Lablabi (Tunisian chickpea soup)

18 Jun

lablabi

I didn’t want to handicap Tunisia’s chances in our World Cup 2018 cook-off by serving lablabi for breakfast, as is customary (see Oto with boiled eggs, World Cup 2014).

Personally, I quite like the idea of hot, spicy breakfast soups, but the girls would have punished Tunisia severely for the affront.

Instead, we enjoyed it for dinner, where it went down a storm. Continue reading

Picadillo de platano verde

17 Jun

Picadillo de platano verde reminds me of the hamburger mince gravy my dad made each week.

A colourful, exotic Latin cousin perhaps, with its chunks of red pepper and golden plantain, spicy with cumin and paprika.

I found it interesting that Worcestershire sauce turned up in most of the picadillo recipes I looked at.

Like great-uncle Arthur’s chin or great-aunt Nellie’s hooded eyelids recurring across the generations. Continue reading

Soparnik

16 Jun

soparnik

I’ve yet to visit Croatia, but I’ve heard wonderful things about the food. So I feared my version of soparnik had done the Croatians a disservice in our World Cup 2018 cook-off.

In this Dalmatian classic, a simple filling of chopped greens, onions and garlic is pressed between two thin layers of pastry and baked until golden and crisp.

It sounded lovely, but the first bite was a little underwhelming. But as it sat a little longer, pastry and filling merged into a more cohesive whole, the pastry softened and the flavour emerged. Continue reading

Garlicky aubergine dip (mirza ghazemi)

15 Jun

mirza ghasemi

This garlicky aubergine and tomato dip is the most moreish dish I’ve eaten in a long while.

Rich, deeply flavoured and velvety soft, it is delicious spooned onto warm bread.

I had visions of taking the leftovers for my work lunch. However the rest of the family fell upon this dip like a pack of starved hyenas.

I’ll be doubling the recipe next time. Continue reading

Green borscht

14 Jun

green borscht

From Russia with… green borscht. Actually, calling this soup green is generous. An unappealing khaki is closer to the mark.

But what green borscht (or shchaveloviy borscht to use its Russian name) lacks in looks, it makes up for in taste. Fresh and bright with lemony sorrel, herbs and gently cooked vegetables, it’s both light and satisfying. Continue reading

Tomato salad with pomegranate molasses

11 Jun

This tomato salad with pomegranate molasses is a recent happy discovery.

Someone brought it to a friend’s barbeque buffet, and only good manners stopped me from eating an unseemly amount.

It turns out freshly sliced tomatoes and pomegranate molasses do very good things to one another.

Continue reading

Sushi rice salad

30 May

sushi rice salad

This recipe for sushi rice salad comes from my friend Jenny – a wonderful cook, effortless host, and one of those people who is always generous with her time, home, and recipes.

Jenny was the first person we met when we moved house more than 20 years ago. I don’t know how common it is, but in a street of maybe 40 houses, we’re on speaking terms with well over half our neighbours. Continue reading

Cod and chickpea curry

6 May

Cod and chickpea curry

Cod and chickpeas are trusted companions, appearing together in Spanish, Italian and North African dishes.

They work well in this simple Indian curry too – standing their ground against the sharpness and spice of the sauce. Continue reading

Sweet potato, chorizo and red pepper

2 May


Sweet potato, red pepper and chorizo tossed in a simple vinaigrette is a very satisfying combination of ingredients.

I usually serve it as a simple, weekday dinner over couscous, but it also works nicely as a warm salad. Continue reading

Singapore rice noodles

28 Apr

Singapore noodles

It’s an ambition to cook a dish from every country in the world – a sort of travel by fork.

So I was disappointed to learn that my long-time favourite Singapore noodles won’t earn me my Singapore stamp. Turns out they are a Cantonese creation, and probably originated in Hong Kong.

I certainly ate them regularly when I lived in Vancouver and worked a short walk from Chinatown.  Continue reading

Tuna melt

24 Apr

tuna melt

Whenever I eat a tuna melt it takes me back to my childhood in northern BC.

One of my first friends had parents who belonged to the Royal Order of Elks. My parents weren’t remotely interested in joining clubs, but it looked pretty good to my young eyes.

Her parents got to march in the parade in bright purple jackets. And there were social events, like the summer barbeque or children’s Christmas party that I’d attend as her guest.

But what I liked best about the Elks was going to the lodge.

Continue reading

Tataki kyuri (smashed cucumber salad)

20 Apr

tataki kyuri

I tried this chilled cucumber salad at a Japanese pop-up kitchen the other day, and was intrigued both by the texture and the depth of flavour.

Turns out giving the cucumbers a few whacks with a rolling pin before dressing them is the secret. Continue reading

Cream of cauliflower soup

5 Mar

cream of cauliflower soup

This cream of cauliflower soup has the silkiest texture. I sometimes omit the cream– replacing it with more milk – and it still comes out rich and smooth.

Horseradish combines beautifully with cauliflower. Along with the lemon juice, it adds a bit of heat and brightness to the mix. Continue reading

Broccoli spread

28 Feb

confit broccoli

I wasn’t sure what to call this broccoli concoction…

It started out as broccoli confit, but I’ve cut so much on the oil that the name no longer fits. I thought of broccamole, but decided the lack of avocados ruled that one out.

Patés are too smooth, dips are for dipping. Which led me to “spread” – so broccoli spread it is.

Whatever the name, it’s very moreish stuff. I serve it as an appetiser on toasted sourdough or crackers. I also eat it with a spoon straight out of the fridge. Continue reading

Salmon quiche

24 Feb

salmon quiche

Salmon quiche is something I think to make when I have leftover cooked salmon hanging about or a couple of fresh fillets that need using up.

I tend to make my own pastry, but with a sheet of ready-rolled, it’s five minute’s work to turn out this dish.

A superior lunchtime centre-piece for not much effort at all…

Continue reading

Cauliflower and white bean stew

20 Feb

Cauliflower and white bean stew

Cauliflower and white bean stew is a one of those no-fuss, mid-week meals I’ve been making for years.

There’s something vaguely Mediterranean about it – Spanish or maybe Greek – which can be played up by adding smoked paprika, or a scattering of crumbled feta. But generally I just make it as below.

It took awhile for the girls to warm to it (courgette has always been a hard sell for some reason), but they eat it happily now. Continue reading

Israeli couscous, squash and preserved lemon salad

16 Feb

Israeli couscous, squash and preserved lemon salad

Israeli couscous, butternut squash and preserved lemon are an excellent combination of tastes and textures. This salad is a recent happy addition to the family dinner rotation. Continue reading

Seedy bites

12 Feb

seedy bites

This recipe for seedy bites is actually more of a template. I pulse some rolled oats for a base, then add whatever I’ve got in the fruit and seed department.

When the mixture resembles damp sand, I pack it into the mini-muffin cups and bake for ten minutes.

They are a bit soft when they first come out, but as long as I let them cool completely in the tin, they firm up nicely.

Continue reading

Breakfast burrito

8 Feb

breakfast burrito

On Sundays, we generally have a cooked breakfast (though it’s often noon by the time we sit down to eat it).

It’s often a full-on fry-up, heuvos rancheros, eggs benedict, or a homestyle egg McMuffin. But over the last year, these breakfast burritos have shouldered their way into the rotation.

Having experimented with different fillings and methods, I’ve pretty much settled on the version below: spicy hash brown potatoes topped with a fried egg all wrapped snugly in a warmed flour tortilla. Continue reading

Green beans with toasted almonds and lime

4 Feb

green beans with toasted almonds and lime

I love green beans, and have some great ways of preparing them – flash fried with garlic and chilli, steam-fried with mustard seeds and ginger, or tossed in an Indian-inspired dressing – but these green beans with toasted almonds and lime stands up to any of them.

The idea comes from my friend Debbie, who remembers being served delicious green beans dressed with lime when she was a student in Paris. Continue reading

Tomato soup

31 Jan

Tomato soup

I haven’t bought a tin of soup in years, but if I were to buy one it would definitely be Campbell’s tomato soup.

Their cream of mushroom soup always had disturbing starchy lumps, the veggies in their minestrone were weirdly tough, but everything about their tomato soup was just right. Continue reading

Squid and fennel salad with croutons

27 Jan

Seafood fennel salad with croutons

Squid and fennel salad has become my go-to dinner party starter. Delicious and a little bit special, you can do nearly all the prep in advance, simply tossing the last few elements together when it is time to serve. Continue reading

Trinxat

23 Jan

trinxat (Andorran cabbage and potato cake)

Trinxat is a homely Andorran dish of potatoes, cabbage and bacon.

While the recipe differs little from bubble and squeak, frying in olive oil rather than butter, and the addition of garlic and thyme, results in something distinct. Continue reading

Panettone pudding

19 Jan

panettone pudding

I’m not a fan of bread and butter pudding, though I’ve warmed to it somewhat over the years. (As a child, I considered it a personal insult when mum served it for dessert.)

And I’ve never seen the point of panettone – that overrated, inevitably stale and dry-as-dust, identity crisis of a cake-bread, whose packaging is the best thing going for it.

But bring the two together in the form of panettone pudding, and it really is a case of two wrongs making a right… Continue reading

Winter slaw with poppy seed dressing

15 Jan

winter slaw with poppy seed dressing

With its bright, contrasting colours, and pomegranate seeds twinkling like little gems, winter slaw is a pretty salad.

I can find pomegranate seeds annoying. The amount of fibrous pit you grind through to release the juicy flesh detracts from my eating enjoyment.

But those pits are of no consequence in this crunchy riot of texture and flavour. Continue reading

Roasted tofu

11 Jan

Roasted tofu

These little roasted tofu cubes are dead simple to make.

The girls snack on them warm from the oven, they keep well in the fridge, and are a great addition to stir fries, Asian noodle soups, and salads. Continue reading

Mushroom risotto (risotto ai funghi)

7 Jan

mushroom risotto

Mushroom risotto is excellent, warming winter fare. It’s dead easy to make too, aside from all the stirring…

Continue reading

Quiche Lorraine

3 Jan

quiche lorraine

There is so much mediocre, mass-produced quiche on offer that I’d forgotten how delicious quiche can be when made at home with quality ingredients. Continue reading

Celeriac and dill soup

11 Dec

celeriac dill soup

This celeriac and dill soup has a wonderful nutty taste and velvety texture.

I usually stir through a splash of cream at the end, which gives it an added richness, but it’s perfectly nice without it.
Continue reading

Beet, bean and bulghur salad

5 Dec

Much of the pleasure of this salad is in the contrast of textures — chewy bulghur wheat, crispy beans, juicy beets.

Adding a hard-boiled egg makes it more of a meal…

Continue reading

Roasted almonds

1 Dec

Roasted almonds

Every Christmas, my sister-in-law made these salted almonds.

Even as a child, I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I looked forward to salted almonds at least as much as the cherry slice, Nanaimo bars and shortbread. (Though maybe not the butterscotch fudge…) Continue reading

Pumpkin bread

14 Nov

pumpkin bread

Unlike Halloween Thanksgiving still isn’t a thing in the UK. I still like to observe it, and each year we have a Thanksgiving meal with the same family friends.

I’m Canadian and they have American roots, so we diplomatically set a date between the start of October and end of November. We take turns hosting, and the travelling family brings the pies.

Tinned pumpkin still isn’t readily available in the UK, and on several occasions I’ve made my own purée from squash or sweet potato before baking the pumpkin pie.

Now that the Internet era upon us, I can order pumpkin purée online. This year I picked up an extra tin so I could  make pumpkin bread. Continue reading

Mexican “hummus”

7 Nov

Chickpeas are swapped for black beans (and sesame for pumpkin seeds) in this delicious Mexican take on hummus.

Continue reading

Witches’ fingers

31 Oct

Witches fingers

Witches’ fingers are another standard item on our annual Halloween supper – along with the pumpkin soup with coconut milk, roasted pumpkin seeds and bloodsucking jellies.

I always steam a big heap of green beans to provide a nod in the direction of healthy eating (though I expect Adam and I end up eating most of them).

The original recipe is from Delicious magazine.
Continue reading

Jamaican patties

20 Oct

Until last year, we had a corner-store/deli where I’d occasionally treat myself to a Jamaican patty for lunch.

Since it closed, I’ve been going without my patty fix, until it occurred to me that I could make my own.

Delicious warm or cold, Jamaican patties are great in a packed lunch or as an after-school snack. Having experimented with different fillings, curried beef and squash & corn are the clear family favourites. Continue reading

Bloody-Mary-infused cherry tomatoes

16 Oct

cherry tomatoes marinated in vodka

The idea for these delicious little tomato-vodka flavour bombs comes from from the Epicurious website, (via my godmother).

The original marinade involves sugar and vinegar (and is lovely). But as soon as I tried one, my thoughts turned to Bloody Marys. Continue reading

Savoury sacristains

12 Oct

sacristans

Sacristains are made by spreading a sheet of pastry with something tasty, slicing it into strips, then twisting each strip before baking. I usually make them when I have puff pastry to use up.

Sacristains can be savoury or sweet. These are made with tapenade, but I’ve made sacristains with pesto, mustard and grated cheese, sundried tomato paste, Nutella, cinnamon sugar… Continue reading

Red-red stew

8 Oct

red red

Red-red is a traditional Ghanaian bean stew that gets its name (and colour) from the tomatoes and palm oil used to prepare it.

The first red-red recipe I tried called for three types of chilli – fresh Scotch bonnet, chilli flakes, and chilli powder (plus additional minced chilli to garnish).

Despite cutting back significantly on the quantity of chilli (and omitting the chilli powder altogether), it was so blisteringly hot the girls were unable to eat it. Continue reading

Lamb-feta burgers with yogurt sauce

4 Oct

Lamb and feta burger with yogurt sauce

These lamb-feta burgers are my first foray into the world of Armenian cooking.

While I’ve met a few Armenians over the years, and seen an unlikely number of Armenian films, thanks to Armenian-Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, I’m pretty sure I’ve never eaten an Armenian meal.

These lamb-feta burgers were such a hit, we’ll definitely be eating them again.

Continue reading

Itch (Armenian bulghur wheat salad)

30 Sep

Itch (Armenian bulghur-tomato salad)

I’d want to make this Armenian bulghur wheat salad for the name alone…

While itch is similar to kisir, using tomato sauce to hydrate the bulghur wheat places itch more in the realm of side dish than salad. Continue reading