Recipes

Soup

Red Lentil Soup

redlentilsoupIs anyone else very excited that Masterchef is starting up again tonight? It’s definitely one of my guilty pleasures…I love watching along and thinking at each stage what I would do if I were in the Masterchef kitchen (probably panic blindly, but maybe also come up with an interesting way to cook mackerel for the invention test?). There are the epic cooking disasters (chocolate fondant anyone?), Greg’s bad jokes and the way he pronounces chorizo, and then occasionally a contestant who really stands out from the crowd.

One of my all-time favorites was Emma Spitzer, a runner-up a few years ago whose Middle-Eastern inspired food left a lasting impression. Emma recently published her first cookbook, Fress: Bold, Fresh Flavours from a Jewish Kitchen

I’ve been enjoying cooking my way through this book, but the one recipe I keep coming back to is “Debbie’s Cherry Tomato, Red Lentil and Chickpea Soup” (the recipe originates with Emma’s sister Debbie). I love coming home to this soup after a wintery walk on Hampstead Heath, but it also makes a great starter. I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe – my soup is thicker and spicier, which is really just personal preference.

Red Lentil Soup (slightly adapted from Fress)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

250 g dried red lentils, rinsed

2 x 400g tins of cherry tomatoes, with the juices

1 litre chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)

3 bay leaves

2 tablespoons ras-el-hanout

a pinch of dried chilli flakes

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

the juice of 1 lemon

a pinch of sumac

optional: greek yogurt/creme fraiche/soured cream to serve

Serves 6

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until vegetables are soft. Add the lentils and continue stirring for a few more minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and stock, and bring to the boil. Add the bay leaves, ras-el-hanot, chilli flakes and season well. Cover the pot, and simmer for 45 minutes.

When the soup is done, blend to your desired consistency using an immersion blender (I like mine a bit chunky). Add the chickpeas and heat the soup until the chickpeas have warmed through. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Check the seasoning, then serve. Add a sprinkle of sumac to each serving, and bring a bowl of yogurt/creme fraiche/soured cream to the table.

Side dishes

Israeli Chopped Salad

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This is barely a recipe, more a suggestion of an easy and flavorful summer side dish that will works well with any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean main course, or even on its own with a dollop of hummus.

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This chopped salad is very popular not just in Israel but all over the Middle East. It comes together in just a few minutes but will also benefit from resting in the fridge for an hour or two.

Israeli Chopped Salad

250 g ripe cherry tomatoes

1 large cucumber (approx 450 g)

1/2 red onion

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

optional extra toppings: chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds, feta cheese, sumac

Serves 4 as a side dish

Slice the onion, then soak in cold water for 15 minutes to reduce the bite (skip this if you like some bite to your salad). Pat dry, then chop into fine dice.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes.

Peel the cucumber and quarter lengthwise. Scoop out any excess seeds if necessary, then dice.

Place the onion, tomatoes and cucumber in a bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning. Toss well, and serve immediately or chill for a few hours.

IMG_1040photos and food styling by Yaelle

Breakfast

Banana Almond Pancakes

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Did you see my healthy breakfast tips in The Telegraph earlier this month? The Telegraph featured several Brain Food breakfast recipes in their article on “How to make your child a healthy breakfast that they’ll actually like”.  But looking through the recipes the Telegraph chose made me realize that one of my favorite breakfast recipes was not on the website at all! This recipe for banana almond pancakes is so quick and easy to throw together on a weekend morning, and you probably have all of the ingredients to hand. The pancakes pair beautifully with fruit and berries, a drizzle of maple syrup or a spoonful of chia seed jam.

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Banana Almond Pancakes

2 very ripe medium bananas, peeled

4 large eggs

4 tablespoons (40 g) ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

coconut oil for cooking (or any other cooking fat)

Makes about 8 pancakes.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas well with a fork. Whisk in the eggs, then add the ground almonds and mix well.

Melt a small spoonful of coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Using a ladle, add about 3 tablespoons of batter to the pan. The key to these pancakes is to keep them small, around the size of a scotch pancake, as they will be difficult to flip otherwise. Using a spatula correct the shape if necessary. When the bottom side is firmly cooked, after about 2 minutes, flip over (carefully!) and cook the other side for about 1 minute. Remove from the pan, and start again for the next pancake.

Dessert, Snacks

Chocolate-dipped Cherries

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Just two ingredients … but they are two of my favorite ingredients!

Chocolate-dipped Cherries

200 g cherries (with stalks attached)

150 g dark cooking chocolate

Makes about 25 chocolate-dipped cherries.

Wash and dry the cherries, then place on a tray in the freezer for an hour or until you are ready to dip them.

Melt the chocolate in a small bowl over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Set aside to cool for a minute or two.

Dip the cherries one by one, then place on a tray or plate lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until serving.

For a lighter version, only dip the cherries halfway.

 

 

 

 

 

Dessert, Snacks

Chocolate coconut squares

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These chocolate coconut squares are free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar, but are nonetheless one of the most intensely chocolate flavoured desserts I have ever eaten. I had intended the recipe to be for chocolate coconut bars, but they came out so rich I had to downgrade the size to squares. These are lovely with a cup of coffee or as an after-school treat for hungry children.

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Chocolate Coconut Squares

360 g pitted medjool dates

100 g organic cacao powder (I use Creative Nature)

60 g dessicated coconut + extra to sprinkle

50 g chopped almonds

2 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons water

pinch of salt

Makes about 30 squares.

Line a 20 x 20 cm baking tin with parchment paper.

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth.

Tip the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly. Press down and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon. Sprinkle a bit more coconut over the top and press into the surface.

Refrigerate for at least one hour, then cut into squares. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Side dishes

Kimchi – Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

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Last week I had a great time co-hosting a fermentation workshop with Katharine Locke. After a busy morning of chopping vegetables and filling jars, we all sat down to a lunch featuring a fermented food tasting along with my new favorite lunch dish, this kimchi-cauliflower “fried rice” adapted from a recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, It’s All Easy.

Although it is not difficult to make kimchi at home (try this recipe if you want to give it a go), because I live near an excellent Korean supermarket I tend to buy kimchi in pouches rather than make my own. I do now know that the kimchi sold in pouches is well fermented, having lived through The Night Of The Exploding Kimchi.  But that’s a story for another time, maybe when I finish deep-cleaning my fridge.

And if you have never made cauliflower couscous (or rice), I would highly recommend that you try it. It is really tasty but low-carb and perfect for anyone on a grain-free diet.

Kimchi-Cauliflower “Fried Rice” (adapted from It’s All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow)

1 small head of cauliflower, broken into small florets

100 g curly kale, cut or torn into small pieces and stems removed

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons coconut aminos (or tamari soy sauce)

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

200 g chopped kimchi

1 small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Serves 4 as a main course (lovely with a fried egg on top!) or 6-8 as a side.

Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor until they are broken down to the size of couscous.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the kale and saute for for 2 minutes, until it is starting to wilt. Add the cauliflower and the water and continue to saute for 5 minutes. Then cover the pan and reduce the heat to low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the cooled cauliflower-kale mixture and mix well. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Breakfast, Dips and spreads

Pear Butter

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I love the magic quality of this recipe, in which just one ingredient – pears – cook in a bit of water until they are completely transformed.  The result is a naturally sweet spread perfect for toast or pancakes, or stirred into some natural yogurt.  It is also a great way to use up any pears that are less than perfect or slightly past their prime.

This is good fun to make with children. They can chop the pears and stir the pot, and will be amazed at how cooking can completely change an ingredient.

Pear Butter

4 large pears or 6 medium (about 1.2 kg total)

200 ml water

Core and chop the pears, but do not peel them, and put in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until pears are tender, about 1 hour.

Once the pears have softened, remove the lid and continue cooking for another 2-3 hours, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is smooth and brown and there is no visible liquid. You will need to stir more frequently towards the end of cooking, to avoid scorching.

Cool to room temperature and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate.