Maqluba – Recipe

Maqluba is a traditional Palestinian one-pot layered dish of rice, vegetables and meat inverted after cooking, the name literally meaning ‘upside down’ in Arabic. A savoury Middle Eastern tarte tatin. Serve with a yoghurt, mint and cucumber relish or a chopped tomato, parsley, cucumber Arabic salad. This recipe uses chicken, but would be really nice with lamb as well. Serves 6.

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium or 1 large aubergine, cut into 0.5cm slices
  • 320g basmati rice
  • 8 chicken thighs, boneless but with skin on
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 medium cauliflower, broken into large florets
  • 4 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 0.5cm slices
  • 5 large garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp baharat spice mix
  • 30g pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted

Directions

Salt the aubergine slices and leave in a colander for 30 minutes.

Wash the rice and soak in cold water with a tsp. of salt for at least 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, sear the chicken breasts until golden on each side – about 3-4 minutes. Add extra oil if necessary, though the oil from the skin should suffice.

Add the peppercorns, onion, bay leaves and 900ml of water. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside. Drain the stock and reserve, skimming off the fat.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan of about 24cm diameter, heat about 2cm of sunflower oil. Batch fry the cauliflower florets until golden. Drain and set aside on kitchen paper.

Do the same with the aubergine, making sure you have plenty of kitchen paper to soak up excess oil.

Remove any excess oil from the saucepan. If it is not non-stick, line the base with parchment paper. Oil the sides of the pan and prepare to layer the maqluba ingredients.

First, place an overlapping layer of tomatoes, followed by an overlapping layer of aubergine. Then layer the chicken and cauliflower (I tore the chicken up into smaller pieces, rather than using whole breasts).

Drain the rice well and spread out as the final layer and scatter with the halved garlic cloves.

Measure 700ml of the chicken stock and stir in all the spices, plus a tsp of salt. Pour over the rice and press down with your hands to ensure all the rice is covered by the liquid.

Put the pan on a medium heat. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes. Do not open the lid – the rice needs time to steam properly.  Remove pot from the heat and cover with a tea towel and the lid again for 10 more minutes.

When ready to serve, remove lid and tea towel. Place a plate on top of the pot and quickly invert. Leave the pot to stand for 3-4 minutes before removing. The maqluba should hold its shape.

Garnish with pine nuts or almonds and serve wedges with yoghurt and mint, salad and flatbread.

Adapted from Ottolenghi & Tamimi ‘Jerusalem’ and various other traditional recipes.

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Chilli & Red Pepper Chutney – Recipe

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This lovely chutney is easy to make and a delicious combination of sweet red pepper and spicy chillies. Leave some of the chilli seeds in for extra heat if you wish. A very tasty accompaniment to cheese or meat. Makes about 3 large jars or several small!

Ingredients

  • 8-10 fresh red chillies
  • 8 red peppers
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick cinnamon (about 5cm)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 150ml balsamic vinegar

Directions

Blacken your chillies and red peppers in a griddle pan or under a hot grill. Remove and place in a bowl covered with cling film to cool.

Once cool, remove skins, stalks and seeds and blend in a food processor. Set aside.

Saute the onions, rosemary, bay leaves and cinnamon slowly in a pan until onions are caramelised (at least 20 minutes).

Add the pepper and chilli mixture to the onions, along with the brown sugar and vinegar. Combine well and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates and you’re left with a sticky chutney. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon. Season well to taste.

Put into sterilised jars and leave to cool. Store in a cool, dark place. If in jars, they should last for a couple of months.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver.

Shakshuka – Recipe

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My idea of breakfast heaven, I first encountered shakshuka in Egypt. This is an unctuous and spicy one-pan dish of braised eggs, peppers, tomatoes, cumin, harissa, garlic and chilli, similar to the Turkish menemen or Mexican huevos rancheros. Shakshouka means ‘mixture’ in Arabic slang and the dish is thought to have originated in Tunisia. I’ve adapted this recipe from Ottolenghi and added chorizo, red onion and spinach for added depth. Other tasty additions could be feta or other salted sheep’s cheeses, other spicy sausages such as merguez, or preserved lemon or olives. Delicious with crusty white toast. Serves 4-6.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp harissa paste
  • 2 Tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 large red peppers, diced
  • Diced chorizo as desired
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 4 medium to large free-range eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful of roughly chopped coriander leaves

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add red onion and sauté until softened (about 10 minutes).

Add the harissa, tomato puree, peppers, garlic, cumin and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir and cook over a moderate heat until peppers are softened (about 8 minutes). Add the tomatoes, spinach and chorizo and simmer for a further 10 minutes until you have a thick sauce. Season to taste.

Make four wells in the sauce. Gently break an egg into each. Use a fork to swirl the egg whites with some sauce, but try not to break the yolks.

Simmer gently, covered for 8-10 minutes until the whites are set but yolks still runny.

Remove from heat and serve on individual plates with toast and some labneh or yoghurt if desired.

Spiced Caramels – Recipe

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Salted caramel is ubiquitous these days, but here the addition of garam masala gives a subtle spice. Easy to make and there is scope for other flavourings – these would lend themselves well to Christmassy spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. You will need a sugar thermometer. Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for chilling. Makes about 50 squares.

Ingredients

  • 240ml extra thick cream
  • 70g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped (keep the pod for infusion)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 120ml honey
  • 280g granulated sugar
  • Sea salt flakes for sprinkling

Directions

Line a loaf pan with parchment or foil and grease. In a medium saucepan, bring to boil cream, butter, vanilla pod and seeds, salt and garam masala. Remove from heat as soon as it boils, and fish out and discard the vanilla pod. In a large saucepan, heat the honey and sugar over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 138°C, stirring only at the beginning with a heatproof spatula. When the sugar mixture reaches138°C, strain the cream mixture into it. Be careful as the mixture will bubble furiously. Continue to cook until it reaches 121°C. Remove from heat, stir and pour into prepared loaf tin. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before refrigerating uncovered for 2 hours. Transfer the hardened caramel to a cutting board, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and cut as desired. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks (though they’re too delicious to last that long) Adapted from Aliya LeeKong via Leite’s Culinaria

Chai Spiced Banana Walnut Bread – Recipe

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This is a light and fragrant tea loaf with flavours of spiced chai. Reminiscent of my travels in India and a good way to use up overripe bananas.

ingredients

113g unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
225g plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe mashed bananas
135g sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
50g chopped walnuts

Instructions

Preheat oven to 175C degrees. Grease a loaf tin with non-stick cooking spray (I use Dr Oetker). Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat gently until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla and mix on low speed until just combined. Gently stir in nuts. Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake until deep golden brown and cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. Let rest in pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Nanaimo Bars – Recipe

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I’d never heard of these rich and delicious no-bake layered confections until my boyfriend mentioned he’d eaten them as a student in Canada. Originating from the City of Nanaimo, BC, the first Nanaimo Bar recipe appeared in the 1950s. There are now countless flavours and variations and even a Nanaimo Bar Trail – a self-guided city tour where one can sample everything from spring-roll and bacon-topped Nanaimo Bars to Nanaimo Bar cocktails, lattes and even pedicures. This recipe is the traditional original variety which I’ve adapted from Joy of Baking and Joyce Hardcastle. Preparation time: 45 minutes. Makes about 25 squares.

Ingredients

Bottom Layer:

113g unsalted butter, room temperature
50g granulated white sugar
30g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g crushed Digestive Biscuits (the original calls for Graham Cracker crumbs, which can be bought online)
65g sweetened or unsweetened coconut (desiccated or flaked)
50g walnuts coarsely chopped

Middle Layer:

113g unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons custard powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
230g icing sugar

Top Layer:

120g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Grease a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) baking tin. Alternatively, line the baking tin with foil so that the sides overhang. Use the foil handles to remove the chilled mixture before cutting.

Bottom Layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 – 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, digestive biscuit crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about half an hour).

Middle Layer: Beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more cream. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about  half an hour).

Top Layer: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Then, in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate for about 10 minutes or just until the chocolate has set.

Cutting the Bars: Place two knives into hot water and alternate them to cut the bars without cracking the chocolate topping, replacing each knife in the hot water between cuts.

Asian Marinated Salmon – Recipe

A spicy, sweet and sticky Asian-inspired marinade makes this a quick and tasty dish to prepare. Serve with rice or noodles. Preparation time: 15 minutes; Cooking time: 20 minutes. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 4 Tbsp hoison sauce
  • 4 Tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp galangal or ginger, grated
  • 3 spring onions, chopped

Directions

In a bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, and chilli flakes.  Stir well to dissolve the honey.  Add the ginger, garlic, and chopped spring onion.

Taste the marinade, adjusting the chilli, honey or lime juice as desired.

Pour over the salmon, turning pieces in the sauce to saturate.  Cover and allow to marinate in your refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Bake fish for 20 minutes or until cooked.

Remove from oven and taste the sauce, adjusting again if necessary.

Serve with noodles, rice or stir fried vegetables with sauce spooned over.