05 May 2013

Haloumi and Herb Salad

Haloumi is a vital part of Mediterranean cuisine, particularly in the arc around the eastern shores. It's awful when you eat it straight out of the fridge - it's got this squeeky, rubbery texture, and it's about as salty as the Dead Sea. No - you have to cook it. Some like it simply pan-fried and served with a generous squeeze of lemon, but I think it needs the fresh flavours of something green and aromatic - enter herbs. A great salad for those who need a little more substance with their greens.

  • 150 - 200g Haloumi Cheese
  • a sprinkling of plain flour (about 1-2 tablespoons)
  • 2 slices of bread (large dice)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves (plucked, not chopped)
  • 1 cup mixed fresh herbs (I used purple basil, za'atar/savoury and oregano)
  • 2 cups cos leaves (loosely chopped)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes (large dice)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • a couple of glugs of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

17 April 2013

Good-for-you Creamy Curry

You know those gorgeous indian curries from up north - the ones you're not supposed to eat because they are full of all the bad stuff - cream, butter, ghee, ground nuts and coconut cream - dishes like Butter Chicken and that super creamy Korma. By God, they're good. But ohhh, so BAD!

This is a healthy take. It's still incredibly decadent, creamy and rich, but has a fraction of the naughtiness you'd expect. The secret is all in making a puree from vegetables that are naturally creamy, sweet and nutty in flavour.

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts (about 750g), each cut into about 6 pieces
  • 500g pumpkin, medium dice
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds (bruised)
  • 1-2 tsp good curry powder (depending on strength)
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 small tub low fat yoghurt (approx 170g)
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup frozen green peas (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

15 April 2013

Raspberry and Rose Layer Cake

This cake is not nearly as bad as it looks. It's very low in sugar, and despite all that cream, there is no other fat in the layers (thereby knocking out all the butter in a standard cake) - and you could always use a light cream. It can be made small or large - just double the quantities and make a larger diametre pancake (I made mine around 16cm - you could easily go up to about 25cm if your pan is big enough and you are an expert flipper.)

The best thing? It's a no-bake cake. The only thing you need to cook are the pancakes, and it's actually better if its made the day before serving.


For the pancakes (layers)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • butter for greasing pan (If yours is not a non-stick one)

11 April 2013

Flourless lime and coconut cake

This is officially the best cake in the world (according to me). Wheat free, grain free, dairy free, low in fat (but not in sugar - hey, you can't have it all), moist, finely textured, exotic, pretty, keeps well and is incredibly easy to make. AND it tastes like lemon meringue pie.

  • 6 eggs
  • 3 Tahitian limes, zested and juiced (about 100ml liquid)
  • 1 cup caster sugar

  • 1 ¼ cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup finely desiccated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • pinch salt
for the syrup
  • ¼ cup grated jaggery (or raw sugar)
  • ¼ cup water
  • zest of one lime

08 March 2013

Cardamom and pistachio custard tart

This is really so much easier than you would think. I'm not much of a pie maker, and yet, I managed to pull this off without a hitch. There's many steps, but all are very easy. Unfortunately it's a little deviation, in fact a large deviation from my usual gluten free and dairy free options - it's got all the baddies in there, sorry. But my reasoning is that it's an adult's taste, and so we'll only have it when all the kids are in bed and unable to see us sneaking in the naughty stuff.

  • shortcrust pastry (enough to line a flan tin. about 400g)
  • 400ml milk
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 8 cardamom pods (slightly crushed) 
  • 4 small eggs (separated)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 4 digestive biscuits
  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • coarse salt to taste
  • pomegranate seeds (optional)

20 February 2013

Coleslaw with an asian twist

Coleslaw used to be one of my favourite salads. Childhood days in my Mum's late 1970s kitchen, when Margaret Fulton ruled (she still does occasionally), and when a "salad" was always lettuce, tomato and cucumber with french dressing. There were only two other variations - Potato salad (with bacon chips from a jar) and the aforementioned, sweet and dripping with store bought "coleslaw" dressing. My mum used to add nutmeg and somehow this translated it into a dessert rather than a vegetable. But one day, I tried the coleslaw from a take-out restaurant, and this soggy mess with raw onions and bland flavour destroyed it for me. I will never eat coleslaw again.

But, I will take some of the ingredients, and give it my own twist. I'll eat this kind, and so does everyone else - it's a party favourite. It even has a crunch honouring my mum's bacon chips on potato salad.

  • 2 cups grated carrot (or fine julienne is better if you can be bothered)
  • 2 cups finely sliced red cabbage (also called purple cabbage or blue kraut)
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp teriyaki sauce
  • 3 tbsp white Japanese sweet sauce (*see note on sauces)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup aloo bhujia for topping **

03 February 2013

Mocha meringue torte with hazelnut crumble

This one came to be because it was a friend's birthday. Not just any friend, but another food blogger. Not just any food blogger, but a food blogger who has been to Paris to study Cordon Bleu cookery (Francine's blog is here). I stupidly suggested I'd make a cake, and then realised I wouldn't be able to whip up one of my standards. Oh no. This would require ingenuity. Something that looked and tasted seriously adult, yet essentially remained cake-like. Something I couldn't muck up, yet something that looked like it required effort. Voila. The base is adapted from a chocolate meringue cake with coffee cream found almost anywhere, but the crumble is something I thought it needed just to take it over the edge.

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp good quality cocoa (not just drinking chocolate powder)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp corn flour
  • 1/3 cup peeled hazelnuts
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 4 digestive biscuits (e.g Wheatens - substitute with oat bran/amaretti or other GF biscuit for gluten free)
  • 200ml whipping cream
  • 100ml custard (see note)
  • 1 super sweet ristretto, cooled (really strong shot of coffee with lots of sugar and very little liquid)

10 December 2012

Omani Lobster with za’atar and garlic

Omani Lobster is presently a little overfished, but just once in a while, it’s a super way to turn things up for a celebration. This is a claw-less variety, and so is easy to prepare and eat. Simply use the tails, and if you want to keep waste to a minimum, use the legs to make a stock and freeze it for later.

Lobster tails are easy to cook – simply grill until the flesh is translucent – then take them off the heat and eat immediately - it will continue to cook a little in that shell until it's cracked open like a Christmas present. Za’atar is a local narrow and long-leaved thyme relative known elsewhere in the world as winter savoury.

  • 2 Lobster tails, cleaned
  • fresh za’atar – about 12 stems
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt, pepper and lemon to taste

Roasted Vegetable Salad

This is such a vibrant salad. Considering it is so hot here, even over Christmas, not everyone wants a bowl of hot roasted vegetables. It’s easy to prepare before-hand and features plenty of local and seasonal ingredients. It’s wonderful with turkey, but also makes a great accompaniment to grilled seafood.

  • 500g pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 5 small beetroots, quartered
  • 250g roca (arugula)
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 1 big pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp honey
  • coarse salt to taste
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp labneh
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • herbs for garnish (za’atar or coriander)

Gingerbread lamp with stained glass

I've been inspired by the region - hard not to be really. Last year, we made a gingerbread house, and it turned out quite nicely. But the snow on the roof and the Hansel and Gretel theme doesn't really gel in this part of the world. So, here is a Middle-Eastern-Appropriate gingerbread, both in flavour and construction. And you know what? Easier than it looks...

  • 250g butter, softened 
  • 2/3 cup soft brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup date honey (dhibs)
    2 eggs, beaten 
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 15-20 clear boiled sweets (lollies), crushed with a mortar and pestle into coarse powder.

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