The things I do for my colleagues.

Ed mentioned that when he’d been on holiday in Croatia, he’d had this gorgeous dip made of aubergines and red peppers, and was bemoaning the fact that he hadn’t been able to find it since. I was pretty sure I’d be able to find a recipe, and I knew I had peppers and aubergines, so that was my task for the weekend all set.

Wikipedia lists ajvar as:

Ajvar ([ǎj.ʋaːr], Serbian Cyrillic: ajвар; Bulgarian: aйвар; Macedonian: aјвар) is a pepper-based condiment made principally from red bell peppers. It may also contain garlic, eggplant and chili peppers. Ajvar is used in the Balkans in Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Gottscheerich, Macedonian, Serbian, and Slovenian cuisine. In Serbia, it was long known as "Serbian salad"[1] or "Serbian vegetable caviar".[2] It became a popular side dish throughout ex-Yugoslavia after World War II and is nowadays popular in Southeastern Europe.

Homemade ajvar is made of roasted or cooked peppers. Depending on the capsaicin content in bell peppers and the amount of added chili peppers, it can be sweet (traditional), piquant (the most common), or very hot (ljutenica). Ajvar can be consumed as a bread spread or as a side dish. If it contains tomato, then it is called pindjur.

The charring of the vegetables – especially the aubergines – gives a gentle smoky back note, so to me that’s a non negotiable part of this recipe. Of course you can bake them in the oven, but I’d suggest blasting them under the grill, too, to get the char. (You can actually buy pre smoked, skinned aubergine in jars in many Turkish supermarkets, look for the jars marked patliçan. It doesn’t look terribly appetising but oh the taste…)

jarred aubergine

There do seem to be as many ways to make this as there are people who make it, so in the end after lots of internet reading, this is they way I did it. Colleague ate the whole lot in one sitting, so I think it worked! I didn’t add hot peppers to mine, as I don’t like much heat, and colleague hadn’t specified. Better to err on the side of caution.

2 medium to large aubergines

5 red peppers (I used a mix of bell and pointed)

1 whole bulb of garlic

olive oil


1 tbs vinegar

I put the aubergines on a gas flame diffuser, as it gives them a steady platform to char. They do have a tendency to roll about, otherwise.

I balanced a couple of peppers on there too, and then got out The Blowtorch.

Yes, I was serious about getting that smoky, charred taste. Plus, it’s fun! It’s a blowtorch! Okay so maybe not everyone blowtorches peppers at 0800 on a Sunday morning, but it had been a hard weekend and fire made it all better.

Once they all had a good level of char all over, I put them in the oven with the whole bulb of garlic, drizzle the lot with a bit of olive oil, and cook them down until the garlic was soft enough to squeeze out of its casing.

I tipped the whole lot into a bowl, and put cling film over, then left them to cool down.

Once they were cool enough to handle, I scraped the flesh out of the aubergines, and took the seeds out of the peppers. Yes some of the charred aubergine skin got in, but hey ho. It all adds to the taste.

I did not peel the peppers, as they were all going to go into a food processor anyway, along with the softened garlic, and get blitzed to a smooth pulp.

Then the vinegar went in, and instantly the smell changed to the one I was familiar with, from when I’ve bought jars of ajvar from my local Turkish shop.

I tasted it, added a little more salt, and another tablespoon of oil, then called it done.

Into two small airtight Tupperware boxes it went, and into the fridge to sit for a few days.

Cue one very happy colleague, which was my aim. It was a pleasure to watch him dig right in with a crusty baguette. 

Good use for a gas diffuser

Crackles and blisters

All the colours

Finished sauce

Raymond Blanc’s Slow Cooked Squid with Chorizo

Squid is one of those things that I always associate with charcoal grills, holidays and blazing sunshine. I’ve only ever eaten it grilled or deep fried, so I thought I’d give it a go in a different dish to see how it changed the taste. I know that with squid the rules are that you either cook it as fast as you can, or long and slow. Anything in between and you have rubber bands, and nobody wants that.

I found Raymond’s recipe on the BBC website. As ever, a joy to watch. I didn’t have all the things that he used so, yes you guessed it, I winged it. I wanted to bulk it out more, too, so added chick peas in, and left the garlic out as I wanted a more gentle taste.

1 large white onion

olive oil

1 tbs tomato puree

1/2 cup Commandaria wine (use what you have. That’s what I had.)

1 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes

300g squid tubes, cleaned and skinned (thank you Ocado)

1 tin chick peas, drained

100g chorizo (mine was plain, not the picante one) cut into 1 inch pieces

Peel the onion, cut in half, and chop into thick ish slices.

Sauté off in some olive oil until it starts to soften, then add the tomato puree.

Stir and fry that until it is well mixed in with the onion.

Add the wine, turn the heat up so that the wine boils for a minute or so, then turn the heat back down to low.

Add in the tomatoes and the chick peas, then the chorizo.

While that’s simmering, slice the squid tubes open, lightly cross hatch the skin with the back of a dinner knife, then cut into large pieces.

Pop that in to the sauce, pushing down so that it is covered well, put a lid on and then leave it to cook on a very low heat for 1 hour.

After one hour, the squid will be tender, and will have soaked in a lot of the chorizo flavour, and vice versa.

I actually left mine overnight, and then gently reheated it the next day.

The flavour of the squid is very pronounced, a lot stronger than when you flash fry it, and I realised that it was missing that char grill taste that I loved so much, so I did what any normal person would do at 8am on a Sunday, and got the blow torch out.

Adding that charred edge to the pieces took it from a good dish, to an excellent one that I will most definitely make again. I might use white beans next time.

first stage

  Final char


Cauliflower, parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke and coconut soup

This was one of those soups that came about because I had things I really needed to use up. It was cold and snowy, and I love having a big pot of soup on the stove plipping and pootling away gently. I know that seems like a lot of coconut, but it was a large pot of soup!

You will need a blender or a processor, as this is a smooth soup.

1 head of cauliflower, broken into pieces

6 baby parsnips or 2-3 average sized ones, peeled and chopped into large chunks. (I just chopped the baby ones into 3 bits)

5 Jerusalem artichokes, roughly peeled

1 block creamed coconut (I used Biona, but any one will do)

chicken or vegetable stock powder – I used 2 teaspoons of Essential Cuisine chicken, made up to 1000ml of stock, but then I also added more liquid later as the coconut thickens the soup up a lot.

1 tsp pul biber (soft heat Turkish chilli)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp Lebanese 7 spice

1 tsp sea salt

Coconut milk in case you need to thin the soup down

Bring the stock to a simmer, and gently pop in the cauliflower and the parsnips.

While they are softening, roast the artichokes off on 170C Fan until they soften and the edges start to brown. I had bacon fat left over in my pan, so I used that, but you can use olive oil too.

When the ‘chokes are soft, pop them into the soup too then add your spices.

Chop the coconut block up, and stir that in to the soup mix.

Once everything is soft, and the coconut has melted into the stock, leave it to cool down before you blend it in batches.

Taste it to see if you want any more spices, or salt.

Ladle it into the blender, half of it at a time. If it’s way too thick, you may need to add more water or so coconut milk to get the blades to turn so you need some extra room in the machine.

You can blend it to be as smooth as you like. I like my soup very smooth, like a thick, velvety cream.

You could warm chunks of tofu in here, or halloumi, too.

Personally I think it would be good topped with crispy fried onions or shallots. Or bacon. Because bacon.

Jerusalem artichokes

Roasted chokes


Panful of soup


Review: Ishtar, Marylebone

As you turn into Crawford Street, a waft of scented shisha smoke greets you gently. I love that smell, because you know that, pretty much, there will always be very good food indeed nearby.

I have a bit* of a love affair with scents and tastes of Middle Eastern food. Cyprus was invaded by everyone, so our foods have a lot of Arab and Moorish influences, and some of the words used in Cypriot Greek still hark back to those occupations**, so when Mum moved to North Cyprus I was excited to be able to learn even more about the foods from the Turkish table. It’s a vast cuisine. Turkey is a nation that straddles Eastern Europe and western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Hurrah  says I, because that means even more recipes.

Going back to the short walk along Crawford Street towards Ishtar, the shisha smoke and a smell of hot charcoal on the breeze boded well for the dinner to come. I am very happy to report that I was not mistaken in that view.

From the outside, especially on a dark evening, Ishtar looks warm and welcoming, and it didn’t disappoint.

Front of house

They couldn’t find my booking at first, as it had been booked under Cookwitch, and I’d said my actual name, but even so they just sat me down, fussed over me and made me very welcome, despite not knowing if I even had a booking or not. I was having a clumsy day, and I think I dropped or knocked over at least 3 or 4 things, but the lovely Selin put me at ease.

When my partner arrived, and we were settled with drinks, we perused the menu. Perused in the true sense of the word***.   I know I’ve eaten a lot of Turkish food, but there were some things on the menu that I’d never heard of, which makes me very happy.

Zyuleyha, our very patient waitress, explained anything we didn’t understand, and let us sit and discuss at length what we wanted. The manager, Serhat, came to greet us with smiles and handshakes which, far from being just for us, was how he greeted everyone in the restaurant.  It made us feel truly at home and welcomed.

Eventually we decided on our starters.

Silky smooth houmous and spiced olives were brought out, along with some warmed, nutty tasting wholemeal bread. I managed to avoid my usual pitfall of eating all the bread with the dips, because I definitely wanted to leave room for dessert.


They’d also brought us a dish of kisir, which is a traditional salad that gets brought out at every restaurant meal I’ve had in Cyprus. The main ingredients are bulghur wheat, parsley, and tomato paste but it can be quite spicy, too. Ours had tangy, sticky pomegranate molasses, spring onions and lemon and, to my relief, no chilli. This one was more rich than others I’ve had, and I thought it was actually far better than most. The addition of a dark puddle of the molasses just made for a brilliant contrast of flavour against the smooth richness of the tomato paste.


Kisir with molasses

Patlican ezme for me, because I am a total fool for aubergine.  This is a dish of chopped, smoked aubergine, garlic and yoghurt. It wasn’t at all overpowering, and had a pleasant woodsmoke background note from the aubergine. Mixed in with very creamy yoghurt, and with a nice hit of garlic – but not too much.Parlican


This was a dish I could have eaten all on its own, with a large spoon and some bread. In fact, I did, so here is a photo of the almost empty bowl.

Kalamar for Simon, which was large pieces of very tender and fresh tasting squid, beautifully crumbed, and sautéed in garlic and parsley with their house tartare sauce. (At this point we discovered that the knives felt really odd when we used them. The handle is aligned horizontally to the blade, so keeps feeling like you are holding it the wrong way, when  in fact you aren’t. If you hold it the way that feels right, the blade is actually on its side, and turns in your hand very easily.)


Choosing a main was even more difficult, and I was sorely tempted by stuffed chicken with chestnut sauce, and flank steak on smoked aubergine, but eventually I went for Meyveli Kuzu; lamb poached with apricots and pears, served over couscous. (It was actually served over bulghur wheat, which I prefer to couscous anyway.) This is an Ottoman dish, more redolent of what might be cooked at home. The lamb pieces needed no knife, you could just split them with your fork. There were flaked almonds in amongst the pears, apricots and prunes, and their bittersweet, toasted flavour lightly scented everything. As a true almond lover, this made every mouthful a little piece of heaven, and I think I zoned out for a while each time I ate a forkful. Yes it has sweet overtones, but it is still a savoury dish. There was enough fruit to add balance, but it didn’t overpower.

Meyveli Kuzu

Simon decided on kofte with garlic yoghurt and bulghur wheat, served on a very thin piece of flatbread that caught any meat juices. I tasted a bit, and while they were spiced, and very meaty, they retained a light, slightly crumbly texture, and were still juicy.

Kofte (grilled minced lamb served on garlic yoghurt, with flat bread) at Ishtar, Marylebone

Dessert…well…there was only one choice for me, and that was their speciality of kunefe. This is the Turkish variant of the pastry kanafeh, and the wiry pastry shreds are called tel kadayıf. You often see them wrapped around a nut and cinnamon mixture, looking like miniature Dougal dogs.

A semi-soft cheese such as Urfa peyniri (cheese of Urfa) or Hatay peyniri (cheese of Hatay), is used in the filling. The kadayıf pastry is not rolled around the cheese; instead, cheese is put in between two layers of kadayıf. It is cooked in small copper plates, and then served very hot in syrup with clotted cream (kaymak) and topped with pistachios or walnuts. It doesn’t sound like it would work, but it really does. The cheese had such a clean, fresh taste, that it contrasted perfectly with the sweet, crisp, buttery shreds. It also wasn’t overly sweet, which was a boon for me. I’m not a huge fan of sugar syrups on pastries, preferring them to be light and crisp with a bit of sweetness, not a full on sugar hit. This one did not disappoint. The ice cream that came with it was a good vanilla, and there were three pieces of fruit on there too that gave a lovely hit of sharpness after you’d finished the kunefe. 


Kunefe (sweet shredded phyllo filled with mozzarella cheese sweeted with syrup, topped with vanilla ice cream and cracked pistachio) at Ishtar, Marylebone

All in all, I will say that this was a really lovely, and delicious, evening out, and one that we will absolutely repeat, because we want to go back and work our way through the rest of the menu.

Thank you to Serhat, Selin and Zyuleyha for making it a perfect evening.

http://www.ishtarrestaurant.com/ (this has auto starting sound)

Disclosure: We ate as guests of Ishtar.

*understatement of the decade

** Watermelon is karpouzi - From Ottoman Turkish قارپوز‏ (karpuz, “melon”), from Persian خربز‏ (xarboz, “melon”) and likely influenced by Greek καρπός (karpós, “fruit, grain”), both from Ancient Greek καρπός (karpós, “fruit, grain, produce”)

*** peruse verb formal  - to read (something), typically in a thorough or careful way.


To Fu or not To Fu…

(Sorry, had to be done.)

For some reason, I had decided that I was going to make my own tofu. No I have no idea why, but I just fancied having a go, so I did. This is what happens when I am left on my own at home for any length of time with access to an online supermarket.

All things considered (me being a tofu making novice) for a first attempt, and for an attempt that didn't have a tofu press in it, or any nigari with which to coagulate said tofu, I think I did ok.  If you did this kind of thing regularly, as I know quite a few people do, then it would be much faster as you would know what you are doing, and what to expect. For me it was a day of experimentation, blenders, large pots, rubber gloves, balancing acts and spillages, but we got there in the end. More or less.

To start off, you will need a blender as you have to blend the soaked soy beans to extract their milk. I don’t think that a food processor will get the beans fine enough. I dug the huge glass beast out from its place under the counter, next to the plastic bag storage box, and washed off the dust and cobwebs. Poor neglected thing.

1 cup dried soy beans

4 cups water

I soaked the beans overnight in the 4 cups of water. DO NOT SALT THEM.

The Next Day

1 blender

1 large lemon


Clean jeycloths or cheesecloth (large enough to use as a bag for squeezing the pulp)



High sided saucepan

Plastic Tupperware with holes punched in to drain off excess liquid. You could use a bamboo steamer, or one of these, so long as it is lined with the jeycloths. I actually used 2 plastic take out containers, one with holes made with a corkscrew.

My beans had soaked up around a cup of the water, so I added one cup back, and then poured the lot into the blender. It makes quite a satisfying noise.

Blend on low to get started, and then up it by one measure, and leave it running for a good 5 minutes. I noticed that it had separated after that and there was clear liquid at the bottom of the goblet, so ran it for another 5 minutes. It stayed milky after that second run.

I poured the whole lot into a large high sided pot, added half a cup of water to the blender, rinsed the residue out and poured that into the pan too. No bean left behind.

I brought it to a simmer on a medium high heat stirring all the time as it will stick. I did that because a far more learned person than I told me to. The smell of just blended soy beans isn’t dreadfully pleasant, quite astringent, but as you heat and stir everything, the smell changes to a more savoury, almost toasty smell. The mixture will foam up a lot.

I’d already set a colander lined with two large UNUSED jeyclothes over a bowl. The bowl catches the milk, and cloths capture the pulp.

Gently pour the foamy mixture onto the colander, and stir it to get all the milk through. The foam is weird, but it goes.

I wore rubber gloves to do this next bit, as it was hot.

Bring up the corners of the cloths and twist it together so you can squeeze as much liquid out as possible. Keep on squeezing, as the pulp left behind is useful. (I dried it out in a 90C oven for an hour or so until it crumbled, and used it to bind some veggie aubergine meatballs together.)

Eventually you will get bored of squeezing and call it a day.

Rinse the jeycloths, and clean the pot.

Put the milk back in, bring it up to a simmer again – MV says 180F/80C but I do not have a thermometer so when it bubbled all around the edges I called it - and add your coagulant.

The juice of half the lemon got stirred in very well, then the juice from the second half went in and I stirred it in far more gently, moving the spoon in a crosswise motion across and back, up and down, then left it for a good 15 minutes to half an hour. 

Everything separated. Hurrah! I ladled it into the prepped Tupperware and watched clear liquid drain off.

Once no more liquid was running out, I folded the cloth over and across it, stood another same sized Tupperware in it, placed that over the plughole in the kitchen sink, and then put two cast iron pots on it to press any last liquid out.

I realise I am lacking in photos of the process after the lemon juice was added. I was in no position to take any, as my hands and I were covered in bean juice, and I was strangely panicked about getting it all done fast.

I’m sorry. I have failed you.


I like my tofu very firm, which is why I used the two pots to press it. I think I left mine pressed for about an hour or so because I forgot about it. Well, look, Nigella was on TV and…

If you plan to make this a lot, then a tofu press is probably a wise idea. It’s best to have a tofu press if, to be honest, you are rather more than partial to neatness and symmetry in your tofu blocks. [raises hand guiltily]

Today I cut it into pieces, dusted it with salt and rice flour, then shallow fried it in vegetable oil along with some red pepper pieces, until it was crisp on all sides. I had shop bought fried onions in a tub, added them to dark soy sauce, and ate it all for lunch. PERFECT!

pre soaked beans

soaked beans

ready to blend

fresh soy milk

bringing the milk to simmer


jeycloth action

pressed tofu

dried okara

Fried tofu


Non meat meatballs

My friend Cat recently made these, and foxed her friends because she’s vegan, and these looked a lot like meat in her post. After some confusion, and explaining, the recipe for these rather lovely aubergine and olive balls was shared. Cat’s was from the Abel & Cole recipe book, and the one I’d seen was from the superb website of Supergoldenbakes. Was I going to have a go? A recipe with olives and aubergines? Hell yes.

This is how I made it, with a few variations as I didn’t have the bread called for in the original recipe, or the herbs. I did have matzoh water biscuits, and dried soy bean pulp, from the tofu making experiment I’d done earlier in the day. I am aware that not everyone will have those on hand though!

I just served mine with the sauce, for a light dinner, but if you love pasta, then cook your favourite kind and toss that in with the tomato sauce to serve up as a more substantial dinner.

The Nonmeatballs

2 medium aubergines cut into small cubes

1 medium red onion, finely chopped (I actually used 3 very large Turkish spring onions that were looking at me reproachfully from the veg rack)

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

A handful green pitted olives – I had Spanish marinated ones, and they are quite punchy and very flavourful

100 g | 3.5oz breadcrumbs (as I had no bread, I used 60g water biscuits and 40g dried okara)

1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 tbs pesto (mine was not vegan, but the parmesan in it was made with vegetarian rennet)

1 tsp dried oregano

zest of 1 lemon


olive oil to fry as needed

To make the nonmeat balls, heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions, cubed aubergines and a pinch of salt. Fry, stirring with a spoon, for a good five minutes.

Add the garlic and continue to cook until the aubergines are nicely coloured and both they and the garlic have softened down a bit.

Blitz the bread (or crackers and okara) in a food processor with the olives until you have fine crumbs and the olives are finely chopped.

Add the aubergines, balsamic vinegar, pesto and lemon zest and pulse until everything comes together. Taste and season.

If it seems too dry, add a tbs of olive oil and blitz again. It should form a sort of dough ball.

Form into little balls with the aid of a cookie scoop to portion out, and your hands to roll them smooth and then leave them to sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up.

Make the tomato sauce while they are chilling.

1 can good quality chopped tomatoes (I love Cirio, or Mutti)

2 tbs olive oil

1 jarred chargrilled red pepper cut into strips (only if you want)

2 tbs pesto

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

Just simmer all the above ingredients together until the sauce is heated through and has thickened slightly.

Cook them balls!

Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the 'meatballs' in batches until nicely coloured all over. You will need to add more olive oil if the pan gets too dry and do be gentle with the 'meatballs' – they are fragile. In the end I actually put mine in the oven, as my non stick wasn’t as non stick as claimed, and when I tried to turn them, the nice crunchy layer got left on the pan.

The smell of the garlic, lemon and olives wafting around the kitchen was just gorgeous, and I was quite impatient waiting for them to cook, but patience usually pays off, and it really did in this case.

I served 5 of them on top of my sauce, with a good dollop of pesto. After I’d eaten them, and sworn to make them again, I cooked the rest off, and they will serve as lunch or dinner for a couple of days. I think they would be excellent stuffed into warmed pita bread with salad and houmous.  

Mixture all blitzed

Scooped and rolled

Cooked off

Served up


Journey Bread–Methi Roti–Thepla

Well, sort of. Apart from the fact that I didn’t have any fresh or even any dried methi. (Fenugreek) so ground it was.

Fenugreek is a herb that has staying power. It clings to you. Your hands, your clothes, your kitchen and your whole house if you use a lot of it, and don’t open the windows enough. For me, it’s the smell of my Indian friends'’ houses as I was growing up. It was all pervading, but you just got used to it. I admit, I like it, as it means something GOOD is cooking. I have enduring memories of ladies in elegant saris making roti, one perfect circle after another, time after time, almost without looking. It was a production line of one until the kids got old enough to do the roti flipping part.

When I saw these on Carla Tomasi’s Instagram, and remembered eating them as a kid and not being too sure about the greenery. Nobody could explain to me what it was, so I just ate it anyway, and enjoyed it very much so when I saw it on Carla’s feed, finally I knew what the green was! I didn’t have any in the house, but I decided to make the breads anyway. Anything with chick pea flour has a tendency to draw me in and their yellowy goodness was calling. Off I went.

Chapatti flour is made from hard Gehun (Indian wheat, or durum) flour. It is more finely ground than most western-style wholewheat flours so I decided to whizz my flour in a food processor first, to see if I could get it a little more fine. While it was in there, I thought I might as well do the whole recipe in there too! Saves on washing up.

100g wholewheat flour

100g plain white flour (If you have proper chapati flour then use 200g of that)

50g chick pea flour

1 tsp oil (I used sunflower)

1/2 tsp chilli

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh methi leaves or 1 tbs dried (I only had ground fenugreek)

Warm water (you add this bit by bit until the dough comes together, so go slowly.)

Extra oil or melted ghee for brushing the thepla in the pan (I admit, I love the flavour of ghee)

The wholewheat flour went in first, and I blitzed that for a few minutes, then added in the other two flours and blitzed it all together for another few minutes, just to mix.

All the spices and the salt went in, quick pulse to mix, then the teaspoon of oil.  If you add an extra teaspoon of oil, it makes them as bit more pliable for longer.

With the mixer on low, I added the water slowly until the flour started to come together as a ball of dough and stopped as soon as it did. I’d add it a tablespoon at a time, just to be sure.

Gather it all together on the work surface, and give it a good knead. If it seems a little dry, wet your hands and continue kneading until it’s all smooth and you can shape it into a disc.

Cover it and leave it to one side for 15-30 minutes to relax a bit.

Divide it into equal portions – I had eight of them.

Roll each one into a ball, and one by one, flatten them with the palm of your hand, and roll out into a 5-6 inch disc about 2mm thick. Perfect discs are not important.

Set out a clean tea towel.

Heat a dry flat bottomed frying pan or griddle on a medium heat until a drop of water on it scoots about a bit.

Place the first thepla on the hot pan. Leave it to cook for a minute, then flip it over. If it has brown spots on it, all good, if not, flip it back to cook some  more.

When you flip it, brush oil or ghee onto the cooked side.

Flip it again to see if the second side is cooked, and if it is, brush that with oil or ghee also. I do I recall my friends’ mums putting the roti onto the open gas flame to give it a bit of extra puff, so I do it too. It gets a really nice toasted flavour. Obviously if you don’t have gas, skip that step!

Set them one by one onto the towel, and wrap to keep warm.

I recall my friend's mum putting the cooked roti into an empty round metal spice tin, and putting the lid on so the steam kept them soft. I don’t have one of those, so a towel it is. If they are to be kept overnight, I wrap them when they are still warm in a plastic bag. That seems to stop them going hard.

I was ridiculously pleased with these! So please, in fact, that I immediately wrapped two of them around some very crispy bacon with some brown sauce. It was DELICIOUS. I think I know what tomorrow’s breakfast is going to be…

Dough balls

rolled out

Nestled in a towel

Arty side view


bacon rolls


Dizi: Persian Lamb Stew, a variation

Since watching Nigel Slater’s Middle East, my poor brain's been utterly full of the foods cooked during the three episodes of that lovely programme. (Only 3. I WANT MORE!)

To be honest, I think my grey matter has jumbled everything up rather, so the ingredients I bought last weekend became a dish 'inspired by' rather than 'from' that series.

I had a small boned and rolled lamb breast joint in the freezer, so I thought I’d use that. Long slow cooking is what it needs. The recipe for Dizi usually calls for the meat, potatoes and chick peas all to be mashed together, but I’m not really a fan of that kind of texture, plus I needed it to keep well for a while, and I just wasn’t sure that a mashed meat mixture would fare well in the fridge for a few days. It needs to be eaten when it’s warm and luscious, ready to be scooped up with soft flatbread.

So here is my Persian inspired lamb and chick pea stew.

1 small lamb breast joint, unrolled and cut into pieces around 1-2” square

2 large white onions, cut in half and sliced into half moons

2 tbs olive oil

3/4 tsp turmeric

1 can chick peas

1 large baking potato, skin on, quartered

4 dried limes, pierced a few times with a sharp knife or skewer (careful, they are hard)

1 bunch fresh parsley

1 bunch fresh mint

1 large bag of baby spinach leaves

1 tsp sweet red pepper

1 tsp dried mint

2 tbs sugar

1 tsp veal stock powder or a lamb stock cube (to compensate for the lack of lamb bones)

Salt to taste

2 tbs tomato puree (I admit, I forgot this bit!)

Fry the sliced onions in a large stock pot, in roughly 2 tbs olive oil. Let them cook down on a low heat until the onions are soft.

Add in the lamb pieces, and the turmeric. Stir well to coat, and cook for a few minutes.

Cover the onions and meat with water. (At this stage you can let it cook for about an hour, then let it sit overnight, if you want to skim any fat off, or just carry straight on.)

Add in the drained chick peas and the potato, make sure the potato quarters are covered, pop in the limes, and leave to simmer for a good 2 – 3 hours.

When the lamb is tender, remove the limes, and squeeze their juice back in to the pot. The liquid had reduced a bit, so I just added a little water.

Chop all the herbs finely, and add them, along with the spinach, dried mint, stock powder and the sweet red pepper. Mix in the tomato paste if you remember!

Leave to simmer until all the greens have wilted right down and the lamb is tender.

Taste again, and add salt if you think it needs it.

Mine was a little too sour for me – I may have been too enthusiastic in my use of the limes - so I added some sugar and that evened it out perfectly.

This seemed to be even better the next day. A soothing, gold and green pot of comfort. The lime spikes through any fattiness, and the mint wafts up to you as you spoon it hungrily into your mouth. The lamb is tender, but it still retains some chew which, when eaten alongside the softened heft of potatoes makes it a very filling one pot meal. Definitely one I will make again, maybe with lentils next time.

1 Onions

 2 Lamb pieces

3 Lamb onions and turmeric

   4 Stock chickpeas potato and dried limes

5 Mint and parsley

   6 Spinach cooked down

7 finished dish


Stuffed Peppers

Sometimes, you just get a hankering for something, and there it is in the shop, looking at you all bright and shiny. I love red and yellow and orange peppers, although I never used to, but green eluded me. I find them bitter, most of the time, but then I had them chargrilled at a Turkish restaurant, and was able to cope with a small amount. Over time I’ve got used to them, but not enough to eat them raw. Still too bitter for me that way, but I can eat them if they have been cooked until they’re properly dead. They mellow, and surrender their bitterness to become soft and tender, with a hint of sweetness.

I had a traffic light set of 3 that had called to me, and I knew I had Turkish sweet red pepper paste that needed using, so off I went.

3 peppers, the stalk end cut off to form a lid and the seeds and membranes inside removed

1 cup of bulghur wheat

1 tbs red pepper paste (or you can use tomato puree)

1 tbs olive oil

1 grated carrot

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp salt (do not stint, bulghur needs salt)

1/2 tsp onion salt

1/2 cup extra olive oil

Measure one cup of medium bulghur in a measuring jug, then cover it with boiling water up to the 1.5 cup measure on the jug.

Add in the paste, spices, carrot, salts and oil and mix everything really well. Don’t worry, you won’t damage the wheat.

Let it sit, covered with cling film, until the water is all absorbed.

Stuff the peppers with what you can, then place the rest of the wheat in the base of a lidded casserole, stand the peppers in it, pour over the extra half a cup of oil - and quarter cup of water then bake for a good 2 hours until they collapse a bit.

It's cooked, but not soggy, so hopefully the steam from the peppers and extra bit of water in the dish will fluff it all up.

I baked them at 170C fan for 2-3 hours, until the peppers were very soft and tender.

They are even better left overnight and heated up the next day, or even the day after.

Stuffed bulghur peppers raw

Stuffed bulghur peppers cooked

Stuffed bulghur pepper and feta