Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spicy Chickpea Fritters

It's quite surprising to me that I don't have more Indian inspired recipes on my blog because I LOVE Indian food. In fact whenever I go home to Scotland one of the top things on my 'To Do' list is to have a good Indian takeaway and this past trip was no exception! Before Italian food took a hold of me I think Indian curries were my favourite and they still remain in close competition with Italian food as to which is my absolute favourite. Thankfully I don't need to chose between the two (despite always playing that mind game with myself and asking others what their favourites are!) which is a big relief as it would be tricky....very tricky!

Unfortunately for me though, where I now live in Canada is not home to a big following of Indian food so there are no good restaurants or takeaways which can satisfy my spicy Indian cravings like in the UK (where literally there were 5 Indian restaurants within walking distance from my flat in Edinburgh – oh how I miss that!) so it means when I want a good curry I make it myself. Normally though if I'm going to make a curry I have to go all out and so it's a rare occurrence when I only literally make a curry – there are generally a couple of dishes, definitely Naan bread and Poppadoms (which here I even have to fry myself and only recently could buy them at all!) and plenty of condiments. If I make a starter even better, and so when I do I make this recipe for Spicy Chickpea Fritters, (inspired 100% by Jo Pratt's Chick Pea Fritters from her book In the Mood for Entertaining) which is in my opinion the ideal way to start a spicy Indian feast. If you like Bhaji's you will love these as they are similar – crispy and golden on the outside and soft spicy goodness inside – they are amazing and even better, easy to make!

Luckily I just managed to sneak this post in in time for participating in Lisa's Kitchen challenge that she is currently hosting (although of course today is the last day for entering!) to celebrate Indian food. How could I not take part when I have this recipe, plus it meant I had the perfect excuse for making them again as I needed to take some photos! As I said they are a great way to start an Indian meal but they also make a perfect lunch. Try them and I honestly think they will soon become a favourite part of your Indian meal, even if you can order a takeaway whenever you like!

I like to add extra garlic and chilli to my fritters along with curry powder and salt and pepper, which aren't on the list of ingredients in the original recipe, but you could easily miss them out and stick to the recipe as written in the book. I've also changed the mint dip slightly – again it's just the way I like it, however they are also delicious served with Mango Chutney or if you want extra spice, some Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce.

Serves 6

400g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 chillies, roughly chopped (keep the seeds in for more heat)
1 egg
75g plain or all-purpose flour
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander – be generous!
½ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Mint Dip:
150ml natural yogurt
small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
1 tbsp mint sauce (optional but I love the flavour it gives)
Few drops of Tabasco (optional)
salt & freshly ground black pepper

To Serve:
Good handful of rocket or spinach leaves
Small mint leaves
Red chilli, finely sliced

To make the fritters simply add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blend until you have a smooth batter.

For the mint dip pop the yogurt and mint into a blender (or use a jug and a hand blender). Blitz until smooth and the mint finely chopped. Add the mint sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper and stir well. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if needed. It will be runny but that's how it's meant to be. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

When you are ready to cook the fritters put roughly 1 ½ inches of oil into a deep, medium sized pan. Once it is hot enough carefully drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil (it is up to you how big you want them but don't go too crazy!) and fry for a minute or two until golden brown all over (you will probably have to flip them over half way through cooking). Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Season with a little Maldon sea salt (or other finishing salt) and repeat the process until you have made them all.

When ready to serve I like to put a handful of rocket (arugula) into the middle of the serving plate then pile them on top. Finish with a scattering of small mint leaves and some fresh chilli and if you like a wedge of lemon or lime. So simple yet completely delicious and guaranteed to satisfy any spicy craving you have!

{Of course as is always the way they turned out looking a little heavier than normal but they are crispy and golden and delicious - the photos just don't do them justice!}

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Heat Round Up # 2 - Soup

November's Sweet Heat Challenge was another success with plenty of you turning up the heat in your soup pots! For me the challenge of making a hot and spicy soup couldn't have come at a better time as I have spent the last 2 weeks fighting off a nasty cold! Add to the sneezing and sniveling 2 big snow falls; 2 power cuts; 2 make that 3 (after today) big storms and far too many frosty mornings and you have yourself smack bang in the middle of soup season! So thank you all for participating and sharing some new and fantastic ideas to try. It was great to see such a diverse collection with inspiration coming from all over the world, reminding us just how universal soup is!

First up we have Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen fame who made a deliciously aromatic Indian inspired dish of Spicy Mung Beans with Chillies and Fresh Lime Juice......

Next Francesca from Checky's Kitchen finally managed to enter her first challenge (woohoo!) and got off to a fantastic start with her Spicy Red Pepper, Chickpea and Coriander Soup – a real winter warmer!....

The lovely Janice aka Farmersgirl went along the same lines as Francesca and made a beautiful chickpea soup, this time though the spicy heat came courtesy of one of my favourite ingredients – Smoked Paprika. Her Chickpea and Smoked Paprika Soup looks like a real winner guaranteed to warm you up even on the coldest of days!....

From Food, Football and a Baby, Michelle's entry this month was a fabulous Roasted Tomato Soup that she spiced up with some tongue-tingling Spicy Croutons....

Next up and the equally chilli obsessed Susan from Susan Eats London turned up the heat with her Spicy Black Bean, Coconut and Lime Soup which featured both Thai Chillies and Scotch Bonnets! {Did I mention how much I like this girl?!}....

My contribution was a soul-soothing, mood enhancing Spicy Thai Soup which disappeared within the day (unfortunately though my cold did not!)....

Janet from The Taste Space made a wonderfully hearty and colourful Brazilian Black Bean and Vegetable Stew, which was cram-packed full of healthy and delicious ingredients guaranteed to make you feel good.....

Allotment to Kitchen's Shaheen made the most unique soup by challenging herself for the first time to make an indulgent and rich Senegalese Spicy Peanut Butter Soup. Hat's off for that one Shaheen!.... 

And finally Matthew from Salty Plums made a deliciously smoky and earthy Spicy Beetroot Soup using smoked chipotles and paprika – definitely comfort in a bowl!

Thank you all again for taking the time to make and share your Spicy Soup recipes – it really is a fantastic collection! Next month's challenge will be posted on December 1st so don't miss it!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My First Ever Cake Pops!

Now before I write anything about my achievements in making my first ever cake pops I feel that I need to add a disclaimer otherwise I will inevitably receive a backlash of comments criticising me.... yes these 'cake pops' are not authentic, original cake pops as created and made famous by Bakerella!! These are my cake pops which rather surprisingly were made using a Babycakes Cake Pop maker! I know....I'm sure a lot of you are reading this in disbelief....not only are these not real cake pops but they were made using an electrical cake pop maker!

The thing is I have wanted to make cake pops for a while now. Like all new baking trends I was suckered into the cake pop frenzy and unsurprisingly have the Bakerella book (it was too good an offer to turn down!) however I have another confession to make....quite honestly the idea of turning a cake into crumbs, mixing with frosting and forming into balls (or other shapes for that matter) just didn't appeal! I know, I know – many of you will have stopped reading now – but I just can't help it! For some reason it brings back memories of taking slices of bread and squashing them into big doughy balls (which of course I loved as a child, much to my mums horror!) just didn't seem quite right. That being said who am I to judge?! The reality is cake pops are big and from what I've read and seen people can't get enough of them. I'm also sure that pretty soon I will be eating my words as it is my intention to make original cake pops and I have every faith that they will be delicious. For the time being however my venture into cake pop territory began by making perfect little balls of cake all made possible by using the Babycakes Cake Pop maker.

I have to admit I surprised myself by buying the machine and I did so rather sceptically. I'd seen the ones for cupcakes before and quite honestly had laughed at them – I mean, making cakes in an electrical machine...really?! But yet here I was, standing in the shop holding this machine, reading the instructions and actually thinking about buying it. What in the end sealed the deal on the purchase was the fact that it was on sale so if it turned out to be the disappointment I was expecting it wouldn't be too much of a loss and I would hear myself saying “I knew it!”. I was really hoping however that I was going to be proved wrong and lo and behold I was!
For it's maiden voyage I decided to try the recipe given in the instruction booklet which was your basic sponge cake recipe. I did however half it as the quantities given was enough for 48 little balls of cake, which for me seemed a little too much for the first go! So I made the batter, heated the machine (which incidentally does get unbelievably hot and is therefore not a suitable gift for children) and crossed my fingers. Once all 12 holes were filled I closed it and set the timer for 4 minutes – yes 4 minutes! Was it possibly to have lovely bites of vanilla cake in just 4 minutes? Answer – almost! They looked perfect so I excitedly took them out however they were pretty soft and I'm convinced did shrink a little after cooling so I gave the second batch 5 minutes and they were much better – no shrinkage!

To decorate them I used Wilton Candy Melts – another first for me, but they did the trick after a few practices and a couple of tutorials on YouTube to help me out! Turns out I had to add some oil to my melted chocolate/candy to get it to the right consistency for dipping – another first for me, but it worked beautifully and there was no taste of oil in the finished chocolate. I finished them off with some sprinkles and voila – job done! They are by no means perfect and not maybe as round as a proper cake pop would be but I have to admit that even with a few hiccups along the way I am super excited to make more of these – especially for Christmas time. Hopefully by then I will have perfected my decorating and they will look even better!

Tips and Hints:

  • Don't forget to lightly oil the Cake Pop Maker! It makes removing them and clean up much easier (I speak from experience!).
  • You really do need to freeze the cakes once you have inserted the sticks, otherwise they just fall off when you dip them (trust me on that one!).
  • Make sure the chocolate or covering you use is the right consistency. Too thick and it won't work, too runny and it will be too thin and you'll see the cake underneath (although its better to go too thin than too thick).
  • Try to avoid eating too many as you are making's a tough one as they are just so darn delicious!
  • Lastly have fun!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A little Hotel Chocolat Luxury

Well there is just no denying it any longer.....Christmas is literally just around the corner. In fact let me just be brutally honest and let you know that it is exactly one month until the big day! To be honest though, I have to admit I'm pretty excited as I actually love the run up to Christmas. It may come as no surprise to hear that I tend to go a little overboard when it comes to decorating the house, cooking, baking, wrapping presents, playing Christmas music and so on.....and so although it's not actually December yet (yes despite my excitement I do tend to wait until December 1st – something my husband has strictly enforced, especially when it comes to playing Christmas music!) I couldn't resist getting started with a couple of fantastic foodie suggestions for Christmas presents.

Now when it comes to Christmas food mince pies are as traditional as Roast Turkey, Trifle and Christmas Pudding, but like the tradition of serving brussel sprouts (which inevitably someone will turn their nose up at), they aren't always appreciated. My husband is one such person, so when I got the opportunity to try some Alternative Mince Pies from Hotel Chocolat I jumped at the chance! These mince pies had no hint of buttery, flaky pastry or fruity and boozy mincemeat filling but instead are made of rich, silky luxurious caramel, praline and chocolate! Seriously, do I need to say any more?.....Mince pies that are actually chocolate and caramel – unbelievable! These new little treats will be the death of the original mince pie once word gets out, even for the most die-hard mince pie enthusiast. Trust me! Anyone that you serve these to will be your new best friend as they are not only completely delicious but absolutely beautiful, and just as you would expect from an ordinary mince pie, these are topped with an elegant star made from a choice of milk or dark chocolate. So how's that for a Christmas suggestion?

Well if that's left you wanting more ideas you're in luck because I was also lucky enough to try some of Hotel Chocolats fabulously decadent Winter Desserts and honestly all I can say is wow! These beautiful chocolates come in a perfect little box containing 4 delicious flavours that really do taste as they should! My favourite was the Caramel Pecan Pie but how can you go wrong with Chocolate Souffle; Apple Strudel (which really did taste like Apple Strudel!) and Christmas Mess (although the only mess I saw was the chocolate around my face!). These are without doubt a must have item on your gift list, plus they also would make the most perfect hostess gift for any parties you are attending. Honestly, with a gift like that you'll be invited back before you've even left, so no matter who you buy these for they will be loved, after all how can you go wrong with chocolate and dessert in one delightful mouthful?!

So there you have it – the start of my Christmas posts with 2 fantastic ideas for Christmas presents. Now technically I think it's important to say that when I say that both of these items make great 'presents' I use the term fairly loosely because we know that at times we all need a little indulgence for ourselves and these sweet delights make the perfect treat to be enjoyed whilst decorating your tree or writing your Christmas cards, so don't miss out – treat yourself or someone special, I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

{For more delicious ideas for luxurious Christmas presents check out the Hotel Chocolat website here.}

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Random Recipes does No Croutons Required

This month Random Recipes joined forces with No Croutons Required and challenged us all to made a Random Vegetarian Soup. I was excited since it's no secret that I love soup and have quite a few cookbooks dedicated entirely to the wonderful dish. That being said though, I have to admit that this challenge turned out not to be quite as random as it should have been due to the fact that I just couldn't find a soup that appealed! I blame the awful post-flight cold I had and my taste buds being off but it was harder than I thought it would be to find a vegetarian soup that I hadn't made before (since I wanted it to be slightly random!) that sounded delicious and appealing to someone who was not only jet-lagged but full of a nasty cold. I scoured my 6 soup books and was uninspired (I know!!) so I turned to some of my other books to search out the perfect soup recipe. I finally decided to see what my good friend (I can pretend can't I?!) Jamie Oliver had to offer and found exactly what I was looking for....Pumpkin Rice Laksa! Hearty and filling but full of delicious aromatic flavours bound to cheer me up and rid me of my wrong I was.

Monday was the perfect day to make it since we woke up to 5 inches of snow so I happily stayed warm inside with the fire on and set about chopping and processing the ingredients and building up quite an appetite for it in the process. I adapted it slightly by using butternut squash rather than pumpkin, however it was listed in the ingredients list as a possible substitution so no biggie. I also cut back on the amount of chillies listed (!) so that Wee One could enjoy it as well. Everything was going as planned and it looked and smelt delicious...until I added the rice. In 12 minutes it went from the base of a beautiful aromatic soup to a thick Thai flavoured risotto/ rice pudding dish! Don't get me wrong the end result was deliciously tasty but definitely nothing like the beautiful picture that had accompanied the recipe or what I had been eagerly anticipating and spent days searching for! This Random Recipes challenge was a definite fail! Sorry Jamie! However I refuse to be defeated and so I will make it again just with some more substantial changes......Next time I'm going to miss the rice out completely or if I really want it just add a small handful rather than the 200g on the recipe. I would also cut the coconut milk from 2 cans to 1 and up the amount of stock instead to even it out. The rest however I would keep! I'm convinced with those alterations I would end up with the delicious soup I had been anticipating, so stay tuned for my own version of Jamie's Pumpkin Rice Laksa!

Pumpkin Rice Laksa Soup
{Taken from Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver}

600g/ 1 lb 6oz pumpkin or butternut squash (or other squash of your choice) halved, peeled and deseeded
a small handful of lime leaves
2-3 chillies, deseeded & finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely sliced
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled
3 sticks of lemongrass, outer leaves removed
a large handful of fresh coriander, leaves picked, stalks chopped
1 heaped tsp five-spice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
olive oil
1 white onion, peeled & finely sliced
565ml/ 1 pint vegetable (or chicken) stock
200g/ 7oz basmati rice
2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk
salt & freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 or 2 limes

Chop the pumpkin or squash into 2 inch pieces and set aside. Add the lime leaves, chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander stalks, 5-spice and cumin into the small bowl of a food processor and mix until it is all finely chopped (or if you prefer you could use a mortar and pestle).

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan then add the sliced onion and the aromatic mixture and cook gently for roughly 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the pumpkin and stock to the onion mix and stir everything together, scraping up any stuck bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and leave to simmer with a lid on for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the rice and stir well then continue to simmer with the lid on until the rice is cooked. Add the coconut milk and some seasoning and taste to check before adding the lime juice – the amount will depend on how juicy your limes are and your own tastes. Give one last stir then serve straight away sprinkled with the coriander leaves and if you fancy some extra chilli and fresh coconut if you have it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

After making my Simple Sauteed Mushrooms I couldn't resist using them to make a warming, comforting and delicious earthy mushroom risotto.

Since the weather has changed and the temperatures dipped (significantly) I am craving nothing but comfort food and for me, risotto belongs in that category – pure comfort food capable of giving you a culinary hug and allowing you to forget about the cold miserable weather outside. I am by no means a risotto expert but I love it and enjoy making it when I have time to stand and serenely stir the rice watching it transform from glistening crunchy rice to a smooth, creamy and luxurious risotto. Any effort or time used to make the risotto is worth it as you are rewarded for your patience with the taste of the perfectly cooked risotto, which you want to do oozy and soft and not at all thick and stodgy – after all there is nothing comforting or luxurious in that!

Over the years I have found that my favourite way to eat and enjoy this risotto is definitely to sauté my mushrooms separately so that I can add some of them to the risotto towards the end and then use the rest as a garnish for a bit more texture and taste. That way you get the real flavour of mushroom in this risotto and it's not just a lingering afterthought. If you prefer you can saute the mushrooms before and then set aside (keeping them warm) until they are needed. Or if you can multitask, have them cooking away as you are making the risotto so they are ready as you need them.

1 quantity of Simple Sauteed Mushrooms
15g/ ½ oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100ml white wine
300g Arborio rice
1000-1250ml chicken or Vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
5 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil (optional)

Pop your dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl, cover with hot water and set aside for 20 minutes.

Put your stock in a separate pan, turn the heat on low and keep it hot.

In a large frying pan heat the oil and 1 tbsp of butter until the butter is melted. Add the onion and gently sauté for 5 minutes until it has softened. Add the garlic cloves and cook for another minute. Stir in the rice and make sure every grain is covered with the butter and onion mix. Leave to cook for 1 minute before adding the wine. When all the wine has been absorbed, add the porcini mushrooms to the rice and use the water it has soaked in to start cooking the rice, adding a ladle at a time. Leave the last little bit of the liquid as it can be grainy from the dirt removed from the mushrooms.

Keep stirring the risotto and when all the mushroom stock has been used start using your chicken or vegetable stock, again only adding a ladle at a time making sure each time its absorbed before adding more.

Towards the end of cooking add half of the mushrooms to the risotto mix and keep the other half warm. When the rice grains are tender, remove from the heat. Sprinkle over half of the Parmesan, the remaining butter (in little pieces) and parsley. Cover and leave for a minute or so then stir it in and check the seasoning. Serve immediately with a spoonful of the sautéed mushrooms on top and another good sprinkling of Parmesan. Finish with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil, or if you have it for some extra added decadence add a drizzle of truffle oil. Lovely!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Simple Sauteed Mushrooms

I absolutely love mushrooms. They are so versatile and have so much flavour that they can transform a dish in an instant. There are endless possibilities for mushrooms but I have to admit that my favourite way is to saute them until golden on the edges, bursting with juiciness and full of that delicious mushroom flavour. Add to them some butter and garlic and you have a delicious meal in itself.

The key to such perfectly cooked mushrooms is (as I only found out a year or so ago!) to not over-crowd them in the frying pan. Keep them in a single layer and cook over a fairly hot heat and you will end up with mushrooms as they should be, not soft, limp overcooked mushrooms that have lost all of their moisture and flavour.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spicy Thai Soup {Sweet Heat #2}

This months Sweet Heat Challenge is to make a spicy Soup of your choice....Perfect at this time of year as despite it being an exceptionally mild British October, I am now back in Canada where things are a little cooler (to say the least!).

That being said, for this particular challenge I couldn't resist turning to warmer climates for inspiration and instead of a thick, hearty soup (which is generally my first choice for this time of year) I opted for a lighter, fragrant Thai soup with a good dose of spiky chilli heat – perfect for warming me up as well as attempting to banish any nasty germs that I inevitably always pick up after flying!

Serves 4

1.5 litres water
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled & roughly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled & sliced
a small bunch of coriander stalks, chopped

3 tbsp tom yum paste
200ml coconut milk
3 lime leaves, torn in half
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 limes (keep 1 for garnish)
125g mushrooms, thinly sliced
Small tin of bamboo shoots or 100g baby corn on the cob (optional)
200g cooked, shelled & de-veined prawns*
Coriander leaves & extra sliced chillies to garnish

Start by making the stock. Put the water, ginger, garlic and coriander stalks in a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Sieve the stock into a bowl and discard the ginger, garlic and coriander.

Return the stock to the pan then add the tom yum paste, coconut milk, lime leaves, chilli, fish sauce and the juice of 1 lime. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and allow to simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary (adding more fish sauce if it needs a little extra salty flavour).

Add the sliced mushrooms and bamboo shoots and cook for a further 5 minutes. Right as you are ready to serve add the prawns as they just need to be heated through and not overcooked. Ladle into bowls then finish with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, some extra chilli and a lime wedge on the side.

*If you get prawns that still have their shells on then add the shells to the stock at the beginning for an even more delicious broth!

{For a more substantial meal you could cook some noodles and add those to the soup.}
*If you would like to participate in this months Sweet Heat Challenge, you have until November 25th to submit your Spicy Soup entry!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chilli Spiced Black Pepper

This can barely count as a recipe but I am now addicted to this so I had to include it! That plus after just returning back to Canada after a month away I had no other posts lined up so you have to excuse me for this quick and easy one. That being said, it may be quick and easy but if you are a chilli lover like I am, then this will transform your dishes!

As with my last post (Slow-Roasted Moroccan Style Lamb) I have to credit this recipe to my lovely sister-in-law, Susan. Sus and I both love cooking and have similar tastes when it comes to food so when she gave me this to add to my soup last week I was absolutely delighted. She had used it to cover a roast chicken with which was then served with lemon but you can literally use this anywhere you would add black pepper – after all it is just ground black pepper kicked up a few notches!

I make enough to fill a small container but you can make as much or as little as you like and depending on your heat tolerance adjust the amount of chillies used. You could also try using a mix of different peppercorns for a little extra variety and of course could vary the type of dried chillies used for a different taste. Quick and easy but the simplest and most amazing idea ever – I love it!!

3 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2-3 dried red chillies, stalks removed

Simply put the peppercorns into either a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind to the coarseness of freshly ground pepper. Finely chop up the chillies (or you could even snip them with some kitchen scissors) or grind them as well in pulses so they still contain some texture and the seeds then mix with the black pepper. That easy!

{If you are short of time but want to try this use chilli flakes instead and just add them to the ground black pepper.}

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Slow-roasted Moroccan Style Lamb

This is the perfect meal to have when Autumn is in full swing and the days are shorter and the weather blustery and cool. A shoulder of lamb slowly cooked in a cool oven until it falls apart, flavoured with vibrant Moroccan flavours guaranteed to warm you up. This meal is ideal for a slow, lazy Sunday spent indoors and especially for a family get together or if you have friends over. I have to thank my sister-in-law Susan for this wonderful recipe as the first time I had it was when she cooked it for me a couple of years ago when I was staying with them. I honestly must have eaten two or three times as much as I should have as it was so good, especially with all the wonderful accompaniments that she served. If you like lamb and you like Moroccan flavours you will absolutely love this meal. It is also incredibly easy to make so perfect for a Sunday dinner.

This is home cooking at its best.....relaxed, casual food with so many wonderful flavours and taste sensations.

3 tbsp olive oil
Shoulder of lamb, boneless (or if you prefer you could use a leg of lamb)
2 onions, peeled & halved
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & 1 whole bulb
4 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp cumin
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper
Coriander, roughly chopped

To serve:

Zaalouk (Roasted Aubergine & Tomatoes)
Lemon & Pine nut Couscous
Harissa & Yogurt Dip
Flat breads
Rocket (arugula) spritzed with a little lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 150C/ 300F.

Heat the oil in a large oven-proof casserole dish then quickly sear the lamb on all sides – just so it gets golden. Remove the lamb and set aside on a plate.

Put the onions and 2 cloves of garlic in a food processor and blitz until finely chopped (or you could grate the onions if you don't have a food processor). Saute the onions and garlic in the hot casserole dish for roughly 10 minutes until softened and just starting to turn brown. Add the paprika, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper and cook for a minute before returning the lamb to the pan. Cover the whole thing with water so that the lamb is just covered. Separate the garlic cloves from the bulb but don't peel them. Drop in the whole cloves of garlic then cover with a lid and cook for roughly 3 hours, stirring and checking a couple of times during that time.

Zaalouk {Roasted Aubergines & Tomatoes}

This recipe was adapted from Claudia Roden's book Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey & Lebanon. It is fantastic with so many things but goes especially well with this meal. I like it served warm or at room temperature but you could easily serve it cold as a Middle Eastern salad as was suggested in the initial recipe in Arabesque. One thing to note though with this recipe - don't forget to prick the aubergine (eggplant) which happened to someone I know (who shall remain nameless!), otherwise you might find yourself with exploding aubergines!

500g aubergine/eggplant (roughly 1 large aubergine)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-5 cloves of garlic
400g tin of chopped or whole tomatoes
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 240C/ 475F. Prick the aubergine (eggplant) all over with a sharp knife then put on a baking tray lined with foil and roast for roughly 50 minutes until they feel soft when squeezed gently. Once they are cool enough to handle peel the aubergines then pop the flesh into a colander or strainer with small holes. Press out as much juice as possible then while still in the colander roughly chop the flesh with a knife.

In a medium sized pan heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil then add the garlic. Gently saute for a few minutes being careful not to brown it (otherwise it will taste bitter) then add the tomatoes, salt, chilli powder and cumin. Cook gently for roughly 20 minutes until it has started to reduce and thicken then add the chopped up aubergine. Cook for a further 5 minutes then taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Just before serving add the fresh coriander, lemon juice and the remaining olive oil and stir well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lemon & Pine Nut Couscous

 Another deliciously simple side dish that I love and that works so well with this meal. Make it at the end and serve as soon as it is ready.

4 tbsp pine nuts
200g couscous
250ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Salt & pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden brown, then set aside. Put the couscous in a medium sized bowl then top with the hot stock. Give a quick stir with a fork then cover tightly with some cling film (saran wrap) and leave for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes the couscous should have absorbed all of the stock and be perfectly cooked. Fluff up with a fork then add the lemon zest and juice, mint, chilli, seasoning and a good drizzle of olive oil. Mix it all together – still using a fork – then scatter over the pine nuts. Serve at once.


1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Juice of ½ - 1 lemon (depending on how juicy it is)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp tahini paste (or more if you prefer)
Salt and Pepper
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus a little extra for drizzling
1 ice cube

Blend all the ingredients apart from the ice cube, in a processor until you have a smooth consistency. Check for seasoning and whether you need any more lemon juice to taste. Add the ice cube and blend until it is mixed in. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

Yogurt & Harissa Dip

Natural Yogurt
Harissa Paste
Few mint leaves, finely chopped

Simply put enough yogurt in a serving bowl then add a heaped spoonful of harissa paste. Lightly swirl the harissa through the yogurt to create a ripple effect then finish with a scattering of the mint leaves.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bonfire Night

When I moved from Scotland to Canada six years ago I started to miss a lot of things. Of course I missed family, friends and British culture and architecture from the beginning, but then there were the other things....things you take for granted (and to those of you living in the UK probably laughable things). Cheese is a top one – not that there isn't cheese in Canada, cause there is and it is great, but there are certain types of cheese that I can't get and really miss, and I miss going to wonderful cheese mongers where I literally want to buy everything and have to limit myself to a few! Plus cheese in Canada (where I live) is insanely expensive – something I will never get used to!

Then there are the funny things....Marks & Spencers, Tesco and generally most UK supermarkets are definitely up there on my miss list!! I don't know what it is – maybe its the familiarity of brands I grew up with and love or perhaps I find the variety better - who knows but within a few days of arrival I am always off to the local supermarket! Marks & Spencers (M&S) is a whole other thing and I find it funny how many people I have met over the last 6 years who have moved from the UK say how much they miss M&S! Unsurprisingly I mostly miss the food and of course trying to explain to people who have never tried something from M&S the idea of “ready made meals” sounds appauling, but this is something you have to trust me on!

Spectific items like Branston Pickle are no longer missed as my local supermarket in Canada has a “British Sale” every 6 months or so so of course I am always first there with my trolley loaded up with Robinson's diluting juice, Coleman's English mustard, Heinz Baked Beans (yes again you can buy these in Canada but they just aren't the same!!!) and good old Branston Pickle (to name a few)!

And then as well as missing certain foods and shops there are events and specific occasions. Admittedly there aren't many but one that I really miss is Guy Fawkes Night or more commonly now known as Bonfire Night. To the majority of people living outside of the UK this is an unheard of celebration but to us Brits its a great excuse to wrap up on a cold night and watch fireworks and of course the biggest bonfire you have seen complete with 'guy' on top, made by some locals who are happy to stuff and burn some old clothes! I still have really happy memories as a little girl piling on the layers of clothes, hat, scarves and gloves and having tantrums about having to wear Wellies, even though everyone was wearing them! We would then all walk down to the field where the Bonfire was assembled, sparklers in hand ready to be lit and find our friends to watch the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire which would turn into an inferno in no time, then of course the fireworks lighting up the sky with beautiful displays of vibrant green, red, silver and blue, banging and popping as they went.

And then of course there was the food as no event is complete without food!! Hot Dogs or at least sausages in rolls was always the choice and I have to say I still can't resist making and eating sausage rolls on November 5th. For a special version, for me the ideal way to enjoy these delicious delights is topped not with ketchup or mustard (although both of which I love), but with my red onion marmalade or with some warmed roasted peppers and chillies. As well as the sausage rolls you always need something hot to warm you up so a piping hot mug of fresh homemade soup is always very welcome, and my Thai Pumpkin Soup is absolutely perfect for that. And for something sweet you can't beat some Chocolate and Caramel Popcorn to munch on while gazing at the fireworks. So there you have it - delicious warming food ideal for enjoying with friends outside on a starry November night with the heat of a bonfire and awe of some beautiful fireworks! I can't wait!
(Photo courtesy of City of Manchester)

If you like this check out my new updated Bonfire Night Menu Ideas.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sweet Heat # 2

It's the 1st of the month so that can only mean one's time to announce this month's Sweet Heat Challenge! I was so delighted with the inaugural Sweet Heat Challenge and all of the fantastic entries so I'm hoping we can continue with the same standards this month!

So what is this month's challenge?....Well I just couldn't resist with the change in seasons and drop in temperature to choose a …... (drum roll).....Spicy Soup! For this months challenge you can make any soup you want, (inspired by any country in the world, recipe or just whatever you happen to have in your fridge) so for those of you that want to take part and are lucky enough to be living in lovely sunny and warm climates, you don't need to feel excluded! It can be a hot or cold soup, just as long as it contains chillies. And if you manage to include a spicy little garnish or side to accompany your soup then you get extra points!

As usual there are some rules to abide by...nothing scary, just a few things to note!

The Rules:

  • You must mention Sweet Heat in your post with a link back to this site (and when applicable the host site).
  • Send your post url, your name and a photo (if possible no bigger than 500 pixels please) of your creation to by the 25th of November.
  • You can create your own recipe or make your favourite recipe but please credit the original source if using someone else's.
  • You can enter as many times as you like.*
And that's that! The round up will be done at the end of every month. So get your pots and pans out, a big bowl and of course a chilli or two!

*The challenge is open to everyone so even if you don't have your own blog please feel free to participate! Just send me a photo of your creation along with what it is and your own name!

{If you are interested in hosting future months please email me at}
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...