Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Greek lunch in Cyprus. Aubergines with olive oil, garlic, parsley and feta


A quick break in Cyprus to see my mum and get some last sun before a the British winter sets in the damp for a few months at least.

Saw this on TV at the weekend and combined with some leftover masala chops and some local cheese bread it was a great lunch and beautifully simple.

grilled_aubergines_with_Feta - BBC image

Aubergines with olive oil, garlic, parsley and feta (Simon Hopkinson)

Serves 4 with the dressing below

  • Aubergines – as many as you think you can eat – probably a couple of the thin asian ones depending on size per person
  • Garlic, 2-3 cloves, finely chopped
  • Parley leaves, a large handful, finely chopped and then chopped together with the garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 5-6 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper go easy on the salt
  • Feta cheese,made with sheep and goat's milk rather than cow's – as much as looks generous without being overwhelming
  • lemon juice, to taste

Heat the grill on high. Run a knife around the neck of the aubergines, one centimetre away from the stalk, just cutting through the skin. Now make four very shallow cuts (just through the skin – think scoring crackling) down, right to the bulbous end.

Grill them, turning them every 5 minutes. This part should take about 20 minutes. You want them soft and yielding but not too collapsed.

Whilst they are grilling, mix together the parsley, garlic, olive oil and a small amount of salt and leave to mingle. the dressing should be quite wet but still thick with the parsley.

When the aubergines are ready, transfer to your serving plate. (ideally a big one that can hold the aubergines in one layer) and allow to cool for a few minutes. With the help of a knife, peel off the skin in 4 sheets and discard. Without cutting through the stalk end, split the aubergines in two – they’ll look a bit ugly at this stage.

Grind on some black pepper and spoon the dressing over the aubergines. Crumble the feta over the top and squeeze some lemon juice. Add a bit more oil if you think it needs it

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chana Dal from The Sunday Times

This is warming, gentle and very good.

However, if it serves four people on it’s own I'd be surprised, so up or double the quantities. Makes sense to double as then you can use a whole tin of coconut milk.

You might also need more chilli if you like that sort of thing.

Left overs would be great for lunch as part of roti filling.

Serves 4-6
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 35 minutes

1 tbsp coconut or other oil – maybe some ghee….
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cloves of garlic, grated
2 red chilli, finely chopped
5cm piece of ginger, grated
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cumin
100g red lentils
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
200ml coconut milk
400g can of chickpeas

Rice and fresh coriander, to serve

Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the onions slowly for about 15 minutes until they have really softened and started to go golden brown. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the spices and toast them for 1 minute. Throw in the lentils and stir to coat them in the spicy onions. Cover with the stock and coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and cook for a final 10 minutes until everything is cooked through and wonderfully aromatic.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mejadra–very moorish…

Strangely I come across this recipe almost three years to tge day that it appeared in the Observer. I imagine most of west london has already moved on, but more fool them as it’s a particularly suitable dish for this time of year when you start to think about needing something warming to fight of the first wave of colds sweeping the city.

So – better late than never….

Bittersweet fried onions cooked with sweet spices and topped with yoghurt make a meal to remember

Mejadra recipePhotograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian

Yotam Ottolenghi  -  Serves four

250ml sunflower oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
250g green or brown lentils
2 tsp cumin seeds
1½ tbsp coriander seeds
200g basmati rice
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp ground allspice
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
350ml water

Heat the sunflower oil in a medium-size heavy-based saucepan. When very hot, carefully add a third of the sliced onion. Fry for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice, golden-brown colour and turns crispy. Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with two more batches of onion.

I did this in a wok, which in hindsight was a little dangerous even on a stand, but did mean i used a little less oil. Don’t be tempted to shallow fry the onions as it takes forever and they won’t be as crisp

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain into a colander.

Wipe clean the saucepan in which you fried the onion and drop in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over a medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two, until they release those distinctive aromas. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with oil, then add the cooked lentils and water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. Finally, tip the rice and lentils into a large mixing bowl. Add half the fried onion and stir gently with a fork. Pile up in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

Serve with plain yoghurt or some tzatziki. Some fiery chili sauce on the other side is also very good for a hot  / cold / soothing contrast.

Add grilled fish / meats and salad for more of a complete dinner.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Saag Paneer–better than Khan’s..


Saag Paneer probably appears on 95% of all our takeaway curry orders but I’d never made it from scratch – too much spinach and cream for me to be bothered with.

Frozen spinach and yoghurt completely transform the prospect and paneet keeps in the fridge for ages so you can pretty much always have the ingredients for this. I made a cauliflower curry on the side too – not so successful. Still – better than Khan’s is good enough to make it again.

Recipe courtesy Aarti Sequeira – Foodnetwork

Prep Time:
10 min 
Cooking Time:
45 min
4 servings


  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or Kashmiri chilli powder
  • Sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tablespoons veg oil or ghee, or mix of both
  • a block of paneer – around 200-300g, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 500g frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped – if you can get Indian pink onions they are beautiful although often pricey – well, for onions anyway.
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 1-2 tablespoon)
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2-3 Indian green chillies, finely chopped or other chillies to whatever heat strength you like it.
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 heaped teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, stirred until smooth


In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons oil. Gently, drop in the cubes of paneer and gently toss, taking care not to break the cubes if you're using the homemade kind. Let the cubes marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.

Thaw the spinach in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish, and then chop a bit more if it’s too chunky for you. 

Place a large frying pan (non-stick if it is undamaged or a good well seasoned cast iron one preferably)  over medium heat, and add the paneer as the pan warms. In a couple of minutes give the pan a toss; each piece of paneer should be browned on one side. Fry another minute or so, and then remove the paneer from the pan onto a plate.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chili.

Gently fry the onion mix until it’s a rich golden colour - which should take about 15 minutes, although inevitably it takes longer. Don't skip this step - this is the foundation of the dish! If you feel like the mixture is drying out and burning, add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Add the garam masala, coriander and cumin. If you haven't already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook, stirring often, until the raw scent of the spices cook out, and it all smells like it knows each other a bit, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add a little salt and 1/2 a glass of water, stir, and cook about 5 minutes with the lid off.

Turn the heat off. Add the yogurt, a little at a time to keep it from curdling. Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, add the paneer. Turn the heat back on, cover and cook until everything is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Eat with bread or rice. In general also think most of this kind of food should come with some sort of salad, from a kachumber, to a simple green or tomato, it often needs just a sharp lemon juice and salt dressing to offset the richness of the spices. Try it and see what you think.