Archive | Mediterranean / Arabic RSS feed for this section

Runner Beans in Tomatoes

22 Aug

This little dish of runner or green beans gently stewed in oil and tomatoes has long been a favourite of mine. Its origins are probably Turkish or Greek. I remember eating several variations of it in Istanbul and in Greece many years ago. Like so many Mediterranean dishes it has few ingredients but the finished result is miraculously full of flavour. Serve as a side dish or part of a mezze spread or picnic.

Serves 2 Prep & Cook 30 minutes

  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 150g Runner or Green beans, stalks removed
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 fat cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato concentrate
  • 4-5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a sauce pan, throw in the onion and garlic and fry for a couple of minutes then add the beans and tomato. Season and stir over a high heat to coat well. Reduce heat, cover and let the beans stew in the oily tomato sauce for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom, if it does add a little more oil or water. Serve as part of a mezze or as a side dish.

COOK’S TIP To freeze French beans; wash, top and tail and plunge into boiling salted water. I use a pasta pan with a removable drainer, which makes the job much easier. As soon as the beans turn a brighter darker shade of green (3-4 minutes) drain and plunge into ice-cold water to halt cooking and preserve the colour. When cool, drain well, bag up and freeze immediately.
Gardeners Note Great for gluts of beans and tomatoes in summer but it can also be made at any time of year with frozen beans and preserved tomatoes.

Chickpea Pancake (Farinata)

14 Sep
This is an Italian street food I first tried in Liguria, close to the southern coast of France. A kind of savoury pancake made from ground chickpeas made into a batter with water and seasoned with olive oil, black pepper, salt and sometimes with rosemary. It is a brilliant snack food and perfect for those who have an allergy to gluten and cannot eat wheat, particularly in pasta-eating regions where avoiding gluten can be a real challenge.
Traditionally Farinata is cooked in a wide flat copper pan with a 4-5 cm lip in a hot wood fired oven. In Nice, just back across the border in France, a similar dish called socca is made with the same ingredients and cooked in an oven or in a skillet over flames. I’ve never tasted the French version but this is what the Ligurian one tastes like. I got the recipe from the back of a packet of chickpea flour i bought in Liguria and have tweaked it to taste more like the local vendors.
  • 250g chickpea flour (about 2 cups)
  • 750g water (about 3 cups)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt (1 tsp)
  • Cracked black pepper (1/2 tsp)
  • Rosemary minced (optional)

Put the ckickpea flour in a large bowl or jug, one with a spout if you can so it will make pouring easier, add the water beating as you go. Beat the mixture until you have a lovely smooth batter then add the salt & pepper and oil. Set aside for an hour or more to allow the batter to mature it can be left overnight. Heat the oven to very high and put a metal baking tray or a large paella pan into the oven to heat. If you have one, a paella pan is the nearest thing to the sort of pan used in Liguria.

When the pan is really hot lift out and drizzle with olive oil, to coat all over, then pour in enough batter to cover the surface of the pan in a thin layer, tipping side to side to ensure an even cover. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pop it straight back into the oven. Cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on how hot you can get your oven, until the edges and bottom are brown and crisp and the top is starting to take some colour. remove from the oven and tear or cut into pieces.

Sprinkle with a touch more of salt and pepper then serve with a glass of chilled wine or beer and you have a lovely start to the evening. If you have friends round you might want to put the next batch straight in the oven, this stuff disappears quickly. The quantity here makes enough batter for 4 batches cooked in a paella pan

Variation If you don’t want to use an oven it works fine on a stove top, i find using a heavy cast iron skillet works best. Once it is crisp on the bottom, turn it over and cook to just colouring on the other.

Tips for best and most authentic results make sure that the oven is as hot as it will go, the pan you use is very hot and use plenty of olive oil and salt. My oven will only go to 240c but with fan assisted gets pretty hot, hot enough to get the farinata just right. For really crispy ones make the layer of batter as thin as you can.

Green Olive Tapenade (Italian)

29 Jun
Green olive pate is the perfect Mediterranean summer food, it does not spoil, travels well and tastes divine when its hot making it a great picnic or lunch item. Salty and sour with capers and anchovies ground to a paste with garlic and lemon juice, delicious! Serve on bread or crackers as an aperitif or snack.


Makes enough to fill a 1 pint (1 quart) kilner Jar. 

  • 500g green olives, pitted
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp pickled capers
  • 4 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1/4 cup oilive oil
  • zest  and juice of half a lemon

Simply pound or grind all the ingredients together adding more or less of each ingredient to your own taste and to get a good consistency. Ready to eat immediately and will keep in the fridge for about 18 months.

Variations i sometimes add coriander leaf for a change and do not always add anchovies particularly when cooking for friends who are vegetarian.

Chickpea Spread [Hummus]

21 Sep
Hummus simply means chickpea in Arabic and that is the main ingredient in this delicious spread. A super fast nutritious food that is versatile and easy to make, particularly if you have a blender. 
Prep+Cook 10 mins
  • 300-500g cooked and cooled chickpeas or tinned chick peas
  • 2 fat cloves garlic crushed
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt

  • Paprika or cayenne pepper if you like it spicy.
  • Lemon zest

Drain and rinse the chickpeas if using tinned but keep the cooking liquid if you have freshly cooked chickpeas. Put everything into a blender and give it a wiz until you have a smooth paste, adding a little water or cooking liquor if necessary to get a good consistency. Pour into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a little more paprika on top and the grated zest of a lemon. Hummus will keep for about 1 week in the fridge.
Cook’s TIP To use dried chickpeas, which do taste better, soak in water overnight then simmer for about 1 hour until they are tender, use the cooking liquor to thin the hummus.
Variations you can add fresh coriander, crushed cumin, preserved lemon, tahini or sesame seeds to the blend for extra flavour or variation.
Nutrition Hummus is also high in fibre and said to help reduce cholesterol.
This recipe was originally posted on www.masdudiable.com on 15/6/2006, I’ve just harvested our first crop of chickpeas which remonded me to update this recipe with a new picture and text.

Salad Niçoise

8 Sep

I love this classic salad from Southern coastal France; a wonderful combination of cooked potatoes and green beans with fresh summer tomatoes and lettuce topped with seared tuna and olives. This is what the French call a salad composé, each diner is presented with a plate on which all the ingredients have been layered or composed ready to tuck in.

Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until only just tender, then drain and set aside to cool. Cut the beans into bite size pieces and boil in salted water for 5-6 minutes or until the beans are only just cooked  drain and give them a little splash of olive oil, toss and set aside.

Meanwhile season a tuna steak with sea salt and cracked black pepper then pan fry or griddle on a high heat for a few minutes on either side until just cooked through, sprinkle with lemon juice and remove from the pan.

Meanwhile wash and tear the lettuce into bite size pieces and toss with a simple vinaigrette or Salad Dressing of your choice.

Arrange the dressed lettuce leaves on a plate then add a scatterring of cooked potatoes, slices of spring or salad onion and green beans then a layer of sliced tomatoes, cucumber or peppers according to your taste and what you have available and give it a pinch of sea salt as you go.  Top with the freshly cooked tuna and some black olives with the stones removed. Garnish with a pinch of chopped parsley for both looks and flavour. Serve with a little olive oil or salad dressing drizzled over the top.
VariationI often add sweet peppers, salad onions or cucumber too.

Fennel baked with Parmesan

27 Mar

Like all great dishes this one is so simple and so delicious. I first tried this one New Year in Italy at our friends house where Maggie always cooks up a storm of simple food with a big taste. It makes an excellent first course, vegetable side or light lunch.

Serves  4
Prep: 15mins  Cooking 30mins

  • 2 fennel bubs
  • Olive oil
  • Cracked sea salt and black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese freshly grated

Wash and trim whole fennel bulbs then slice the bulbs vertically through the middle so that you have 2 mirror halves of each. Place these in a pan with water just covering bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15mins until only just tender. Drain and lay the 4 halves flat side down in a oiled baking dish drizzle with olive oil and a pinch each of cracked sea salt and black pepper. (if you are cooking for a dinner party this stage can be prepared in advance and left aside to finish just before serving). Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30mins. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over the fennel 5 minutes before the end of cooking and put back in the oven. Serve hot sprinkled with a little more grated or shaved parmesan if desired.

Preserved Lemons

12 Jan

This is one of those ingredients that can transform a dish. Indispensable in North African cooking salt pickled lemons are easy to make and last for ages.

Heres how I make them.

  • 6 lemons
  • Juice of 3-4 lemons
  • 1 tsp salt for each lemon+1 tbsp salt
  • boiled water

Choose small perfect lemons wash each lemon in hot water and leave to dry fully before using. Meanwhile sterilize a large jar that will hold 6 whole lemons, I find kilner jars are perfect for this pickle. Put a tbsp of salt in the bottom of the jar along with the lemon juice and give it a good shake. Now prepare the lemons; remove the tip of the branch end and with a sharp knife cut a slit vertically through the lemon, but not all the way through, then make a second slit vertically to make a cross keeping the bottom end intact. Put a spoon of salt into the centre of each cut lemon and place in the jar, push the lemons down as you go until the jar is full. Add more lemons if there is room. Cover with boiled water that has been left to cool, close the lid and give the jar a good shake then set aside to mature for 4 weeks. Give the jar a shake every day.

Green Lentil Salad

20 Nov

This tart and surprisingly juicy salad of mediteranean green lentils is dressed with a sour-sweet pomegranate molasses and aromatic cumin. This dish can be served as a side or as part of a mezze or tapas of small dishes.

Prep 10min Cook 30min Serves 4

  • 250g green lentils 
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin freshly roasted and crushed
  • handful chopped parsley or coriander
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Juice of half a lemon

Wash the lentils and boil in a large pan of water for 20-30minutes until the lentils are just soft but completely intact, drain and set aside. Meanwhile fry the onion in olive oil until translucent, add garlic and cumin and when the aroma rises add the drained lentils and stir to coat. Take off the heat stir in the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and chopped parsley. Season with a touch of salt and pepper and serve.

Cook’s Tip Pomegranate Molasses can be found in middle eastern shops and good food stores. It is also very easy to make and we are lucky enough to have a mature sour Pomegranate bush and make our own in November when the fruit is ripe.
Recipe Source This recipe was inspired by a plate of vegetarian tapas, I had at Tate Modern London a few years ago, the lentil dish stood out and I wanted to make something similar and this was about right for me.

Tunisian Chickpea Soup

7 Oct

It is pepper and chilli harvest time so I’ve been making batches of home made harissa paste which is a fundamental ingredient of this soup. In North Africa this would be called Lablabi, a popular every day dish from Tunisia; filling, nutritious and lip smackingly good. Pared down it is chickpeas in a broth seasoned with cumin, olive oil and harissa paste, simple food that tastes divine.

It can also be varied enormously with seasonings and garnishes; this one is garnished with; olive oil, cumin, lemon, and a poached egg.

Wash the chickpeas well and put into a large pan. Fill with cold water, leave to soak for 12 hours.Discard some of the water leaving just enough to cover the soaked chickpeas. Put the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for one and a half hours or until the chick peas are tender. Stir in a good slosh of olive oil, a few cloves of crushed garlic, some ground cumin, some chopped parsley and lots of harissa to taste, cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon the soup into a dish, give it a squeeze of lemon, a little more olive oil and a sprinkle of crushed cumin seeds. Serve with bread croutons spread with more harissa or some tuna, a poached egg, or olives, whatever takes your fancy on the day.

Try it with a bit of tuna too.

Variations: There are very many variations of this simple soup because Lablabi is a traditional dish so it has been around for a long time. The chick peas can be cooked with meat bones. Stale bread can be broken into pieces and used to line the serving bowl before pouring the soup over it or the bread can be served as croutons spread with harissa paste.

Topping: The basic soup is served topped with olive oil, cumin, and a dollop of harissa but for a more substantial dish the soup can be served topped with; fish such as tuna or sardines, egg, bread croutons, capers or olives.

Cooks TIP
The soaking and cooking of chickpeas takes a long time so save it, and cooking fuel, by cooking up a large batch then freeze or bottle in ready to use portions. I freeze cooked chickpeas drained for salads and small dishes like Spicy Chickpea Salad, Spinach and Chickpeas and hummous or in bags with their cooking liquor for soups like this one.

Recipe Sources
Harissa
Mirage Blogspot
La Cuisine Marocaine
Cuisine d’Afrique

This recipe was originally posted on www.masdudiable.com on 14/10/2008.

Summer Salad (Greek)

5 Oct
Of all the countries in the world, to my mind, the Greeks do the best summer salads. It is not just the Aegean blue and blazing sun that make them taste so good they really know how to make the simple, chunky ingredients of summer sing.
Basic

Tomatoes
Cucumber, cut into chunks
Onions, sweet ones sliced
Peppers
Fresh herbs: parsley, basil, thyme or marjoram
Salt
Lemon juice (optional)
Olive oil (optional)

    Simply chop the vegetables into bite size pieces, season with salt and chopped herbs and that is it. As the vegetables are fairly juicy they create their own dressing but you can give it a touch of oil and lemon juice too. I sometimes use Salted Parsley Preserve instead of fresh parsley as the only addition for speed.

    Variations To the basic vegetable ingredients you can add all manner of stuff to make a more substantial salad. I particularly like adding a handull of pickled caper berries, black olives, feta cheese, chopped boiled egg or cured ham.

    My Aegean Spice Mix
    This is my own blend of herbs and spices that remind me of the Aegean, I use it to season raw summer veg and grillades. Fresh herbs such as oregano, mountain thyme, mint dried and rubbed then mixed with sea salt, dried lemon zest and ground chilli.

    Gardeners Note
    Summer salads like these start in June with the first cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from the polytunnel and carry on until the last rays of summer sun in October.