Archive for November, 2011

November ‘Meanderings’ …

North African spicy flavours are ideal at this time of year when the weather is chillier, although I can quite happily enjoy them at any time of year.  There is a lovely spicy soup, Chorba, which is a meal in itself and three simple recipes that are quick to both prepare and cook.  They would be lovely served together at a dinner party.  Click here for all North African Style Recipes on this site.

Recipes this month

Chorba with Ras el-Hanout & Noodles     Fragrant Flash Grilled Figs & Peaches
Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks                    Orange Couscous
Westfield Stratford City & the 2012 Olympic Site

2012 London Olympic Site in the mist from the
top floor of John Lewis, Westfield Stratford City – 11.11.11
(Click picture to see enlarged view)

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’


‘For what we are about to receive…’ December 2011

Coming in December some recipes for the Christmas season: Caramelised Red Onion Chutney, delicious served with cold meats or cheese; Sweet & Salty Crunchie Nut Bars, a festive chocolatey treat; non-alcoholic Spiced Mulled Apple Punch and our family Christmas Cake for 2011 using the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake Recipe.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

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There was a glut of fresh figs on our market during the autumn and I was able to buy a whole tray really inexpensively.  My family could eat a whole tray in one sitting and these were particularly sweet and soft, but I squirrelled a few away so I could try this wonderful sounding dish.  At the same time on the market there were the last of the years peaches and nectarines, a little hard and not easy to ripen, so not especially good for eating, but ideal for cooking which brings out their flavour beautifully.  A good reminder of the last of summer.

My starting point for this recipe came from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson and had the exotic sounding name: Figs for 1001 Nights.  I gently grilled the fruits in the spiced butter as in the original recipe but using peaches as well as figs.  An alternative would be to pop them briefly in a hot oven, but I would only do this if I already had the oven on to cook something else  – flash grilling is fine.  Nigella used a little rosewater and orange flower water in her basting mixture.  I used the orange flower but although I had the rose water in my cupboard I left it out as my daughter sadly dislikes the traditional rose turkish delight flavour.   I do have a bottle of rose syrup in the cupboard, however, so I used this as a pouring sauce for those of us who do like it.  (As an alternative she used a little honey, which proved equally as good as honey and figs are also a good match.)  Rose syrup is a lovely item to have in the cupboard and is delicious with rhubarb and yoghurt, or poured over ice cream, however it is very sweet so I suggest it is used sparingly at first as it can be quite overpowering.  I have some sachets of vanilla sugar, bought on holiday in France, with one being just about 1 tbsp.  If this is not available then substitute granulated sugar and a very small amount of vanilla extract, one or two drops maximum.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Grilled Figs & Peaches
(Serves 6 – 6 figs & 6 peaches/nectarines)

1 fresh fig per person (or 2 smaller ones)
1 fresh peach or nectarine per person
25 g unsalted butter
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar & 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
½tsp orange flower water
To serve:
50 g pistachio nuts, chopped
Crème fraîche
Rose syrup, to drizzle – to taste or honey

1. Preheat the grill on a high heat – alternatively use an oven set to a high heat, at least 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2. Carefully cut the figs with a cross shape as if quartering them but do not cut righ through to the bottom and then gently press each fig.  They should look like four petalled flowers.

3.  Cut the peaches or nectarines into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing the stones.

4.  Place the opened figs and peach/nectarine pieces in a snugly fitting single layer in a heatproof dish.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a glass microwave proof bowl or jug.  Stir in the cinnamon, sugar and orange flower water until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are using rose water rather than syrup, as in the original recipe, add it at this point (½tsp should be enough).  Stir well and baste the figs and peaches/nectarines.

6.  Place under the hot grill or into the oven for just a few minutes.  The fruit should warm through slightly and the skins should start to blister from the heat.  Beware leaving too long, especially if oven cooked, as the fruit can become over soft and could also burn.

7.  Serve immediately giving each person two figs and one peach or nectarine (either two or four pieces depending on how they have been cut.   Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and pour over the brown cooking juices  and a drizzle of rose syrup (if you have not used rose water in the cooking mixture) or honey.  Finally sprinkle over some chopped green pistachio nuts.

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The addition of orange and mint to the mixture makes this couscous recipe both colourful and refreshingly delicious.  It has a summery look and taste, although it originally appeared in a winter magazine and would be perfect served as part of a summer buffet or BBQ.  It was originally designed to be served with Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks which would be perfect cooked outdoors, although I grilled them in the kitchen.  There is already a recipe for the much less sweet Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad on this site, using preserved lemon and flavoured with fresh coriander.

The original recipe came from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of the Tesco free instore magazine and there is also a link to Moroccan Lamb Chops with Couscous online.  The couscous recipe below is my own variation with slightly adjusted quantities and the addition of a tin of chick peas to make it more substantial. The original recipe included halved red peppers which were grilled alongside the meat and then added to the couscous mixture, but I simply used a diced ungrilled red pepper.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Orange Couscous
(Serves 4)

3 oranges
250g/8oz couscous
handful mint leaves – reserve a little for final garnish
50g/2oz black olives
1tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 x 400g tin chick peas
150ml/¼ pt boiling water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.   Peel two oranges and remove all of the white pith.  Holding the oranges over a bowl to catch any juice, slice them between the membranes with a sharp knife and carefully divide into segments.  Once the segments have been removed squeeze any remaining juice from the orange membranes before discarding.

2.  Cut the remaining orange in half and squeeze out the juice, adding it to any already collected.

3.  Drain and rinse the chick peas.

4.  Halve, deseed and finely slice the red pepper and cut into small pieces of around 1 inch/2.5cm. Alternatively the pepper can be grilled alongside the meat, as in the original recipe, and then sliced and stirred into the couscous mixture at step 7.

5.  Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl along with the chick peas, red pepper pieces and the olive oil.  Pour over all the orange juice plus the boiling water.

6.  Cover and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed the liquids.

7.  Chop the mint and gently stir most of it into the couscous along with the orange segments and the black olives.  Be careful not to break up the orange pieces.  Season well to taste.

8.  Serve the meat on a bed of fruity couscous, scattered with a little extra chopped mint.

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This simple flavour rub for a lamb steak or chop is full of the summer warmth of North African spices: cumin, paprika and coriander. Perhaps then in November, once the nights start to draw in, it is a good way to bring back Mediterranean holiday flavour memories that are by now receding into the past.  It is almost too simple a recipe to add here but I have been exploring different marinade recipe ideas recently: for pork especially but also for chicken and lamb so wanted to add this as a stand alone item.  The original recipe was for marinaded chop with a delicious minty/fruity couscous but I have divided the recipe into two posts, with the couscous to follow next.  Both recipes stand alone, of course … but they were delicious together.

The recipe comes from a winter (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of the Tesco free instore magazine. In the original the spice rub marinade is simply rubbed onto the meat just prior to cooking, but to get a better depth of flavour it is much better if left throughout the day or overnight.  The recipe is delicious if served with Orange Couscous, its original accompaniment.  I quickly grilled the lamb steak on a George Foreman grill, but it could be grilled conventionally or pan fried as in the original recipe.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks
(Serves 4)

4 thick lamb chops or steaks (alternatively use chicken or pork)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
large pinch paprika
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   Wipe the lamb steaks and place in a dish.

2.  Sprinkle over the the spices, add a little salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil.

3.  Gently turn the chops around in the spicy mixture using fingers or a fork then cover and leave the flavours to develop.  Ideally this should be throughout the day or overnight.

4.  Using as much of the spicy marinade as possible, grill the chops or steaks under a preheated hot grill for about four minutes each side, or a little long if preferred, but until the lamb is cooked to your preference.  Alternatively they can be gently pan fried for a similar length of time in a hot frying pan with a little additional olive oil if needed.  A George Foreman grill can also be used.

5. When cooked, the meat can be covered with foil to keep warm while the couscous mixture is being finished.  The meat can either be served in one piece or cut into strips or chunks.

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Today is one of those strange days with a notable date: 11.11.11, ignoring the 20 of course.  (I wonder if anyone back in the 12th Century noted the date when it was 11.11.1111?!)  A few days ago Photo111111 asked people to take a photograph at 11 seconds and 11 minutes past 11am on 11.11.11. and then submit it to their site.  There is a plan that the collected photos might form part of our local E17 Art Trail in 2012 – great idea which I hope works out!  So here is my picture … not as exciting as I had hoped but taken as accurately as I could.

11.11.11 on 11.11.11 Leyton entrance to Stratford Westfield - photo: ©hopeeternal

As you can see from the caption this is the (rather uninspiring) approach to the recently opened Westfield Stratford City Shopping Centre in East London, especially unexciting on such a grey day.  It was taken from the front upstairs seat of a Transport for London No 97 bus. The bus stopped for to observe the 2minutes silence otherwise we would have been nearer or even there. The zig-zag roofs are the tops of the security centre through which all incoming traffic, including buses, has to pass before entering the centre. It feels a little like the going through security at the Channel Tunnel.  Westfield Stratford City is situated next to the rapidly growing site for the 2012 Olympic Games (more of that to follow).  It is a short ride from home, a rather stop-start journey taking around 30 minutes even though the distance is only 3 miles.  I was hoping to have been a bit closer – or even at the centre – but such is life (and London traffic).

Stratford Westfield Entrance ©hopeeternal

Vicars have one day off each week. My husband usually takes Friday and today we decided to pay a proper visit to Stratford Westfield for a ‘nose round’ and some Christmas shopping.  Stratford Westfield is massive and is currently the biggest shopping centre in Europe.  This was my first real visit to the centre.  We made a brief visit a week or so ago, not to shop but to pray with other local Christians for the area and the coming Olympics and to be shown around ‘InSpiration’, the rest and faith space situated in the Café Court area and signposted ‘Calmness’.  (It is open to anyone, of any faith or none and is a great place to pop in for a rest.)  Westfield has many many shops of all types, small businesses and large chains, on four levels inside the centre with even more outside.  It is linked to the original Stratford shopping centre with its indoor market by a bridge which passes both Stratford Underground and the old bus station, currently being spruced up ready for reopening. We saw just a small part, leaving me feeling rather confused and overwhelmed: definitely need another visit to feel more orientated … and to do more shopping!

Franco Manca's Sourdough Pizza ©hopeeternal

I normally write about food and make no exception with this post.  On our brief visit we saw just a few of the many eating places in the Café Court we had heard about from friends.  There is a vast choice of cafés and restaurants mostly collected together in one area of the shopping centre but covering four floors vertically.  The choice of food is vast, ranging from rolls, wraps and sandwiches to Sushi and Fish & Chips to … well, pick any type of foreign food you like!  …and there are more restaurants outside the main indoor centre.  One advantage of open plan eating food courts is that you can see what other people are eating and as a consequence we decided to share a pizza at Franco Manca’s.

Spicy Lamb, Mozzarella & Tomato Sourdough Pizza ©hopeeternal

We made a good choice and I would recommend our Spicy Lamb, Mozzarella & Tomato Sourdough Pizza.  It was fascinating to watch as our pizza was produced in super quick time using their 500oC/930oF traditional Neopolitan style wood burning oven.

We shopped and we ate, but we also made a visit to the top floor of John Lewis department store where there is a viewing gallery overlooking the 2012 Olympic site.  The Orbit Tower, a red latticework sculpture by Turner Prize winning artist Anish Kapoor at the centre of the site, is gradually rising towards its planned height of 115m (377ft).  Sadly today its top was shrouded in mist.

The Orbit Tower in the mist, 2012 Olympic Site, London ©hopeeternal

It was such a pity it was so very grey today, but the view was slightly brightened with the busy yellow diggers and fluorescent jacketed workmen.  Although we recognised some of the buildings we were not sure about them all but we could see the Aquatics Centre on the left hand side and the central Stadium.  Had it been clearer more buildings may well have been in view.  I must return with my camera on a brighter day!

2012 London Olympic Site in the mist from top floor of John Lewis, Westfield Stratford City - 11.11.11 ©hopeeternal - CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE

This panorama stitching together three views I took of the Olympic site was created using a very handy free online programme called Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor).

These interesting dates come up from time to time.  The next is 20.12.2012, and of course, next year there is another big opportunity as we have 12.12.12.  Now there’s a potential idea for someone … the alternative 12 days of Christmas … my  dozen favourite things …  If you are planning anything for that date please do link back here via the comments and I may well join in!  Meanwhile pay a visit to Photo111111 to see how the project is growing.

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Chorba is a Moroccan spicy vegetable and pasta soup flavoured with the traditional North African spice mix Ras el-Hanout, which translates as ‘top of the shop’.  There are many versions of this spice mixture and each spice merchant has their own, sometimes containing up to one hundred different ingredients. I have already added details on the combination I use to make Ras el-Hanout.  It can be bought ready made, of course, but if you are like me and have a good selection of individual spices in your cupboard it is not difficult to make.  The only ingredient I had to buy was the rose petals, which I found in a local Turkish supermarket.  As far as I am concerned this warming and filling vegetarian soup is definitely as good as any plated evening meal, especially in the colder months.  A decent sized bowlful is adequate for me, but for larger appetites it could be served before a light main course such as a salad or in a much smaller quantity before a more substantial main course.

The recipe comes from the book on my shelf with the honour of having the longest title: The Complete Illustrated Food & Cooking of Africa & the Middle East: A Fascinating Journey Through the Rich & Diverse Cuisines of Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey & Lebanon by Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood, bought after I felt I could no longer hang on to the copy I had found in the library.  So many interesting and different ideas from Africa, which is after all a very big place so I would expect a huge variety.  Even though there are some unusual ingredients most of the recipes do not appear to be completely impossible to attempt.  Certainly with this recipe I had everything I needed to hand.  I have made very few adjustments to the original recipe: slightly less clove, half the quantity of celery (as my husband isn’t all that keen) and a tin of tomatoes in place of fresh ones (though both given here as an either/or).  The finishing touches were a swirl of plain yoghurt (always in the fridge), fresh coriander (currently in a pot by the back door) and some crusty bread.  I did not have the Moroccan loaf recommended but we had a crusty seeded pide loaf from the bakery at our local Turkish foodshop which produces wonderful bread.   If you can find an ethnic style flatbread, or even some warmed pitta bread, they would be perfect.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chorba with Ras el-Hanout & Noodles
(Serves 4)

3-4tbsp olive oil
2-3 whole cloves
2 onions (or 1 very large)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 butternut squash
2 celery sticks, scrubbed and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
8 large ripe tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes (if using decrease amount of stock or water – see recipe)
1tsp sugar
1tbsp tomato purée (optional)
1-2tsp Ras el-Hanout
½tsp ground turmeric
large handful chopped fresh coriander (reserve a few leaves to garnish)
2-2½ pints vegetable stock (adjust amount if using tomatoes – see recipe)
1tsp-1tsp vegetable stock powder, made up with 2-2½ water/tinned tomatoes
1½oz sheet of egg noodles, broken up a little
Salt & ground black pepper
Yoghurt to serve

1.  Peel and de-seed the squash and cut into chunks. Place in a heavy pan with the olive oil, cloves, onion, crushed garlic, celery and carrots.  Fry gently together until they just start to brown.

2.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes or the chopped up contents of the tin of tomatoes and the sugar.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the tomato purée, Ras el-Hanout, turmeric and chopped fresh coriander.  Pour in the stock or add the stock powder and water.

4.  Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-40minutes.   The vegetables should be very tender and the liquid reduced a little.

5.  The soup can either be puréed until completely smooth or left chunky with a thinner sauce.  I compromised, liquidising half the soup to thicken the sauce whilst still leaving some chunks.

6.  Return the puréed soup to the pan, add the broken noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes until the pasta is soft.

7.  Season to taste and spoon into soup bowls.  Add a swirl of yoghurt to each portion and garnish with a fresh coriander leaf or two.  Serve with crusty bread.

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The eagle eyed among my readers might just have noticed that my posts have slowed down in recent weeks.  My plan has been to try and add one post per week since the Summer but I am still very behind.

I feel that an explanation is due…   I have been a stay at home mother & vicar’s wife for almost 25 years and now my family responsibilities are fewer have been wondering what to do with my life.  I have long wanted to work alongside my husband in the church so in September I started on the Course in Christian Studies run by Chelmsford Diocese, which although a fairly basic theology course is still a challenge for me.  It is over 30 years since I have studied seriously: the reading and thinking are OK, but I am still getting used to doing homework and the prospect of doing essays looms.  It is a two year course and at the end I should get a certificate and a pat on the head from our bishop.

As for ‘… where am I going?’ I’m not sure where this will all take me but it is an interesting course and an exciting journey.

So please bear with me: I will post when I can and meanwhile do my best to catch up.  I suspect that simple quick meals might be the order of the day for the time being, but there are a number of recipes already done which simply need writing up.  If I do ever catch up with posts I will probably delete this message.

Meanwhile, back to the homework – we are studying the Old Testament this term…!


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