Moroccan chickpea & haloumi bake

Mum gave me Annabel Crabb’s cookbook “Special Delivery” for my birthday, and I’ve been happily marking recipes that I want to try – this chickpea and haloumi bake was one of the first, because a) haloumi and b) it’s really quick and easy.

Chickpea & haloumi bake

ingredients:
1 red onion
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 coriander
1/4 allspice
pinch of paprika
400g can of chickpeas
250g cherry tomatoes (or chopped tomatoes)
100g fresh spinach or baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp chopped parsley
250g haloumi (I only used around 180g)
juice of 1/2 lemon
fresh coriander to garnish

Roughly chop up the onion, add a reasonable glug of oil to a large frying pan, and fry the onion for around 4 to 5 minutes. Add the spices and fry for another minute or two, stirring so that it doesn’t stick.

Drain most of the liquid from the can of chickpeas, leaving a couple of tablespoons, and add the chickpeas and liquid in with the onion and spice mixture. Add in the tomatoes, spinach, and parsley, then stir until the spinach is just wilted. Preheat your oven to 180C.

Chickpea & haloumi bake
Chickpea & haloumi bake

Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish – I used a 20cm square pyrex dish because I didn’t want to overwhelm everything with haloumi. Slice the haloumi and layer it on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the haloumi is golden around the edges.

In Special Delivery Annabel suggests serving this with couscous (which would be great to soak up the tomatoey liquid). I’m planning on eating leftovers reheated because I like haloumi even when it gets a bit squeaky and chewy, but for more discerning palates this might be best served and eaten straight out of the oven.

Carrot spread

This is a deliciously sweet lemony spread – perfect as a dip, or spread on bread, or dumped on pasta or a salad. Adapted from here.

Chop up 3 or 4 large carrots, and boil or steam them until soft. Chuck them into a food processor, and add a can of chickpeas, the juice of a lemon, a quarter of a cup of rice bran oil and a pinch of salt. Whizz away until relatively smooth. Dump into a bowl and enjoy.

Herb pilaf

I wanted to do something a little different to accompany some chicken breasts, and settled on the idea of a herb pilaf from the ever useful Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly as, frustratingly, I didn’t have quite enough of all the herbs – I suspect the proper amounts of ingredients would result in a more prettily green-flecked dish.

ingredients:

1 tblsp olive oil
40g (about 8 tsp) of butter
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tblsp finely chopped coriander
2 tblsp finely chopped watercress
1 cup finely chopped spring onion (including greens)
2 handfuls finely chopped baby spinach leaves
1 cup long grained rice
1 1/2 cups of water or chicken stock
salt, pepper, fresh parmesan

Heat the oil and half of the butter into a medium sized saucepan. Add the herbs, watercress, spring onion and spinach, and cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add the rice, and stir until the grains look shiny and are well covered with the greens. Add the water and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down low, cover, and simmer undisturbed for 20 minutes.

Stir the remaining butter through the rice, season with pepper and serve as a side dish with the fresh parmesan to sprinkle over.

Chilled Peanut Noodle Salad

I was entranced by the description and pictures of this gorgeous chilled Szechuan peanut noodle salad at Passionate Eater. I adore peanut flavoured noodly things, and this versatile salad looked like the perfect thing for easily portable weekday lunches. And it’s delicious – a lovely savoury/sweet peanut flavour, the crunchiness of the grated carrot and other raw vegetables contrasting beautifully with the soft rice noodles. A perfect picnic salad, it’s also quite lovely eaten warm.

I had plenty of sauce left over, due to a little misreading of the ingredients in which I accidentally doubled the recipe. Woops! But now I have a little container of sauce so that I can easily whip up another bowlful next weekend, with some different vegetables for variety.

ingredients:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of honey or 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 – 1 & 1/4 cup of commercial crunchy peanut butter
about 500g of noodles
(the original suggested dried wheat noodles – I wasn’t sure what they were, so used clear rice noodles, which worked very well)
3 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic
(the original includes a whole bulb – I am not so brave)
a mixture of chopped raw vegetables, including several spring onions, 4 grated carrots, thinly sliced red capsicum, chopped cucumber, etc.

Put the noodles in a saucepan to boil while you are making the sauce. Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey or sugar and peanut butter in a largish bowl, to allow for plenty of sloshing – I just whisked with a fork until it was nicely combined. It should be fairly thick and creamy. The noodles should be soft now – take them off the stove, and strain.

Put the noodles in a large bowl, and pour over sesame oil and finely chopped garlic – stir until combined. Mix the sauce through (or as much of the sauce as you like), until it’s all well combined. Add your chopped vegetables, and you can be as crazy as you like here – I used fresh corn, grated carrots, and slivers of red capsicum. Other nice additions would be bean sprouts, snow peas, cucumber, slices of boiled egg – endless possibilities, really.

Mix the vegetables through well with a pair of tongs, and serve either warm or cold, perhaps with some of the vegetables scattered on top.

Imam Bayildi

It’s a pity that I can’t photograph cooked eggplant and make it look pretty, because this is one gorgeous tasting dish. I’ve always wanted to try imam bayildi – that description of the imam fainting when he ate it made it sound pretty fabulous. And so it is, probably because of all the oil – there’s a lot of oil in this dish, but it results in a meltingly delicious eggplant.

I used a Rick Stein recipe I found in the September 2007 issue of delicious magazine.

ingredients:

6 small to medium eggplants (I used two large eggplants, and didn’t change any of the other ingredients, so I ended up with rather a lot of sauce.)
200ml extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional)
(I skipped it)
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
4 very ripe tomatoes, skin removed, chopped
1 heaped tsp harissa
(Again, skipped it)
2-3 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup tomato juice
1 tsp caster sugar
Juice of one lemon

Use a potato peeler to peel away roughly 1cm wide strips lengthways along each of the eggplants. I couldn’t find the nice peeler my brother gave me and so was stuck using my crappy $2 peeler, which did an awful job – you can’t see the stripes in the photo because they were so ridiculously large and uneven. Not that it matters, really – the stripes are for presentation purposes, I think.

Cut a long, not too narrow wedge out of each eggplant, making a fairly deep pocket, taking care not to cut through to the bottom. Sprinkle a little salt into the pockets, and leave the eggplants to drain upside down on a plate for 30 minutes.

While they’re draining away, heat 1/3 of a cup of the olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, and fry gently for 10 minutes until they’re soft, but not too browned – you want them to absorb lots of the oil. Add the garlic, chilli (if you’re using one) and chilli powder, and fry for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the chopped tomatoes (I didn’t bother to peel them – what a bothersome task, and I think a little unnecessary), harissa, parsley and seasonings.

Spoon the filling into the pockets in the eggplants – as I only used two eggplants, I had plenty of the filling left over. Put the eggplants side by side and pocket up in a wide saucepan (I ended up using a big soup pan). Mix the tomato juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and pour it over the eggplants, followed by the remaining oil. Given my two lonely eggplants, I shied away from using much more oil, and only used a splash more. I also surrounded my eggplants with the leftover filling.

Cover the saucepan and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, or until the eggplants are tender. Let cool, and serve at room temperature, with some couscous perhaps, or rice.

Ratatouille

This was a nice freestyle ratatouille I cooked up for a springtime lunch out on the verandah. The local fruit & veg shop had bags of nice fresh zucchini on special for a couple of dollars, and bright firm eggplants on their shelves – ratatouille was the first dish I thought of.

Chop up one onion, and roughly chopped a few cloves of garlic. I used a ceramic casserole dish to cook this in, because I wanted to serve it straight from the stovetop onto the table.

Saute the onion and garlic in a bit of oil until translucent. Chop the zucchini and eggplant into rough chunks. (My eggplant was a nice young one with barely-there seeds – I think the only time you need to salt eggplant is when the seeds are larger and it’s older and more bitter.)

Add the chopped zucchini and eggplant to the pot, and cook for a while, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has shrunk down a bit. I seasoned it at this stage, with plenty of pepper and a little dash of salt. Add a 500g can of chopped tomatoes, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. You want the vegetables to be soft, but not mushing together.

This stew had a beautiful fresh flavour, thanks to those lovely zucchinis, and I enjoyed it as leftovers stirred through pasta, and served with a beef curry.

Carrot & Shallot Soup

When I make soup, I generally make them as chunky and thick as possible, so this attempt to make a clear, fragrant soup was quite new to me.

I began by gently frying finely chopped shallots with a little bit of olive oil in a large saucepan. I added two finely sliced garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and stirred for a little while. I then poured in several peeled and finely diced carrots.

I didn’t have any excellent stock in the fridge, but if you have homemade or liquid stock, I suggest you use that – pour in a generous amount to cover the vegetables. I used a powdered chicken stock (as I’d run out of vegetable), and it turned out very well.

In hindsight, I don’t think I put quite enough water in – some bowls were very chunky with carrot, and that wasn’t quite the effect I was going for. I wanted a fragrant liquid with scattered pieces of carrot and shallot floating in it, not piles of carrot with a bit of liquid on top. Then again, I suppose it’s better to be less generous than too generous with water – it’s easy enough to add more liquid to a soup, and rather more difficult to reduce it.

I’d like to try this again with better stock and some different vegetable combinations – I’ll have to resist throwing too many things in, and ending up with a chunky soup yet again.

Classic Cheese Souffle

Prior to baking this, I had actually never made or even eaten a souffle before, but for some reason I had written it down as one of the 25 things I wanted to do before I turned 25. I bought the souffle dish some time ago, in preparation for fulfilling this goal, but then it drifted out of my mind. Finally, on the spur of the moment, I grabbed a recipe out of Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion and whipped up her Classic Cheese Souffle, which is a deliciously light eggy cheesy concoction. Stephanie writes, “Souffles are not nearly as fraught with danger as some cookery books would have you believe,” and she’s right. I was surprised at how easy this was. Mine rose, as you can see, and didn’t immediately sink down – it looked wonderfully appetising at the table, and when served was fluffy and airy. Perfect.

30 g butter
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons freshly grated gruyere cheese
(I just used an aged cheddar)
4 eggs yolks
salt
pepper
5 eggs whites

Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter a 1 litre souffle dish well, and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the parmesan cheese to coat the sides and the base.

Melt 30g of butter in small saucepan. Stir in flour and cook over a moderate heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, while stirring. Bring to a boil (mine was rather thick already), then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in gruyere and remaining parmesan cheese, and then the egg yolks, one at a time. Transfer to a large mixing bowl (or mix it initially in a large saucepan.)

Whisk eggwhites until firm. Tip half on top of the cheese sauce, and using a metal spoon, lift and fold the whites through the mixture. Continue with the remaining egg whites. The mixture should look frothy and spongy.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish, and gently run your thumb around the edge of the mixture – the souffle will rise within this flattened edge. Place souffle in oven and do not disturb for 25 minutes. The top should be well risen and browned. Touch gently – the souffle should yield, but not feel liquid.

Take the souffle to the table and serve immediately with a large serving spoon.

Broccoli Upside Down Cake

This is one of Clotilde’s recipes, and very delicious it is too. I must say, when I look at the above picture, I don’t find it looks particularly appetising – I prefer my broccoli crisply steamed – but I assure you that it tastes beautiful. The polenta based cake is crisp on the bottom, and the delicious tang of cottage cheese in the mixture goes very well with the broccoli. I was also a little doubtful about the raisins, but they also go nicely with the other ingredients. It’s also very convenient to slice and take to work for lunch, which is always a bonus. I followed the recipe exactly, but shall reproduce it below for convenience’s sake.

one head of broccoli
200 g (3/4 cup) cottage cheese
125 g (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup wholemeal or plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a handful of raisins
a handful of walnuts, toasted and chopped
salt, pepper

Wash the broccoli and cut it into florets. Bring some salted water to a boil in a large saucepan, add in the broccoli and let simmer for 8 minutes, until cooked but not limp. Drain and run cold water on it to stop the cooking. Set aside in a colander to drain thoroughly while you take the next steps.

Preheat the oven to 180°F (360°F). Grease a 20 cm (8-inch) cake pan, unless it’s nonstick.

In a medium mixing-bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs and oil, and sprinkle on salt and pepper. In another medium mixing-bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour and baking powder. Fold the liquid mixture into the dry mixture until just combined (the batter will be thick). Do not overmix, it’s fine if it’s still a little lumpy.

Arrange the cooked broccoli at the bottom of the cake pan. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle on the walnuts and raisins. Pour the batter evenly over the broccoli, and smooth it out a bit with a spatula.

Put into the oven to bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden and crispy. Let rest on the counter for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen the cornmeal crust, cover the pan with a serving plate, and flip quickly (protect your hands with a kitchen towel of course) so the cake lands, broccoli-side up, on the plate.

Cut in wedges, preferably with caution and a sharp knife, so as not to smoosh the broccoli. Serve warm, at room-temperature or cold. Reheat leftovers for ten minutes in the oven if you wish to revive the crispiness of the crust.

Beetroot and Chickpea Dip

This is a recipe from Lana, who often seems to come up with fabulous vegetarian recipes I haven’t tried before. This is a very thick and delicious dip or spread, and is such a gorgeous colour, I don’t know how you can resist making it. Perfect picnic food.

2-3 large fresh beetroots
4 cups dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
olive oil
salt

Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Cook them in fresh water on a high heat until they are soft. To test this, they should make a paste when you squeeze them between 2 fingers. This will take about 45 minutes to an hour in a normal saucepan, or 15 minutes if you’re using a pressure cooker.

Boil the beetroots whole, with the skin on. When they’re soft (about 30 minutes), remove them from the heat, and rub them to remove their skin. Chop them into medium pieces, to fit into your food processor.

Put the chickpeas and beetroot into your food processor and whiz until smooth. Add cumin seeds, salt and olive oil to taste.