I have recently become addicted to three cookbooks I acquired from Amazon and our local library. They are, in order of favouritism,
1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
2. Moro by Samuel and Samantha Clark
3. Ottolenghi also by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Why the addiction – well these books respect vegetables like I have been taught to respect them as a life time vegetarian. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mother and grandma had endless ways of making vegetables exciting and I try and continue this tradition till today. However, I’m also a little more adventurous that mum and grandma and I cannot eat the same/similar things day in and day out. This is something I did quite gladly did when I was still dependent on my parents, but ever since I’ve moved out on my own, my kitchen has been a bit of a playground, as is this blog I host.
Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi, while laden with meat-based recipes are also quite generous with their coverage of vegetable/vegetarian dishes from Eastern Mediterranean regions, Israel, Palestine with influences from Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Overall, these vegetables are prepared quite differently (most of the time) to how I’d prepare them as a person of South Indian upbringing and I find that really really exciting. Sometimes, I find some similarities and start thinking about the origins of certain food and how recipes might have travelled from one region to another in ancient time.
To summarize it is food, vegetarian food, exciting vegetarian food and I love it! Food to me is most satisfying when I’ve made it and others are enjoying it 🙂 An opportunity presented itself when we decided to host a dinner and board games evening at our place. While I usually cook Indian food, I decided that I’d try recipes from my recently acquired books instead. There was a deathly silence as everyone sat eating until one of our friends spoke up and said , “You know the food is good when everyone is too busy eating and cannot stop to speak”. I’m going to call it a successful experiment based on this !
My menu and links to the recipes are presented below. I managed to take a lot of pictures for the first few dishes and then ran out of time and my guests arrived so I couldn’t keep clicking any more. Hope you try some of the recipes and like them !
Links and tips :
1. Fetteh (Vegetarian; Gluten-free potential)
This amazing chickpea dish is rather famous in Melbourne because of a restaurant called the Moroccan Soup Bar. Given small-town England isn’t Melbourne, I started scanning the internet for a decent recipe for this dish. In fact, I didn’t even know its name and kept googling for “Moroccan soup bar chickpea thingy”. Not only did I find one that worked for me, I have to admit that it is much better than the Moroccan soup bar version. I’ve tried this a few times now and it is always a hit. The main player is the burnt butter that is poured on the dish at the end so don’t skimp on it!
a. If you can’t find slivered almonds, flaked almonds work just fine.
b. I made the baharat (spice) recipe once and have used it 4 times and it is only just running out.
c. I rarely use stock. Instead, I add the baharat and salt to the chickpeas and then pour some filtered water in to make the stock< The spices are quite capable of making the chickpeas taste really good without the help of stock so feel free to omit it.
d. My photo doesn’t do the dish justice but it tasted really good!
e. To make this dish gluten-free, use gluten-free pita bread for crisping.
2. Na’ama’s fattoush (Vegetarian; Vegan potential; Gluten-free potential)
This recipe if from Jerusalem and is Sami’s (one of the authors) mother’s recipe. I’ve always liked little radishes but my partner really doesn’t. I have made fattoush in the early days of our relationship and he carefully picked the radish bits out and put them in my plate. However, this recipe is so full of flavour and the radish is diced so thinly, that even he took to it, be it rather reluctantly. Thank you Sami’s mum for making my partner eat this nutritious and delicious vegetable! Just so happens that the recipe features on the Telegraph’s website so the link is provided.
a. The chopping takes a while so give yourself plenty of time to make it.
b. I crisped the pita bread in the oven before adding it to the salad.
c. I used buttermilk instead of milk and yoghurt. Easily available in larger supermarkets.Alternatively, you can dilute yoghurt and use that too.
d. I chopped the vegetables and herbs and put them in a large bowl and put it aside. Then I mixed the spices into the buttermilk and set that aside too. When my guests arrived, I mixed the bread, vegetables and spiced buttermilk to assemble the salad> the result was a fresh and crispy fattoush.
e. To make it vegan, leave the buttermilk out and use the olive oil and garlic dressing as if it were a vinaigrette.
f. To make it gluten-free, use gluten-free pita bread or nan.
3. Aubergine and red pepper salad (Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan potential)
This dish was my favourite for the evening. It involved the charring of aubergine/eggplant and red peppers/capsicums. This process can be scary the first time around as you the smell of burning can be quite strong. Normally, I’d do it on a gas burner but since we don’t have one, I put the vegetables under a very hot grill for nearly an hour. Thankfully, our fire alarm didn’t go off !
The burning smell however, is totally worth it as the dish is rather tasty. A kind fellow-blogger has presented the recipe from the book “Moro” so I’m providing a link to it rather than re-writing it.
a. Equip yourself with a good mortar and pestle to make the dressing for this dish.
b. I served it with soft pita bread and it went quite well.
c. Since the burnt butter and almond dressing was similar for Fetteh and this dish, I made a big batch of it together.
d. To make this dish vegan, omit the yoghurt and the substitute the butter for the topping with vegetable spread.
4. Burnt aubergine with pomegranate molasses (Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan-potential)
I pinched this recipe which was part of a bigger dish involving roasted butternut squash. Once again, charred aubergines/eggplants are involved and once again, don’t be afraid of the charring process. The taste is much better than the smell. The entire recipe has been kindly posted by a fellow blogger with pretty pictures and I have directed you to it below.
a. It is hard to find a substitute for pomegranate molasses as it is sweet and sour at the same time. In addition, it has a syrup-y texture that is hard to mimic. However, you could get away with tamarind puree sweetened with mild honey or dark brown sugar. Or perhaps the Malaysian sweet soy sauce kecap manis.
b. I served this dish as a dip to go with pita bread and it worked really well.
c. I added a little more yoghurt than recommended and hence it was a bit watery. If you want it thicker, stick to the recipe.
d. To make this dish vegan, exclude the yoghurt or use soy-yoghurt as a substitute.
5. Bulgur wheat salad (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free potential)
This salad started off being a butternut squash and couscous salad with apricots. Unfortunately, the supermarket didn’t have apricots or butternut squash and I didn’t have enough couscous at home so it was improvised. The end result was a bulgur wheat, sultana and pinenut salad with the same dressing as the original salad. Still yummy!
Once again, thanks to a kind fellow-blogger, I can provide a link to this recipe.
1. To make it gluten-free, substitute bulgur wheat with quinoa.
6. Carrot salad
My carrot salad usually involves grated carrots, tomatoes, coriander, chilli, lemon juice, some sugar, salt and pepper. However, this boiled carrot salad caught my eye. The dressing was really tasty as were the carrots.
Recipe: http://www.kelper.co.uk/recipes/ – it’s hidden way down so I’ve copied it over here
2/3 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 garlic clove
juice of 3/4 lemon
1/3 teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small bunch fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Peel the carrots and boil whole in salted water until they are tender. Drain the carrots, spreading them out to cool and dry before slicing them quite thinly.
To roast the cumin seeds, place in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until you notice the colour beginning to change (about 2 minutes). Pound the cumin in a mortar and pestle, then add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pound some more. Mix the lemon juice, sugar, and olive oil into the garlic mixture. Now toss the carrots in the cumin dressing with the chopped coriander. Serve at room temperature.
7. Spiced labneh (Vegetarian, gluten-free)
This one is my own recipe. A friend of mine came up with it about a month ago when she was over for dinner. It requires labneh or thick, slightly tangy yoghurt. However, full-fat Greek yoghurt is a quick substitute.
1 tub (500 gms) Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon of dried mint
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients above in a shallow dish and serve.
8. Helbeh (dessert)
This word sounds a lot like the Indian word “halva” which refers to a sweet, sticky cake. Sure enough, it is a sweet, sticky, semolina cake. This was made by one of my guests who offered to help when they arrived and I was still cooking. So I shoved the recipe book in his hands and let my partner and him deal with it. My only contribution was adding sugar syrup in the end and cutting it into pieces. It was delicious. The website below has lovely pictures of the whole process. My camera’s battery died at this point in the evening so I only took a picture the next day by when we’d eaten most of it.
a. We omitted the fenugreek seeds as we didn’t have the time and it tasted just fine without it.
b. I didn’t have orange flower water so I used more rosewater instead and it had a lovely flavour to it.