Spicy Middle Eastern chickpeas with feta

When the weekend comes around again, spend a little time preparing a delicious breakfast or brunch- after all, you’ve earned it following a busy week! This spicy chickpea dish was inspired by the flavours of the Middle East to give a hearty and satisfying start to the day but would also be perfect for a dinner. If you have any leftovers, these can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days and can be enjoyed at lunch the next day.

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Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
1 red or yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 tbsp harissa
400g soaked chickpeas- rinsed and drained
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls of baby spinach- washed, drained and roughly chopped
50g feta
1 tsp chilli flakes- optional

1. Kick off by heating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan, or similar, and heat the oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and pepper together until softening nicely. Add in the ground cumin and coriander as well as the harissa. Stir well so the spices and harissa coat the onion mixture; cook for a further minute.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan and combine well. In next goes the tinned tomatoes. Simmer the chickpeas for a few minutes until the sauce is starting to reduce and thicken slightly before adding the spinach. Cook until it wilts in the sauce and can be evenly distributed throughout it. Crumble over the feta and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if you want a but more spice and pop in the oven. Leave it until the feta warms through and starts to melt a little. Serve with crusty fresh bread and dive in!

Middle Eastern inspired chickpeas- spice up your day!

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry


In our household we love a great vegetable curry- often so much fresher and more appealing than their meaty counterparts. This curry is quick, easy and low of faff so no excuses for not rustling up a midweek feast! The ingredients here really need to speak for themselves so keep it simple! Of course, if you are a chilli fiend then add a little more here and there to suit your tastes but not so it drowns the sweetness of the squash. I have used spinach which is one of my favourites but this would also work well with kale. Sometimes I like a drier curry and in this case I usually halve the quantity of tomatoes and roast the squash a little beforehand to cut down on the cooking time. Squash which is roasted with some curry spices is delicious!

I served the curry with homemade brussel sprout bhajis which are a great twist on the traditional onion version. They are quick to make and they also freeze well (if there are any left of course!). See here for the recipe: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-px. Why not make it part of a vegetarian curry feast and also make a side of paneer shashlik which I absolutely love. Check out the recipe here, it’s so simple: http://wp.me/p4O5jd-j9.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
Half a butternut squash
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 fresh red chilli- roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
1 red onion- chopped
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
200g chickpeas- drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Start off by prepping the butternut squash. I will happily admit it, I hate cutting squash but fear not, I have a trick up my sleeve to take the work out of this task! Simply place the squash in the microwave for a couple of minutes, remove and place on a sturdy board ready for chopping The heat will slightly soften the squash and it makes it much easier to remove the skin so give it a try! Remove the skin and cut into bite sized chunks before setting aside.

2. Next, you need to make the curry paste. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, chilli and garlic to a pestle and mortar with a splash of water and work it until if forms a paste.

3. Heat a small glug of oil in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the red onion for a couple of minutes until softening. Add in curry paste and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant- keep it moving so it doesn’t catch. In goes the cubes of squash next! Stir well to ensure the paste coats each cube of squash before adding the chickpeas, again, making sure they are well covered. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is tender and the sauce is thickened. Towards the end of cooking add in the baby spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve with your choice of side such as chapatti or simply enjoy it as it is with a final flourish of freshly chopped coriander.

Chickpea, squash and spinach curry- a spicy offering to keep you warm this winter!

Persian style spiced lamb shank stew

Middle Eastern spices and the richness of lamb are a marriage made in heaven so get cooking this slow cooked lamb shank stew. The flavours are fresh, warming and fragrant so, if this is new to you, this is a great way to try them. I have opted for a balance of spices such as cumin and coriander which bring dishes to life. Give yourself plenty of time for this to slow cook in the oven to allow flavours to develop.

Seeing as it’s autumn and the nights are now cold and dark, I have added colour by serving this with mixed vegetable cous cous but it would be just as delicious with saffron rice.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the stew
Glug of vegetable oil
2 lamb shanks
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or sliced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
1/2 ground cardamom
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
300ml good quality beef stock
Handful of dried apricots- halved if large

For the cous cous
Glug of vegetable oil
200g cous cous
Approx. 300g mixed vegetables e.g. aubergine, red onion, courgette
Pinch of saffron
Fresh coriander- chopped

1. Start by preheating the oven to 140c/ 120 fan. Take a large pan with a well fitting lid and add a glug of oil over a medium to high heat. You need to brown off the lamb shanks so they are golden all over; this will add to the flavour later so don’t rush this. Make sure they are golden all over and remove from the pan; set aside.

2. If you find a lot of fat has come out of the lamb shanks then drain a little off so you have around 1 tbsp left. Lower the heat to medium and cook the onion and garlic until they soften but not colour. I add a pinch of sea salt at this stage to season but do remember to check the seasoning as you go and adjust to taste. Add in the spices and cook for a further minute or two. Stir to ensure that they spices coat all the onion well.

3. Pour in the tomatoes and stock before adding the shanks back to the pan. Bring to a gentle boil before covering with the lid and placing in the preheated oven. Cook on a low heat for 2 1/2- 3 hours; when the lamb is ready it will come away from the bone really easily. At 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time the apricots need to be added; if they are put in at the start they will disintegrate but if you put them in near the end they add a wonderful sweetness.

4. When you are nearly ready to eat, start making the cous cous. This could not be easier! Take the vegetables you have chosen and dice so they are in pieces that are easy to mix through the cous cous. Add a small amount of oil in a pan and gently cook the vegetables. Vegetables such as onion, squash and aubergine go well with the richness of the lamb. Season and remove from the heat. For the cous cous, boil a kettle and, in a measuring jug, add some water and the strands of saffron. Pout over the cous cous to cover it and place a tea towel over the top to allow the cous cous to absorb the water. Fluff with a fork and add a drop more water if you need. Toss through the vegetables, a liberal sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander and it is ready to serve with tender lamb.

Delicately fragrant Persian style spiced lamb shank stew- a true winter warmer!

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck breasts with spiced pilaf

Treat yourself to taste of the Middle East with this pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck. It gives the perfect balance of sweet and sour which is matched with a lightly spiced bulgur wheat pilaf style side. Pomegranate molasses are punchy and should be used with care but it is well worth a try if you have not used them before; they can be found in any good supermarket.

I paired the duck with a delicate pilaf with aubergine, onion and tomato with spices and herbs but get creative. A sprinkle of pomegranate seeds through the bulgur would also be great. I sourced the duck breasts from http://www.ixhillfarm.co.uk which were plump and packed with flavour. This is the perfect time of year to add duck to your menu!

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the duck breasts
2 duck breasts
1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp. runny honey
Pinch of ground cumin (optional)

For the pilaf
80g bulgur wheat- rinsed and drained
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 small aubergine- finely chopped
3 plum tomatoes- deseeded and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp pepper paste
Handful of fresh coriander and parsley- chopped

1. Start off by removing the duck from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for around half an hour. Take a sharp knife and slash the skin of the breast a few times. Combine the pomegranate molasses, honey and cumin and rub into the skin side of the duck. Preheat the oven to 220c/ 200 fan ready for later. Take a large non-stick frying pan and heat to high; add the duck breasts skin side down in the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes before turning and searing for a further minute- the skin will caramelise and start going a gorgeous golden colour. Remove from the pan and cook in the oven for 10 minutes for rare and around 15 minutes for medium. When it is cooked to your tastes, allow to rest for around 10-15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, get started on the bulgur wheat. This can also be done in advance whilst the duck is warming up to room temperature. Place the rinsed wheat in a pan and add 600ml of cold water; bring to the boil before covering and simmering for 15 minutes until tender. You often need to drain a small amount of excess water after cooking.

3. Take a frying pan and add a small splash of oil. Cook the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until starting to soften before adding the aubergine. Cook for a further few minutes before adding the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, pepper paste and season well. Remove from the heat and add to the cooked bulgur wheat. Add the chopped fresh herbs and taste- adjust the seasoning to taste. You may need to add a little more spice if you like as the water content in the wheat can absorb a lot of the flavour. Keep warm until the duck is has rested and is ready to slice.

Serve the bulgur wheat in a bowl with the duck slices arranged over the top- sprinkle with some herbs if you like.

Pomegranate molasses and honey glazed duck with pilaf style bulgur wheat salad- a flavoursome taste of the Middle East! Who could resist this?…

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Warming chickpea and lamb kofta tagine

Treat yourself to this chickpea and lamb kofta tagine this week for a Middle Eastern flavour fix. This recipe is simple but packed with spices and vegetables which the whole family will enjoy. When you think of tagines you tend to think of fluffy cous cous which is served with it but with the chickpeas all you need is a fork! Flatbread is also delicious with it and a perfect scoop for the sauce.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lamb kofta
400g lamb mince- I used 20% fat
1 large red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

For the sauce
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
1 red pepper- finely sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp harissa
1 tin of chickpeas- drained and rinsed
2 tins of chopped tomatoes- blended with a hand blender
1 bag of baby spinach
1 block of feta- approx. 200g
Fresh coriander to serve

1. Start off by simply combining all the ingredients for the kofta, making sure you season it well. I don’t use egg or breadcrumbs because if you are using a good quality mince it will hold together in koftas after working it in the bowl. Get your hands into the mixture and start working the mince until it comes together and firms up. Shape into small sausage shape koftas. Take a frying pan and heat a little vegetable oil over a medium heat; fry off the kofta in small batches until they are golden on the outside. Remove from the pan and set aside; repeat until all have been fried.

2. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan for later. Now for the sauce! Take a large frying pan and heat a little vegetable oil. Cook the red onion, garlic and red pepper over a low to medium heat until softened and getting a little colour. I like to add salt to the onion at this stage to draw out some the moisture from the onion. Add in the cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne and cook for a further minute before stirring in the harissa. I then add the rinsed chickpeas into the pan and toss in the spices so they get a lovely coating.

3. Add the tinned tomatoes in the pan and bring to a simmer. I blended the tomatoes using a hand blender for a smoother finish but you can keep them chunkier if you prefer. Shred the spinach roughly and add into the pan in a couple of batches to wilt it down. Next, pop the kofta in the pan and make sure they are covered with some tomato so they don’t catch in the oven. Top with crumbled feta and cook in the oven still in the frying pan for around 30 minutes until the kofta are cooked through and the feta is getting some colour. Finish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped coriander and away you go!

Chickpea and lamb kofta tagine- a warming and hearty meal perfect for a midweek dinner! One more photo? Go on then!

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Shashlik style spiced paneer

Shashlik is a takeaway and restaurant classic that never fails to please. I have made this recipe easier to file at home by cooking the paneer in a large roasting dish to save time however if you want to thread the paneer and vegetables on skewers then it will work just as well. You can also use chicken for this recipe if you prefer but if you’re not familiar with paneer then now is your chance to try it. Paneer is a firm cottage style cheese which loves spice!

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
1 1/2 tsp of the following spices: Ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, mango powder, chilli powder, garam masala, ajwain seeds
1 tbsp garlic ginger puree
2 packs of paneer
100ml natural yogurt
Lemon juice
1 large red and 1 large green bell pepper
2 small red onions
Handful of baby plum tomatoes

1. Plan ahead so you have plenty of time for the marinade to work its magic with the paneer. Start off by cutting the paneer blocks into large, even chunks. Make the spice mix by combining all the spices and stir through the yogurt. Toss the paneer chunks and vegetables in the marinade, cover the bowl and chill for at least 2 hours but overnight if you can.

2. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200c/ 170fan. Take a large roasting tray and add the paneer mixture and give a good squeeze of lemon over the top to bring the flavours alive. Cook for around half an hour until the paneer is golden and vegetables are tender. Give the tray a jiggle halfway through cooking. Serve with beads such as paratha or chapatis.

Shashlik style paneer- a simple twist on a classic that’ll wake up your tastebuds!

Aromatic Thai roasted duck legs with jasmine rice

Bring a new lease of life to duck legs! If you’re fed up with basic roasted duck then have a go at this! All the traditional Thai flavours are in this recipe which go well with the richness of the duck and freshens it up.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 duck legs
3 spring onions- shredded
100- 150g jasmine rice

For the marinade:
1 stick of lemongrass- finely chopped
1 lime- zested and juiced
1/2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
Handful of coriander- chopped
2 shallots- finely chopped
Small piece of fresh ginger- grated or finely chopped
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp Thai fish sauce
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1 /2 tsp each of ground coriander, turmeric and cumin
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 garlic cloves- crushed
Small red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped

1. This recipe can be done on the day you want it but prepare the duck the day before if you have the time but it’s delicious either way. Place the duck legs in a bowl and add all of the marinade ingredients in with it. Combine the ingredients well and off you go! Season well and cover before leaving in the fridge overnight or for as long as you can. I have used fresh lime in the marinade to add an acidity however kaffir lime leaves would also work to infuse.

2. When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan and place the duck legs on a baking tray or rack. Cook for around 40 minutes until the duck is cooked through and the juices run clear. Check it halfway and cover loosely with foil if it is getting a bit too golden too quickly.

3. Just before the duck is ready, cook the jasmine rice as per instructions. I like to add in 2 shredded spring onions to add extra flavour. Serve with the duck and scatter over the remaining onion and coriander. You may like to serve some other vegetables on the side such as sugar snap peas or Asian greens- or both! I like to either steam or griddle the greens with a splash of sesame oil to finish; a great accompaniment for a range of dishes!

Aromatic Thai duck legs- a sure fire hit!