Moroccan Couscous Salad

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It’s odd how we all find different things appealing. I was doing some meal planning (well, attempting it) recently and speaking to my brother he mentioned a couple of recipes from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals. I’ve got the book sitting on my shelves (it was a gift I think for reasons which will become clear) so I thought I’d browse through and see what appealed. And sadly nothing really did. I’m sure if I looked hard enough there would be thinks I’d want to make, if only in adapted form but my overall feeling as I closed the book again was not one of inspiration. But I totally understand that Jamie appeals to many people with that book. I have other books of his that I find contain lots and lots of things I want to make, it’s just this particular book…

On the other hand, I seem to want to make every other recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Veg Every Day book. This one was the result of scrabbling round for something interesting to eat one lunchtime. I had most of the ingredients available (which probably reflects the amount of food in my cupboards at the moment!) apart from parsley, which in the interests of trying new things and attempting to follow the recipe I went and bought.

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I certainly manage to get around the different supermarkets…

Moroccan Couscous Salad (inspired by Veg Every Day, HFW)
Place 40g couscous, 10g raisins, 1/8tsp each cinnamon, cumin and coriander (or to taste) and 45g drained weight chickpeas in a bowl. Pour over 60g boiling water and leave to stand for 5 minutes (or follow the instructions on your packet of couscous – this is what mine said). Add 1 chopped large tomato, a good squeeze of lemon juice and chopped parsley along with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine, then serve.

A quick and easy (vegan) lunch. I quite liked the combination of spices (I’m certain that I used to hate cumin, perhaps I’m becoming accustomed to it very gradually) and the tomato added a nice freshness. I don’t think I like parsley at all, which is such a pity because it makes the salad look so pretty! Chickpeas are fairly neutral but my favourite part was definitely the raisins. Which probably goes to show I have an irredeemably sweet tooth!

I can see this being really adaptable. Next time I’d drop the parsley or at least use less of it and leave it in bigger chunks so I could pick it out if I still didn’t like it (I’m such a child sometimes) but I think roasted peppers would go well and perhaps preserved lemon as well to stick with the Moroccan theme. Perhaps I could try adding mint rather than parsley and see if I preferred that!

lavenderandlovage_cooking2I think this salad is suitable for a couple of blog challenges this month…. Cooking with herbs at Lavender and Lovage. The theme is garlic/chives for May and June but any herbs are welcome so I hope this recipe will be accepted! Also No Croutons Required hosted alternately by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen. Jac is hosting for June.

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Moroccan Couscous Salad

Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal

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As a child my tastes were fairly unadventurous. Our diet was varied but very much based on standard British classics; shepherd’s pie, roast dinner, mince. Along with things like soup and baked beans. Perhaps I’m doing my hardworking mum a disservice but with two fussy children I don’t blame her for giving us things we’d eat.

As a teenager I branched out a little more and then I was lucky enough to go away to university. Now it seems to me that for most people, leaving for university is an opportunity to try new things in all walks of life, break free of previous expectations and routines. And mostly people tend to become more adventurous in what they’ll eat when they leave home. Sadly this wasn’t the case for me and my already somewhat limited repertoire shrank considerably. There were a number of reasons for this, but I don’t think I’ll go into them right now.

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Anyway, this is building up to me confessing that this is the first time I’ve ever made anything with Indian spices in it for myself (and pretty much the only time I’ve eaten them – aside from a very small amount of curry about eight years ago!).

This recipe seemed like a good place to start – I’ve been having a love affair with spinach recently, having discovered that frozen spinach is fairly cheap, always to hand and defrosts quickly into whatever I add it to. It also doesn’t feel like I’m eating extra vegetables but I am. Bonus! And I know that I enjoy sweet potatoes – mostly roasted, but probably any way they come really.

I found the recipe whilst browsing through the archives of Herbivores’ Heaven, which is a lovely blog; well written and interesting to read. The recipe was originally a BBC Good Food one, but is no longer available on their website. And I adapted it from what was given anyway to take account of the fact that I wasn’t sure whether I would like the flavour of the spices. Be warned, if you know you like spice then you probably won’t even taste the amounts given here! Even I didn’t think it was warm in terms of chilli heat so next time I’ll increase all of the spices.

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Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal
Place 50g red lentils, 1 finely chopped onion, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1/4tsp garam masala, pinch chilli flakes, 1/2tsp stock powder, 2 chopped tomatoes and 250ml boiling water in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add a chopped sweet potato (mine weighed 140g after prep, 225g before prep) and simmer for a further 10 or so minutes (I’m rubbish at taking note of timings!) then add the frozen spinach (70g), mushing it in well until it’s defrosted and distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
I served mine with basmati rice.

This was delicious – I loved the gentle spicy flavours with the colourful vegetables. There is some left over and I am very much looking forward to eating it at some point in the future and I will make it again too, always the sign of a successful recipe.

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I’m going to link into a few blog challenges with this one. Firstly Meat Free Mondays hosted by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes. This recipe is vegan and rather unusually for me, I didn’t miss the cheese that I usually add to everything I eat! I’m looking forward to trying more recipes like this. I’m adding it to Credit Crunch Munch with Helen and Camilla hosted this month by Baking Queen 74. Red lentils and frozen spinach are definitely economical. As my sweet potato was apparently best before *ahem* the 4th April, I think I can count this as an entry to No Waste Food Challenge! Hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. And finally it will be an entry into the Spice Trail where the theme this month is Spice Mixes. I’ve not used garam masala before and really wasn’t sure of it when I opened the pot but added to all of the other ingredients it was really lovely. I’ll be using it again.

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Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal

Favourite Creamy Veggie Pasta

Creamy Veggie Pasta

I spent many years eating a lot of pasta (and I still do eat a lot of pasta) exclusively with tomato based sauces. With melted cheese on the top (I think it was the melted cheese I wanted really, not the tomato based pasta!). And then a few months ago I realised that actually, I enjoyed creamy based pasta sauces too and so my allegiance has switched and this is my favourite pasta of the moment.

To my mind pasta has a lot going for it – reasonably cheap, keeps forever in the cupboard (sprouting, green potatoes I’m looking at you…), is quick and easy to make when I can’t be bothered to think after a day at work and is very versatile in terms of what you can put with it. Admittedly I don’t take advantage of that last aspect so much, sticking to what I’ve found I enjoy.

And this is what I’m enjoying the most at the moment. Soften courgette cut into half-moon shapes until lightly coloured in a little oil. Start the pasta cooking; your sauce won’t take long. When the courgette is soft and coloured, add frozen spinach and roasted peppers (I roast these in batches and freeze them for ease). Add a little water and bash the spinach until it defrosts. Add Philadelphia cheese, salt and pepper. Squash the cream cheese into the rest of the sauce ingredients until it melts and forms a creamy sauce. In the meantime add broccoli to the pasta pan – time depends on how large you cut the florets but I usually reckon about five minutes.

Drain pasta, mix into sauce. Eat. Creamy and delicious. I tend to use Light Philadelphia but I’m sure full fat would be fine. Not sure about the ‘Lightest’ Philadelphia; I have a feeling it’s largely water and stabilisers but I could try it one day to prove myself right or wrong.

I’m going to sneak this into a few blog challenges. Vegetable Palette which this month is your favourite vegetable hosted at A2K. Call me odd but I have a particular love for both broccoli and courgette so this qualifies for me. Pasta Please – asking for any pasta dish hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and this month Jen’s Food. Extra Veg because really, this is just a delicious way to eat four different vegetables without even really thinking about it! Hosted this month by Veggie Desserts. And finally into the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen. I reckon that using frozen spinach and frozen peppers qualifies – frozen vegetables are often fresher as they’re frozen at their peak and you can use exactly the amount you need – no waste 🙂

Favourite Creamy Veggie Pasta

Magic!

I’m really good at starting projects and really quite poor at seeing them to completion. Or in the case of this blog, keeping it going. However, I have not yet given up and it may be that posts pop up more often in the future now.

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I’ve spent the intervening period moving house, well, moving flat. It took a very long time (there was a cross-over period between leaving the old flat and also being in the new one) partly because I moved all of my belongings myself. Fairly eye-opening in terms of how much stuff I actually have and hard work too. And then there was some inevitable decorating and sorting hence the radio silence.

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But I’m moved now and I very much like where I am now, even though half of my life is still in boxes (and probably will be for the foreseeable future – see comment above regarding being poor at completing projects ;-)). And in a week or so I’ve got a pretty major experiment going on which will hopefully result in more blog posts. Fingers crossed for all sorts of reasons there!

In the meantime those who know me well will understand that although many things remain packed my cookery books are happily on shelves and I have been reunited with the joy of browsing through them. Prime candidates for this activity at the moment are Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s (HFW) books River Cottage Everyday, Veg Everyday and Three Good Things. Every time I open one of these I invariably want to make whatever is on the open page. Always a good sign.

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I was recently talking to someone who knows me and my love of baking well and they recommended the ‘Magic Dough’ in Veg everyday. Despite currently having the world’s smallest oven (that’s one of the things yet to be sorted in the new flat but I couldn’t be without an oven so I have a Lakeland toaster oven at the moment, and no, they’ve not sponsored this post…) I decided to give it a go.

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Most of my bread recently has had a dairy base so it was a bit of a change to use just flour, water, salt and olive oil here. The recipe is available online here on the Guardian website. Half soft plain flour and half strong flour meant the dough was soft and pliable to work with. I divided the dough into twelve equal balls (yes, I did weigh them…)

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I decided to make six rolls (Hugh recommends this as a versatile dough), a sort-of-pizza and then freeze the remaining five portions of dough for later use. I’ve no experience of freezing dough (I did it after knocking it back) so any comments welcome! Otherwise it’ll be a case of wait-and-see as to whether the frozen dough ever escapes the confines of it’s icy lair…

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So I had my sort-of-pizza for lunch one day when I was in no particular hurry. Thick slices of courgette very slowly softened in a little oil were then allowed to cool before being placed onto the dough which helpfully pushed out to a good size without springing back and was then topped with parmesan. I know mozzarella is more usual but I once had pizza melanzane in Italy with parmesan on it and it was the most delicious pizza ever. And from a practical point of view I always have parmesan on hand and rarely buy mozzarella.

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Delicious, can’t wait to see how the frozen dough works out because I’ve got plenty more ideas for toppings!

I’m going to add this to Bookmarked Recipes because I’ve had this book for years and have so many bookmarks sticking out of it to make. The recommendation prompted this to be bumped up to the top of the list!

Magic!

Not Eton Mess

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This really isn’t a recipe, just a record of something tasty that I ate. In the style of Eton Mess (insofar as it contains fruit, dairy and meringue) this was a successful combination of full fat fromage frais, meringue nest (courtesy of Marks and Spencer!) and grapes. Grapes worked well, providing a juicy fresh burst to contrast with the sweet meringue and creamy fromage frais. Definitely something to be repeated with varying combinations. I’m also very much enjoying using my new bowl!

Not Eton Mess