour from the raw garlic will become more pronounced in a few hours.
  5. Process the mixture in the machine for another 15 seconds or so.
  6. Taste again and make final adjustments, if necessary.
  7. Pour into a container and refrigerate until ready to eat.

 

 

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Nov 102015
 

Roasted Pumpkin, Garlic and Feta Dip

 

It’s November and there are pumpkins everywhere I turn – smooth yellow ones, big orange ones, knobbly green ones – so I decided to try making a pumpkin dip. I’m a big fan of dips because they make eating healthy very easy. A healthy dip waiting for me in my fridge plus vegetable sticks equals a healthy snack I can turn to in between meals.

 

Roasting is the best way to cook pumpkins. You don’t have to remove the skin, which can be tricky when the pumpkin is not entirely smooth. For roasting, you simply need to cut your pumpkin in half and roast it with the skin on (removing the skin after roasting is much easier). Some people discard the pumpkin seeds, but I recommend roasting them because they are high in zinc and make a delicious snack (see my tutorial on how to Roast Pumpkin Seeds).

 

I am in the habit of throwing a few garlic cloves into the oven whenever I roast anything, so adding roasted garlic with my roasted pumpkin was obvious for me. Feta brings some cool savouriness to the dip, and the saltiness of the feta means that you may not need to add any extra salt.

 

Roasted Pumpkin, Garlic and Feta Dip is delicious served with vegetable sticks, bread, crackers or corn chips. It also works well as a warm meal tossed with hot pasta.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you have a favourite pumpkin dip recipe you would like to share?

 

Roasted Pumpkin, Garlic and Feta Dip

 

 

ROASTED PUMPKIN, GARLIC AND FETA DIP

(makes 2 cups/400ml)

 

Ingredients:

700g raw pumpkin in its shell for roasting (or 400g/300mL freshly roasted pumpkin) – any pumpkin variety will do except for a jack-o-lantern pumpkin

8 fresh raw whole garlic cloves, with their paper skin still on

100g feta cheese, roughly crumbled

salt, according to taste (I did not need to add any as the feta was salty enough)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F to roast the pumpkin and garlic cloves.
  2. To roast the garlic: In a small oven-proof dish, toss the garlic cloves with a little olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Allow it to cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the paper skin and cut off the hard root end from the garlic cloves.
  3. To roast the pumpkin: Cut your pumpkin in half lengthwise. Use a tablespoon to scrape out the strings and seeds in the cavity of the pumpkin. Some people discard the pumpkin seeds, but I recommend roasting them because they are high in zinc and make a delicious snack (see my tutorial on how to Roast Pumpkin Seeds). Rub the inside of the two halves of the pumpkin with some extra virgin olive oil and place them face down in an oven-proof dish. Roast for 40 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is soft. Turn the pumpkin over and allow to cool. Once cool, mash the pumpkin flesh and scoop it out of the skin. Discard the skin. If you have too much cooked pumpkin, you can save it in the fridge or the freezer for another recipe.
  4. In a food processor, put in your 8 roasted garlic cloves and 100g crumbled feta cheese. Process  until smooth. Add 400g/300mL freshly roasted pumpkin and process to desired consistency. Taste and add salt if necessary (depending on the saltiness of the feta)
  5. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve within 3 days with vegetable sticks, bread, crackers or corn chips.
  6. For a warm meal, this also works nicely tossed with pasta.

 

Share your thoughts: Do you have a favourite pumpkin dip recipe you would like to share?

 

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Feb 102015
 

Hummus

 

 

It has taken me a long time to get around to whipping up my own homemade batch of hummus from scratch.

 

One reason is because I live in Dubai, which means that I have easy access to good prepared hummus virtually everywhere I go, from supermarkets to take-aways to restaurants. They vary in quality, at best lightly whipped and flavorful and at worst heavy but still tasty. I recognise that this is a poor excuse and just constitutes laziness on my part.

 

The other reason it has taken me a while to make homemade hummus is because I think I over-researched the recipe. I discovered that what I thought would be a simple and quick recipe is actually a very hotly debated topic with different people having their own strong opinions on the technique which leads to the smoothest and airiest hummus.

 

All the recipes agreed on one thing – you need to use a food processor to blend the ingredients together for really nicely whipped hummus. But that’s where the agreement ends.

 

Tinned Chickpeas vs Fresh Chickpeas: The first thing to consider is whether to use tinned chickpeas or freshly boiled. I have made hummus using both and I can say that good quality tinned chickpeas will make good hummus. You certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about using tinned chickpeas if you’re pressed for time or just don’t feel like soaking and boiling up a batch of chickpeas. I was very happy with my tinned chickpea hummus – that is, until I made some hummus using freshly boiled chickpeas. I warn you, once you make hummus with freshly boiled chickpeas there is no turning back. There is a marked difference in taste and texture, the entire dish is raised to a higher standard. I will now never feel too lazy to soak chickpeas the night before because for me the taste difference is worth that extra effort. I follow the advice of some cooks (including my mother) to add some bicarbonate of soda to both the soaking water and also the boiling water to help the chickpeas soften more quickly, and it works a treat!

 

Peeled Chickpeas vs Unpeeled Chickpeas: Another debate raging in the world of hummus is whether to remove the skin from the chickpeas or not. I have read several blogs which insist that removing the skin of the chickpeas makes for the smoothest hummus, if you don’t mind adding about 10 minutes to your preparation time. Others don’t bother peeling them at all and just throw them into the food processor whole. I tend to fall on the side of the non-peelers, partly due to time and partly due to my feeling that the skin is often full of fiber so I want to keep it.

 

Which Order To Put The Ingredients In: There are those who insist that you need to put the ingredients into the food processor in a specific order. One recipe I found insists that the secret to perfect hummus is to first blend the lemon and tahini paste until it becomes a light frothy emulsion before adding the other ingredients. My attempt at this technique did not work at all, possibly because the bowl of my food processor is quite big and the blades barely touched the lemon and tahini which stayed puddled at the bottom. I am always looking for time-saving steps, and it’s my opinion that throwing all the ingredients into the food processor is the right way to go. It certainly doesn’t stop my hummus from ending up lightly and airy.

 

When to Add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil: One ingredient I do leave out of the food processor is extra virgin olive oil. Many recipes blend olive oil directly into the hummus, but one of my favorite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi, is adamant that the oil should only be drizzled over the top of the hummus after it has been plated. I have tried both ways, and leaving the extra virgin olive oil out of the hummus does result in a lighter and fluffier hummus with a mouthwatering savoriness. Drizzling plenty of good extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus means that the oil can soak nicely into your dipping bread while you scoop up your hummus.

 

Other Additions: Some people add other flavors to their hummus like cumin, but I like to keep the flavors very clean and tart. At most, a sprinkling of sumac powder makes it looks pretty. I also try to save a few whole chickpeas to use as garnish and if I happen to have some pomegranate seeds, I throw them on for color.

 

My 6-year-old daughter is a hummus aficianado (she was brought up on the stuff) and is very particular about the taste and texture. She was the one who made me aware that the hummus with the olive oil blended in was not as light and airy as the one with the olive oil drizzled on top. She is my harshest hummus critic and, of all the variations I tried, this is the recipe which she approved of and the one that I’m sticking with.

 

 

Write your comment below: If you make homemade hummus, what are your special tips and tricks? 

 

 

 

HUMMUS

(1.5 cups)

 

 

Ingredients:

(If you double the recipe, then you need to double the quantity of all ingredients EXCEPT the bicarbonate of soda which should remain the same)

 

240g / 8oz cooked chickpeas

– To make freshly cooked chickpeas, you need 140g dried chickpeas, 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, and some water (cooking instructions below)

– 1 can of cooked chickpeas in water (400g can / 240g drained weight) (14 oz can / 8 oz drained weight)

 

1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (no seeds)

1 plump garlic clove, cut into 6 pieces

1 tsp coarse sea salt

2-4 Tbsp cold water (2 Tbsp is better if your chickpeas are quite soft and mushy; 4 Tbsp is better if your chickpeas are quite firm)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling on top of the hummus)

Some sumac powder to sprinkle on top as a garnish

 

 

Directions:

  1.  If you want to make hummus using freshly cooked chickpeas, you need to soak 140g / 8oz of dried chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl filled with water and 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda for 12-24 hours. Drain the chickpeas after soaking and discard the water. Put your chickpeas in a medium-sized pot and cover with cool water. Add 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and bring the water to the boil. Simmer uncovered for 40-6o minutes, skimming off the foam as necessary. When the chickpeas are soft and mushy, drain the water. Some people like to retain some cooking water to add to the hummus instead of adding plain water, but I am not one of those people so I just discard all the water.
  2. If you want to make hummus using tinned chickpeas, pop open your tin, drain the chickpeas in a colander, and rinse.
  3. Weigh out 240g / 8oz of cooked chickpeas and pour them into your food processor (Important: Save a few chickpeas to use as a garnish).
  4. Into the food processor, add 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (no seeds), 1 plump garlic clove cut into 6 pieces, 1 tsp coarse sea salt, and some cold water (2 Tbsp of water if your chickpeas are soft and mushy (like mine); 4 Tbsp if your chickpeas are quite firm. The water will help make your hummus light and airy, but if you add too much it will get too thin. You can always start with less water and add more if you need to).
  5. Switch on your food processor for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides if necessary. Process for another minute or so, until the hummus is smooth and light.
  6. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary (you can add more tahini, lemon juice or salt but for me these measurements are exactly right).
  7. Spoon the hummus out of the food processor bowl onto a small flat plate. Spread it evenly, and then run your spoon through the hummus in a circle to make a well to pour some good extra virgin olive oil into.
  8. Sprinkle some sumac powder around the edges of the hummus. Garnish with chickpeas and pomegranate seeds (optional).
  9. Eat immediately, or refrigerate for upto 3 days.

 

 

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Oct 242014
 

 

 

Beetroot and Walnut Dip

 

Pink October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an international initiative organized by several breast cancer charities to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer. People are encouraged to show support by thinking ‘Pink’. From wearing pink clothes to baking pink cupcakes to buying the iconic pink ribbon pin, people actively show support for this month.

 

Of course, the main idea which must not get lost amongst this flush of pink is that women should remember to get checked by a medical professional for breast cancer and also to learn how to regularly check themselves.

 

In honor of Pink October, I decided to make a healthy screaming pink Dip, packed with foods which are good for your body such as walnuts, beetroot, garlic, lemon, tahini and extra virgin olive oil. Blend everything together and you get my delicious ‘Beetroot and Walnut Dip’.

 

 

 

BEETROOT and WALNUT DIP

(Makes 1 & 1/2 cups)

 

Ingredients:

250g / 8oz beetroot

1 cup walnut halves

1 medium garlic clove, peeled

1/2 cup tahini paste

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp water

 

Directions:

  1. You can buy cooked beetroot in some grocery stores (not the pickled bottled type), which makes preparing them very easy –  just rinse and cut into chunky pieces. However, if you have raw beetroots you can cook them easily yourself. I usually cook more than I need and keep the extras in the fridge for other recipes. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Take your beetroot and trim off any long roots or leaves (make sure you only trim those parts, don’t cut into the main body of the beetroot). Wash the beetroot well to remove any dirt. Wrap each beetroot in some aluminum foil (keep the foil join at the top), and place the wrapped beetroot in an oven-proof dish. Fill the dish with about 1 inch (2 cm) of water and place the dish in the oven. It can take between 1-2 hours to cook properly (top up the water if necessary in the middle of cooking). The beetroot is ready when you can cut through it with a knife and it has the consistency of a ripe mango. Once cooked, remove the beetroot from the foil and allow to cool on a plate. When cool, rub or peel off the skin. The beetroot is ready to use. Cut the beetroot into chunky pieces for this recipe.
  2. In a food processor or blender, put in 1 cup of walnut haves and switch on for 10 seconds.
  3. Add all the rest of the ingredients into your food processor or blender, and run the machine until all the ingredients are well combined. Remember to scrape down the edges of the bowl if the ingredients are sticking there. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  4. Eat straightaway with vegetable crudites, breadsticks or pitta bread.
  5. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

 

 

 

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May 032013
 

Buckwheat and Rice Salad with Dried Cherries and Hazelnuts

 

 

I have bought buckwheat twice before, and both times sadly let it run way past its expiry date without ever trying to cook it. So, when I saw an article in The Guardian newspaper by Yotam Ottolenghi (aka ‘Salad Guru’) in defence of buckwheat, I decided that I had to try it for myself. Apparently, the stuff is highly divisive, like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it. But once a taste for it has been acquired, it can be addictive. Buckwheat, which is gluten free, is huge in Eastern Europe but has not really managed to make it’s presence known further East, West, North or South.

 

 

There were a couple of recipes in the article, but the one which drew me was ‘Buckwheat and Rice Salad with Dried Cherries and Hazelnuts’. So, I went out to the supermarket to grab all the necessary ingredients for this salad. Of course, the only package of buckwheat that I could find had all the information written in Russian with no translation in sight. No worries – I think I can just about make out the number 20, so I am taking that as my cue to boil the buckwheat for 20 minutes. Double-check my recipe, and I notice it says roasted buckwheat (kasha) should be boiled for 6-8 minutes. Hmmm. Can’t make out on packaging if this is roasted buckwheat or not. I’ll stick to the package instructions and hope for the best.

 

 

Happily, the salad was a big hit with the family and it turns out that we do quite like buckwheat after all.

 

 

[TIP: This recipe uses wild rice and basmati rice, and cooks them separately. For the sake of one less pot to clean, I used a pre-packaged rice mix which included wild rice and brown basmati and cooked it in one pot.]

 

 

 

BUCKWHEAT AND RICE SALAD WITH DRIED CHERRIES AND HAZELNUTS

By Yotam Ottolenghi

(Serves 6-8 as a side salad)

 

 

Ingredients:

130g wild rice (Note: Instead of using 130g wild rice and 150g basmati rice separately, I used 280g of a pre-packaged rice mix which included wild rice and brown basmati)

150g basmati rice (see Note above)

125g roasted buckwheat (kasha)

1 lemon, zest peeled (not grated), and 2 Tbsp juiced

130mL olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed/grated

100g dried cour cherries (or dried cranberries)

75g hazelnuts, roasted and lightly crushed

5 spring onions / scallions, thinly sliced

1 tsp salt

30g parsley leaves, roughly chopped

10g basil leaves, torn

10g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

30g rocket leaves

 

 

Directions:

  1. If you are using a rice mix (like I did), bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add the rice mix, and boil gently for the amount of time specified on the packaging. Drain and spread out on a plate to cool and skip to STEP 4. However, if you are following the original recipe and boiling wild rice and basmati rice separately, see STEP 2 and STEP 3.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add the wild rice and boil gently for 35-40 minutes, until the grains start to pop open and are al dente. Rinse under cold water and leave to drain.
  3. Put the basmati rice in a small saucepan with 300mL cold water, Place on a high heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover and steam for 10-12 minutes until cooked. Remove from the heat, set aside for five minutes with the lid still on, then fluff up the rice with a fork, spread out on a plate and leave to cool.
  4. In another small pan, bring 220mL water to a boil. Turn the heat to very low, stir in the buckwheat, cover and cook 6-8 minutes. Stir once or twice more, Set aside for a few minutes with the lid on, then spread on a plate and leave to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, put the lemon skin in a small frying pan, add the oil and pace over medium heat. When the skin starts to bubble, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  6. Once both rices and the buckwheat are cool, mix them in a large bowl with the garlic, dried cherries (or cranberries), hazelnuts and spring onions (scallions). Discard the lemon from the olive oil, pour the oil over the rice, then stir in 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tsp of salt.
  7. Just before serving, stir in the herbs [Note: I added the herbs along with the oil and salt, and they have held up very well]. Spoon some rice on a serving dish, top with a little rocket, and repeat so you have a nice layered effect. Serve immediately.

 

 

From: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Buckwheat Recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi, The Guardian newspaper (UK)

 

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May 032013
 

Labneh with Zaatar

 

 

Labneh is a delicious Middle Eastern cream cheese that is made from strained yogurt. If you can’t find it in your supermarket, Greek yogurt is a close (though not exact) alternative. You can also try making it at home by mixing 2 lbs (1 kg) of yogurt with 1 tsp of salt, and then placing it in a colander lined with a clean cotton cloth (or coffee filter) with a bowl underneath it and letting it strain in your refrigerator for 12-24 hours. The result is a rich, creamy and thick spreadable cheese with a hint of sourness (which I find addictive, and which is what you don’t get from using Greek yogurt).

 

Zaatar is a Middle Eastern dried spice blend made by combining sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme and oregano. In this traditional Middle Eastern recipe, it is sprinkled over labneh and extra virgin olive oil to make an addictively good dip for vegetables or bread.

 

 

LABNEH WITH ZAATAR

(Serves 4 as a dip)

 

 

Ingredients: (makes 1 cup)

1 cup / 250g / 6oz Labneh

1-2 tsp zaatar

Extra virgin olive oil (to drizzle over the salad)

1 garlic clove, peeled and grated/finely chopped (optional)

 

 

Directions:

  1. Place the labneh in a medium-sized bowl and whisk it with a fork so that it loosens up.
  2. Peel and grate/finely chop 1 garlic clove. [NOTE: I am a huge fan of garlic, but the garlic can be omitted from this recipe and it will still taste delicious.]
  3. Add the garlic (if using) to the whipped labneh and mix well.
  4. In a shallow bowl or plate, pile the labneh in the center and use the back of a spoon to spread it in a spiral from the center of the plate outwards. The spiral indentations left by the spoon allows the olive oil to pool in the labneh.
  5. Sprinkle 1-2 tsp of zaatar over the labneh.
  6. Serve immediately with cut vegetables or bread.

 

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May 032013
 

Baba Ganoush

 

Baba Ganoush is a delightful Middle Eastern dish which literally translates as “pampered father”. There is some controversy about whether this smokey eggplant/aubergine dish should have tahini (sesame paste) blended in it or not. I fall firmly on the side of ‘not’.

 

Although most blogs and websites I have come across include tahini as an important ingredient in Baba Ganoush, in my experience living in the Middle East, Baba Ganoush has always been served without tahini. The Baba Ganoush which I know is a tangy, textured, multi-dimentional dip made from pureed chargrilled  eggplants studded with tomatoes, walnuts and parsley, and drizzled with pomegranate syrup.

 

For those of you who want to add tahini, have a look at my recipe for Moutabel, which is another popular Middle Eastern smokey eggplant dish (also delicious!).

 

 

BABA GANOUSH

(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

 

Ingredients: (makes 2 cups)

2 lb / 900g eggplant (aubergine) – this is usually 2 medium-sized eggplants

Half a medium tomato, ripe and firm, deseeded and finely diced

3 Tbsp walnuts, chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated/finely chopped

2-3 Tbsp lemon juice – this is usually 1 – 1 1/2 juicy lemons

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cumin powder

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for roasting the eggplant)

1 Tbsp parsley

2-4 tsp pomegranate syrup (also called pomegranate molasses/concentrate) (optional)

 

 

Directions:

  1. To achieve the authentic smokey flavor, you need to cook the eggplant on an open flame. If you have a gas stove or barbecue, place the entire eggplant directly on the open flame and cook it until the inside is soft.
  2. Alternatively, you can roast the eggplant in a preheated oven at 400F/200C (although it won’t have the chargrilled flavor, it will still be very good). To do this, pour 2 Tbsp olive oil into an oven proof-dish. Take your eggplants (aubergines) and poke holes in the skin all around the surface. Place the eggplants in the oven-proof dish and rub the olive oil all over the skin. Place in the oven for 40-60 minutes (turning once halfway through). The eggplant is ready when you press down on it and it is very soft.
  3. Remove the eggplants from the heat and slice them in half to allow them to cool quickly. Let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The skin will peel off easily, either using your fingers or a fork and knife.
  4. Take the peeled eggplant and chop it very roughly. Place it in a colander (in the sink or over a bowl). Place a small plate on top of the eggplant in the colander to weight it down. Press down the plate and leave it for about 30 minutes to let the liquid come out. After 30 minutes, press the plate down again to squeeze the last of the liquid out.
  5. If you want to use a food processor, put the eggplant, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin powder, 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and 1 Tbsp parsley into the food processor and pulse to desired consistency (keep it chunky). Remember, most of the ingredients can easily be added after processing, so it is better to start with the smaller suggested quantities of the seasonings and add more after tasting.
  6. If you want to make the Baba Ganoush by hand, remove the eggplant from the colander and place it on a chopping board. Chop it up finely (I recommend using a large cook’s knife if you have one). Stop when you are happy with the texture. In a bowl, combine the eggplant with 2 grated/finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin powder, 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and 1 Tbsp parsley. I recommend starting with the smaller suggested quantities of the seasonings and adding more after tasting. Remove from the food processor.
  7. Add the diced tomatoes and chopped walnuts. Fold all the ingredients together.
  8. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  9. To serve, remove from the refrigerator and give it a good stir. Pile the Baba Ganoush onto a platter or bowl, drizzle with 2-4 tsp pomegranate syrup, and serve with flat-bread or veggie sticks.

 

 

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May 032013
 

Moutabel

 

 

The names ‘Moutabel’ and ‘Baba Ganoush‘ are often used interchangeably for this well-known Middle Eastern eggplant/aubergine dish. However, they are not the same thing. While most of the ingredients and cooking methods are identical for both dishes, it is what you do in the last few steps of the recipe which determines whether you end up with Moutabel or whether you get Baba Ganoush.

 

 

Moutabel is blended with tahini (sesame paste) to get an earthy eggplant dip with a creamy texture. Baba Ganoush, on the other hand, skips the tahini and incorporates tomatoes, walnuts, parsley and pomegranate syrup for a tangier eggplant dip. Both are delicious served with flatbread or veggie sticks!

 

 

 

MOUTABEL

(Serves 4-6 as a dip)

 

 

Ingredients: (makes 2 cups)

2 lb / 900g eggplant (aubergine) – this is usually 2 medium-sized eggplants

2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated/finely chopped

2-3 Tbsp lemon juice – this is usually 1 – 1 1/2 juicy lemons

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cumin powder

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for roasting the eggplant)

1 Tbsp parsley

2-4 Tbsp tahini (depending on your taste)

 

 

Directions:

  1. To achieve the authentic smokey flavor, you need to cook the eggplant on an open flame. If you have a gas stove or barbecue, place the entire eggplant directly on the open flame and cook it until the inside is soft.
  2. Alternatively, you can roast the eggplant in a preheated oven at 400F/200C (although it won’t have the chargrilled flavor, it will still be very good). To do this, pour 2 Tbsp olive oil into an oven proof-dish. Take your eggplants (aubergines) and poke holes in the skin all around the surface. Place the eggplants in the oven-proof dish and rub the olive oil all over the skin. Place in the oven for 40-60 minutes (turning once halfway through). The eggplant is ready when you press down on it and it is very soft.
  3. Remove the eggplants from the heat and slice them in half to allow them to cool quickly. Let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The skin will peel off easily, either using your fingers or a fork and knife.
  4. Take the peeled eggplant and chop it very roughly. Place it in a colander (in the sink or over a bowl). Place a small plate on top of the eggplant in the colander to weight it down. Press down the plate and leave it for about 30 minutes to let the liquid come out. After 30 minutes, press the plate down again to squeeze the last of the liquid out.
  5. If you want to use a food processor, put the eggplant, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin powder, 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp parsley, and 2-4 Tbsp tahini into the food processor and blend to desired consistency. Remember, most of the ingredients can easily be added after processing, so it is better to start with the smaller suggested quantities of the seasonings and add more after tasting.
  6. If you want to make the Moutabel by hand, remove the eggplant from the colander and place it on a chopping board. Chop it up finely (I recommend using a large cook’s knife if you have one). Stop when you are happy with the texture.
  7. In a bowl, combine the eggplant with 2 grated/finely shopped garlic cloves, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin powder, 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp parsley, and 2-4 Tbsp tahini. I recommend starting with the smaller suggested quantities of the seasonings and adding more after tasting.
  8. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  9. Serve with flatbread or veggie sticks.

 

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May 032013
 

Garlic-Chilli Creme Dip

 

 

If you like dips with a real kick, you will love this Garlic-Chilli Creme Dip recipe. It has got 5 ingredients, most of which you probably have in your home right now.

 

Great for dipping raw veggies or grilled seafood.

 

 

GARLIC-CHILLI CREME DIP

(makes 1 cup)

 

 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated (if you are not very keen on raw garlic, just use 1 garlic clove)

1/8 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

 

 

Directions:

  1. Prepare the Garlic Creme by putting the creme fraiche and mayonnaise in a bowl and mixing together until well combined.
  2. Peel and grate 1-2 garlic cloves (I use the fine side of a regular cheese grater).  I use 2 garlic cloves to get a pronounced garlic flavor which can kick through the creme fraiche and mayonnaise, but you can use 1 garlic clove if you want to keep it more subtle.
  3. Add the red chilli powder and sea salt. Mix well.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This can be made a day in advance.

 

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