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Archive for the ‘Mediterranean Style Food’ Category

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.

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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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From time to time the supermarket has a 2 for 1 offer on bags of large prawns so I stock up.  I buy the grey uncooked ones which change colour as they cook, just like magic, before your eyes.  I discovered a bag of these large prawns sitting in the freezer waiting for a good recipe shortly after we returned from France and I remembered this recipe and thought it would help keep our recent holiday memories alive: a simple summery dish in a piquant sauce and ideal for a light quick meal.  It would also be good as a starter.  My family’s only complaint was that they would have liked more: perhaps a mixture of large and small prawns would be possible.  Certainly this recipe could just as easily be made with the small relatively inexpensive prawns.  This is also another recipe where I can use the mild flavoured Piment d’Espelette I bought in the Basque region of France.

The recipe comes from the Tesco book Mediterranean Food by Christine France, which is fast becoming one of my favourite titles.  The original recipe used Tiger Prawns, which I am sure would be wonderful, but not what I was intending to use.  In place of a 400g bag of shell on Tiger Prawns I used a 200g bag of uncooked & peeled frozen large prawns.  I added an optional 1tsp tomato purée for extra richness as I did not have plum tomatoes, having substituted ordinary round English ones which are often less sweet, plus a pinch of sugar to bring out the flavour of the fruit.  The quantity was really only enough for a light main meal for three people and if feeding more people more large prawns or some small ones should be added.  Extra tomatoes would also give a larger quantity.

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Prawns with Provençal Style Tomato Salsa
(Serves 2-3 – 4 for a starter)

400g/14ozs raw tiger prawns in shells
or
200g/7ozs shelled tiger prawns, large or small – raw if available
2tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
¼tsp dried crushed chillies (Piment d’Espelette if available)
3 or 4 plum tomatoes finely chopped (round English tomatoes if plum unavailable)
1tsp tomato purée
4 sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained & finely chopped
2tsp red wine vinegar
6 pitted black olives, quartered
2tbsp chopped fresh basil
Salt & black pepper

1.  If using shell on prawns remove the shells, slit open the back of each one and scrape out any black vein.  Rinse well and pat dry with kitchen towel.

2.  If using frozen prawns they should have been prepared in advance but must be defrosted before cooking.

3.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the garlic and chillies together for one minute to release their flavour.

4.  If using raw prawns, fresh or defrosted, add them now stir fry over a medium heat for 3 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink and cooked through.  Pre-cooked prawns can be cooked for a shorter time, especially the tiny ones, as they only need to be heated through thoroughly (if cooked for too long they become rubbery).

5.  Stir in the fresh and dried tomatoes (plus tomato purée if using) and simmer together with the prawns for one minute.

6.  Stir in the wine vinegar, olives and most of the basil and remove from the heat.  Season and scatter with a little more shredded basil before serving with salad and crusty bread or rice.

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This recipe is a regular at my table, especially in the Summer.  I think it deserves a place on this site even though it seems almost too easy to be worth posting, but the simplest recipes are often the best.  I don’t know how many types of tomato you are able to find locally.  Most weeks just the round red type are available on our market, with unusual varieties a rarety.  In the Summer there are often the small sweet ones, useful for skewering, plus vine tomatoes and sometimes the oval Italian plum type.  One week last Autumn, therefore, I was surprised and pleased to see a number of varieties I had not come across before.  I knew, though, that if I bought several types of tomatoes I would also need to have a plan for them.  No problem: our favourite warm tomato dish, flavoured with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil – perfect!  It would be extra pretty, multi-hued rather than the usual plain red.  I decided on some medium sized pale yellow tomatoes and some enormous crinkly orange/red ones, plus the ordinary red type I had already bought at an earlier stall.  Later on I saw dark tomatoes too, a combination of maroon and olive green: my heart said yes … but my head said that I had bought enough already!  A pity as the splash of extra colour would have made the dish particularly attractive.

Although I am sure that there are many similar versions of this Mediterranean style dish in recipe books this recipe is my own.  I have not specified amounts – use as many tomatoes as you would like to serve, but be generous as this is moreish. The other ingredients should be according to taste.  Since I made (and photographed) this recipe I have discovered the existence of white balsamic vinegar, though have not yet bought a bottle.   It would be useful as the tomatoes would not have the usual dark staining associated with ordinary balsamic vinegar.  I usually serve this as a warm side dish as part of a main meal or as a warm or cold salad.  It also makes a good light lunch spooned onto a slice of crusty toast or a delicious starter, either cold or a warm, served on its own, or on crusty bread drizzled with additional olive oil, or topped with a slice of flash grilled melted goats cheese.

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Roasted Mixed Tomatoes

Tomatoes – one variety or mixed varieties and colours if available
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar, dark or white
Fresh basil leaves, torn – plus a few to garnish
Sugar (a small sprinkle for added sweetness)
Sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
Slices of French baguette loaf – optional
Slices of goat’s cheese roll – optional

1.  Cut the tomatoes into ¼inch/½cm slices and layer in an ovenproof dish.

2.  Sprinkle generously with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add sugar, torn basil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3.  Put the dish uncovered into a preheated oven at around 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 for about 15 minutes.  (The temperature and cooking time can be a little higher or lower as this recipe is often cooked at the same time and heat as another dish for the meal.)
OR
Cook uncovered on medium in the microwave so the tomatoes heat through relatively gently.

4.  Whichever method of cooking is used the tomatoes need to be warmed through, retaining their shape, rather than dried up (although they are still delicious if they have shrivelled a little!)

5.  Serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil and some more torn green basil, as the original leaves will have darkened and have lost their attractive colour.

6.  If adding goats cheese then, before finishing with extra olive oil and basil, lay slices of a goat’s cheese log on the top and gently flash grill to melt and colour. Alternatively toast a slice of French baguette loaf on one side, then turn over and lay a slice or two of goats cheese on the other side.  Flash cook cheesy side under the grill.   Serve laid on a bed of warm or cold cooked tomatoes.

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Salt has been used as a method of preserving fish for centuries, prolonging its life and thus ensuring a ready supply.  It is widely used in warmer countries where it would otherwise deteriorate very quickly.  Nowadays fish is more commonly preserved by freezing, but the traditional dry salt method is still popular for the distinctive flavour it gives.  Salted fish is not commonly used in traditional British cooking but is widely used across the world, especially in the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Caribbean so it is readily available in ethnic food shops, plus it can now often be found in the ethnic aisles of large supermarkets.  I regularly buy blocks of salted skinned boneless pollack for using in recipes such as Hyacinth’s Salt Fish Cakes from the Caribbean or Spanish/Basque Style Salt Cod (Bacalao) in Spicy Tomato Sauce.  Providing it is thoroughly soaked (overnight) and rinsed in two or three changes of water I find this purchased ready salted fish easy to use.  Providing the expiry date on the pack is observed, it does not need refrigeration.  (It can eventually be frozen too if it looks as if it might go out of date before use.)

When my mother in law gave me her copy of Taste of the Sea by Rick Stein I was surprised to see just how easily fish, particularly white fish, can be salted at home.  I experimented with reasonable success with some thawed frozen skinless pollack fillets, just enough for one meal. The instructions are not clear on how salted fish should be kept for long term use, (the recipe suggested it could be stored for up to week but I was nervous about keeping it for that long) so I used the fish just two days into the salting process.  (I also assumed that it needed to be refrigerated until use, even though I store purchased fish in the cupboard.)  It was lightly cured and soft to the touch with a mildly salted flavour but did not have a dried texture (this might have happened with longer salting). This method of salting is simple, but I feel it is worth noting here that it should probably be called lightly salted fish. After some research I discovered a helpful article at Downhomelife  which started with a warning:

Proper salting is a lengthy, fairly complicated process and special equipment or controlled conditions are needed to dry the fish thoroughly and safely.

Which is worth bearing in mind, though these words have now been removed from the article.  However the warning is about drying the fish to avoid poor results.  On the plus side the site also mentions the simple shortened method I had tried:

…the fish is cured in salt in what’s called a “pound” – a square bin where you let the fish soak in salt for about 21 days. If you want a less salty version called “shore fish,” you lightly sprinkle the fish with salt and let it cure for only a couple days.

I would certainly not re-freeze fish salted by this method as I am not sure enough that this can be done safely.   If salting fresh fish, rather than frozen, it could be frozen once salted.  Below is my version of salted fish.  My picture was taken 24hrs after salting.  In the end I consider this a simple way of lightly salting fish, providing the process takes place two days ahead of the date the fish is required.   It is a method I would be happy to use again, especially as I prefer the milder flavour, but I will probably also continue to buy the blocks of salted fish as they are so convenient.  Other useful links are this overview of  Salt fish giving a helpful list of types and names around the world, this article at ehow with a similar method to that given by Rick Stein and this enlightening Ezine Article.  I would be interested to hear from any readers who have successfully tried salting fish at home by the Rick Stein method, or similar.

If you have not smelled salt fish then you would be advised to do so before you make your own to give a guideline.  Salt fish has a different, much stronger, aroma from fresh fish but if really unpleasant then discard the fish and do not take the risk. Often purchased salt fish smells particularly strong but we have never suffered ill effects.   

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Salted Fish

Fillets of White Fish (Cod, Haddock, Pollack, Coley or similar)
Salt (Type not specified in the original – I used Rock Salt)
A large plastic container big enough to hold the fish without overlapping

1.  If using frozen fish then it should be thoroughly defrosted before salting and should not be re-frozen.

2.  Pat the fish fillets dry with kitchen paper and put them in the plastic container in a single layer without overlapping.

3.  Completely cover the fish with a thick layer of salt.

4.  Put a cover on the container and refrigerate for 24hours.

5.  After 24hours most of the salt will have turned to brine with the water drawn out of the fish.

6.  This fish will now be sufficiently preserved to keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.  The recipe does not say what to do with the brine but I poured away the excess liquid, leaving the patches of undissolved salt to continue the process.

—–

To prepare salt fish for cooking it should be soaked in plenty of cold water.  If it is lightly salted this will take just an hour or two but fish that is more dried out should be soaked for up to 24hours. I usually give it a second quick rinse in cold water before use.

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I was reminded today that this coming weekend it is just eight weeks until we go on holiday.  We are off to France again, but will also spend time in Spain, hence this month’s Spanish style theme.  Apart from a few days in Barcelona as a special birthday gift some years ago, I have only made day trips across the border into Spain from France.  One vivid memory I have from my first day trip into Spain on a family holiday in the 1970’s were the huge piles of melons by the roadside.  In particular I remember the golden Rugby ball shaped Honeydews and enormous green and cream striped Watermelons.  I also remember that we ate melon every day for most of the rest of the holiday!  When watermelons start to appear on our local market it really feels as if summer has arrived, so as a foretaste of our travels it seemed appropriate to start with this simply made drink.

One of my favourite ways of enjoying watermelon is as a drink, usually the thick mostly seed free but unstrained version for breakfast or as an everyday liquid dessert.  Strained it can be served as an alcohol free drink on a hot afternoon in the garden or at a dinner party.  I cannot remember where I got the idea of adding the mint, with which I am usually generous, but it makes a really refreshing addition.  The finished drink is an attractive rosy pink colour, flecked with green.  I was not surprised to find other recipes for melon based drinks including one in the July/August 2010 edition the free Tesco instore magazine.  The recipe below is my own method but I have added the helpful information from the Tesco magazine as well.  A melon will last for several days in the fridge once it is cut: I usually juice either a half or a whole melon at one go, depending on size and number of drinkers.  In a lidded jug container it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days although the flavour does begin to deteriorate after the first day.  I have seen suggestions for drinks using other types of melon too: honeydew, Charentais or Cantaloupe with either strawberries or with ginger ale also sound delicious.  (A slice of melon topped with chopped preserved ginger and a little ginger syrup is an easy and popular dessert in our house.)  See recipe for further serving information.

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Minted Melonade
(This recipe is a rough guide as it depends on melon size but a large melon will provide drinks for 6-8 people, maybe more especially if diluted)

1 large watermelon
4 stems mint, more for a stronger taste – some recipes say 8 leaves, which is hardly enough
To serve
Ice (optional)
Small sprigs of mint to garnish
Ginger ale, Lemonade, Sparkling water or Sparkling wine (optional)
   or
Gin (optional)

1.  Wash the surface of the melon well, place on a large plate which will collect the juices as it is cut.  Depending on the quantity of juice needed cut the melon in half.  (If only using half a melon the remainder should be stored cut edge downwards on a plate in the fridge, but the remainder should be used up in around 3 days.)

2.  As they collect, pour the juices from the plate into the liquidiser.  Using a spoon scoop out spoonfuls of melon (alternatively cut the half into wedges and remove chunks with a knife).  Place separately in a bowl, discarding the large black seeds.  There may be small whitish seeds as well but as they are softer they usually disappear when liquidised.  These can be discarded as well if wished.

3.  Thoroughly liquidise the melon in several batches, including a little mint with each.  Pour the thick liquid into a large jug or fridge storage container.

4.  Taste the melonade and adjust the mint flavour by returning a cupful of liquid to the liquidiser with extra mint.  Thoroughly mix into the whole batch of melonade to make sure the mint is evenly distributed.  The melon is usually sweet so no additional sweetener should be necessary.

5.  For a lighter thinner drink the liquidised melonade should be poured through a sieve.  (It may be possible to use the remaining pulp to make minted melon sorbet, but I have not tried it – I will update this post if I do!)

6.  Serve chilled in tall glasses or poured over ice.  Garnish with a small sprig of mint.

7.  Alternatively serve Minted Melonade as a mixer.  I researched a little further and I discovered several recipes where melon juice (with or without the mint) is served with gin.  Tesco has a recipe for Watermelon Cooler, a version of the drink served with ginger ale, a squeeze of lemon or lime and an optional measure of gin.  The July/August 2010 issue of the free instore Tesco magazine has a recipe for Melonade with mint where the basic juice is topped up with the sparkling Italian white wine Prosecco, one of my favourite sparkling tipples with a squeeze of lime juice to give ‘extra tang’.

8.  The juice can also be simply diluted with ginger ale, lemonade, or sparkling water but take care not to dilute too much as the delicate flavour could quickly be lost.

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I love roast chicken but strangely enough we rarely eat it.  Perhaps it is the knowledge that after the meal is over and the washing up done, there is still a carcass to pick over.  Perhaps it is that, although I know how it ought to be carved, in practice I usually end up with a pile of bits rather than neat slices: tastes good but looks awful.  From time to time however I do buy a chicken, especially as a whole bird is very economical and can be stretched to several meals, so when I saw this delicious sounding recipe I took the plunge.  (Sure enough there were leftovers which became Chicken Fricasee and a Chicken Salad for one, as well as delicious stock made from the remainder of the carcass – plus a few bits for our persistent puss-cat!)  I know I have included a recipe for Roasted Lemon Chicken in the past, but that was for chicken pieces (I usually use thighs) whereas this recipe is for a whole bird and includes spices and a lot of garlic as well, so it is a variation rather than a repeat.  I am sure that it would also be an excellent way to cook individual chicken pieces/thighs.

The recipe comes from Mediterranean Food by Christine France, an excellent charity shop find that originally came from Tesco supermarket.  I have given the original cooking times in the instructions below but all my Sunday Roasts have to fit around going to church (in our case leaving home at around 9.30 and not usually back until well after 1pm, such is vicarage life!)   I have to put any roasting joint in the oven on a much lower heat as I go out, turning the temperature up and (usually) uncovering the meat when we return giving it a final burst of heat before allowing it to stand for a briefly before carving.  Perhaps this is why my meat breaks up, however the flavour is rarely spoiled, just the appearance.

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Aromatic Lemon Roast Chicken

1.25kg/2lb 12ozs Roasting Chicken
1 whole head of garlic
2 lemons
4 cardamom pods
1tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves
2tbsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper
200ml/7 fl ozs chicken stock or water
1tbsp cornflour

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. For the original cooking times follow the instructions at Step 8. 
If cooking in the oven for a longer time, do not preheat the oven.  Follow the instructions in step 9

2.  Cut the garlic head in half horizontally. Cut the lemons into wedges.  Lightly crush the cardamom pods, cumin seeds and cloves in a mortar and pestle. 

3.  Lightly oil the roasting tin to stop the meat from sticking.  Place the half of the garlic with the root end and half of the lemon wedges in the bottom of the tin and sprinkle over the crushed spices.

4.  Check inside the chicken and remove any giblets.  These can be cooked gently in a little water for chicken stock and/or chicken gravy.  Carefully rinse the chicken, running water through the cavity. 

5.  Gently ease the skin on the chicken breast upwards to create a cavity.  It should be easy to put your fingers in at the edge of the neck/chest cavity.  Be careful the skin does not tear.  Push half of the remaining lemon wedges underneath the skin. 

6.  Place the remaining wedges inside the chicken along with the remaining half of the garlic.

7.  Put the chicken, breast side downwards, into a roasting tin.  Rub over the remaining oil and season well.  Add two tablespoonfuls of stock or water.  Cover with a well fitting lid or lightly oiled foil to prevent sticking.

Follow either the cooking instructions at Step 8 (original timings) or Step 9 (longer, slower cooking time – useful when going out)

8.  Cook for one hour at preheated temperature.  Turn the chicken over and baste by spooning the collected juices over the meat to help browning and moistness.  Return to the oven and roast for a further hour, or until cooked.  Remove the lid or cover for the last 30minutes to allow the chicken to brown and crisp, but watch that it does not burn and the tin does not go dry – add a little water or stock if necessary to prevent this.  When it is cooked the juices should run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

9.  If leaving this to cook in the oven for a longer period, then set the oven on to 140oC/275oF/Gas 1 when you put the chicken in. After about 2-3 hours take the chicken from the oven, turn it over and baste it well.  Be careful as it can start to break up while being turned.  Increase the heat to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 and return to the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes to allow the chicken to brown and crisp, but watch that it does not burn and the tin does not go dry – add a little water or stock if necessary to prevent this.  When it is cooked the juices should run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

10.  Remove the chicken from the tin and allow the meat to rest, uncovered and in a warm place, for about 15 minutes before carving.  (The resting time can be omitted or cut short if necessary, but it does make carving a bit easier and is always recommended for meat.)

11.  While it is resting strain off the chicken juices from the pan, skimming off any excess fat.  This can be reserved for roasting potatoes if you wish and will give a subtle garlic and lemon flavour.  Dissolve the cornflour in a little water and gently combine with the strained juices and the remaining stock or water.  Cook in a pan over a gentle heat stirring all the time until slightly thickened.  Pour this gravy into a jug and keep warm.

12.  Carve meat and serve.  Excess meat can be kept for several days and eaten cold or cooked into other hot dishes.  The carcass can be made into stock along with the giblets if not already used: cover with water and gently cook with added vegetables (carrot, celery and a bay leaf, along with the roasted garlic heads if you wish) – freeze until needed.

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I missed Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer series the first time it was shown on television, but have caught the repeats on UKTV Good Food this summer.  Za’atar chicken is lovely for a hot summer day.  It needs some advance preparation but can simply be popped in the over to cook when required.  The chicken is amazingly moist and delicious … need I say more!  Nigella suggests serving Za’atar Chicken with Fattoush, a North African/Middle Eastern salad containing toasted pitta bread, which I have already posted.  It is a wonderful combination of flavours and both are recipes I shall be making again and again.  Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad could be served as an additional dish if needed.

The recipe can be found in the book of the series, Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson.  This recipe was part of the ‘Amber’ TV programme: each episode is named after a colour, with the recipes fitting each title.  Clever, although the book is more traditionally laid out.  I am sure that this recipe could also be cooked on a Barbecue, although I have not tried it (suggest a brief pre-cook in the microwave before barbecuing to make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked).  I did some research and found a recipe for Za’atar mixture and made my own as I had all the ingredients in the cupboard.  Za’atar Spice Mixture (click for recipe already posted on this site) is simply a combination of roasted sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, oregano and salt.  It is aromatic and definitely not spicy, the sumac giving it a lemony flavour.  I have chosen to be more generous with the Za’atar mixture as we love the flavour.  I used the chicken thighs suggested in the recipe but the Za’atar Mixture would be good, I’m sure, liberally spread over a whole roasted chicken.

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Za’atar Chicken
(Serves 4)

4 large chicken thigh pieces (with or without skin)
4 tbsp olive oil
4tbsp Za’atar Spice Mixture 
Salt, preferably sea salt

1.  Remove the skin from the chicken pieces if you wish before marinading.  Place the chicken in an ovenproof dish or tin.

2.  Spoon over olive oil and za’atar mixture.  Turn pieces in the dish so they are well covered.  Season and cover.  Alternatively the chicken pieces can be placed in a large plastic bag with the oil, za’atar mixture and seasoning.

3.  Place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  If using a china dish then remove from the fridge and bring up to room temperature to avoid breakage.

4.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7.   Place the dish in the centre of the oven, covering for about 20 minutes, then removing the cover and cooking for 35-45 minutes in total, or until cooked through to the bone. 

5.  Serve with Fattoush Salad and possibly with Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad as an extra.

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Sometimes a recipe that I just have to try pops into my Inbox from one of the sites that sends me regular updates.  A trip to the supermarket shortly after I first saw this recipe and I had a attractive jar full of feta cheese waiting for me to try.  I had to be patient and do as the recipe suggested, but as soon as the week was up I ‘dived in’ – and was not disappointed!

So, thank you to my UK Food Bloggers fellow member, Nic at Cherrapeno for her recipe: Make your own Marinated Feta.   Of course, we all adapt and amend recipes to suit our own tastes.  The ingredients below are for my own version, adjusted to complement the size of block of feta cheese available locally, but with some other ‘tweaks’ too.  I love olives so added some to the second jar I made and will definitely add them again.  I halved the number of chillis as I did not want to spicy a flavour.  The oil is delicious too so don’t forget to mop up the puddle on your plate with some of the crusty bread you serve alongside.  I would definitely serve this as a starter, along with some other marinaded items, such as mixed peppers.  I have tried making this with the cheaper feta type cheese you can buy, which is usually called something like ‘Greek style salad cheese’ and it is fine, though for entertaining I would definitely splash out and buy real Feta.  Only problem with this recipe is that the jar doesn’t last long enough!

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

Marinaded Feta

200g packet Feta cheese
½tbsp dried oregano
½tsp coriander seeds, ground – ¼tsp ready ground powder if seeds unavailable
½tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, depending on size
1 small fresh red chilli (2 if you wish) – split lengthways, remove seeds for a milder taste
3-4 small sprigs fresh rosemary
25g/1oz green or black pitted olives, or a mixture (optional)
Olive oil

1.  Drain the whey from the packet of feta and pat dry with a paper towel to remove the maximum amount of liquid. 

2.  Cut into cubes: I cut the block into four long pieces lengthways and then crossways into cubes – around 36-40 pieces.  (Make the pieces larger if you wish by making 3 strips and then crossways into larger cubes.) 

3.  Place the cubes in a bowl.  Sprinkle with oregano, crushed coriander seeds and black pepper.

4.  Cut the tomatoes into three our four pieces each.

5.   Sterilise a jar (about 500-600ml) that is big enough to take all the ingredients by pouring in water from a boiling kettle, draining and filling immediately.  (Make sure the lid is sterlised in a similar way.)

6.  Gradually fill the jar with the cubes of cheese, the pieces of tomato and the olives, poking in the chilli and sprigs of rosemary from time to time so all the ingredients are fairly evenly spaced through the jar.  Make sure that all the herbs in the bowl are included as well.

7.  Pour in a little oil from the sun dried tomatoes (about 2-3tbsp) and top up with extra olive oil as needed.  The ingredients need to be fairly tightly packed with the oil filled to the brim.

8.  Seal the jar tightly.  Refrigerate for 1 week before using. (The marinaded feta will keep for 6-8 weeks in the fridge).

9.  Serve at room temperature for lunch or as an starter. This would also make a good culinary gift.  I have used the excess oil and chilli as a starter for the next jar and I think this could be done two or three times, before needing to start again from scratch.

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