A Kind of Shakshuka (eggs cooked in spiced tomato sauce with feta)

One of my loveliest friends recently gave me a wonderful cook book by Madeleine Shaw. I sat down one rainy day this week with a mug of tea to devour the pages.

You won’t be surprised that a Shakshuka recipe caught my eye. Ms Shaw’s is a green version, packed with nourishing veggies. As is often the case with me I set out to rustle this up for lunch only to discover I didn’t have half of the ingredients I needed. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail blah blah blah.

Gladly, I’m not so weak as to be grasped by failure’s clutches at the first hurdle. Or rather I was really hungry and had already gathered the eggs and feta in anticipation.

So this delicious lunch is a hybrid Shakshuka. The eggs are cooked in a deeply delicious tomato sauce but there is a lovely bit of spinach tipping it’s hat to the glorious green Shakshuka that never was.

Serve this with toast, my top choice bring sourdough, but any kind of bread will add the requisite crunch and of course, the means to scrape up every last bit of this saucy delight.

Final note: when I was finishing this off I scattered over a bit of fresh thyme, simply because I have some growing rampant on the window sill. I also sprinkled a pinch of sumac and chilli flakes over the eggs just before serving. All 3 of these are completely optional. If you don’t have them hanging around your kitchen this will still be glorious. And if you decide to play around with the flavours let me know how it turns out.

Shakshuka (eggs in spiced tomato sauce with feta)

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • About a tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • A couple of handfuls of spinach, chopped (or use a couple of frozen spinach blocks)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 pack of feta, roughly chopped or crumbled up
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • A couple of pinches of chilli flakes
  • A couple of pinches of sumac

Method

  • In a frying pan that has a lid, heat your olive oil over a medium heat and fry your onions until they are nice and soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  • Stir in your spices then pour over the tomatoes.
  • If you’re using frozen spinach you can chuck that in too.
  • Let your sauce simmer away gently for about 10 – 15 minutes to let all the flavours come together and the sauce thicken. Give it a stir every now and then.
  • Add a little salt and pepper (and the spinach if you’re opting for fresh rather than frozen) to the sauce then make 2 little wells in your sauce and crack the eggs in.
  • Pop a lid on the pan and simmer gently for about 7 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to perfection. I like mine with a runny yolk.
  • Now just scatter over the feta and thyme. If you like you can pop the lid back on for a minute so that the feta warms slightly.
  • Serve with a little pinch of sumac and chilli flakes if you fancy and, of course, a pile of hot buttered toast.

Baked Eggs (Oeufs en Cocotte) with Spring Onions & Sriracha

Last week I truly panged to go out and treat myself to a big indulgent brunch. There are a couple of places near me that I love for the very fact that they serve delicious classic brunch dishes with surprising little twists. Delicious twists like eggs on toast with salsa verde or french toast with elderflower cream. Yum and yum.

When I eat out I love to choose things from the menu that I would never have thought of making at home. Well as I can’t go anywhere at the moment so I decided to create a little dish with a twist of my own. Cue baked eggs with spring onions, sriracha and coriander. It’s a pretty simple twiddle to the classic eggs en cocotte but it has tided me over until we can eat out again.

I served this with buttered sourdough toast, which I am very proud to say I baked myself (thanks JB for the starter). I’d eat this with any toast or a good crispy fresh baguette.

Baked Eggs with Spring Onions & Sriracha

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons of double cream
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt & pepper
  • Sriracha
  • A small handful of coriander, chopped

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 170 C / gas 3. Butter 2 ramekins and pop the kettle on to boil.
  • Pour one tablespoon of cream into each ramekin, season with a little sprinkle of salt and pepper and scatter in your spring onions.
  • Crack an egg into each ramekin, pour over one more tablespoon of cream and gently season again with salt and pepper.
  • Pop your ramekins into a roasting tin or pyrex dish and fill with hot water so that it comes about half way up the ramekins. Carefully place in the oven and bake for 12 – 14 minutes or until the eggs are set to your liking.
  • Serve with a scattering of chopped coriander and a generous squirt of sriracha.
  • Enjoy with hot buttered toast or just spoon it up on its own.

Heart Warming Lentil Soup with Filini Pasta

As my lovely mom would say with a smirk “the nights are fair drawing in”. Well this is the perfect bowl of warming, wholesome soul filling food we could all do with at this time of year.

This soup wins gold medals in so many categories: wholesome, nutritious, warming, moreish, satisfying, simple to make and blooming delicious.

When I was in the supermarket I came across pasta called Filini from a brand called Lubella and this became the inspiration for this soup. I discovered that ‘filini’ means little threads. To my mind it resembles short pieces if vermicelli.

I’ve no idea if this is a readily available pasta, which is why I’ve suggested broken up vermicelli as an alternative for this recipe. By the same token, I have noticed over recent months that smaller local shops rarely stock vermicelli and if that’s the case for you just use noodles. The key thing here is to have some soulful, tender carbs in among this soupy beaut.

A small aside to anyone feeding younger children, huddle in now this is our little secret: if I add noodles or pasta to any soup it’s an instant hit with kids. That means they eat their veg without complaint. Sneaky.

Slice up plenty of fresh crusty bread and you’re onto a winner of a dinner.

Heart Warming Lentil Soup with Filini

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons of turmeric
  • 200g mung dal lentils or red lentils
  • 2 litres of hot stock (veg, chicken or beef would all work)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 100g Cavolo Nero or kale, tough middle rib removed and chopped into fairly small bits
  • 100g filini (or vermicelli, broken into smaller pieces about 4cm long)
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • In a large pan melt the butter over a medium heat. Fry the onions for about 8 minutes until soft and starting to turn golden.
  • Stir in the garlic and turmeric and cook for a further minute or so.
  • Now tip in the lentils and pour over the stock.
  • Once the stock is simmering away nicely pop a lid on your pan and just let everything bubble gently for 10 minutes.
  • At this point you can tip in the chickpeas, cavolo nero and broken up vermicelli, stir and then simmer for another 10 minutes or until the lentils and vermicelli are tender.
  • Turn out the heat and just before serving add the chopped coriander. Check the seasoning and add a little salt if you think it needs it. I’d recommend a lovely big grinding of black pepper.
  • Serve generously in your favourite bowls and feel your heart, tummy and soul light up with gratitude.

Joyful Veggie Lasagne

During these strange times I have been taking my joy where I can find it: a quiet cup of coffee with my husband in the morning, a spritz of my favourite perfume, a good box set on TV. The simplest pleasures really are bringing a little glee to my day.

Top of the list, however, for daily delectation is food. Of course.

The simple pleasure we are all exalting over this week is veggie lasagne. It’s always been a favourite in our house. There’s an almost palpable euphoria when my family come down for dinner and this little beauty is on the table.

I often make this with quorn mince as it’s the kids’ favourite. But I also love veggie lasagne made with lentils or even a couple of cans of tuna. I must admit that I have never made a meat lasagne. The veggie version is jam packed with so much flavour that even my Dad, a life long meat lover, devours this with gusto.

Veggie Lasagne

Serves 4 – 6 depending on appetite

Ingredients

For the veggie sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bag of quorn mince or about 100g lentils
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • A teaspoon of marmite (or 1/2 a veg stock cube)
  • 1 teaspoon each of sage, oregano and basil
  • A couple of large handfuls of spinach, chopped

  • About 12 – 16 lasagne sheets (I use the dried ones)

For the white sauce

  • 1.5 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • About 1 litre of milk
  • About 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • A couple of big handfuls of grated cheddar
  • A good grating of parmesan to finish off

Method

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and gently fry your onion and carrots for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and stir.
  • Tip in the quorn or lentils and stir to allow all the flavours to mingle.
  • Pour over the tomatoes and sprinkle in the herbs and marmite. Give it all a big stir then leave to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • When the tomato sauce is just about ready, stir through the chopped spinach then turn out the heat.
  • Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4 before you get on with your white sauce.
  • In a small saucepan mix your cornflour with about a tablespoon of milk. Once there are no lumps add the rest of the milk. Place your pan over a medium heat and stir, stir, stir until the sauce thickens. If you don’t keep stirring you risk a lumpy sauce.
  • Once the white sauce is thick enough, remove from the heat and add 1 handful of cheddar and a good pinch of salt. Stir.
  • Now to the assembly: pour a layer of tomato sauce into your lasagne dish followed by a little drizzle of white sauce. Then cover with a single layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat with a layer of tomato sauce, a drizzle of white sauce and a single layer of lasagne sheets until you have used up your tomato sauce.
  • Once you’ve used all of the tomato sauce place a final layer of lasagne sheets on top of everything then pour over the rest of the white sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and grate over as much parmesan as you fancy.
  • Pop this dish of delights into the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.
  • You know your lasagne is ready when it’s golden and bubbling, but to be absolutely certain you can pierce with a sharp knife to check the lasagne is cooked through.
  • I like to leave it to stand for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting. This is the most difficult thing I will likely do all day as I will be desperate to dive in. Allowing your lasagne to stand makes it easier to cut into portions and also reduces the risk of you burning your mouth on the molten hot sauce. So a little restraint pays off.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Crunch

Spiced pumpkin seed crunch, how I love to munch you. Let me count the ways…

1. As a fabulous healthy snack. Gobbled by the handful as I walk past your bowl or packaged up for lunch box treats.

2. Scattered over a warm salad. Beetroot and goats cheese anyone? How about roasted squash and chickpea?

3. Sprinkled atop an Autumnal sweet potato, lentil or carrot soup, delicately spiced with cumin, coriander and chilli.

4. Stirred quickly through a light couscous dish, with a pile of fresh coriander.

5. To add crunch to a simple pasta.

Only 5? Well frankly that’s enough to be getting on with for now. Key take out: Versatile. Delicious. Moreish.

As it’s pumpkin season you may well be making these with the seeds from a fresh pumpkin. If you are, then you will need to wash and dry the seeds before tossing with the spices. You will also need to increase the roasting time to 12-15 minutes.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Crunch

Ingredients

  • About a cup (120g) of pumpkin seeds
  • A generous pinch of sea salt
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Option to add a pinch of chilli powder or chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4.
  • Mix together all of your ingredients then spread out on a baking tray.
  • Cook in your preheated oven for 6 – 8 minutes. The seeds will be turning golden.
  • Allow to cool a little before diving in.
  • If you have any left, lucky you, they will keep well in an airtight container for a few days.

Poppy Seed Pizza Dough, for extra crunch

Who doesn’t love pizza eh? So many delicious toppings to choose from and then the array of cheeses to compliment a particular ingredient.  Like a cheeky crumbling of goats cheese with some caramelized onions.  Or occasionally no cheese whatsoever for a classic potato and rosemary combo.

But the base.  Well you can’t really mess with a pizza base too much without accidentally transforming it into something un-pizza-like.

That being said, sometimes I make a wholemeal base and I generally add dried rosemary to my white base. But nothing off the wall crazy you understand.

Yet the other day I veered right off those well trodden pizza tracks.  Oh yes, I added a tablespoon of poppy seeds to my dough.  My thought process was this:  I love a bit of subtle crunch to my pizza so why the heck not? Plus, I’m more than a little partial to poppy seed bread so yeah, I’ll give it a whirl.

The result was an assuredly delicate crunch.  But other than the minor adjustment, this was still 100% a gorgeous pizza.

This is my bread machine pizza dough recipe which means it’s pretty effort free. But if you like to make yours by hand or have a tried and tested pizza dough recipe that you love, just chuck in the seeds when you mix the dough.

Poppy Seed Pizza Dough, for extra crunch

(bread machine method)

Makes 4 – 5 pizza bases

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 350ml water
  • Fine polenta for rolling

Method

  • Put all of the ingredients, except the polenta, in your bread machine. Set for dough and toddle off to do something exciting / relaxing while the machine does its thing.
  • Once it’s ready, tip out onto a clean surface dusted with polenta. Cut the dough into 4 or 5 pieces and roll out to fit your pizza trays.
  • Leave the bases to rest while you get on with the gathering of your chosen toppings.
  • Once your pizzas are ready to bake, I put them in a hot oven preheated to 220 C for 7 – 10 minutes.

A Little Gift to You…

Although this is a pizza dough recipe, I’ll share my simple pizza sauce recipe with you too. I use this every time and it never lets me down.

Just gently fry a thinly sliced clove of garlic in olive oil for a mere minute. Chuck in a can of tomatoes, a pinch each of salt, basil and oregano. Simmer gently for 20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly. I don’t tend to add fresh herbs in my sauce as I like to scatter them directly onto the pizza.