Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

image1If you’re one of the few people who is yet to discover Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, you probably think vegetarian food is bland or boring. This book was a revelation for us when we bought a copy many years ago, and we’ve been fans of Ottolenghi ever since. These recipes are deceptive in their simplicity, in that Ottolenghi allows each featured ingredient to shine, but with a subtle complexity of flavor that enlivens the senses and encourages you to reach for a second helping. Try any of these recipes and you won’t be missing the meat.

Ian’s favourite vegetable is eggplant (aubergine), so the eggplant section in our copy of Plenty is well-thumbed and a little sticky, as all good cookbooks should be. Of all the eggplant recipes we know, this is the prettiest! Served with some chunky sourdough or pita bread, this makes a great entrée, or you could serve it as a side dish.

A note about Za’atar: This Middle Eastern term can refer to the herb thyme, or a blend of thyme, sesame, sumac and salt. We enjoy making our own blend and have listed the ingredients below, or you could simply substitute thyme leaves or buy a pre-made za’atar spice mix. If you make the spice mix, you will have much more than you need for this recipe, but it can be used to season anything from bread or potatoes to roasted or grilled chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 tss za’atar spice mix
  • sea salt and black pepper

Sauce:

  • 140ml buttermilk
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil, plus a little drizzle to finish
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Pinch of sea salt

Za’atar Spice Mix:

  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme leaves, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • ½ tsp salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
  2. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting through the green stalk. Using a sharp knife, make a few incisions in the cut side of each eggplant without cutting through the skin on the other side. Repeat the incisions at a 45-degree angle to create a diamond shaped pattern.
  3. Place the prepared eggplant halves cut-side up on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush them with the olive, continuing to brush until all of the oil has been absorbed. Sprinkle over the lemon thyme leaves and some salt and pepper, and garnish with a few of the lemon thyme sprigs.
  4. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft and brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the pomegranate and sauce. Cut the pomegranate in half horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl with the cut side against your palm, and bash the skin of the pomegranate with a rolling pin or wooden spoon. The seeds should start falling out through your fingers, continue bashing more forcefully until all the seeds are in the bowl. Sift through the seeds to remove any pieces of white skin or membrane.
  6. For the sauce, whisk together all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
  7. To serve, spoon a generous amount of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks (the stalks look pretty, but do not eat them!) Sprinkle za’atar and pomegranate seeds across the top and drizzle with some olive oil.

Popcorn Tacos

20180501_212942One of our favourite cookbook authors is Anna Jones, whose vegetarian recipes are imaginative, tasty and versatile. We have cooked this recipe a few times, and it’s perfect for an easy weeknight dinner, or a relaxed dinner with friends. We love the way corn is used three ways in this recipe; the spiced popcorn, caramelised corn salsa and corn tortillas. The cayenne pepper adds a nice warm glow to the dish without overpowering the flavours, and the crunch factor of the popcorn makes these tacos extra special. It’s also a fun novelty to serve and always impresses our friends, eve though it’s so easy to make.

We have adapted this recipe from Anna Jones’ “A Modern Way To Eat”. It serves 2 hungry people as a main, or 4 people if you’re serving some appetisers as well.

Spiced Popcorn:

  • olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp popcorn kernels
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey

Caramelised Corn Salsa:

  • 4 corn on the cob
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 red or green chilli, finely chopped
  • 100ml natural yoghurt

To Serve:

  • 2 avocados
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • 8 small corn or wheat tortillas, or 4 large tortillas
  • 100g feta cheese, drained and crumbled
  • a bunch of coriander, chopped

Method:

  1. For the popcorn, place a pan on low heat and add a little oil and the popcorn kernels. Put the lid on and shake the pan every now and then to stop the kernels from burning. After a few minutes, the corn will start to pop. Continue shaking the pan every minute or so until the popping stops. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool while you mix together the popcorn spices and honey in a small pan. Warm and mix over a low heat. Toss the honey mixture with the popcorn until it is well coated. Set aside.
  2. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, and fry the kernels over a high heat until they become charred and caramelised. Add the salt and pepper, lime zest and juice, and the cayenne and chilli. Remove from the heat and stir in a tablespoon of the yoghurt. Set aside, covering with aluminium foil to keep the corn warm.
  3. Remove the flesh from the avocados and place in a small bowl. Squeeze over the lime juice and mash together.
  4. Warm your tortillas in a dry frying pan.
  5. To serve, fill each tortilla with some avocado, corn kernels and a dollop of yoghurt. Top with some crumbled feta, a pinch of coriander and a scattering of popcorn. Fold up in your hand and enjoy!

 

 

 

Spinach crepes with goat’s curd and zucchini and pea salad.

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This week’s recipe would be a great dish for a lazy weekend brunch, or an easy midweek dinner. We have adapted these crepes from a recipe by Donna Hay, whose food is always easy but delicious, and who is a master of food styling. We love the freshness of the zucchini and pea salad, contrasted with the creaminess of the goat’s curd and the acidity of the lemon juice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchinis, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 cups watercress
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 200g goat’s curd
  • lemon slices, to serve

spinach crepes:

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups (500ml) almond milk
  • 3 cups (75g) baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. To make the spinach crepes, place the flour, eggs, milk, spinach, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Using a hand-held stick blender, blend until smooth. Heat some of the oil in a non-stick frying pan over high heat, then add 80ml of the mixture, swirling to coat the base of the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until just set. Remove from the pan and set aside, keeping warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and batter.
  2. Place the zucchini, peas, watercress, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Divide the crepes between plates and top with the goat’s curd, salad and lemon slices. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to serve.

Soba noodles with sesame tofu and crunchy cabbage.

 

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This week our recipe is an easy midweek dinner for two, but it’s still packed full of flavour! We adapted this recipe from the wonderful book A Modern Way To Eat by Anna Jones, which is full of great vegetarian recipes. You won’t miss the meat here, as there is so much interest in the textures and flavours of each component in this dish. We particularly like the quick pickled cabbage which also works well as a side dish for other meals. Best of all, this meal will be on the table in under 20 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 200g soba noodles
  • ¼ small red cabbage, finely shredded
  • sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • olive oil
  • 200g tofu (smoked tofu if you can find it), cut into 1cm strips
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 6 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • handful of toasted sesame seeds
  • small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil, then add the broccolini. Cook just for a few minutes, until the broccolini is no longer raw but retains its crispness and colour.
  2. Remove the broccolini with a slotted spoon, keeping the water on the heat. Set aside the broccolini and add the noodles to the pan. Cook according to the packet instructions, or until the noodles are soft with a little bit of bite. Drain, then refresh the noodles in cold water.
  3. Place the cabbage in a mixing bowl with a large pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Mix well with your hands, scrunching the cabbage firmly. Set aside.
  4. Set a non-stick frypan over a medium-high heat and add a splash of oil. Add the tofu and brown it evenly all over. Toss in the sesame seeds and stir to coat, then take the tofu out and set aside.
  5. Return the frypan to the heat with another splash of oil. Add the spring onions and cook until softened. Add the remaining tablespoon of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, the sesame oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Stir and allow to reduce until the mixture becomes a thick, sweet sauce.
  6. Add the drained noodles to the frypan and toss to coat them with the sauce.
  7. Divide the noodles between two bowls, and top each bowl with half the tofu and broccolini, a handful of cabbage, some of the chopped coriander and a scattering of toasted sesame seeds.