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Cover: The Gourmet Garden

Starters

26Jul 12

Couscous Salad

Couscous saladAnother Middle-Eastern inspired dish, this couscous salad is a light yet satisfying little treat.  Let the subtle blend of flavours contained in every mouthful transport you in your imagination to the star-filled sky of the Sahara desert or the shores of the Mediterranean sea. (Also try this rice salad with spinach and avocado.)

The recipe itself is deceptively simple. The only thing you need to be careful about is the roasting of the pine nuts – just one second of distraction, and it can all go wrong before you realise what’s happened!  The recipe suggests toasting the nuts in a pan on the stove-top, but alternatively this can be done in the oven.  Just spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment, bake at around 190ºc for about 5 minutes, shake the tray, and bake another few minutes until they smell nice and nutty.  You still have to be very careful not to burn them though, so don’t let your guard down!

Couscous Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 180g instant couscous
  • 1tsp minced lemon zest
  • 250ml water
  • 2tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1tbsp Champagne vinegar
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • ¾tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 3tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 150g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Instructions
  1. Pour the instant couscous into a small baking dish.
  2. Combine the water, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Pour the liquid over the couscous and stir lightly.
  4. Cover the dish and set aside for 20 minutes.
  5. Heat a small, heavy-bottomed frying pan over low heat.
  6. When the pan is good and hot, add the pine nuts and toast until they start to smell intensely nutty, about 2 or 3 minutes.
  7. Shake the pan frequently while toasting, and be very careful not to burn the nuts, as they will go from perfect to burnt and ruined in a heartbeat.
  8. When they're ready, transfer immediately to a dish to cool.
  9. When the couscous is ready, fluff it up gently with a fork to separate the grains.
  10. Transfer to a serving bowl and toss with the lemon zest and the rest of the ingredients.

 

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23Jul 12

Spinach and Warm Veggie Salad

Spinach and Warm Veggie SaladThis spinach and warm veggie salad recipe, smothered in a delicious creamy mustard sauce, makes a great starter or side dish for any occasion.  The warm vegetables make a welcome change to a typical cold salad and provide the perfect contrast to the bed of tender fresh spinach leaves.

If you have more of an appetite, you could also try this pita bread with fried vegetables, coriander and ricotta cheese. The extra carbs will give you an energy boost.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 medium-sized red onions
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 110g fresh tender spinach  leaves
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 slice whole-grain bread
  • 65ml vegetable stock
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tsp grainy mustard
  • 2tbsp crème fraîche
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of ground coriander

What you have to do:

 

  1. Chop the red onions.
  2. Trim the fennel, wash and cut into eighths lengthwise.
  3. Wash and trim the spinach. Remove the thick stems, and wash thoroughly in cold standing water. Allow to drain thoroughly and transfer to plates.
  4. Wash the lemon with hot water, remove a thin layer of zest, and chop finely. Squeeze out the juice and set aside.
  5. Wash the parsley and finely chop the leaves.
  6. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley leaves over top of the spinach.
  7. Soak the bread in the vegetable stock.
  8.  In a blender, finely purée the bread with the extra virgin olive oil.
  9. Mix in the grainy mustard and crème fraîche and season to taste with 1.5 tablespoons of the lemon juice, along with the salt, pepper, and coriander.
  10. In a wide pot, bring about 5cm of salted water to the boil for the vegetables.
  11. Cover and cook the vegetables 5 minutes, or until they are tender and crisp.
  12. Drain the excess water from the vegetables and arrange them on top of the spinach leaves.
  13. Pour the mustard cream over the salad or mix it all together so that the entire dish is coated with the dressing.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

Preparation Time:  20

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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19Jul 12

Ful Medammis

Ful MedammisFul medammis is a very typical Egyptian dish made with green fava beans.  In fact, it’s so common that it’s often referred to as the national dish of Egypt.

Although it’s quite simple to make, it does take a bit of time, mostly due to the soaking and cooking of the dried fava beans.  If time is an issue, you can go ahead and use the canned variety; it won’t be quite as yummy or authentic, but it’s more than good enough in a pinch.

The fun thing about this dish is that rather than completely finishing the preparation yourself, you put the different garnishes on the table and let your guests garnish their own however they wish.  This also makes it a lot more fun for kids and a perk for eating their veggies.  Of course, if you prefer, you can mix in the garnishes yourself before serving.

 

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 450g dried fava beans
  • 50g lentils
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
  • 60g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

 

What you have to do:

 

  1. Soak the fava beans and lentils overnight in abundant water with a pinch of salt.
  2. Place the beans in a large saucepan and simmer for 1 to 2 hours, or until the beans are nice and tender.  Drain the leftover water.
  3. Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water.
  4. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Drain the excess water from the saucepan and run cold water over the eggs until they are cool.
  7. Peel the cooked eggs, cut them into halves, and set aside.
  8. Serve beans in individual bowls.
  9. Place the eggs, garlic, parsley, lemons, tomatoes, olive oil, and salt and pepper on table and allow diners to garnish and season as they like.

 

Preparation Time:  20 minutes plus overnight soaking of the beans

Cooking Time: 1-2 hours

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

Note: The main focus of this dish is the fava beans, but the lentils add a nice touch. For more lentil recipes, try this tangy red daal.

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13Jul 12

Asparagus in Tofu Hollandaise Sauce

Asparagus in Tofu Hollandaise SauceThis asparagus in tofu Hollandaise sauce uses soft tofu instead of double cream and is therefore considerably less fattening than the traditional version.  The tender asparagus drizzled with the rich and creamy sauce make a great starter for any meal and can even be used as a tasty, if somewhat messy, hors d’oeuvre at a party. (Also try these steamed spring vegetables with pine nuts.)

Asparagus is a very healthy vegetable which is high in antioxidants, potassium and vitamin C and is also very useful for cleansing your system. So go ahead and eat as much as you like without feeling guilty!

 

What you’re going to need:

For the sauce:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 250g soft silken tofu
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread, or canola oil

For the asparagus:

  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 450g asparagus, ends trimmed off

What you have to do:

 

  1. First, prepare the sauce:  Blend the egg yolks, tofu, lemon juice, and xanthan gum in an electric blender for a few minutes, until they get light and fluffy.
  2. Pour the mixture into the top of a double saucepan that sits over, but does not touch, simmering, not boiling, water.
  3. Add the butter, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, adding 1 tablespoon or more of hot water until it easily pours from a spoon.
  4. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the salt, mustard, cayenne, and pepper. Keep warm over simmering water while cooking the asparagus, up to about 30 minutes.  (If it starts to separate or thicken too much, add a teaspoon of boiling water and whisk briskly until it easily pours from a spoon.)
  5. While the sauce is simmering in the double saucepan, prepare the asparagus.  Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on their size.
  6. Remove from the water, drain, and pat dry with kitchen towels. Drizzle the sauce over the top of the asparagus and serve immediately.

 

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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11Jul 12

Crispy Potato Wedges

Crispy Potato WedgesAlthough these crispy potato wedges require several steps to prepare, the wonderfully crunchy end result makes it well worth the effort.  The white rice flour gives them an amazing texture when fried, while the cayenne pepper and other herbs provide a subtle spiciness that just can’t be beat.  They taste great on their own, but for best results, I recommend serving them with a freshly made sour cream and chive dip.

For another recipe with fried potatoes, I suggest these Aloo Bonda Snacks. They are an Indian fried potato ball – definitely worth a try!

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 large potatoes cut in ½ cm wedges
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 70g (½ cup) cornflour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 250g white rice flour
  • Canola oil or peanut oil, for frying
  • Additional salt to taste

What you have to do:

  1. Place the potato wedges in a large microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Whisk together the salt, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne, and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Sprinkle the spices over the potatoes and toss until the potatoes are thoroughly coated.
  4. Lay a sheet of crumpled non-stick baking  paper over the bowl, and cook on high power for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are almost, but not quite done. Let the potatoes cool slightly.
  5. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornflour, baking soda, egg, and lemon juice, adding water if necessary until you reach a thin consistency.
  6. Place the white rice flour in a second shallow bowl.
  7. Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep heavy pot to 185°C.
  8. Dip the potatoes in the rice flour, then in the egg mixture, and then again in the rice flour.
  9. Immediately fry the potatoes in batches until they are browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
  10. Add more salt to taste.  Serve the wedges immediately on their own or with your favourite dipping sauce.

 

Preparation Time:  15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

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08Jul 12

Grilled Veggie Shish Kebabs

Grilled Veggie Shish KebabsThese grilled veggie shish kebabs make for a great starter for a party or buffet, and they are very quick to prepare as long as you remember to put the veggies in the marinade beforehand, as this is longest part of the preparation.  In fact, the longer they marinate, the better, so you could even get started on that the night before.

Another thing I love about them is that they also turn out great on a barbecue, so I finally have something aside from veggie burgers and sausages to take when I get invited to a barbecue at a meat-eater’s house.  Don’t get me wrong – I love my veggie burgers and all, but it’s nice to have something more for a change.

The recipe uses a Turkish-style marinade, but if you prefer, you can use your favourite marinade of choice.

 

What you’re going to need:

For the marinade:

  • 250ml olive oil
  • 65ml plain yoghurt
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tbsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Shish Kebabs:

  • 8 wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
  • 500 to 800g of any combination of the following ingredients, cut into bite-sized pieces:
    • cauliflower florets
    • cherry tomatoes
    • aubergine
    • firm tofu
    • green, red, or yellow bell peppers
    • mushrooms
    • new potatoes
    • red onion
    • yellow squash
    • courgette

 

What you have to do:

 

  1. Prepare the marinade by combining all ingredients and mixing well to blend. Set aside while you prepare the veggies.
  2. Thread the desired grilling ingredients onto the skewers.
  3. Place the skewers in a long shallow dish and pour the marinade over the top, cover, and marinate for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.
  4. Preheat the oven to “broil.”
  5. Remove the skewers from the marinade and let any excess liquid drip off.
  6. Broil the skewers for 6 – 12 minutes, turning every few minutes, until lightly charred and cooked through.
  7. Watch carefully, as different ingredients may take different amounts of time to cook.
  8. Remove the skewers from the oven and place them on a serving platter.
  9. Pour any extra marinade over the skewers.
  10. Serve hot.

 

Preparation Time:  30 minutes plus 1-2 hours marinating

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

Note: One of my favourite side dishes at a barbecue is a fancy potato salad like these minty jersey royals with chives and lemon butter. It goes nicely with burgers – both veggie and otherwise!

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05Jul 12

Broccoli in Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Broccoli in Cheddar Cheese SauceAlthough broccoli is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet  due to its high content of calcium, vitamin C, folic acid and iron, it can be quite difficult at times to get your kids to eat it, regardless of how much you threaten them with chores or no dessert!

Luckily, almost all kids love Cheddar cheese, so this broccoli in cheddar cheese sauce may just be the perfect way to finally get them to eat something green and healthy for once.  I know it worked for me when I was a kid!

You can really use any kind of cheese you prefer for this dish, but I find the bright orange colour of the cheddar looks really nice with the dark green of the broccoli and helps make this into an attractive and delicious side dish. (If you prefer a main dish, I recommend this pasta salad with broccoli and bacon – without the bacon, of course!)

What you’re going to need:

  • 315ml milk (or soy or other milk)
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 100g (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese or cheese alternative
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 500g broccoli, cut into 2 to 3 cm florets

 

What you have to do:

 

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together about 65ml of the milk and the cornflour until smooth and lump-free.
  2. Add the rest of the milk and the garlic and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly.
  3.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the cheese. Keep stirring until all the cheese melts.
  4. Add salt and cayenne pepper and taste.  Add more if desired.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and reduce the heat as low as possible in order to keep the sauce warm while the broccoli is cooking.
  6. Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water until just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the size of the florets.
  7. Remove the broccoli from the water, drain, and pat dry with kitchen towels.
  8. Drizzle the cheese sauce over the cooked broccoli and serve immediately.

 

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Easy

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28Jun 12

Oven Baked Falafel

Oven Baked Falafel
I’ve always loved falafel, but I’ve never really been very big on deep frying, so I decided to try baking them in the oven instead.  The result was this oven baked falafel recipe, which tastes even better than the classic fried version, if I do say so myself!

Traditionally, falafel is served wrapped in unleavened bread and garnished with lettuce, cucumber, onions, tomatoes and a littler tahini (sesame seed paste)  sauce, or arranged on a plate with the same ingredients.  Personally, I usually just eat them along with whatever salad I have at hand. For a more filling meal, eat them with rice, like this Indian-style brown rice.

 

Oven Baked Falafel
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • 500g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in abundant water
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 medium onions, peeled and halved
  • 15g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped very fine
  • 15g fresh coriander, chopped very fine
  • 2tsp salt
  • 2tbsp flour
  • ½tsp paprika
  • ½tsp baking soda
  • ½tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½tsp ground cumin
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 250ml water
Instructions
  1. Using an electric blender or food processor, blend the onion and garlic together to form a paste.
  2. Mix the chopped fresh coriander and flat-leaf parsley into the onion and garlic paste.
  3. Add the prepared chickpeas to the mixture and blend again with the food processor or blender. The final consistency should be a little bit lumpy.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the paprika, baking soda, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon and baking soda.
  5. Add the spice mixture to the chickpea mixture and stir well, making sure the spices are evenly distributed throughout the mix.
  6. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to set for at least an hour and a half.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  8. Grease a baking sheet with a little olive oil or vegetable oil.
  9. Drop tablespoonful-sized balls of the chickpea mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving a few centimetres between each ball and also between the balls and the edge of the tray.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top sides of the falafel balls have turned golden.
  11. Remove from the oven and let cool on the tray for 5 minutes.
  12. Transfer the falafel balls to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter.
  13. Serve on a bed of your favourite salad.

 

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24Jun 12

Peanut Hoi Sin Dipping Sauce

Peanut Hoi Sin Dipping SauceThis spicy, Malaysian influenced, peanut hoi sin dipping sauce is the perfect accompaniment to my vegetarian Vietnamese spring rolls. You can also try aubergines in peanut sauce, or substitute aubergine for your favourite veggie.  The sauce is sweet and salty and has a very intense flavour.  It’ll keep up to two or three weeks in the fridge as long as you don’t add the peanuts until you are ready to use it.  The recipe calls for sambal hot sauce, which can be hard to find, so you can substitute any other hot chilli sauce or paste if necessary.

What you’re going to need:

  • 2tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thinly (about 65ml)
  • ½tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp black pepper
  • 125ml Hoi sin sauce
  • 85ml water
  • 1/2tsp rice vinegar
  • 65ml peanuts
  • 1tsp sambal or other hot chilli pepper-based sauce

What you have to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Spread the peanuts out evenly in one layer along the bottom of a rimmed baking tray or oven-proof dish.  The dish/tray should be just big enough for one layer of peanuts. If not, the exposed surface will attract heat and the peanuts won’t toast evenly.
  3. Toast the peanuts in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.  Give them a shake after 5 minutes to keep the toasting even.  When they start to smell nutty and turn golden, they’re done.  Pay close attention to the toasting as they can burn very quickly.
  4. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a cool surface immediately.
  5. Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat and add the shallots and a pinch of salt.
  6. Sauté until crisp, about 2 minutes.
  7. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  8. Chop very fine and place in a small bowl.
  9. Chop the peanuts and add to the mixture along with the rest of the ingredients except for the sambal/chilli sauce.
  10. Season to taste with the sambal or chilli sauce.  Add just a little at a time and taste after each addition until the desired level of spiciness is reached.
  11. Serve with Vietnamese spring rolls or whatever else you want to dip, such as raw vegetables or onion bhaji.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves:  n/a, makes about 250ml

Difficulty: Medium

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19Jun 12

Spinach and Chickpeas

Spinach and ChickpeasThis spinach and chickpeas recipe makes for a great starter or can even be served as a main course if you accompany it with some oven-warmed French bread and a bit of salad. (If you want to stick with the chickpea theme, try this carrot, chickpea and orange salad.)  As always, I suggest using dried pulses and rehydrating them overnight, but if you don’t have time, you can go ahead and use the precooked canned or bottled ones.

What you’re going to need:

  • 300g chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 1 slice white bread
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4tsp paprika
  • 450g fresh spinach
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

What you have to do:

  1. Drain the chickpeas and place them in a pot with enough water to cover them completely.
  2. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 1 hour or until the chickpeas are tender.
  4. Remove from heat and drain off the water.
  5. Heat 30ml of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the slice of bread until it’s golden brown.
  6. Set the fried bread aside on a plate.
  7. Sauté the onion in 15ml of olive oil over low heat until it’s translucent.
  8. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking over low heat for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are dissolved.
  9. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  10. Add the paprika and sauté for 30 seconds.
  11. Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes until the spinach is tender.
  12. Add the mixture of tomatoes and onions to the spinach, mix well and add the chickpeas.
  13. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  14. Put the fried bread and the garlic in a blender and mix to form a smooth paste.
  15. Add the bread and garlic paste to the spinach and chickpeas.
  16. Add 170ml of cold water and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes.  Add more water if necessary as you cook.
  17. Serve hot.

Preparation Time:  15 minutes + 8 hours soaking the chickpeas

Cooking Time: 55 minutes

Serves:  4

Difficulty: Medium

 

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