Za’atar Spiked Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

2018-04-12_09-59-55 We are continuing to try and eat less meat. But sometimes it’s hard to create things that have the wow factor they taste great but don’t always look to impressive.

It’s an adaptation of the Spanakopita – a classic greek spinach pie. but I’ve added za’atar a middle eastern herb and spice blend to the filling and brushed on top of the filo pastry . This was a blend of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. (traditionally Za’atar is a specific type of middle eastern herbs rather than thyme).

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This dish is fantastic especially as it it made mostly with store cupboard/freezer ingredients. I made it with frozen spinach which is a winter staple in our hours. The pie  can be eaten hot or cold, so great for lunch the next day and I think sure to become a summer staple.

Za’atar Spiked Spanakopita

Makes enough for 4

Filling
400g of frozen spinach
1 large onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
6 halves of sub dried tomatoes
150g of feta cheese
2 tbsp of za’atar
2 eggs

Pastry

6 sheets of filo pastry
1 tbsp of za’atar mixed in 1tsp of sunflower oil

Make the filling
Defrost the spinach and squeeze out all the water. Roughly chop.
Fry the finely chopped onions and garlic in olive oil
Once softened add the za’atar and stir in.
Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes
Remove the spinach mix from the heat
Finely chopped the feta cheese and tomatoes
Mix the feta/tomatoes in a bowl
Add the eggs
Finally add the spinach and stir well.

IMG_20180411_184815 Assemble

  1. Line a 6 inch cake pan with pastry , overlapping the pieces but leaving half of each piece handing over the side
  2. Add the filling
  3. Wrap the filo back over the filling
  4. Mix the za’atar with a little oil and brush over the pastry

Cook – Place in the oven at 220degC for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 180deg for 25 minutes. Cover the top with a little foil if it looks like it might burn

You can either serve in the pan or lift out , this is easier if you have a spring-form cake tin ( which I don’t) and had to be creative with a fish slice and spatula.

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Brined Pork Chops with Sage Roasted Gnocchi.

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This dish was largely inspired by the demolition of my lovely herb garden,  which is making way for my new kitchen extension. The sage plant has got a bit woody and won’t be happy being transplanted so I am trying to use it up.

It is definitely worth brining the chops, the whole dish if very hands off just whacked under the grill.

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Prepare 

The pork chops were brined  for 24 hours . Bring to the boil –  4 tbsp of salt, 1 pint of water , 3tbsp of white wine,  1 tsp of pepper corns 1, tbsp of fresh sage.  Simmer for 2 minutes cool and pour over the chops. Leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours ideally 24hours

Sage Roasted Gnocchi Toss 400g of gnocchi in 2 tbsp of olive oil, a handful of fresh sage and a few twists of salt

To cook

Place the chops in one roasting pan and the gnocchi in another.  Grill together  at 250degC for 30 minutes, shaking the gnocchi three times and turning the pork chops half way through.

To accompany

I like a bit of contrast so I added a  salad of 1 grated apple, 1 stick of celery ,  1 tsp of dijon muscard & 1tbsp of chopped fresh parsley mixed together.

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Forever Flatbreads

2018-03-04_12-10-54 Flatbreads topped with anything make me very very happy. I buy Khobez in bulk from the Murat supermarket they are the size of a large dinner plate.

I like to toast them in a pan weighted down (with a Le Cruset lid)  for a few minutes until they become really crispy on the bottom.

Then a generous smear over with hummus , scatter with cabbage salad , pickled vegetables recipes below .

Top with a choice of  falafel ( my current favourites are sweet potato falafels from Asda)  , roasted vegetables ( cauliflower, auberine, butternet squash)  ,or home-made kebabs. (These Adana are finely chopped onion, garlic, coriander and chili mixed with lamb mince , pressued onto flat wooden skewers and grilled – ready in 15 minutes) .

Finally scattering over some sumac, fresh salad herbs ( mint, watercress, rocket or coriander)  or turksish chilli flakes. 2018-03-04_12-10-00

Cabbage salads

We get through two massive heads of cabbage a week in our house – red or white – used as a replacement for rice or noodles. For these salads I will mix with sliced onion , sometimes grated carrot and dress with a little lemon juice or white wine vinegar.

Hummus

  • 1 tin of chickpeas including liquid
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ of a preserved lemons (recipe here )
  1. Put all the ingredients in the food processer and blend well.
  2. I don’t add any oil and the salt from the preserved lemon is definitely enough

IMG_20180303_131536_1 Pickled vegetables (ready in 24 hrs)  While in summer roasted peppers or tomatoes are great in winter pickled vegetables give brightness and taste.  I used an assortment of cauliflower , celery , carrots and red peppers.

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar ( you can use white wine vinegar but it’s more expensive)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tsp of coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes

 

    1. In a small saucepan combine water, rice wine vinegar, sugar, spices and salt. Heat over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat.
    2. Peel the vegetables and slice.
    3. Place the vegetables in a ½ litre jar (sterlised)
    4. Pour the liquid over the vegetables in each jar. Cover and secure the lid, and refrigerate for 24 hours (or for a few days) then enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leftover Vegetable and Tofu Curry

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This is a great use of leftover Sunday lunch vegetables. We always end up with an interesting mix of depending on what vegetable the kids have decided they don’t like this week.

The key additional ingredients are freezer staples  – peas and spinach. It used to be that I would throw in some diced chicken thighs but now really loving some tofu or some paneer.

Vegetable and Tofu Curry

Serves 2

200g of tofu
500g of leftover vegetables e.g  cauliflower, brocoli,  carrots and potatoes
8 blocks of frozen spinach
4 cups of frozen peas
1 medium onion
1 clove of garlic
1 thumb of ginger
1 tbsp of garam masala + 1tsp extra
1 tbsp of turmeric
1 whole green chilli
1tsp of mustards seeds +1/2tsp extra
1tsp of nigella seeds
2 green chillies
2 handfuls of tomatoes (if in season and ripe) or half a tin of chopped tomatoes

1. Fry the spices and seeds in sunflower oil.
2. Add the garlic , ginger and onion until softened
3. Add the tomatoes, spinach and vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Finally cube the tofu
5. In a separate pan fry the tofu with oil and a teaspoon of garam masala and half a teaspoon of mustard seeds for a couple of minutes, until cooked
6. Serve on top of the vegetable curry mix

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Falafel Baffle and More

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Social Media is often blamed for isolating people. But in my local community it can often be a great way of bringing people together. Our local Facebook page is used to sell and give away items, recommend tradespeople, it’s helped people borrow emergency heaters when their boilers pack-up, helped find temporary dog-walkers, baby-sitters share surplus veg and eggs.

It also means people launching their own business can market them and get a chance to share their skills.

The other night – Tali of Falafel Baffle and More posted she was going to be delivering home-made falafel and pitta bread in the area. Now I am a huge falafel fan, I’ve pretty much  decided it would be my last meal. I am seriously considering buying a deep fat fryer just to be able to make my own as we eat them once a week.

I placed an order for sweet potato falafel and a bag of pitta bread. The falafel and bread arrived at my door,  frozen easy to re-heat in the microwave (or as I like my falafel crunchy – under the gril) perfect for the next night , you can also order cabbage salad , vegetable pickles and hummus.

The falafel were delicious and the pitta bread actually puffed up and could be used as pockets something no store bought falafel has ever managed. Untypically my 6 year old decided to wake up and she loved them too , so that’s another falafel convert, bit annoying though as I will have to share.

Check to see if they are delivering to your area. https://www.facebook.com/falafelbaffleandmore

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Korean Tofu Stew

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Nothing better on a cold wintry day that a massive bowl of stew and this Korean tofu dish definitely hits all the spots.

This was made with home-made kimchi – I’ve been making my own kimchi for a few months now after a cookery course at the lovely Inkyung’s Kitchen . Beware it is fairly addictive and  we are very fortunate to have a cellar to store it in as the smell seems to seep out of the most airtight container.

This stew is usually made with some pork belly in it but I think it worked pretty well without.

Korean Soft Tofu Stew

This makes enough for two hungry people

  • Anchovy and Seaweed stock ( made by simmering 5 dried anchovies and a 2inch piece of kombu in 1.5 pints of water for 30 minutes) and leaving to cool. Then strain out the seaweed and anchovy
  • 400g of soft tofu chopped into 1 cm cubs
  • 2 tbsp of gocuchang chili paste
  • 2tbsp of korean red pepper flakes
  • 2 large spring onions – finely chopped
  •  1 clove of garlic  – finely chopped
  • 2 medium turnips – finely sliced
  • 2 cups of kimchi (recipe below)
  • 2 handfuls of watercress
  1. Bring the stock to a simmer with turnip, onions, garlic , red pepper and chili paste.
  2. Add the kimchi and tofu and simmer for 10 more minutes
  3. Before serving stir in the watercress

 

Kimchi Recipe

  • 1 large chinese cabbage
  • 1 fresh red chili
  • 4 tbsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 thumb of ginger
  • 5 spring onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  1. Slice the cabbage and remove the cores.
  2. Chop roughly into two inch long pieces , you don’t want it too small.
  3. Scatter the salt over the cabbage and weight down with a plate. Leave until the cabbage feels softe
  4. Blend together the chilli , pepper flakes , ginger and garlic.
  5. Roughly chop the spring onions.
  6. Wash the cabbage, in a colander  under running water for five minutes
  7. Mix together the chili garlic paste with the cabbage and spring onions
  8. Put the cabbage into a clean sterilised glass jar , and place a disc of greaseproof paper on top push down firmly.
  9. It can be used immediately but it is better to wait a week or so.

 

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Mackerel and Kimchi Big Bowl

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I’ll be honest a month ago when Nick said he was going to be pescatarian for a while I did think –  this won’t last long. This is a man who would literally count the pieces of chorizo on his plate and ask if I thought I had more.

I was vegetarian for 10 years between 13 and 23, so I get it and know how to cook plenty of veggie food. True the eldest kid and I have sneaked out for fancy burgers.  But I have enjoyed the challenge and it’s got me away from some of my go-to – chuck some chicken in a pile of vegetable recipes. Tonight’s dinner was delicious, griled mackerel, cooked wholemeal bulgar wheat, cucumber , pickled turnip and  home-made Kimchi ,  sprinked with Korean Pepper , seaweed and sesame seeds

Love these big bowls

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BUN Mii Vietnamese Cafe – Nottingham

 

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I was reading this article about how actually open-plan offices don’t really work and negatively effect individuals well-being and productivity. Other research has suggested we should be working from coffee shops
I heartily agree. After years of open-plan office work, I mostly work from home now and it’s heaven. There are no office politics, no requests to show people how the photocopier works/ re-format their word document . No just asking my opinion when I am right in the middle of something.
But as the social isolation can get a bit much I do like to have the odd morning working in a coffee shop. I always thought it would be distracting but actually in the noise and hub-bub of a cafe I can manage to tune everything out largely as it doesn’t have any relevance or interest me.

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Today I worked and had lunch in the lovely Bun Mii Café it looks small from the outside but inside there is large back room with plenty of open tables.
If you need something to fuel a working frenzy Vietnamese Coffee is just the ticket, made with coffee and condensed milk, it’s like rocket fuel. For a more mellow approach they also have 31 different types of tea.

 

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It’s a simple menu , Pho (Vietnamese Soup) , Noodle Bowls  and summer rolls another of my favourites, but the main attraction for me are the Banh Mi, a, crispy baguette with served with a filling of pork/chicken/vegatables , pickled vegetables , crispy vegetables and a spicy dressing.
This is no soggy or chewy baguette, oval shaped and locally baked.  It’’s light and crispy bread, packed with flavour, for less than the price of a soggy Subway sandwich.

I’ll definitely be back to try the Pho

 

 

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Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Just as I attempting to do Dry January. Nick has decided to have a few weeks off meat (but including fish). It’s coninciding with my attempts to get into using Instagram.

Pad Thai is a dish I love and it’s pretty Instagram friendly, but I have never mastered cooking it myself. However I am nothing if not determined and this dish is pretty close to something from a restaurant – though  I probably need to get more liberal with the sugar and oil.

Pad Thai

Serves Two

1 large carrot finely grated
2 handfuls of cabbage finely shredded
1/2 red onion finely sliced
1 clove of garlic
2 handfuls of fresh breansprouts
1 tbsp of dried shrimp
2 handfuls of dried rice noodles
2 tsp of tamarind
1 tsp of fish sauce
1/2 tsp of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of korean chili pepper
2 eggs

To serve.

Fresh coriander leaves
2 tbsp of peanuts , toasted and crushed
1/2 lime

  1. Simmer the rice noodles in boilin water with the shrimp.
  2. Fry together the vegetables (carrot, cabbage, onion and garlic) in sunflower oil until softened.
  3. Mix together the sugar, fish sauce , tamarind and pepper.
  4. Once the vegetables are cooked add the eggs and stir to cook quickly
  5. Once the egg is cooked, add the noodles and beansprouts.
  6. Cook for 2 minutes, add the mixed sauce and cook for one more minute
  7. Serve with a scattering of coriander leaves, peanuts and a squeeze of lime juice.
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Korean Pop-Up Fundraising for Children’s Bereavement Centre

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I am lucky to live in a wonderful community at this time of year our local online bulletin board is full of people raising money , gathering food for the foodbank.

The lovely Inkyung who runs regular Korean cookery classes and pop-up takeaways has  also stepped up recently saying she wanted to raise money for bereaved families for whom this time of year can be particularly difficult.

Despite having two small children and running her own business she has in a a few short weeks galvanised the community with donations of time and ingredients and will be hosting a a pop-up Korean Food Stall from 12pm til 2pm as well as 5-7.30pm at 78 Holme Road West Bridgford NG2 5AD.

All funds raised will be donated to the Childrens Bereavement Centre  a uniquely special centre, where children, young people and their families from Nottinghamshire who are affected by terminal illness, death or parental separation, can access the support and guidance they need.

Many busy Mums and Dads are giving up their time over the next few weeks (I’ll be there on the 12th of December 2017) to make up the frozen mandu (Korean dumplings) – either pork or vegetarian , that are for sale on the day to takeaway.  These are just £10 for 15 these are perfect New Years Eve/Christmas eve snacks. She’s even put together a video of how to cook them.

Pre-ordering of food on the day is essential via text to Inkyung on 07852186279 of via her Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/inkyungkitchen/

Pop-Up Menu

Korean style burger £5
lotus root chips £2
popcorn chicken with a sweet and tangy sauce £5
vegetarian mandu (which is a Korean dumpling) with a spicy sauce £5

Further details can be found on her website Inkyung’s Kitchen https://www.facebook.com/inkyungkitchen/

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