Saturday, 13 July 2013


I am a real sucker for falafel. Whether they are made from broad beans or chickpeas I can't resist a well made falafel wrap with all the salady saucey trimmings. I've attempted to make them a few times before and had only ever had limited success. But that was until I stumbled across this awesome recipe from the wonderful Ottolenghi in his Jerusalem book. I serve mine with turkish flat bread, finely sliced red cabbage, carrot and onion, a few bits of sliced tomato then some tahini and or chilli sauces. Always a household favourite an worth the effort. Seriously - I doubt you'll ever have had falafel as good as this made at home.

250g dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
small bunch of flat leaf parsley, coriander or any mixture, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp water

Oil for deep frying
  1. Put the soaked chickpeas, onion, garlic and fresh herbs in a food processor and pulzerise until it is evenly mixed and is starting to come together but not mushy or like a paste.
  2. Add the dried spices, water, flour and salt then put on full power for another minute or so or until everything is thoroughly combined and holds together. 
  3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover then leave to chill in the fridge for at least an hour or until ready to use. I often put the mix together in the morning then cook it up in the evening.
  4. When you're ready to cook preheat your oil in a suitable cooking device ( I use a large wok) to a medium temperature. Check the temperature by dropping a small amount of the mixture to see if it sizzles.
  5. Using either a couple of table spoons or a small ice cream scoop form the mixture into small falafel balls and place carefully into the oil. Cook until golden on all sides about 3-5 minutes then remove carefully with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain of excess oil.


Friday, 12 July 2013

courgette, chickpea and roast tomato salad

Continuing my thread of recipes using up what I've got in my cupboards before I move house is this delicious salad. It's straightforward to prepare and very 'Ottolenghi' in style. I had a jar of wonderful Spanish chickpeas to use that I had bought from Brindisa that are seriously good. Much creamier and quite a lot larger than what you usually get in cans. This recipe brings together several of my favourite ingredients into a tasty and satisfying salad. If you don't like one of the ingredients don't use it - make it vegan by omitting the tuna and egg, maybe add some grilled red peppers for a different flavour, boost the chilli levels, switch the herbs - basically, go with what you fancy, this is your salad. It makes a great summer supper especially if you serve it with some toasted fresh bread.

425g drained, cooked chickpeas
2 courgettes
3-5 tomatoes
3 eggs
olive oil
sherry vinegar or lemon juice
small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp sumac
1 tin tuna steak in spring water
bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
2 tsp dried or fresh dill
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)

Toasted bread to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C, quarter the tomatoes and lightly drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Roast in the oven for around 30 minutes or until they are soft and slightly golden on the edges. Meanwhile prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. Preheat a griddle pan then slice the courgettes lengthways about 3-5mm thick, brush with a little olive oil mixed with black pepper then place the slices on the griddle pan for about 5 minutes on each side or until they are cooked through and have grill marks on each side. Place to the side until you're ready to assemble the dish.
  3. Boil the eggs to your preferred hardness. I like them when the yolk is still a bit soft for salads. Peel and halve ready for assembly.
  4. In a large bowl place the chickpeas, tuna, chopped spring onions, chilli flakes, sumac, parsley, dill, a little salt and pepper to taste and a glug each of olive oil and sherry vinegar. Mix together until evenly combined. Taste, then adjust the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper balance to your preference. 
  5. You can put this salad together any way you like I opted for a ring of courgettes round the edge of the plate topped with the roasted tomatoes. The chickpea mixture in the middle and the boiled egg halves on top. A final sprinkle of sumac over the top and it's ready to go. 

chickpea mixture

the finished salad

I'm entering this recipe in the July Four Seasons Food Challenge hosted by the lovely people at Chez Foti and Delicieux

Thursday, 11 July 2013

'grown-up' chocolate cakes

I'm still in the process of going through my pantry and using up as much of the stuff I've got in the house as I can before I move. I had lots of chocolate around, the usual cakey ingredients as well as a bottle of whiskey I was never going to get around to drinking. Using my Dr Pepper cupcakes recipe as the starting point I came up with this rather grown up recipe. The whiskey flavour isn't particularly strong but it does add some complexity to the end product. You could replace the chocolate spread with the equivalent amount of melted chocolate or a dark jam such as cherry or blackcurrant, why not try out whatever you've got to hand.

100g unsalted butter
300ml whiskey
100g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
2 tbsp chocolate spread such as nutella
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g demerara sugar
12 dark chocolate lindor truffle balls or similar.
2 eggs

Ganache Topping
100g dark chocolate
100g butter
pinch of salt

Makes 12 cupcakes.
  1. Start by add the sugar to the whiskey then heating the mixture of a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, the alcohol has evaporated off and the mixture has reduced by about two thirds (around 200mls or so).
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C fan oven. Put the paper cases in the muffin tray and fill a large oven proof dish with water and place in the bottom of the oven. The steam that is produced will help the cakes to rise and be lovely and light.
  3. Put the butter and chocolate spread in the saucepan and allow it to melt in the residual heat. Stir through and add the vanilla extract.
  4. Sieve together the dry ingredients to get rid of any lumps, then beat in the whiskey mixture followed by the eggs until thoroughly combined. 
  5. Put a dollop of the mixture into each of the paper cases (about 1/4 cup if you have a measure). Place a chocolate ball in the centre of each case then put in the oven. Bake for around 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool completely before decorating with frosting or ganache.
Making the ganache
  1. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water. You can use it now as it is to give a thin covering to the cupcakes but I prefer to allow it to set in the fridge, returning to beat it every 10 minutes or so until it is a spreadable consistency. Once you've achieved this consistency you're ready to go.

Monday, 8 July 2013

apple sauce flapjacks

Some of you probably already know but I'm soon to be moving to Bangkok. I'm beyond excited but also a little overwhelmed but everything I need to get done before I go. Thankfully one of the items on my list is to use up as much of the stuff I've got lurking in my cupboards and fridge as possible. I hate waste and I couldn't face throwing away perfectly decent food.

I've recently come across the lovely Credit Crunch Munch people and thought this recipe totally fits in with their aims - money saving but super tasty food. Check them out Fuss Free Flavours, Fab Food 4 All and the current hosts Fish Fingers For Tea. Do check out their work when you get chance they've got some awesome ideas going on.

This flapjack recipe results in a fairly soft and tasty snacking treat and I suspect it may be a little more healthy than the typical flapjack due to the lower sugar/syrup quantities. I started with my standard easy flapjack recipe and made a couple of adjustments. So here it is.

500g rolled oats or muesli of your choice (I used 350 rolled oats, 50g dried cherries, 30g currants and 70g chopped hazelnuts)
250g butter
250g apple sauce (I had a jar of homemade apple sauce my mum had given me a while back)
100g soft brown sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan. Grease a square brownie pan or other ovenproof dish
  2. In a saucepan over a low heat, melt the butter, sugar and apple sauce together until they are thoroughly combined. Don't panic if the sugar doesn't completely dissolve. 
  3. Throw in the the oats/muesli/nuts/dried fruit that you're using and coat thoroughly in the buttery sugary goodness. 
  4. Press the mixture into your prepared dish then put in the oven for around 45 minutes. The flapjack is ready once it is golden brown.
  5. Leave to cool for at least 5-10 minutes minutes before you mark into pieces.
  6. Now leave it to cool completely before turning out of the pan otherwise you'll just get all burnt and the flapjack will fall apart. Enjoy with a nice cup of tea.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

summer berry sernik (polish cheese cake)

I can never resist a proper Polish style baked cheese cake. This is a fairly light, and not at all overly sweet version. Theres no biscuit base and it's relatively low in fat and easy to make your own variations. I like this recipe so much that we served it at my recent wedding as part of the afternoon tea offering. It's based on this lovely recipe from the Whiteplate blog.

1kg polish cottage cheese (I use this one)
6 large eggs
190g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 heaped tbsp cornstarch/cornflour
zest of a lemon
around 300g berries (blackberries, strawberries or raspberries would be my preference but whatever you fancy)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a springform cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Beat the cottage cheese with electric whisk until it starts to come together.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time beating between each addition.
  4. Finally add the salt, vanilla and lemon zest and beat well. You're not trying to beat air into it, just make sure it is smooth and thoroughly combined.
  5. Pour into the cake tin, place the berries on top then bake in the oven for 45-60 mins. The centre will still be a bit loose when done but not liquid. Turn off the oven and leave to cool completely with the door left slightly ajar. 
  6. Chill for several hours, preferably overnight.

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