Roasted Eggplant with Saffron Yoghurt

Another Yotam Ottolenghi recipe I tried recently. As you can see, I rather overdid the saffron, which made the yoghurt sauce a rather lurid yellow, but it was still delicious. Pomegranate seeds add a lovely splash of red, but if you don’t have any use chopped roasted red peppers or perhaps a few dried goji berries, soaked briefly in hot water, then drained.

3 medium eggplants, cut into 2cm slices or wedges
Olive oil for brushing
2 Tbs toasted pine nuts
A handful of pomegranate seeds
A few basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sauce:
A pinch of saffron strands or powdered saffron
3 Tbs hot water
180g thick Greek-style yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2½ Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make sauce by infusing saffron in hot water for 5 minutes, then whisking in the remaining ingredients. Sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place eggplant on an oven tray, brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool. Eggplants will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Arrange eggplant on a serving platter, slightly overlapping. Drizzle with the sauce, sprinkle with the pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, then scatter with a few basil leaves.

Serves 4

Pumpkin Soup with Caramelised Pumpkin Seeds

It’s often the garnishes which make Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes unique. This soup, with its unusual crunchy topping of caramelised pumpkin seeds, is no exception.

They can be used to garnish any soup and are a delicious addition to salads, so you might like to double or triple the recipe. They keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

Ottolenghi cooks the seeds in the oven, but I prefer to use a frying pan where I think you have more control. I have a bad track record of burning nuts and seeds in the oven.

You need about 750g of vegetables which can be all pumpkin, all carrot, or a combination of the two.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
550g pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 tsp saffron fronds or a pinch of saffron powder
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tsp grated orange zest
6 Tbs sour cream or crème fraîche
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the pumpkin seeds:
1 tbsp sunflower oil
60g pumpkin seeds
1 Tbs maple syrup or honey
½ Tbs soft brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Put the pumpkin seeds into a non-stick frying pan with the other ingredients. Stir over moderate heat for a few minutes, or until starting to colour. Cool. If they stick together it doesn’t matter as you can break them apart when serving.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the onion then cook over high heat for a minute or so, stirring all the time. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, but not very dark. Add the pumpkin, carrot, saffron, stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until pumpkin and carrots are almost tender. Add the orange zest and simmer for five minutes longer. When vegetables are thoroughly cooked, blitz the soup in a food processor or blender, or with a stick blender. Add extra water or stock if it is too thick. Season to taste.

Serve in soup bowls with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of the caramelised seeds.

Serves 4

Vegetarian Paella

I was inspired to have a go at making this delicious Vegetarian Paella after lunching with friends at Muse Cafe, located at the East Hotel in Canberra. When you’ve eaten something in a restaurant, but don’t actually have the recipe, you have to use a certain amount of guesswork, but the end result was delicious.

Muse calls this dish Calasparra Paella – calasparra being a variety of rice especially suited to making paella. It’s not sold in any of my local supermarkets, but if you look online you can find a couple of specialty grocers who sell it.

Arborio rice is a good substitute, but you need to use less liquid and stir it less, so it doesn’t go creamy and start to break down. Calasparra needs three times the volume of liquid to rice, whereas Arborio only needs about twice the volume.

As you can see in this photo, I roasted the tomatoes with the other vegetables. They ended up a bit overcooked, which is why I have amended the recipe to add them halfway through the cooking time. I also roasted the beans and asparagus with the other vegetables, which unfortunately meant they lost their vibrant green colour. So again I have amended the recipe to cook the green veggies in water rather than in the oven. Either way works, it’s just about the colour.

1½ cups Arborio rice (or Calasparra)
3 cups vegetable stock (4½ cups if using Calasparra)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of saffron threads or powder
Knob of butter (optional)
About 12 cherry tomatoes
About 6-8 asparagus spears
About 12 green beans
1 onion
1 small red capsicum
1 small sweet potato
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
To serve:
2 avocados cut into cubes
Micro herbs or any small fresh leaves (basil, marjoram etc)
4 Lime wedges
Extra Virgin Olive oil

Heat half the olive oil in a heavy-based large saucepan, add the rice and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the stock, letting it be absorbed before adding more. Stir from time to time, but not too often or too vigorously. You may need slightly more or less stock as rice varies. When al dente add the saffron, chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste. If liked, add a knob of butter, then cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile roast the vegetables. Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut the onion, sweet potato and capsicum into 1-1.5cm squares and place in a bowl with the rest of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well then spread out on a shallow oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake for about half an hour, or until cooked. Halfway through cooking time give them a stir around and add the tomatoes. Meanwhile cut the asparagus and beans into 1.5cm lengths and cook in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes then drain and refresh under cold water.

Mix all the vegetables into rice and arrange on 4 serving plates, using a large stacking ring if you have one. Garnish with avocado, herbs, olive oil and lime wedges.

Serves 4

Note: I made a large main course sized stacking ring by cutting the top and bottom off a large can of tuna with a can opener. Place in the middle a dinner plate. Fill with the paella and press down the top, garnish with avocado and herbs, then lift off carefully and serve.

Variations: use eggplant, zucchini or peas instead of one of the vegetables.

Roasted Beetroot with Avocado

At this time of year we have lots of vegetables in the garden, including tomatoes, zucchini, beetroot and basil. So Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, with their strong bias towards veggies, are perfect.

We’ve been eating so many of his amazing recipes lately that Matthew says he wouldn’t be surprised to walk into the kitchen and find the man himself.

This week I made his Roasted Beetroot with Yoghurt and Preserved Lemon which I served for lunch with avocado. We sat in the garden under the olive tree sipping a glass of chilled white wine and enjoying this delicious, not to mention healthy, combination.

If you don’t have any preserved lemon, just leave it out or add some grated lemon rind. I used fresh marjoram instead of dill, but you could also use fresh basil or chives.

1 kg beetroot
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small preserved lemon, chopped, seeds discarded
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs chopped fresh dill (or use marjoram, basil or chives)
1 Tbs Tahini
¾ cup Greek style plain yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry beetroots, but leave skin on. Wrap each one in foil then bake for about an hour or until tender. Test with a sharp knife or skewer. When cool enough to handle, peel and slice into a large mixing bowl.

Heat olive oil and cumin seeds for a few minutes in a small frying pan, until seeds start to pop, then tip over the beetroot. Add the onion, preserved lemon, lemon juice, half the herbs and season to taste. Mix well then transfer to a shallow serving dish.

Mix the Tahini into the yoghurt then put blobs all over the top. Peel and dice the avocados and arrange around the edge of the plate. Garnish with the rest of the herbs.

Serves 4

Barbecued Cabbage Wedges with Ginger-Miso Dressing

A recipe for barbecued cabbage caught my eye recently. The sauce includes miso, a Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans found amongst the Asian ingredients in Australian supermarkets. If you live elsewhere you may have to visit an Asian grocery store.

Some recipes call for white miso and others for red miso, but they’re fairly interchangeable. I have them both in the fridge, where they keep, once opened, for several weeks. Miso has a strong umami flavour which goes well in marinades and sauces for fish and meat. It also goes well with this delicious barbecued cabbage.

If you can’t be bothered lighting the barbecue you can make this dish in a frying pan. The cabbage once caramelised becomes quite sweet, the way onions do when you fry them.

1 medium to large cabbage
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground back pepper
Sauce:
2 Tbs miso paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Snipped chives or finely sliced spring onion tops

Light the barbecue. Remove outer leaves from the cabbage, then with a sharp knife cut it into 8-10 wedges. Place in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, using your hands to coat the cabbage thoroughly, then season lightly.

Cook cabbage wedges on the barbecue over a medium to high heat, turning every 2  minutes or so, for 10 minutes or until well charred and tender, but still a bit crunchy in the middle. Meanwhile mix all the ingredients for the sauce.

Serve cabbage drizzled with some of the sauce and sprinkled with the chives or spring onion tops

Serves 8

Beetroot Kebabs with Labneh and Dukkah

I’m a big fan of beetroot, labneh and dukkah, so when I saw a recipe in Gourmet Traveller using all three, I knew I would like it.

 

500g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp salt
3-6 beetroot, depending on size, peeled, halved lengthwise or left whole if smaller
1 Tbs olive oil
50g butter
Dill sprigs
3 Tbs Dukkah

To make the Labneh, mix salt into yoghurt then scrape into a sieve which has been lined with muslin or any thin fabric. A man’s handkerchief works well. Place the sieve over a large bowl, cover then refrigerate overnight to drain. Discard the liquid before serving.

Thinly slice beetroot using a mandoline or slicing blade on a food processor, then mix with the olive oil and salt to taste. Use your hands to make sure the oil is thoroughly distributed. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about the colour, although it does come off quite quickly. Thread onto skewers, allowing one or two skewers per person, folding beetroot if necessary, leaving smaller slices unfolded. Can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat grill or barbecue to high, then cook the kebabs, turning occasionally, for 5 mins, or until lightly charred all over.

Melt butter in a small saucepan, then allow it to turn golden brown (3-4 mins). Mix in the dukkah.

Serve beetroot kebabs with a dollop of labneh to the side. Scoop out a little of the labneh to make a nest and fill it with some warm dukkah butter. Sprinkle a little dukkah around and garnish with dill sprigs.

Makes about 8 kebabs serving 4 or 8

Kale Salad with Orange and Sesame Dressing

Kale is a member of the brassica family, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts. First cultivated around 2000 BC there’s nothing new about this green leafy vegetable, but in the past few years it’s enjoyed a revival as a super food.

Packed with vitamins and minerals, kale has high levels of vitamin K and C as well as iron.  Antioxidants make it great for lowering cholesterol and while you can cook it, just like spinach, the best way to maximise the nutritional benefits is to eat it raw.

The first kale salad I made was tough and chewy. I ate it because it was good for me, not because I enjoyed it. But the following day I discovered that the leftovers were delicious. The trick is to dress the salad several hours before serving, so the kale leaves soften. Then you add a bit of crunch to the salad just before serving with some nuts, seeds and crispy pita bread.

My brother David passed on this recipe from a café where he had lunch in Vancouver recently. The “recipe” came from dissecting and studying what was on his plate and taking notes. I’ve further adjusted his version with the addition of tahini to the dressing and crunchy fried pita bread on top.

1 bunch kale
1 cup seedless grapes (I used red ones)
2 cups thinly sliced raw cauliflower
2 spring onions or ½ red onion, sliced (optional)
Dressing:
Juice of 1 large orange (about ½ cup)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs tahini
1 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs honey (sugar or maple syrup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
Topping:
1 large pita bread
2 Tbs olive oil
2 heaped Tbs each flaked almonds, pecan nuts and sunflower seeds

Wash kale, spin dry then remove stalks and slice thinly. Cut cauliflower slices into smaller pieces. Place kale, grapes, cauliflower and onion in a large salad bowl.

Using a stick blender or food processor mix all ingredients for dressing till smooth, then pour into a jar.

Add enough dressing to moisten the salad, mix well then stand for several hours before serving. You will have enough dressing left for another time.

Meanwhile for the topping, separate the two sides of the pita bread and cut 2-3 cm pieces. Heat oil and add the pita, nuts and seeds. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until pita is golden.

Give the salad a final mix, top with the pita mixture and serve.

Serves 4

Variations: use pine nuts instead of pecans or almonds. Use spinach instead of kale.

Zucchini, Goat’s Cheese and Pea Tart

Cleaning out the freezer I found a ball of shortcrust pastry I had forgotten about. Once thawed I looked in the fridge to see what I could find to make a savoury tart, without going shopping, and came up with this. Leftovers heated up well for lunch the following day.

If you have fresh peas in the garden by all means use those instead of frozen peas.

1 batch home-made shortcrust pastry (or substitute shop bought)
4 eggs
½ cup cream or milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs chopped mint
350g coarsely grated zucchini (courgette)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
To serve:
1 cup frozen peas, extra
Mint sprigs

Preheat oven to 180°C. Use pastry to line base and sides of a slice pan, about 20/25 cm by about 30cm. Place zucchini in a sieve and mix in a teaspoon of salt. Leave to drain, then push down on it to squeeze out excess liquid. Beat eggs with cream or milk and lemon rind. Add zucchini, peas and lots of pepper then pour evenly into the pastry case. Scatter cheese over the top then bake for 25-30 mins or until set.

Meanwhile pour boiling water over the extra peas. Leave for a minute then drain. Cut the tart into squares and garnish with the extra peas and mint sprigs.

Serves 6

Variations: use asparagus spears, thinly sliced on the diagonal, instead of the zucchini.

Caramelised Eggplant with Tahini, Pine Nuts & Lentils

As I’ve said before, if I were to become a vegetarian I would eat a lot of eggplants. They’re filling and there are so many different ways of using them.

Here’s a delicious recipe for you to try. As a main course, half a large eggplant is enough for most people. If you want to serve this as a side dish, buy smaller eggplants so you get more halves.

More delicious ways to use this versatile vegetable can be found in the Recipe Index under Vegetables. Do you have a great eggplant recipe you would like to share with Cafe Cat readers?

Base:
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
350g dry lentils (Puy or similar)
4 cups vegetabe stock
2 tsp vinegar (any kind will do)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Eggplants:
2 large eggplants or more smaller ones (about 1kg or a bit more)
4 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh rosemary
To serve:
2 Tbs lemon juice
½ cup Tahini paste
Water
2 Tbs chopped parsley
1 Tbs chopped rosemary
¼ cup pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the base heat oil in a large heavy-based pan and add all the vegetables. Cook gently for 10-15 mins, stirring regularly, until softened. Add the lentils and stock then simmer for half an hour or until the lentils are just tender. Add a little more water as necessary. When lentils are cooked and most of the liquid has disappeared add the vinegar and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring. Season to taste.

While lentils are cooking pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and arrange them in a baking tin. Slash them all over with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern. Brush the cut surfaces generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with rosemary. Bake for 25-30 mins until soft and browned.

Mix lemon juice into the tahini, then add enough water to give a thick pouring consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Place pine nuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until golden.

Spread hot lentil mixture in a large serving dish (reheat if it’s got a bit cold) and arrange eggplants on top. Drizzle with the tahini sauce and sprinkle with the parsley, rosemary and pine nuts.

Serves 4 as a main course

Lentil Salad

Whip up this healthy salad in no time with canned lentils, or cook your own which will take a little longer. Buy a cooked chicken from your local supermarket, or throw something onto the barbecue. Fresh crusty bread and a bottle of vino, and dinner is ready.

3½ cups cooked lentils (or two cans, drained and rinsed)
1 red capsicum (pepper) diced
1 cucumber, diced
½ or 1 red onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
Dressing:
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs olive oil
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Shake dressing in a jar, then mix everything together thoroughly.

Variations:

  • add a diced avocado just before serving
  • use spring onions instead of red onion
  • use coriander instead of parsley
  • add some toasted pine nuts