Lentil and bulgur pilaf

This is based on an Ottolenghi recipe, which he suggests is one of the ultimate comfort foods. My version contains far less oil and butter, but still seems fairly comforting to me. Enough for 2 people as a main meal.

  • 5 tbsp olive oil;Lentil&bulgar_Pilaf
  • 1 aubergine (cut into 2cm dice);
  • 60g bulgur;
  • 70g green lentils (rinsed);
  • Bay leaf;
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds;
  • 1 medium onion (chopped);
  • 1 clove garlic (finely chopped/crushed);
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric;
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice;
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon;
  • 170ml water;
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds;
  • 1 tbsp raisins;
  • Zest of half a lemon (grated);
  • 15g butter;
  • Black pepper;
  • Lemon juice to taste;
  • Fresh coriander;
  • Greek yogurt (to serve on the side).

Mix 3 tbsp of oil with the diced aubergine. Spread the aubergine on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180C (Gas mark 4), until browned and nearly cooked though.

Meanwhile, cook the lentils with the bay leaf on plenty of water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 12 minutes and drain (they should be al dente).

At the same time, heat the remaining oil in a large oven proof, lidded casserole, and cook the cumin seeds for about 1 minute. Turn down the heat, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, turmeric, allspice and cinnamon, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the bulgur and the water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Stir in the aubergines, lentils, almonds, raisins, lemon zest and butter, and season with black pepper. Place in the oven at 160C (Gas Mark 3), and bake for 10 minutes, or until the lentils are just becoming soft.

Stir in lemon juice to taste, and serve sprinkled with coriander and a portion of Greek yogurt.

 

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Caponata

CaponataTileEnough for 3:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1  aubergine (chopped into largish chunks)
  • 1 red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 2 celery sticks (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 a large red pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tbsp capers (rinsed)
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed or finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • 750g ripe tomatoes (cored, deseeded and sliced (save the liquid from the tomatoes by rubbing the seeds though a sieve))
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 of a lemon
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • A handful of basil leaves

Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a large heavy pan. Fry the aubergine chunks in hot oil until they begin to colour. Turn down the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the onion, celery, pepper, capers, garlic and raisins, and cook gently until the mixture is soft.

Spread the mixture over a large baking tray and scatter the tomatoes over the top. Mix together the tomato liquid, pepper, lemon juice, vinegar and sugar, and pour this mixture over the vegetables.

Cook in the oven at 140C (Gas mark 1) for about a hour or until the tomatoes begin to fall apart (I cooked mine (in the top of the oven) with slow roasted lamb, increasing the oven temperature to 140C for the final hour). mix in the basil leaves before serving.

Flat breads and baba ganoush

Flatbread_tile

The flat bread recipe is rather like pizza (but with water rather than milk) – this should make six large flat breads (which would be fine for 4 people – I served the left overs the following day with chilli):

  • 500g of half white and half wholemeal strong flour (sieved into a large (microwavable) bowl)
  • 300ml water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp active dried yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Heat 100ml of the water (in a measuring jug in the microwave) to blood heat (c. 37C – or when you put your finger in it and it’s neither hot nor cold). About 350W for 10 seconds may achieve this, but it’s a bit hit and miss, and depends on the starting temperature for the water. If it’s too hot allow to cool for a bit to avoid killing the yeast.

Stir the sugar into the water and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave covered in a warm place (eg airing cupboard) for about 15 minutes (it should start foaming on top).

Heat the flour (microwave at 750C for 15 seconds) and microwave the remaining water to about 37C. Stir the oil into the yeast mixture, make a well in the middle of the flour and add the yeast mixture and most of the water and mix together with your hands. The aim is to create a ball of dough that sticks together but isn’t very sticky. Add more water as necessary.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough ball back in the bowl, cover (I find those charity clothes collection bags really useful here!) and place somewhere warm. You don’t need to use an airing cupboard, the dough will rise at any reasonable room temperature, but it will take longer. In an airing cupboard the dough should be ready within 1.5 hours.

When the dough has risen. Divide in to 6 balls. Flatten them out, and roll each on a floured surface until they are the size and shape of a large plate. Transfer to sheets of baking parchment, and allow to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes.

I cooked mine, by removing the parchment and placing them directly onto oiled baking sheets in the oven, at 260C (Gas mark 10), for about 3 minutes, and then for 1 minute on the other side. I think the result may have been better had I used the smooth side of griddle, or a heavy bottomed frying pan. Don’t try cooking too many flat breads in the oven at once, as they puff up a lot during cooking (I used two baking sheets).

Keep warm and serve with dips, such as hummus or baba ganoush.

For baba ganoush (for 2 people):

  • 1 medium sized aubergine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 sprigs of parsley (chopped)

Wash the aubergine. Pierce the skin in several places with a fork. Place in the microwave and cook at 750C. Turn the aubergine over and cook for another 2 minutes. It will be cooked when it begins to look squashed. Remove from the microwave, wrap in a towel and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

Remove the stalk and peel away the skin from the aubergine, and then cut into small cubes.

Place all the ingredients except the parsley in a liquidiser or food processor, and blend until smooth. Turn out into a bowl and stir in the parsley.

Serve cold with flat bread.

Roasted Mediterranean vegetables or ratatouille

Roasted_Veg

This makes a substantial quantity – enough for about 10 people as a side dish. I have a variety of uses for it: chopped, you can mix it with couscous, together with nuts, dried fruits, grains and a dressing made from harissa, oil and vinegar to make a excellent salad; mix it with passata and pasta, and top with grated cheese and you have a pasta bake (30 minutes at 180C (gas mark 4)); or just as a cold, cooked salad (with some salad dressing).

  • 1  aubergine (cut into pieces about 3x3x1cm – they don’t have to be square!)
  • 1 large courgette (cut into quarters lengthwise, and then cut into 3cm pieces)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (chopped or finely crushed)
  • Large pinches of dried basil and oregano (or fresh equivalents)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion (cut into narrow wedges (and broken up))
  • 2 large peppers (different colours – deseeded and cut into 3x1cm lengths)
  • 200g small tomatoes (skinned – the skins will be easily removed if you cut a small cross through the skin of each tomato, and then steep in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, and plunging into cold water before pulling off the skins)
  • 1/2 lemon

Set the oven at 180C (Gas mark 4). Put the aubergine and courgette pieces into a large roasting tin. Sprinkle with plenty of olive oil, garlic, the herbs and black pepper.  Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes,

Add the onion and the peppers and mix well. Cook for a further 15 minutes, then arrange the tomatoes on top of the vegetables, then turn down the oven down 150C (Gas Mark  2) and cook for a further 20 minutes,

Remove the vegetables from the oven and sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve immediately or allow to cool and store in the fridge (the should last about a week).