I’m home alone, and I am eating a lot of meals that I prepared earlier and froze in single portions. This is fine in theory, as I don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking after work. However, I’m not great at couscous portion control, so this week I have been testing out whether I can do couscous for one person. It is all about ratios.
Couscous is made out of wheat, tiny small balls of steamed semolina flour. It is really very tiny bits of pasta.
75ml water or stock
A teaspoon of olive oil
A small pinch of salt, if required
Bring the water or stock to the boil, with the olive oil and salt
Add the couscous, take the pan off the heat and cover. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, and then stir with a fork before serving.
Obviously, this can be scaled up as far as you like. 50g is a reasonable portion for one.
Another new recipe book with a middle eastern flavour, ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. This book is actually not so new to me, but I haven’t used it much. But then we had visitors who were looking at it, and Hector came in with a large pollock. This makes 4 very large portions.
I’ve bought a few new cookbooks this year, the theme seems to be about the middle east. This book of Persian recipes is called ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Hopelessly romantic title, but then again, I have a photograph of two Tehrani police officers outside our gate in northern Tehran, posing for my mother with bunches of roses and honeysuckle.
I never had this soup, though, until today. It is easy and delicious. The recipe makes a large quantity, it says it serves four but only if you have two helpings each. It takes about an hour and a half to make.
4 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped finely
1 tbsp turmeric
1.5 litres boiling water
50g arborio rice
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 pack of coriander leaf, chopped (around 40g)
1 pack of flat leaf parsley, chopped (around 40g)
1 tbsp dried summer savory (or substitute a mixture of thyme and mint)
300g spinach, chopped
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
250ml greek yoghurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
Black pepper to garnish
Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. When it is hot, add the chopped onions, and fry for 10-15 minutes until the onions are brown. Stir in the turmeric and mix. Set aside a tablespoonful of fried onions for a garnish at the end.
Add the water and rice to the rest of the fried onions, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, herbs and spinach, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes.
Add the salt and pepper to taste, then beat in the yoghurt. Don’t boil once the yoghurt is added, because it will curdle.
Garnish with extra yoghurt, the fried onions, and a grating of black pepper.
For a vegan version, leave out the yoghurt, or use coconut yoghurt. For a meaty version, use beef stock instead of water and add small meatballs.
This is from ‘Cook for Syria’ recipe book, from the club of the same name. The food is great, as is the idea behind the project. This recipe looks quite long, with lots of ingredients, but it didn’t involve anything complicated, and many of the steps can be done while other bits are cooking.
1 dessert-spoonful of olive oil
100g shredded cabbage, kale or brussel sprouts
1 tbsp sumac powder (from seasoned pioneers)
1 tsp red chilli flakes or powder
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp runny honey
salt and pepper
2 onions, finely sliced
160g puy lentils or other green lentils
a bay leaf
160g basmati rice
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp tahini
6 tbsp greek yoghurt
Coriander leaves, chopped.
To make the cabbage/kale layer, chop the leaves and mix with the sumac, chilli, sesame seeds, 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt, and put it into a roasting dish. Roast for 15 minutes at 150C
To make the butternut squash layer, mix the squash with 2 tbsp olive oil, thyme leaves, honey, salt and pepper. Put this into another roasting dish and roast for 30 minutes at 180C
The rice layer has more steps. First of all, slice the onions finely, and fry gently in olive oil until beginning to brown and caramelise. Set aside.
Rinse the green lentils in cold water, then cook in plenty of boiling water with the bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Rinse the rice in cold water, then cook in plenty of boiling water for around 6 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water, and return to the pan. Leave the pan in a warm place for 15 minutes.
Mix the lentils with the rice, the fried onions, and add the lemon juice.
Make the yoghurt dressing: heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small pan, then add the cumin seeds. After a minute, add the ground cumin, stir, and then beat into the yoghurt, with the tahini.
Take 1 large platter, and put the rice and lentil mix at the bottom, then the squash, and top with the cabbage, garnish with coriander leaves.
Guests should help themselves, adding as much of the tahini/yoghurt dressing as they wish.
These large teacakes make several portions each. To serve, I split them across, and then cut each half in half. They can also be started in the bread-maker; instructions below.
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
300ml warmed milk
25g brown sugar
450g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
50g mixed peel (optional)
Milk for glazing
Grease a couple of baking sheets, and warm the oven to 220C
Stir the yeast into the warm milk with the sugar, and leave in a warm place until starting to ferment and frothing.
Mix the sugar, flour and salt, and rub in the lard.
Add the currents, peel and the yeast/milk mixture, and kneed on a floured surface to make a soft dough.
Set aside to rise for around 1 hour 15 minutes
Divide the dough into six equal pieces, and roll to around 15 cm across, 1 cm thick. Put these onto the baking sheets, and cover while they prove. This will take around 40 minutes.
Brush the tops with milk and bake for around 20 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
If you are going to make the dough in a breadmaker, follow the method below:
Put the ingredients into the breadmaker in the order below:
Yeast, flour, sugar, salt, lard, milk (or water and milk powder). Set the bread machine to ‘basic dough’. Once the dough is ready, kneed in the dried fruit before dividing into buns and leaving to prove.
I was baking for a coffee morning for the Uist Coastal Rowing Club. We are raising funds to build a new skiff, and we raised over £700, which is amazing. I made quite a lot of biscuits as they are easy to serve.
125g caster sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
125g self-raising flour
Cream the butter and sugar together
Add the ginger and flour and work into a stiff dough.
Divide into 24 small balls, and space out onto ungreased baking trays.