You know how it is: You go to the shops to buy a green pepper, and they are only available as a pack of three mixed peppers. I ended up with a couple of red peppers, and then found this recipe in Moro. I adapted a little to locally available ingredients.
- 1 large aubergine
- 2 red peppers (I had one red and one yellow pepper, which made for an attractive dish)
- 1 clove of garlic
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 100g Greek-style yoghurt, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 25g caramelised butter
- fresh coriander leaves
- Turn the oven to 220C. Pierce the skins of the aubergine and peppers, and put them in the oven on a tray for 40 to 45 minutes. I turned them a couple of times, and took the peppers out earlier than the aubergine.
- When the skins of the peppers and aubergine are cooked, cool the vegetables until you can handle them, and peel off the skin.
- Chop the aubergine coarsely, and mix in the crushed garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil, and season to taste. Spread the mixture over the base of a serving plate
- Remove the seeds from the peppers, and chop them coarsely, season lightly and strew artistically over the aubergines.
- Pour the yoghurt in blobs over the dish, and spoon over with caramelised butter. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with pitta bread or other flatbread.
To make caramelised butter, melt butter in a small pan, and heat gently until the milk solids turn a golden brown. Watch carefully, or it will all go wrong.
This is totally delicious, much more than you’d think. I made this tonight, because of a constellation of ingredients in my fridge that inspired me to try. The trick with the egg and yoghurt really works for keeping the soup smooth.
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large leeks
- 1/2 tsp Turkish chilli flakes (pul biber) or paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried miint
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp plain flour
- 150ml greek yoghurt
- 250ml vegetable or chicken stock
- 20g/person caramelised butter
- salt and pepper
- Chop the leeks: slice them in half lengthways, rinse and slice finely.
- Heat the olive oil and butter together until the butter starts to foam, and then fry the leeks over a low heat for ten minutes.
- Add the chilli and dried mint, cover and continue to cook for a further 15 to 20 minutes, checking regularly to ensure that the leeks don’t stick or burn.
- Meanwhile, mix the egg yolk with the flour, to a smooth paste, and then beat in the yoghurt and stock. I used a soup wand to do this.
- When the leeks are cooked, sweet and soft, pour on the yoghurt and stock, and heat gently, do not allow to boil. Keep stirring as the soup thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- To make browned butter, put around 20g per person in a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. The white milk solids will sink to the bottom. Keep cooking until the milk solids start to turn a gentle brown. Remove from the heat.
- Pour a little browned butter into each bowl before serving.
This is a twist on a classic combination, created by substituting ingredients from the fridge. We have storms this week, with a high risk of no food deliveries onto the island, and I didn’t want to use the last of the milk to make this soup, so I used Greek yogurt instead.
- 1 large leek
- 1 potato, diced
- 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic (optional)
- 25g butter
- 300 ml hot marigold stock
- 200 ml yogurt
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp dry sherry
- Clean the leek, and chop finely; start by cutting lengthways into 4, then slicing.
- In a largish pan, melt the butter, and add the leek, onion, potato and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on a very low heat for around 10 minutes or more.
- Add the yoghurt and the stock, and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for a further 15 to 20 minutes, so that the vegetables are very soft.
- Use a soup wand or blender to make a very smooth soup. Add the sherry, and check the seasoning.
- You could garnish with chopped herbs, but it was delicious without.
I served this with homemade oatcakes.
I only recently discovered Labneh, and now I want it every day – classic with salad at lunch-time in the summer. It is very easy to make as well. It is a dish from the Levant (think of the countries south of Turkey, like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine) – east of the Mediterranean.
There are recipes everywhere once you start looking; this one is from Jerusalem
- Two tubs of thick plain yoghurt, around 500g each, could be greek style yoghurt, goats’ milk yoghurt
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Pour the yogurt into a large bowl. Stir in salt.
- Line another large bowl with a linen or muslin towel (or several layers of cheesecloth.) Pour the yogurt mixture into the towel. Pick up the edges of the towel and tie at the top. Hang from a kitchen sink faucet to drain for 24 to 48 hours. Alternatively, set a large sieve, lined with linen towel over a deep bowl. Add the yogurt mixture. Cover gently with the overhang of the linen towel, or another linen towel. Set aside on the counter, or in the fridge, to drain for 24-48 hours. I actually used a muslin intended for coping with babies, still new. I tied the tops over the yoghurt, and rigged up a thing with string and a wooden spoon over a deep bowl. You may need to empty the bowl at the bottom half-way. Also, it takes up a bit of space in the fridge.
To serve, spread labneh in a bowl and top with extra virgin olive oil, za’atar spice (or chopped fresh herbs like mint or parsley). Add fresh pitta, or other warm bread, on the side. Sliced vegetables, such as tomatoes, radishes, olives, are a good addition.
I have been storing the labneh in a plastic container in the fridge, and allegedly it will keep for a couple of weeks.
This is a very easy Persian version of a common middle-eastern dip. Be prepared to get a bit messy for the best results.
- 2 large aubergines
- 1 tbsp very good quality olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 200ml plain full-fat greek yoghurt
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Rinse the aubergines and prick them with a fork in a few places. Put them in the centre of the oven on a rack with a baking tray underneath. Bake for one hour.
- Remove the aubergines from the oven, let them cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh.
- Put all the chopped aubergine into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. I used my bare hands to squish the aubergine well, before beating with a fork. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
- Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with saffron water, a tablespoonful of plain yoghurt and mint leaves.
- This recipe is best made 24 hours in advance, and stored in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. This is good served with bread.
Some of you will know that I spent some time living in Teheran when I was a child. Zara used to work for our family as a housekeeper, and she used to cook wonderful Persian home-cooking for us. Our favourite was a dish called Loubia Pollow, made with rice, beans, tomatoes and lamb. We also used to eat the most delicious barbari bread and thick plain yoghurt sold in blue earthenware bowls.
I have sought to recreate the flavours of the food we ate there, and have never managed to get it quite right. Persian food is very complex and sophisticated, from ancient civilisations, combining the herbs and spices of east and west.
There are a few sites online where you can look up Persian recipes, but the flavours and end-results are unfamiliar to most. I have one recipe book, A Taste of Persia which is aimed at the US market, and has all the ingredients in cups. I’ve been working my way through the recipes and re-jigging them to suit local ingredients and UK directions.
- 1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
- 1 500g tub of full-fat plain Greek Yoghurt
- A bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh dill or fennel leaf, chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tsp dried tarragon
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 3 tbsp chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Garnish of fresh mint, rose petals, dill leaf, chive flowers, chopped walnuts, chopped radishes etcetera
- Combine all the ingredients, mix well and adjust the seasoning.
- Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to four hours before serving. Take out of the fridge ten minutes before serving and garnish.