Food: Easy broccoli & borlotti bean penne with my Zogghiu

On the weekend I bought a big bunch of fresh mint from my local greengrocer for a Middle-Eastern dish. I was left thinking what to make with still a sizeable bunch left-over. Turn to Sicily!

In Sicily, unlike other parts of Italy, they have a special Eastern Influence on their flavours, because of the island’s special history, this has lead them to use mint as a herb, rather than just a garnish or for sweets. This has produced some real treasures like zogghiu, a minty & pistachio filled pesto. It would normally have some parsley too, but my version still produces a great, fresh & zingy sauce for pasta.

Serves 2

To make you’ll need:

  • 200g dried penne (100g per person)
  • Half a head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 tin of Borlotti beans, drained

For the zogghiu (pesto):

  • Bunch of fresh mint (cut the stalks off)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4tbs rapeseed/ olive oil
  • 1tbs pine nuts
  • 1tbs pistachios (unsalted & shelled)
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1tbs white wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper

Garnish:

  • Few mint leaves
  • handful of pistachios

Start with the pesto, simply add the ingredients into a food processor and whizz up into a fragrant green paste. Before blending, keep a few mint leaves aside for garnish. Remember to stop half way, scrape the sides down with a spatula and go again, this will ensure a smoother, more even pesto. Then remove and scrape into a bowl.

Put a pot of salted water onto boil, as it gets up to speed, place in the broccoli. Poach until they’re tender, but still have a bright green colour. Remove with a scoop. Place the pasta in and cook for 8-10 minutes, until al-dente. In the last minute of cooking, add in the Borlotti beans. Strain and place back into the pan. Add the florets of broccoli and pour in 1/2 of the pesto. You can store the other half in the fridge or freezer for a future meal. Fold the minty sauce through the pasta and vegetables. Then scoop into bowls. Add a few mint leaves and a handful of pistachios as a garnish, a nod to whats in the very special pesto.

Enjoy!

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Food: Curried pancake stack

This is what I made on Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday as an alternative to sweet British pancakes with lemon & sugar…which are amazing btw! Here’s how you can make these for dinner and have the sweet ones for dessert 😉 These are also, omitting the Oatly for  another plant milk/ yoghurt alternative, gluten free too!

You’ll need:

For the pancakes:

  • 100g Gram (chickpea) flour.
  • 30g Frozen spinach, thawed.
  • 100ml Aquafaba.
  • 2tbs Chia seeds.
  • 1tsp Green barley powder.
  • 1tbs of kalonji / nigella/ black fennel seeds
  • 1tsp Garam marsala.
  •  1tsp Chilli powder.
  • 1tsp Cumin.
  • Salt & pepper.
  • Splash of non dairy milk (I used Oatly)
  • 1 Portions worth of leftover curry, vegan in my case.

For the Raita:

  • 2tbs Oatly fraîche/ soy yoghurt
  • Splash of water (If using Oatly fraîche)
  • Thumb size piece of cucumber.
  • Handful of fresh mint.
  • Sprinkle of salt

To Garnish:

  • 6 Bhaji bites
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • 5 lingonberry pickled onion rings, learn how to make them here

This recipe is a doddle to make, simply start by heating up your aquafaba on a low heat in a pan with the chia seeds. This should start the chia seeds coagulation process.

Whilst they begin to heat up, you can get your dry ingredients ready. Sieve the spices, green barley powder, gram flour and salt & pepper into a big mixing bowl. Once you can see the chia seeds have began to open and make a gel, take the mixture off the heat.

with a hand blender, pulse the spinach ever so slightly until it begins to break up. Combine with the aquafaba/chia mixture, then add the kalonji seeds. mix until you get a green, gloopy mixture. Now, all you have to do is simply mix with the dry mixture and add a splash of non-dairy milk accordingly until it becomes a thick batter.

Fry in an oiled pan, remembering to spread the mixture evenly. Keep an eye on the level of oil in the pan, between pancakes, you may have to add a bit more oil.

once they are all cooked, stack them on a plate for later.

I had a bit of batter leftover, but not enough to make another pancake. Instead of wasting it, I decided to make these bhaji bites. To the batter I added 1tbs of finely chopped spring onion, 1tsp turmeric and 1tsp paprika. mix and dollop a teaspoon worth into the pan, to which I added an inch of oil. They will slightly expand and bubble. Cook until crispy, but be vigilant as they can burn easily.

Once done, pop them onto some paper towel to drain and pop the leftover curry in a pan/ microwave to heat through.

Whilst you’re waiting for the curry to re-heat, it’s time to make the raita. Chop the mint & cucumber finely, adding to a bowl. Mix through the yoghurt/ fraîche. If you’re using the Oatly fraîche, you may need to add a splash of water to the bowl, as its quite a thick product. Season with salt & you’re done!

Time to assemble!

Layer each pancake with a big dollop of curry, then on the final layer, top with the raita & garnishes and finally crown with the bhaji bites.

It’s great paired with a light & refreshing beer. I made a shandy out of Five Points Ale & Cawston Press cucumber & mint soda and it worked perfectly!

Enjoy!

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Drink: Queen Bey Lemonade

n celebration of Beyoncé’s sixth studio album ‘Lemonade’ and her extravaganza last night on HBO, I Made a little cocktail,with the flavours of WATERMELUN & cayenne, this is one Creole punch that truly Slays!

To make, you’ll need:

  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 300g watermelon, cut into chunks
  • 200ml water
  • 2 shots simple syrup
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 shots lemon vodka ( I used ABSOLUT CITRON)
  • A few sprigs of mint

 

Optional:

  • 1/2 a lemon, sliced thinly

 

First, in a big jar make a Traditional lemonade by combining the lemon juice, water and simple syrup together. Stir thoroughly, and taste. Add more simple syrup if necessary.  Next, add (in a separate jug) the cayenne pepper, watermelon chunks and a dash of the lemonade and blitz. Add this in to the lemonade, along with the shots of vodka and a few sprigs of mint. I also sliced up some lemon and added in to the jug, this is optional.

Stir and serve!

Put the album on and Enjoy the Lemonade with Queen Bey!

 

Food: Harissa carrot tagine

Here’s an easy recipe for a Moroccan carrot & chickpea tagine. This could not be simpler to make. Feeds 3-4.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large brown onion, chopped finely
  • Large glug of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 medium carrots, chopped & peeled
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1tbs agave nectar
  • 1tbs harissa paste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 125ml water
  • Handful of sultanas
  • 1 (heaped) tsp sundried tomato paste
  • Salt & pepper

To garnish:

  • Handful of coriander, chopped

 

To start, add the oil to a shallow pan with a lid and bring to a low heat. Next, add the chopped onion and garlic and fry off until soft and translucent.Once done, you can add the carrots, agave and spices. I’d recommend you chop the carrots so that they are ‘rollcut’- which means that you chop on the diagonal and rotate as you chop, this will give the carrots more surface area to suck up the spicy sauce and give an interesting presentation.

To the pan, add in the harissa paste and sundried tomato paste and turn the heat up to medium. Cook out for roughly 1-2 minutes. Once cooked, add in the chopped tomatoes and the drained can of chickpeas. Don’t throw away the chickpea water though, as this can be used as an eggwhite substitute for so many recipes!

Next add in the lemon juice, 125ml of water and the sultanas and stir until everything has melded together. Season with plenty of salt & pepper. Next, you have to let it do its thing. So, turn the heat down on the hob to its lowest setting and put the lid on. Leave on the hob for at least 10 minutes. While it’s cooking away slowly on the hob I’d recommend putting on the oven to a low 140°C. Once up to speed, transfer from the hob to the oven. Now, you can put your feet up as it needs to be in there for at least 2, preferably 3 hours!

In the meantime the kitchen will slowly fill with a lovely North African aroma 😉

Once the time is up, take out of the oven and add in a splash more of water and stir, just to reconstitute everything. Before you will be a rich & hearty tagine. Garnish with a big sprinkle of chopped coriander and it’s ready to serve.

 

We served ours with a mountain of fluffy couscous and some sweet mint tea.

Enjoy!

Food: Slow baked lemon & garlic aubergine with a tahini dressing

This is a straight forward recipe for a Levantine inspired aubergine dish with the flavours of Tahini, garlic, lemon, mint and coriander. Serves 2.

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • Zest & juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbs garlic infused oil
  • 2 tsp Sumac
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1tsp dried rosemary
  • Salt & pepper

For the Tahini dressing:

  • 2 tbs tahini
  • zest & juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • Handful of fresh coriander & mint, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp agave

Begin by chopping the aubergine in half. Place in a dish and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 30 minutes until juice starts coming out of the vegetable. This draws out all the bitterness. Wipe away the salt with a damp piece of tissue and place the aubergine halves in a baking dish. Drizzle with oil and spread the grated garlic and lemon zest onto the flesh of the aubergine, along with the dried herbs and the sumac. Squeeze the lemon juice all over, cover with foil and pop into a preheated oven at 140°C. This needs to be cooked low and slow, so put it in for 1 hour 40 minutes.

While it’s baking you can chill, read a bit, do what ever you want.

Or you could also use this time to make the tahini dressing! Simply spoon 2tbs of tahini into a bowl and add the zest & juice of the other lemon halve. Add in the garlic, agave for sweetness and the chopped herbs. Next, add in the oil and stir. If still a bit too thick, add 1tbs of water until it has a pouring consistency. A crack of pepper and a sprinkle of salt and it’s done.

After  the 1 hour 40 minutes is up, take the foil off the aubergines and turn up the oven to its hottest setting for a further 8-10 minutes, to crisp them up. Once crisp they are ready to serve. To plate up, place the aubergine on the plate and smother it with the tahini dressing. Garnish with some more fresh coriander. We served ours with some fluffy couscous garnished with jewels of pomegranate and fresh spinach cooked with 1 tsp lemon zest and a drizzle of Extra Virgin olive oil and some toasted almonds.

Like myself, you could serve a cocktail or rather mocktail to compliment the meal. This drink has all the classic flavours of the Levant. To make you’ll need:

  • 200ml Pomegranate juice
  • A dash of raspberry syrup
  • 2 Sprigs of mint
  • A Squeeze of lemon juice.
  • some lemon flavoured sparkling water
  • Plenty of Ice

To make, fill a glass with a handful of ice. Add in some raspberry syrup (I like to use the Polish raspberry syrup by Łowicz). Next top up the glass three quarters full with the pomegranate juice and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Top up with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Enjoy!

 

Drink: Apple & gin zing

Heres an easy recipe for a refreshing gin cocktail that will transport you into the heart of summer. These quantities serve 2, but you could always up it to make a pitcher.

You’ll need:

  • 2 shots of gin
  • 4 thin slices of cucumber
  • 100ml of cloudy apple juice
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Splash of Lemonade
  • Some mint leaves
  • Handful of ice

To make, simply pour the gin into a small jug. Next, add the apple juice, lemon juice and stir. Fill two glasses with a handful of ice. Add in the cucumber slices (I sliced mine with a mandolin). Pour the apple mixture over the ice and top up with lemonade. Garnish with a few mint leaves and enjoy!

Food: Last night’s Vegan Mexican Fiesta

Our friend Jen came over last night, and like me, she often eats meatless, so I fancied making a favourite of mine, Vegan burritos (you can Veggie them up too with cheese & sour cream if you want!)

Taking advice from one of my foodie heroes, Nigella, I got super organised so I wouldn’t have to do much on the day itself. The day before we had made the two batches of molé for the burrito filling. One was a fried chili tofu molé, the other, a roasted butternut squash molé, with the ‘meat’ being different, but the sauce the same.

It’s an easy one to knock up, and open to adaptations.

You’ll need:

  • 1-2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chopped onion (large)
  • 1 dried poblano chilli (chilli Ancho)
  • 1 chopped red chilli
  • 1 tin of kidney beans (drained)
  • 2tbs of ground cumin
  • 1 tbs of paprika (pimentón)
  • 3 carrots (chopped)
  • 1tbs Tomato purée
  • a small glass ful of red wine
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • a sprig of coriander
  • 1 tbs chilli powder
  • 10-20g of good quality high cacao percent chocolate (I used some 100% cacao from Willie’s Cacao)

Fry off the mirepoix of onion, celery and carrot in a little oil until tender, then add the tomato puree until it has made a rich, thick mix. Pulp down with a stick blender, now bring back to the pot and add in the chopped tomatoes, the red wine and the spices. Next chop the chili up and add to the pot, also, at this point you add in the Ancho chili, with its smoky/sweet raisin like flesh. Cook it out for 10 minutes then add the kidney beans, simmer for an hour and add a splash of water to loosen. Then, add in the chopped sprig of coriander and grate the cacao in, this should make the sauce richer and deeper.Taste and season accordingly.

The ‘meat’ that went into the sauce was some tofu I had fried with some hot chili powder and sweet smoky ancho chili powder, and half a butternut squash I had roasted with 1 tbs of ground cumin, rapeseed oil, salt and pepper.

On the day itself I only had to prepare the guac and the salsa for the burritos. To make the guac (easy as!)

Just scoop out the flesh from 2 ripe avocados, add quarter a chopped onion, zest and juice of 1 lime, half a chopped green chilli, a big handful of corander (cilantro) and a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Blitz up until a lumpy yet mostly smooth dip, season. Done!

The salsa was just as easy!

3 chopped tomatoes, 2 roasted peppers, half a green chilli, half a chopped onion, the juice and zest of a lemon, 2 tsp of paprika (pimentón), a fistful of coriander and 2 tbs of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Blitz until chunky. Done.

To start we had the mid century classic of chips ‘n dips majorly chanelling Pete Cambell.

We just had nacho chips with the homemade dips (above)

For mains, then, were the burritos. Using the molé, dips, some cooked rice made for a hearty, delicious vegan burrito!

We served it with a crisp, reshreshing white that Jen had brought over (thanks Jen!)

To finish we needed something refreshing and light, which is exactly what we got (plus I had an abundance of basil I wanted to use up).

The day before I had made an apple, mint and basil granita, simply and generally fuss-free, perfect for what I needed.

To make:

De-core and peel 2-3 Granny Smith apples, chop up and place into a bowl. Add in 250ml of fresh apple juice, the juice of 1 lemon, a fist full of mint and the same of basil leaves. Blitz up with a stick blender until it turns into a fluffy purée. Strain then add some sugar syrup (to taste) and top up with sparkling water. Transfer into a box, and place in the deep freeze. Roughing it up with a fork every few hours, or so.

Enjoy!