an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

deseeding pomegranates is feminine & erotic, unless you hit them with a wooden spoon...


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Fried butterbeans with feta, sorrel and sumac

This recipe is adapted from ‘Plenty’, the excellent vegetarian book by Yotam Ottolenghi. Sorrel is a little like lemony spinach, and if you can’t get hold of it, just use spinach and add a little more lemon.

Sorrel is a traditional ingredient in some Eastern Jewish recipes, most notably a soup known as Schav. I thought this recipe was interesting in a fusion kind of way in that respect. I have never really liked butterbeans, but the recipe had sumac in it, and therefore was probably right up my street. And it was delicious - it turns out that I just don’t like butterbeans in cholent.

This salad was filling and fresh tasting. The creaminess of the butterbeans, with the lemon and salty feta was a really fantastic combination.

Serves 2

1 can butterbeans, drained and rinsed
Olive oil
3-4 spring onions, sliced lengthways into strips
1 garlic clove, crushed
100g sorrel, washed and cut into 2cm strips, with some reserved and sliced finely for garnish
1 tbsp lemon juice (add more or less depending on how much sorrel you have, or how lemony you like it)
50-80g feta, cubed/crumbled
2 tsp sumac
Handful chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

You will probably need to fry the beans in two batches.

Fry the beans in a little olive oil on a medium-high heat until golden brown and blistered.

When cooking the final batch, when the beans are almost done, add the spring onions, sorrel and garlic, and fry for about a minute.

Take the pan off the heat and mix together the beans from both batches, and season lightly with salt and pepper (remember that the feta you will add later is salty). Cool down to room temperature.

When cooled, drizzle over the lemon juice, and scatter with the feta, extra sorrel, parsley and sumac.

Some of the butterbeans will burst a little, but don't worry about it - its tasty!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Humous, my way

Most people have their way of making humous – here is mine.

Humous is one of my staples. I really can’t live without it. During Passover when I can’t have it (because I am of Ashkenazi origin), I really suffer. If I marry a Sephardic Jew (presumably a male one) I will be able to eat chickpeas over Passover – it is problematic because I have always said that I don’t need to marry in order to be happy, but chickpeas might actually be the exception to the rule. Seriously, who needs equality and a strong individual identity when you can have humous for an extra week every year?

I started making my own when I was in university because it was cheaper, and I still do because it is so much tastier. I like it thick and lemony, with a little garlic and spices, with marinated chickpeas on the top for variation of texture, fun, and to make it look super impressive. The only drawback to making your own over shop-bought is that home-made humous only lasts for a few days – although in my mind, by highlighting all of the preservatives in the shop bought varieties, it makes me want to eat them even less.

The quantities given below are enough for a mezze of 10 people. See my new mezze label for more recipes.

For the humous:

2.5 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (pick through the drained chickpeas and squeeze off as many of their rubbery skins as you can bare. This is time-consuming, but trust me, it makes for a far better humous. I tend to set a time-limit for this, e.g. as many as I can pick off in 15 minutes.)
3 tbsp. runny tahini sauce (made fresh from tahini paste, see method here – I always have some on the go for making humous, baba ganoush, eating with a spoon, and drizzling over roasted fish, aubergines, butternut squash, or whatever else that takes my fancy)
2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon, more or less depending on your tastes
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed (depending on tastes or social plans -  if the cloves are big I tend to use one and a half)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
salt to taste

For the marinated chickpeas:

Half a can of chickpeas
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. smoked paprika (or more according to your preferences)
1 tsp. sumac
1 tsp. za’atar
salt to taste

Make the marinated chickpeas in advance if possible, or at least before you start making the rest of the humous. Just put everything in a bowl and mix well.

After the skins are removed place the chickpeas in a large bowl with the other ingredients and blend with a hand-blender until smooth. Using a hand-blender as opposed to a food processor will give you greater control over the consistency of the humous – you want it to be smooth, but not blended into oblivion. You may want to add a little water to create a smoother dip – I like mine almost cementy. Season with salt and taste, adjusting the lemon and spice levels according to your preferences.

Serve with the marinated chickpeas on top of the humous (make a little well in the centre of the dish) and drizzle with a little extra olive oil and za’atar.

So that's how I make my humous - how do you make yours? Please leave me a comment if you have any recommendations for interesting combinations or additions 
*breaking news* see my chocolate hazelnut macaroon recipe for Kosher Kingdom here
Get your early-bird Gefiltefest tickets here

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tabouleh with Apricots

Tabouleh is one of my favourite salads, and it has been for as long as I can remember. For me, it is magic salad. A friend recently asked on facebook: ‘what food when you eat it today takes you back to your childhood?’ My immediate response was Spaghetti Hoops, but actually, it is tabouleh, known to my childhood self as ‘magic salad.’ When you are little, I guess absorption is a bit hard to comprehend. Even though I now understand that the water covering the bulgur wheat doesn’t magically disappear, the associations of excitement and wonder remain.

As they say in Jerusalem, ‘If you want to find a good husband, you’d better learn how to chop your parsley properly.’

Tabouleh is all about the parsley.  I cook with a lot of parsley, obviously I am just trying to perfect the chopping method. Traditionally tabouleh is mostly herbs with a little bulgur wheat, but my recipe is more similar to my mother’s, which uses a higher ratio of bulgur wheat. This makes the salad a little more substantial and a little less time-consuming (the herbs take ages to pick and shred properly). Also like my mother and unlike the Ottolenghi/ Tamimi recipe, I don’t put any spices in the tabouleh. I use spices in most of my cooking, so it is nice to have a side salad that is really fresh-tasting, to balance with the rest of the meal.

Dried apricot and spring onion tabouleh, serves 6 - 8


150g bulgur wheat
1-2 cloves of garlic (depending on your social plans for the rest of the day), crushed
Big punch of fresh parsley, about 100 - 150g, leaves picked and chopped (a little stalk is fine)
Fresh mint, about half a small pack 15 – 20g, leaves picked and chopped
3-4 spring onions, finely sliced (greens as well as white)
handful of dried apricots, diced (I buy these ready-diced. It costs the same and they are coated in a little rice flour so that they don’t stick to anything)
2 – 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon, more if you want
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the bulgur wheat in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water as if you were making couscous. Leave for about 10 minutes until most of the water is absorbed and the bulgur wheat is cooked but still al dente. Drain off the excess water and while the bulgur wheat is still warm, add the garlic and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the other ingredients – adding extra lemon juice and olive oil if you want to. Tabouleh gets better over time, and I normally leave it for a day before digging in.


Cucumber and tomato (finely diced)
Pomegranate, red onion and crispy fried shallots

Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin with Thyme

This is another recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s excellent vegetarian cookbook Veg Everyday! 515 five star reviews on Amazon can’t be wrong.

‘Sunday mornings’ are a relatively new concept to me (it used to be that they were slept through), and they are becoming my favourite thing. Every few months or so, I meet up with some friends very early on a Sunday morning and we walk down to Queens Park for an enormous breakfast and a visit to Queens Park Farmers' Market. The market is fantastic, a great source for interesting and excellent quality vegetables, artisan cheese and baked things, fresh fish and meat. Best of all though, is being able to talk to the suppliers about their produce.

The London Farmers’ Market website is great for telling you where you local market is. It handily tells you what is in season too. Currently it is Rhubarb, purple-sprouting broccoli, and Jerusalem artichokes. Have a look at their excellent SayNay campaign, in response to latest foodie scandals – urging people to eat traceable meat from trusted suppliers. While I haven’t bought any of the meat at the farmers' market as it isn’t kosher, the meat stalls always intrigue me – even I, of little experience with cooking meat could see how brilliant it looked.

At my most recent visit to Queens Park Farmers’ Market, I got a little carried away - I bought apple and pear juice, fresh goat’s cheese rolled in a lemon-pepper crumb, sorrel (recipe coming soon), and a big bag of Jerusalem Artichokes. I love Jerusalem artichokes – they can be pretty hard to find but as they are in season now all of the growers at the market seemed to have them. They taste like globe artichoke hearts but look more like a knobbly potato. I have had them before roasted (quite good) and in soups (totally amazing), but this time I wanted to try something different. And who can resist a gratin? This was really delicious, and very straightforward to make. To be honest, the only tricky thing is peeling the artichokes without hacking off too much of the vegetable. Be warned – this dish is incredibly rich, even after I omitted all of the butter. Whatever you do, and however much you want to, don’t have seconds, trust me – you will regret it.

You will need a large frying pan with a lid that can also go under the grill.

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced not too thin
500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into roughly 3mm slices
About a handful of thyme – leaves only
100ml water
2-4 tbsp crème fraîche (depending on how rich/creamy you want it)
A handful of grated cheddar or other well-flavoured melting cheese, to sprinkle on the top
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and lightly fry for about 10 minutes, until soft and beginning to colour.

Add the artichokes, thyme and the water, season and when it begins to bubble, cover the pan and turn the heat down low. Let the artichokes simmer for about 20 minutes until they are tender, stirring occasionally and adding a little more water if needed. [Pre-heat the grill when there is about five minutes left on this time]. Remove the lid and turn the heat up, simmering for a few minutes more if necessary to reduce the liquid to a thick glaze.

Taste the artichokes and adjust the seasoning if needed. Stir through the crème fraîche, scatter with cheese and grill for a few minutes until the gratin is bubbling. Luxury.

I served this with a filet of salmon, baked in a parcel of foil with some halved cherry tomatoes and few anchovy fillets draped over the top.