Courgette, pea and basil soup

I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a few days now. It follows the lentil recipe that I made last week. I had kept the cooking book open and I would see it every time I reached for a piece of fruit or when I made myself a cup of tea or coffee.

I bought some extra courgettes when we went shopping on Monday and by Wednesday this soup was born.

I’ve found that having everything ready to go really helps.
cute…

There is a whole head of garlic in this soup! 10 cloves I counted in. When I was cooking this I was on the phone to my friend and we joked that this was a garlic soup with courgette on the side. However the final product is actually not overwhelming garlic- more basil tasting with sharpness of the lemon zest and feta cheese gave it a bit of a kick. It was really really nice!

The recipe states that this will serve eight people. And in fact it did two bowls for me and Ignacio. And then six containers left to eat for when we are too tired to cook. Result!

enough left for evenings or days when I’m too tired to cook

Ingredients

75ml olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 whole head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
6 courgettes, cut into 3cm-thick slices
Salt and black pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
500g frozen peas
50g basil leaves
200g feta, broken into 1-2cm pieces
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Methods

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium-high flame, then fry the garlic cloves for two to three minutes, stirring often, until caramelised. Add the courgettes, two teaspoons of salt and plenty of pepper, and fry for three minutes, stirring, until starting to brown. Pour in the stock and 500ml cold water, bring to a boil and cook on a high heat for seven minutes, until the courgette is soft but still bright green.

Add the peas, stir through for a minute, then add the basil, turn off the heat and blitz smooth with a stick blender (or in a liquidiser).

To serve, spoon into bowls and top with the feta and lemon zest. Finish with a good grind of black pepper and a final drizzle of oil. 

Reference: ‘Simple’ Ottolenghi page 53

Coffee

Did I tell you I am a coffee drinker?

Not prolific but enough.

It has only been a thing for me for the past few years. Previously not a drink I would gravitate towards. However the smell of ground coffee is intoxicating so at some point coffee was going to win!

I have now discovered the unique pleasures of grinding your own coffee beans. My introduction to this world began following a recent mini-break with some friends. Turns out, that my husband’s friend is very much into his coffee. The conversation started when he asked me to ask our Airbnb host if she had a cafetière. At the time I didn’t really have time to make this query. But later, after further conversation with my husband we established that I did have a cafetière and I would bring it along.

Further conversation at breakfast reveals that my husband’s friend bought his own coffee beans and coffee grinder to make his perfect cup of coffee. This got me really interested because I was used to just buying ground coffee and going from there. Turns out there is an art to coffee grinding. I have been many YouTube videos to this effect! I’ve also been given my husband’s friend’s coffee grinder (brand: Hario) to see how I manage.

How have I managed? I think very well! I decided that if I was going to start drinking coffee again I needed to have cake available to complement it. So I made the vegan coffee cake (cinnamon streusel cake) again. This time I omitted the oil and added more of the apple sauce. This gave it a slightly different texture but nevertheless still absolutely delicious. I also added a little less flour to the topping which made it a little bit more crunchy and less tasting like uncooked cake mixture!

Yes, this certainly was a revelation…
perfect combination

I think, that the thing that I have liked most about this is really being able to take the time to brew a good cup of coffee. It took time to grind the beans. It took time to wait for the coffee to brew. And that was just pleasant. Time is really a luxury these days. So I feel quite grateful that I am able to do this. It may seem such a small thing but it’s really a big thing. My annual leave is drawing to an end and I know that once the chaos and busyness of work starts, I’m going to have to make a concerted effort if I want to have a deeply satisfying cup of coffee. 2020 goals eh…

Curried lentil tomato and coconut soup

This was delicious…

With the weather turning , it very much feels like we have reached the season of soups. This is the time for warm comforting food.

I had a craving for lentils and lucky for me there was the perfect recipe in my Ottolenghi cookbook. A really simple recipe to make with ingredients that I have as stock in my cupboard.

Ingredients

2 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil


1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced


1 tbsp medium curry powder


¼ tsp chilli flakes


2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed


4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped


150g red lentils, rinsed and drained


400g tinned chopped tomatoes


25g coriander stalks cut into 2cm pieces, plus 5g picked leaves, to garnish


Salt and freshly ground black pepper


400g tin coconut milk


Method

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a medium-high flame, then fry the onion for eight minutes, stirring often, until soft and caramelised. Add the curry powder, chilli flakes, garlic and ginger, and fry for two minutes more, stirring continuously. Add the lentils, stir through for a minute, then add the tomatoes, coriander stalks, 600ml cold water, a teaspoon of salt and a very generous grind of pepper, and leave to heat through.

2. Pour the coconut milk into a bowl and gently whisk until smooth and creamy. Set aside four tablespoons – you’ll use this when serving – then tip the remaining coconut milk into the soup pot. Bring the mixture up to a boil, turn down the heat to medium and leave to simmer gently for 25 minutes, until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape.

3. Divide the soup between four warmed bowls, drizzle over the remaining coconut milk, scatter the coriander leaves on top and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Reference: ‘Simple’ Ottolenghi p52

Chicken, mushroom and leek couscous

It’s the second day of annual leave and this Tuesday happens to be my date night. I almost forgot but luckily I have iCloud calendar to remind me. Although I’m a little bit more energised having not been at work for two days, I still wanted to find something quick and easy to cook. The kitchen shelf is literally overburdened with jars of couscous so I thought that they ought to start making an appearance on the dinner table. I had a craving for mushrooms and leeks and chicken and I found a lovely little recipe on the Abel & Cole website.

It turned out quite nice very spicy just how I like it and comforting. I feel that this is the recipe that I’m going to come back to again and again. It’s really simple and it uses ingredients that I am already familiar with. The only new addition was the spices. The recipe calls for Ras el hanout but surprisingly it was not something, I had in my cupboard despite my summer raid of the (middle eastern) international supermarket. I did however have packets Baharat and Lebanese 7 spice so just used 2 teaspoons of the former.

It occured to be this morning while I was writing this post, that I ought to take time to find out the different between all three…

My quick ‘research’ (looking at the packet labels in real life and the internet) has revealed the following:

Ras El HanoutBaharatLebanese 7 Spice
1coriandercoriandercoriander
2cumincumincumin
3saltsalt salt
4cardamoncardamoncardamon
5clovesclovescloves
6nutmegnutmegnutmeg
7gingergingerginger
8pimentoall spicepimento
9black pepperblack pepper
10tumerictumeric
11cinnamoncinnamon
12garlicgarlic
13chillichilli
14paprika
15white pepper
16cayenne
17aniseed
19pepper
20fenugreek
21caraway
22cornmeal
23fennel
24bay leaves
Ras el hanout, Baharat and Lebanese 7 Spice

Ras el hanout

Literally translated as “head of shop,” the Arabic phrase ras el hanout really means “top shelf.” It is said that North African spice dealers would mix together the best of what they had on offer, thus creating a heady, aromatic signature blend—sometimes 50 individual spices deep. 

Baharat

Bahārāt, which simply means “spice” in Arabic, is an all-purpose seasoning used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Although the particular blend varies by region and household, it always includes black pepper and typically has cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, among other spices.

I could not find anything specific on the internet for the Lebanese seven spice maybe I did not search enough webisites, although this post was informative. The only reason I have it is because it was recommended in the introduction of the honey and co-recipe book I received for my birthday this year. In the section on base recipes they mention:

Bahrat savoury spice mix (aka ‘Sarit spice’ at Honey & Co’), this like its namesake in our kitchen, is the backbone of everything we make and, it like its namesake, has endless depth and beauty, and improves almost anything. You can use ready-made for her at spice mix instead or Lebanese seven spice mix, which is sold in most large supermarkets – it will taste slightly different but will still be tasty.

So my general impression after all this reading is that they are highly aromatic combinations of spices. They will be put together according to country/region. And they might vary in terms of the type of dish you might want to use them for. I feel like I am going to enjoy using and experimenting with them

Yes, I enjoyed a small glass of white wine.

Ingredients

  • 250g chicken breast mini fillets
  • 1 leek
  • 200g white mushrooms
  • 150g wholewheat couscous
  • 2 tsp ras al hanut
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 550ml boiling water

Method

1. Fill your kettle and boil it. Chop the chicken breast mini fillets into bite-sized chunks. Warm a wok or deep frying pan over a medium-high heat for 1 min, then add ½ tbsp olive oil and the chicken. Fry, turning the chicken once or twice, for 4 mins till browned all over.

2. While the chicken fries, trim the root and top 3cm off the leek. Halve it and rinse out any grit, then finely slice it. Rinse the mushrooms. Scoop the chicken out of the pan into a bowl. Add another ½ tbsp olive oil to the pan and stir in the leek. Tear the mushrooms into the pan. Season with a pinch of salt and fry, stirring often, for 5 mins till the veg look juicy.

3. While the veg fry, tip the couscous into a heatproof bowl and pour in 300ml boiling water. Stir with a fork, cover with a plate and set aside to soak. The couscous will absorb the water and become fluffy and tender. 

4. When the veg look juicy, scoop the chicken back into the pan. Add 2 tsp ras al hanut and crumble in the stock cube. Pour in 250ml boiling water, stir to mix, the pop a lid on the pan (or use a baking tray if you don’t have a lid). Simmer for 6-7 mins till the chicken is cooked through.

5. While the chicken and veg simmer, finely grate the zest from the lemon. Fluff the couscous up with a fork, draining off any excess water, and stir in most of the lemon zest. Divide the couscous between a couple of warm plates.

6. Add a squeeze of juice to the tagine, then taste it and add a little more salt or lemon juice if you think it needs it. Spoon the chicken and veg over the couscous, top with a little lemon zest and serve.

References:

https://www.abelandcole.co.uk/recipes/chicken-mushroom-leek-couscous

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/ras-el-hanout-101070

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ras_el_hanout

https://www.thekitchn.com/inside-the-spice-cabinet-baharat-67863

Honey & Co , Food from the Middle East, Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich