Tag Archives: vegetables

Chargrilled Chicken with Za’atar and Roasted Spiced Vegetables

Carrying on our Middle Eastern obsession we have another really simple dinner of griddled chicken with roasted vegetables and cous cous. This is quite similar to our za’atar steak recipe and is a great healthy yet filling option. It manages to be comforting enough for winter yet light enough for summer – these chicken breasts would be incredible cooked on a barbecue. This would also be delicious in a lunchbox or taken for a picnic, what a versatile dinner! You’ll see in the photos that we have 2 trays of vegetables – this was because we had veg to use up but in the ingredients we’ve given what should be enough for two people just to go with the dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 1 courgette, chopped into 2cm cubes/rings
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 peppers, sliced into 3cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tsp ras el hanout
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 heaped tsp za’atar
  • Cous cous
  • Salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place your vegetables in a roasting dish and coat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the ras el hanout and a good pinch of sea salt. Toss the vegetables to coat them all in the oil and spices and then whack in the oven. These will take around 45 minutes to an hour to become perfectly soft and slightly charred around the edges. Stir them every 15 minutes or so and after around half an hour shake over the pomegranate molasses for the last part of cooking.

Roasted Moroccan Veg

For the chicken place the breasts between cling film, one at a time. Use the base of a large pan to bash them out until they are about 3cm thick and an even thickness all over. Once they’re both done heat up a griddle pan. Coat the breasts with a little olive oil and once the griddle pan is nice and hot place the chicken on. Let it cook on the first side for about 1 minute so that it can start charring and then turn over. On the side that you have already started to cook and is now facing up, sprinkle half of the za’atar so it coats the chicken. After 1 minute on the other side flip the chicken over again and sprinkle the rest of the za’atar on the other side. The chicken should take about 4 minutes on each side to cook so just keep an eye on it and turn it occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. The sesame seeds in the za’atar should become lovely and toasted during this time… it smells amazing!

Chicken za'atar

Just before you’re ready to serve make some cous cous by placing it in a bowl, covering with boiling water (to about 1cm above the cous cous) and covering the bowl tightly with cling film. Leave it for about five minutes and you should have perfectly fluffy cous cous! Fluff it up with a fork and season with salt. Whack the whole lot on a warmed plate and you’re done! We sliced our chicken up before serving but that’s up to you – whatever you prefer.

Za'atar chicken done

This was lovely hot but would also be great cold – you could mix the vegetables into the cous cous and serve with the sliced chicken for a mid-week lunch to make your colleagues jealous!

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King Prawn Stir-Fry with Tamarind and Oyster Sauce

We make stir-fries all the time – remember our steak with stir-fried veg? They’re really easy to throw together, quick (this one takes less than 20 minutes altogether!) and healthy too. If you’ve got a few store-cupboard essentials you don’t even need to buy any sauce, and it’s a great recipe for using up any left-over veg. Our tamarind and oyster sauce is really tasty, and would be a great one to show off to guests who like their stir-fries.

To make the sauce for 2 people:

  • Chunk of tamarind (see pic for size! About 3cm by 5cm), soaked in hot water and strained
  • 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • 1 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Groundnut oil
  • 1/2 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
  • Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp caster sugar

And to make the rest of the stir-fry, throw together whatever veg you have lying around with some noodles! Here’s what we used:

  • 1 Courgette
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Pak Choi
  • Handful of Cabbage
  • 50g Mange Tout/Sugar Snap Peas
  • 10 King Size Prawns
  • 2 portions straight-to-wok noodles
This what raw tamarind looks like! You need a medium-sized chunk, it packs in loads of flavour.
This what raw tamarind looks like! You need a medium-sized chunk, it packs in loads of flavour.

Start by making the sauce. You’ll need to soak the tamarind for about half an hour in a bowl with boiling water, and then strain it through a sieve – make sure you manage to squeeze all of the flavour out of it. Mix together all the ingredients and give it a good stir. Depending on how you like your stir-fries, you could use more or less chilli – these proportions make a sauce that has a medium heat when using relatively firey chillies. A bit of a tip for ginger too – we keep loads frozen in the freezer in small chunks – it grates really well from frozen, and the flavour really comes through.

Raid the store cupboard for this sauce!
Raid the store cupboard for this sauce!

Once the sauce is made, slice up all the vegetables. How you slice depends on what veg you’re using, but as a general rule make sure that everything is sliced really thinly – especially hard vegetables like carrots – so that it cooks quickly and retains its crunch. No-one wants a soggy stir-fry! Add you veg to a wok with a splash of vegetable oil (or any other flavourless oil) and cook over a high heat, stirring regularly. Once the veg is close to cooked (this shouldn’t take longer than about 5 minutes) add the sauce, stir in and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the noodles, stir in again, then finally add the King Prawns and cook for another couple of minutes until they’re just pink – that’s it, you’re done!

Veg being Stir-Fried

You could try this sauce with different meats – it would be pretty good with chicken or turkey – and it would work with loads of different veg too. It’s a perfect go-to meal if you’ve had a long day at work, and is guaranteed to perk you up.

Stir-Fry in a Bowl

Moroccan-style Spiced Vegetable Stew with Maneesh

We had originally planned to make this Moroccan-style roasted vegetable traybake and serve it with cous cous but Bird found herself with a bit of time on her hands. After a flick through Paul Hollywood’s “Bread” she decided to give Maneesh a go. Maneesh is a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with sesame seeds and herbs – basically a za’atar mixture which we’ve used previously with steak. Paul’s recipe can be found here.

The dough was really stretchy and sticky – very fun to work with!  We made half the amount in Paul’s book, he said his made 3 large maneesh but we managed to get 2 pretty huge breads out of half of the mixture. The vegetables were ridiculously simple – a mixture of bite-sized pieces of Mediterranean vegetables, roasted until slightly charred then smothered in chopped tomatoes, mixed with chickpeas and roasted for a further few minutes – often the simplest things are the best. This made a beautifully hearty dinner with enough vegetables left over for 2 lunches. It was lovely on it’s own but would be great with some meat, fish or cheese or could form one of many mezze courses to be enjoyed with friends!

Ingredients for 2 large maneesh

  • 250 g strong white flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 12 g caster sugar
  • 5 g instant yeast
  • 10 ml olive oil, plus extra for kneading and another 1bsp to make the za’atar paste
  • 180 ml tepid water
  • 2 heaped tbsp za’atar

You make this like a fairly standard bread dough. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (adding the salt and yeast to opposite sides of the bowl at first), then add in 10 ml of olive oil and most of the water – you don’t need to bother rubbing in the olive oil like a regular loaf. Mix all of this together until you have a soft, smooth dough, adding the rest of the water slowly as needed. We used pretty much all of the water but you may not need to. Once it has come together tip onto an oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until really soft and elastic. Place it in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film to rise, it needs to at least double in size – ours took just over an hour near a warm radiator.

Maneesh with za'atar

Once it’s risen tip it out onto an oiled surface again and knock back, fold it on itself and make sure all of the air is out. Once done split the dough into two. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll out with a rolling pin to form a large roughly circular shape. Put onto a baking sheet lined with oiled greaseproof paper. Now mix together the za’atar with enough oil to form a thick paste and smear onto the maneesh, leaving a small border around the edge. Pre-heat the oven to 210°C (Paul says 230 but we found this a bit hot) and leave the maneesh to rest for 20-30 minutes while the oven comes to temperature. When the oven is ready pop the bread in, we did ours one at a time as they cook best on the middle shelf. They take about 10-15 minutes to cook, when they’re golden-brown they’re ready! Leave to cool, turn the oven down to 180°C and start chopping your vegetables…

Cooked Maneesh

Ingredients for vegetable stew

  • A selection of chopped vegetables, we used 1 aubergine, 2 peppers, 2 courgettes, 1 large carrot, 1 red onion, all cut into bite-sized pieces with the carrots chopped slightly smaller as they take longer to cook
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes – optional
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1-2 tsp pomegranate molasses – optional

Place all of the chopped vegetables in a large roasting dish and coat with the ras el hanout, sea salt, oil and chilli flakes (if using). Place in a preheated oven at 180°C. The whole dish will take about 1 hour to make, check on the vegetables every 15-20 minutes to move them around. After around 50 minutes they should be getting slightly charred and very soft so tip in the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and the pomegranate molasses. Cook for a further 10 minutes and it’s ready!

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

We cut our maneesh in half, served the spicy vegetable stew on half and placed the other half on top for dipping. This was a real success and the maneesh made it feel a lot fancier than it was – give it a try!

Maneesh and vegetable stew

How To Cook Whole Fish

This will be less of a recipe post and more of a getting you over your fear of whole fish post! Loads and loads of people stick to fillets because in lots of ways they are easier – no/minimal bones to deal with, no head, but you miss out on loads of flavour from cooking a fish whole! Mackerel is a firm favourite with us. Bird grew up in Brighton and the fishmongers on the seafront sell the freshest mackerel there so it was a regular dinner from a young age. This is one of our favourite ways of cooking any sort of whole fish, it’s easy and results in moist fish which just falls off the bone. We kept it simple flavour-wise; mackerel is beautiful with stronger flavours like harissa but for this meal we used lemon thyme, a few slices of fresh lemon and some salt and pepper.

To start give the fish a quick wash under cold water and dab dry with some kitchen paper. When you’re buying whole, fresh fish then the main things that we look for are a good shine on the scales/skin, red gills and bright eyes, not dull or clouded over. Once the fish is washed lay it on a chopping board and make 2 or 3 slashes into the flesh down the sides, cut right down to the bone. This will help the fish cook evenly, and make it easy to get any lovely flavours into the fish. We placed a couple of small sprigs of lemon thyme in the slashes and then a couple more sprigs inside the cavity along with a couple of thin slices of lemon. We then seasoned the skin on both sides with sea salt and black pepper.

Mackerel raw

Now grab yourself a length of kitchen foil (about 50cm). Put the fish in the middle of it and bring the foil up to form a bag, rolling the edges over several times to get a tight seal while leaving a good bit of space around the fish so it can steam. An average-sized mackerel will take about 20-25 minutes to steam in the oven at 180-200°C – remember that it’s cooking from cold and will take a while to start steaming.

Serve with whatever you like! We had ours with some roasted baby potatoes, and then asparagus and tender stem broccoli which we blanched for 30 seconds and then whacked in the oven with the potatoes to finish cooking – they retain some bite this way and get a little crisp on the ends. To eat our fish we get a large plate ready for the bones and scrape the top fillet off (the meat should fall off the bones), then pick the whole of the skeleton up from the tail end and slowly peel away which should leave the bottom fillet with very few bones still in it… easy!

Mackerel dinner

Za’atar Steak with Spicy Sumac Roasted Vegetables

Bird has a bit of a problem. It’s the reason our spice cupboard (yes, we have a whole cupboard) is the biggest mess you’ve ever seen. It’s an obsessive need to buy any interesting spice that she’s heard of, or one that she hasn’t, that we don’t currently own. This time resulted in za’atar and sumac cluttering up our kitchen. These are both widely used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking – sumac is a beautiful deep red/purple course powder made of crushed, dried fruits which, despite their fiery colouring have no heat, just a beautiful lemony tang. Lebanese style Za’atar contains sumac along with some earthy freshness from thyme and oregano, aniseed sweetness from fennel and rich creaminess from toasted sesame seeds. Za’atar can come in many guises, this is just the blend of ours, have a look and see what you can find!

Sumac
Sumac

We also had a craving for steak and thought it would be fun to try our new spices on some lovely rib eye steaks. It’s most unusual for us to not have any chilli in things so we put a little in with the vegetables and then smothered the steaks in za’atar and oil and popped them on a really hot griddle pan for just a few seconds a side. This is a brilliant meal for those who love their aromatic spices but don’t get on so well with chilli as you could leave it out entirely and still have a burst of gorgeous spices. It’s also incredibly flexible, these spices are slightly mellower than many we use so would go with mild fish, vegetables or white meat right through to steak like we did.

Ingredients

  • mixed vegetables which are great for roasting – we used an aubergine, some peppers, red onion and mushrooms
  • 1 heaped tsp of sumac
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • vine tomatoes
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 steaks
  • 1 tbsp of za’atar
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • flatbreads/pitta breads to serve

Bit of a non-recipe really… preheat the oven to 190°C. Chop up all of the vegetables apart from the tomatoes into bite sized chunks and mix with the sumac, the chilli flakes if using, the sea salt and the olive oil in a large roasting dish and whack them in the oven. They will take about 45 minutes to roast and need a shake around every 15 minutes or so. Mix the za’atar with the extra virgin olive oil to form a paste and smear all over the steaks to briefly marinate. After nearly half an hour of the vegetables roasting add in the vine tomatoes. Then after a further 10 minutes add the pomegranate molasses to add some tangy sweetness.

Sumac vegetables

Now is the time to get your griddle pan super hot and then stick the steaks on, we did ours for less than a minute a side because we love ours really rare but just turn the heat under the griddle down a little and cook it for longer. Make sure you scrape all of the toasted herbs and seeds onto the steak, the sesame seeds are gorgeous! Serve with the vegetables and some warmed flatbreads or pittas (and a cheeky glass of wine!).

Steak with vegetables

Thai Noodle Soup with Crispy Tofu

This was only our second ever time cooking with tofu. Bird is a big fan and often chooses it over meat options when eating Thai food out but our first attempt about two years ago fell a little flat (well, more accurately, it fell a little slimy). However we got a real craving for it and decided to try again. The tofu we bought helpfully had some cooking instructions on and told us to press the tofu for a better and firmer texture, we figured it knew best so went along with it. What a huge difference! Much firmer, much less fragile, and when cooked MUCH crispier! The extremely-helpful-packaging suggested a minimum of 10 minutes but we left ours for 30 minutes. To press tofu simply drain it of the fluid it’s packaged in and then wrap it in about 2-3 layers of kitchen paper. Place it on a chopping board with another chopping board on top and place a weight on it. This doesn’t have to be really heavy, we used 2 cookery books but a large saucepan would be perfect too. Then make yourself a cuppa and go and chill out for a while. When you come back to it simply unwrap it, use a fresh piece of kitchen paper to give it a wipe down and then get cooking!

Tofu marinading

Ingredients

  • 1 block of pressed tofu
  • 1 litre of stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger, chopped into matchsticks
  • 1 red chilli, sliced thinly
  • 2-3 spring onions, white parts sliced thinly, green parts sliced thicker on the diagonal
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • Zest of 1 lime (you will use the lime juice to season later)
  • noodles, either straight-to-wok or dried ones cooked and drained
  • vegetables, we used baby corn, mange tout and pak choi but use whatever you fancy making sure you have a mix of crunchy and leafy
  • dark soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (or other flavourless oil)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • coriander leaves

Chop your tofu into 1-2 inch cubes and place in a bowl. Drizzle over around 1-2 tsp of dark soy sauce and let the flavour soak in. Pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then add in the sugar, the white part of the spring onions, the garlic, the lime zest and most of the ginger and chilli – the rest will be cooked with the tofu. Let this simmer away for about 10 minutes to let the flavours mingle.

Onions, chilli, ginger

After this time grab a wok and heat the vegetable oil in it over a medium-high heat. Once hot throw in the tofu and the remaining ginger and chilli. Our tofu took about 7 minutes to become golden and crispy all over. Keep an eye on the tofu turning it over every 30 seconds or so to make sure it colours evenly. Put the noodles in with the soup and let it come back to the boil. This is the time to season it with dark soy sauce, fish sauce and lime – the amounts are completely up to you, try with 1 tsp of soy sauce and fish sauce and the juice of half a lime and then keep tasting and adding until it’s perfect for you.

Tofu fall

When the tofu is almost ready chuck the vegetables in with the soup, we reserved the leaves of the pak choi as they just need to wilt in. Let the vegetables cook for around 1 minute – you want them to retain some bite! At this stage pour the toasted sesame oil over the tofu, let it cook for a last few seconds and then tip into some kitchen paper to drain slightly. Season it with about 1 tsp of fish sauce and a squeeze of lime juice. Put any leafy vegetables in the soup to wilt and then serve immediately.

Crispy tofu

Dish yourself up a bowl of the noodle soup, top with the crispy tofu and garnish with the green parts of the spring onions and the coriander leaves – this would also be lovely with some crushed peanuts. We had ours with a wedge of lime to add extra zing at the table and a simple infusion of lemon and ginger to drink.

Tofu with noodle soup

This has filled us with confidence to try tofu again soon, maybe with a stir fry, a curry or a salad… any suggestions?

Thai Style Steamed Sea Bass with Jasmine Rice

In an attempt to counteract the large volumes of cakes/sweets/biscuits we have been consuming over the last few weekends and will probably continue to consume (it’s practically the law when you have guests or are a guest that you have to set yourself well on the track to diabetes) we’ve been getting super healthy with our evening meals. Thai and Vietnamese style food just screams healthy to us – the fresh, spicy, clean flavours are exactly what we need. This recipe, steamed sea bass with jasmine rice and stir fried vegetables, is particularly virtuous. The fish is wrapped in pak choi leaves and steamed over a fragrant liquid while the vegetables set you well on your way to 5 a day (and the jasmine rice is just lush – don’t try to take our carbs away, you might lose your hand!). This one was a make-it-up-as-we-go-along number, as so many of our recipes are, and we’re chuffed with how it turned out! It was also our first time using our new bamboo steamer and we predict we’ll be getting lots of use out of it.

Ingredients

Basmati rice

  • 1 tsp jasmine tea leaves or 2 jasmine tea bags
  • 2 sea bass fillets
  • A piece of ginger, about 2-3 inches long, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 limes
  • 2-3 pak choi
  • 1 birds-eye chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 stick of lemongrass, bruised and chopped in half
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • A selection of vegetables (we used baby corn, pak choi, mange tout, carrot, sugar snap peas XXX), sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Neutral oil such as sunflower or vegetable

Brew the tea for the rice by placing your loose tea or tea bags in a jug and pour over half a litre of boiling water. Allow to brew for at least 5 minutes. Once brewed pour into a saucepan (making sure to strain it if using loose leaf tea!) and top up with more boiling water if necessary, then place over a medium heat to bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling add the rice and stir occasionally until cooked.

Jasmine Tea

Fill up a saucepan (over which you can fit your steamer) about a third of the way full with water. Throw in half of the ginger matchsticks, the chilli, the lemongrass, the garlic, half of the fish sauce, half of the sugar and the juice of half a lime. Bring this to the boil.

Frozen chilli

Meanwhile cover the bottom of the steamer with a layer of pak choi leaves and then lay the sea bass fillets on top. Squeeze over the juice of half a lime and sprinkle the fish with the other half of the ginger. Place another layer of pak choi leaves on top so that the fish is completely covered. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer then you could easily use a metal vegetable steamer, or just buy one – they’re dirt cheap in Asian supermarkets. Once the steaming liquid is bubbling place the steamer over the top. The fish will take around 5-10 minutes to cook depending on thickness, about the same amount of time as the rice.

Seabass raw

To make the sauce for the stir-fried vegetables mix together the oyster sauce with the remaining fish sauce and sugar, the juice of half a lime, a few drops of sesame oil and enough water to thin it out.

Vegetables raw

When the rice and fish have a few minutes of cooking time left get a wok really hot, add 1 tsp of neutral oil, throw in the vegetables and stir to coat in the oil. Once coated and beginning to wilt throw in the sauce and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes until the vegetables are slightly soft but still retain a lot of crunch.

Then just dish it all up! Spoon some of the delicious steaming liquid over the fish, it should be just cooked and really moist with delicate Asian flavours. Sit back and feel smug at just how healthy you’ve been!

Steamed sea bass complete