Tag Archive for Arabic

Flatbread Pizza

A good pizza needs a good oven, or at least one that can accommodate a pizza stone and will get terribly hot. And unfortunately, one of the (very few) downsides of our move to a different house, is that our new home lacks a good oven, the one we have now is very small and will only get lukewarm. We’re looking into buying a new one, but until we find one we like, my baking possibilities are hampered greatly. Luckily, I found a creative way to have nice pizza anyway by going down the flatbread route and frying the dough in a screaming hot pan. I just used basic pizza dough rolled/pressed into thin circles that fit the pan I was using, which worked perfectly fine. I wasn’t sure how it would work with toppings, so I fried the bread on both sides and put on toppings afterwards, in this case pesto, grilled courgette and paprika, slices of grilled beef and a handful of baby spinach. I think this is the way to go, because you don’t have heat from above most toppings will not cook/melt, and you need to turn the bread over to cook it completely.

This dough is not only great for pizza, but also works as a generic flatbread (to serve with falafel, for example) or as naan. You could also make them extra thin and use as wraps. I’m making this recipe on a regular basis, because it is so easy and versatile, and above all, yummy!

Flatbread Pizza

Pizza dough
From “De Zilveren Lepel – Van Dishoeck”

250 g flour (works best with 00 flour, special flour for pasta/pizza)
3/4 tsp salt
7 gram/one sachet of dried yeast
120 ml tepid water
2 tbsp olive oil

Place flour in a bowl. Sprinkle salt on one side and yeast on the other. Add water and olive oil, mix with a fork. Then knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until very smooth and elastic. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise for about 3 hours.

Stuffed courgette

It’s courgette-time. The courgette plants in our garden are not that productive unfortunately (or luckily?), but they do tend to grow courgettes simultaneously, so you always have more than one, or none. So new recipes that use a lot of courgette are always welcome, and this is my new star.
I usually grill courgette or eat it raw, so when I ate a dish with courgette that was cooked in bouillon in a restaurant when I was on vacation, it was a big inspiration. Courgette can be a bit bland, so flavouring it with a flavoursome bouillon helps a lot. And cooking gives the courgette a completely different texture than when you grill it or eat it raw, it is juicy but firm. Usually with filled vegetables you put them in the oven to cook, but that takes a long time and tends to make the vegetables dry, so lightly cooking the courgette was a great alternative (and also nice to not have to turn on the oven in hot weather).
Couscous spice mix was something I turned to as a shortcut: one of my go-to superfast to cook and not to heavy on the stomach meals is couscous cooked with bouillon, with a “sauce” of beef mince, a bag of precut Provençal vegetables and a packet of couscous spice mix. It’s on the table in 10 minutes max, and is delicious too. And I keep couscous, stock cubes and couscous spice mix in my pantry, and Provençal vegetables and beef mince in the freezer, so it’s a backup dinner as well. But because I like the spice mix, I use it in other dishes too.

Stuffed Courgette

Stuffed courgette (serves 2 generously, or 2 + leftovers for lunch)

3 courgettes
1 vegetable stock cube
150 g couscous
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
250 g beef mince
3 tbsp couscous spice mix (amount necessary may differ with the kind of spice mix you use)

Remove top and bottom from the courgettes and half lengthways. Scoop out most of the flesh, chop this up into cubes and set aside.
Bring 250 ml of water to the boil in a pan that can contain the courgettes. Dissolve the stock cube in the water. Add the courgettes and place a lid on the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain, but reserve the stock.
Place the couscous in a bowl or small pan. Reduce the stock to 150 ml, make sure it is boiling, then pour over the couscous. Cover the bowl or pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, sauté on low heat until soft and translucent. Turn up the heat, add the garlic and mince, and fry for a few minutes. Add the spice mixed and the chopped up courgette flesh, fry until fragrant and the courgette is cooked.
Scoop the filling into the courgette halves (you will have generous) and serve.

Pilau rice

This dish has a nice balance between sweet and savoury, spicy and creamy. It is a delicious accompaniment to spiced chicken. You could also add some orange or lemon peel to give it an even more Arabic vibe. Use dried apricots and almonds instead of sultanas and pine nuts as a variation.

Pilau rice (serves 4)
Adapted from The Conran Cookbook

50 g butter
2 onions, very thinly sliced
225 g basmati rice
4 cloves
8 cardamom pods, smashed
5 cm piece of cinnamon stick, broken in 2
2 bay leaves
1 chicken stock cube
50 g sultanas (light raisins)
150 ml milk
300 ml water
30 g pine nuts

Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, sauté on low heat until the onions are soft, golden and translucent. Add the rice, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the rice becomes translucent. Add the bay leaves, chicken stock cube (crumbled), sultanas, milk, water and stir to mix. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Add a little more water if necessary. Meanwhile, roast the pine nuts in a dry skillet. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the rice to serve.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Carrots are a real winter ingredient, they are abundant and cheap right now (although you can get them the whole year, and they are an environmentally friendly choice the whole year as well). Usually I prepare them quite plain, but sometimes I want something else. This salad is perfect for that. It is hearty, comforting and warming, and it is delicious.
It is a lovely side dish for simple meals, for example some rice and a piece of fish or chicken. Because it has all the spices, it can clash with other strong flavoured dishes, or overpower delicate flavours, so keep that in mind when matching it with other dishes. I served it with bulghur cooked in stock, sweet potato with ras el hanout, dried apricots, roasted almonds and feta.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad (serves 4)
Slightly adapted from “Plenty – Yotam Ottolenghi”

900 g carrots
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium green chiles, finely chopped (use less when you want it less spicy)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp chopped preserved lemon
salt
bunch of parsley or coriander, chopped
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt

Peel the carrots and cut them in cylinders of about 1 cm thick (if you have large carrots make them half moons). Place in a pan and add water and salt. Place on the heat and boil until the carrots are tender, but still have a bit of a crunch.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion until soft and golden. Add garlic and chiles, fry for a few minutes. Add all the spices, fry for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Add carrots, sugar, white wine vinegar, preserved lemon and salt, mix well. Leave to cool; the salad is tastiest at room temperature. At this stage you can place the salad in the fridge for about 1 day, take it out and let it come to room temperature before the final step.
Before serving, stir in the parsley or coriander and yoghurt (you can also dollop the yoghurt on top instead of mixing it through) and serve.

Vegetarian couscous

I like vegetarian dishes like this, that are meat-free by accident. It just didn’t occur to me to add any, because the dish is complete like this. Generally, couscous dishes like this one work great vegetarian, because they already have lots of flavours and textures. The preserved lemon adds a lovely, lemony freshness to the dish, but also tastes slightly salty and bitter. You can buy them online or find them in eastern shops (the lemons are an important part of Moroccan cuisine), but if you can’t find them, add a little fresh lemon peel and lemon juice as substitute. You can make them yourself (just google for recipes), but this does take a few weeks. Ras el hanout is a Morrocan spice mix, it roughly translates as “house spice mix” and can differ quite a bit. But it is always warm and spicy. You can find it in some supermarkets, in eastern shops or online. If you have saffron available, this is definitely a dish in which it is nice to use, but if you don’t have it, it is no problem at all. If you like, you can serve a fresh carrot salad with it.

Vegetarian couscous (serves 2)

Splash of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 tsp ras el hanout
1 vegetable stock cube
a pinch of saffron (optional)
125 ml water
2 small sweet potatoes or 1 butternut squash, in cubes

150 g couscous
150 g water
generous pinch of salt
1 tbsp almond oil or butter
1 tbsp chopped flat-leave parsley
1 preserved lemon (flesh discarded, peel chopped very finely)
50 gram almonds, roasted
50 gram dried apricots, cubed

Sauté the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry another few minutes. Add the ras el hanout, fry until fragrant (max 5 minutes), then add the water, the saffron and the stock cube. Simmer for a few minutes to infuse all the flavours. Add the sweet potato or butternut squash, mix, place a lid on the pan and cook until soft. If there is a lot of liquid left, you can boil some off by placing the pan on high heat without a lid.
Heat the water with the salt in a pan with lid. When it is boiling, add the couscous, stir, turn of the heat and place the lid on top. Leave for about 5 minutes to steam and absorb all the liquid. After that, add the almond oil or butter, use a fork to mix through and fluff the couscous. Then stir through the parsley, preserved lemon, almonds and apricots.
Serve immediately.

Baba Ganoush

I never liked aubergine much. It is kinda squishy and spongy and doesn’t have much flavour. But when I recently had a very delicious aubergine curry, I was curious to see if there are other ways to make aubergine delicious. So when I found a recipe for baba ganoush, a sweet, smokey Mediterranian/Arabic/Middle-Eastern aubergine dip, I knew I had to try. Traditionally the dip is flavoured with tahini, garlic, salt and lemon, but ground cumin, chilli powder, parsley, mint and black pepper are often used as well.

I used an ingredient that is not very traditional: pimenton de la vera picante. Normal pimenton (Spanish paprika powder) is made by drying paprika with the sun and hot air, but the pimenton from the la vera region is smoked, which (obviously) gives it a delicious smoky flavour. A pinch of the spicy (picante) variety gives the baba ganoush a lovely extra smokiness and a mellow heat. This stuff overpowers easily (both the hotness and the smokiness), so make sure you use only a tiny bit!

This dip is delicious served with all sorts of flatbread, but also with vegetables, for example cucumber and carrot. It is also very tasty as a spread on a sandwich or wrap with grilled vegetables.

Baba Ganoush
3 aubergines
3 garlic cloves, crushed with a teaspoon of salt
1 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of pimenton de la vera picante
Optional: lemon juice
Garnish: chopped flat leaf parsley, olive oil, pomegranate seeds, pimenton

Prick the aubergines with a fork. Grill the aubergines until the skin is charred and blacked and the flesh feels soft when you press it. Turn a few times to make sure that all sides get blacked. If you have a smoke alarm in your kitchen it might be best to take the batteries out while you are grilling the aubergine, otherwise it will probably go off.
When cool enough to handle, cut the aubergines in half and scoop out the flesh. Mash with a fork (or leave it chuncky if you prefer). Add the crushed garlic, tahini, olive oil and pimenton, stir well to get an emulsified smooth puree. Taste and add some extra salt, pimenton and/or lemon juice. Place in a serving dish and finish with one or more of the garnishes, or store tightly covered up to two days in the fridge and garnish when serving; make sure you take it from the fridge in time to serve the dip at room temperature, cold it is quite icky.

Spinach three ways

I always find spinach a difficult vegetable. It has an overpowering taste, but is quite bland on its own. It seems like the only thing that stands up to the spinach are rich sauces heavy in cream and cheese. But sometimes that is just not what you want, so I came up with three (slightly unexpecting) lighter ways of flavouring spinach.

Another thing that is very important with spinach is the preparation. Use fresh spinach, not frozen. Frozen spinach is not a vegetable, it is icky green goo. There are lots of vegetables that freeze well, but spinach is not one of them. For me the best way to cook spinach is in portions in a very hot, dry pan. Using oil isn’t going to do anything for the spinach at this point. I don’t saute it until it has completely wilted, because it will continue to cook when you take it out of the pan and set it aside to cook the next portion. This ensures a nice bite, and prevents the spinach from getting slimy and soggy. After cooking the complete batch of spinach, I prepare the flavouring, then I add the spinach again.

The first variant is Asian. To prepare the flavouring, add a very finely chopped clove of garlic to a tablespoon of oil. Heat very gently to get rid of the sharp flavour of raw garlic, but take care not to overheat it, as it will burn the garlic (which is very bitter). Add a sprinkling of mustard seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds and salt. Add a few drops of sesame oil and add the spinach back in.

The second version is Arabic. Start again with heating garlic in oil. Add salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and a few tablespoons of tahin (sesame paste; I like the roasted variant).  Add the spinach back in. Optional: garnish with sesame seeds.

The third version is Mediterranean. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add very finely chopped garlic and a finely chopped small onion (or a few shallots), add some salt. Saute until translucent. Meanwhile soak some (golden) raisins and roast some pine nuts. Mix everything together.

And as a bonus, a fourth recipe (but this one does have a creamy sauce), perfect as pasta sauce. Start again with heating garlic in oil. Add some mascarpone and grated parmesan. Add the spinach back in. Optional: add mushrooms and/or pine nuts.

Nb: all recipes are for about 300 g spinach.

Moroccan chicken

For some reason there is not much to find about Arabic food, or at least not in the places I check out regularly. Chicken tajine is the most often mentioned dish, but most of the time I don’t like the recipes because they are often very plain or sickly sweet. But this recipe isn’t! It has a nice balance between the spices and the sweetness and is nice and savoury. With the tajine I served naan (because I had it left, but it is really a nice accompaniment), couscous and some broad beans and mangetouts. The dish is not that rich in vegetables so to have some as a side-dish is a good idea.

Moroccan Chicken

I don’t like broad beans at all, usually they are tough, fibery, bitter and to make them edible you need to pod them double: first the outer shell and then the whitish layer around the beans. But the broad beans from my allotment are lovely! Removing the outer pods does takes some time, but it is really worth it. Because we don’t let them get too big, the whitish layer around is not tough at all and they taste so incredibly fresh! It is important not to overcook them, put them in a pan with a small layer of water, bring to the boil and drain immediately, or throw in a frying pan with some butter or olive oil, for 30 seconds. Dress with some butter or olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Lovely!

Broad Beans

Moroccan chicken with apricots, almonds and chickpeas (2 servings + some leftovers)
Slightly adapted from The Kitchn

2 chicken legs
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb piece ginger root, minced
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chicken stock (or 1 stock cube + 1 cup of water)
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Accompaniments: naan bread, couscous (cooked with stock and fluffed with a bit of butter), broad beans

Heat some oil in a large pan and place the chicken legs in there. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear until golden brown. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Sauté the onions and carrots with some salt until soft and slightly caramelized, then add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and cinnamon. Add the stock, scrape the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the apricots, bring everything to the boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and stew for about an hour.
Take out the chicken. Add the honey, almonds and chickpeas to the pan and mix with the veggies and apricots. Increase the heat, bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened slightly. Check for seasoning, add some salt and/or pepper when necessary. Serve the chicken and the sauce with accompaniments.

Lamb cutlets and couscous with grilled vegetables

The sunny weather of the past weeks makes me feel like it is already summer, and makes me want to cook all sorts of summery things. Unfortunately, the weather turned back to its normal self for early spring, all grey and cold. But I still have summer in my head, so I just gave in to cooking something summery. This may seem like a difficult dish, because of the long ingredient dish, but actually it is very simple, tasty and healthy. You could also make the salad and sauce in advance and take it for a picnic, barbecue or pot-luck. Instead of lamb cutlets this marinade would also be nice for other types of meat, for example pork chops or steak. You could also serve fish with it, or make it a vegetarian dish.

Couscous and Lamb

Lamb cutlets and couscous with grilled vegetables (2 servings)

marinated lamb cutlets
2 lamb cutlets
juice and zest of half a lemon
5 sprigs of thyme, only the leaves
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped finely
1 tbsp olive oil

pickled onions
1 red onion, sliced in moons lengthways
splash of lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

crème fraîche – cucumber sauce
150 ml crème fraîche
1/4 cucumber, in cubes
juice of half a lemon
salt, pepper

couscous with grilled vegetables and parsley
1 yellow bell pepper, big cubes
1/2 courgette, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
lots of parsley (5 big sprigs), chopped

150 g couscous
150 ml water
1 vegetable stock cube

Mix lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme leaves, pressed garlic and olive oil. Spread this over the lamb cutlets and marinate for at least one hour, but preferably longer (overnight).
Bring a pot of water to the boil, cook onions for 2 minutes. Drain, mix the onions with the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Leave to marinate for at least one hour, but preferably longer.
Mix crème fraîche, cucumber and lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Put the garlic in a ramekin, or other small oven proof dish. Pour over the oil, the cloves should be covered by it. Stew it in a low oven (150C) for 45 minutes. (You will not use the garlic infused oil in this dish, but it can be used very well in dressings or to bake potatoes in).
Bring the water to the boil, add the stock cube. When it boils, add in the couscous, cover and set aside.
Grill the yellow bell pepper and the courgette, finish cooking until tender in the oven.
Grill the marinated lamb chops and finish cooking in the oven. Rest for 10 minutes.
Add to the couscous: the pickled onions (without the liquid), the garlic, the bell pepper, the courgette and the parsley, and mix well.
Serve the couscous with the lamb chops and the crème fraîche-cucumber sauce.

Baklava

I love baklava. It is a sweet pastry from phillo, filled with nuts and syrupy goodness. And when you make it yourself it is even more tasty than the stuff you can buy. But you will need quite some time for this, especially if it is your first time working with phillo, it can be quite annoying stuff and making the layers will take some time. Make sure to keep the phillo sheets covered with a wet tea towel, otherwise they will dry out and completely disintegrate.

Baklava

300 g nuts, finely chopped (needs to be fine, otherwise the baklava will collaps; you can use mixed nuts or only almonds or walnuts)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
22 sheets phillo (depending on the size of your oven dish/the phillo sheets)
150 g browned butter
250 ml water
360 g sugar
2 tbsp honey
juice of 1/2 lemon
piece of lemon peel
2-3 small cinnamon sticks

Mix the water with the sugar, honey, lemon and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Put aside to cool.
Mix the nuts with the sugar and the cinnamon to prepare the filling.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush your oven dish with the browned butter. Put a phillo sheet in, brush with butter and put the next sheet in. Make a stack of 10 phillo sheets in this way. Spread half of the nut mixture over, put 2 sheets of phillo brushed with butter on top and spread the other half of the nut mixture on the sheets. Then put another stack of 10 buttered phillo sheets on top.
Precut the whole thing into diamonds, because it will be very difficult to do so after baking. Sprinkle a bit of water on top and bake 25-30 minutes until golden. Pour over half the syrup you prepared earlier, let stand until it is soaked in, pour over the other half of the syrup and serve when everything is absorbed.