Halloumi and Aubergine Bake

Okay, so that title doesn’t sound exactly thrilling, but just wait ‘til you taste the dish. Since I’ve started taking it to work, at least 5 people have also started making it, plus more than a few outside of work too. There is something about that mix of cheese, fruit, spices and herbs that just becomes an addition.

Most of you will know about my adaptation of a classic Cypriot Easter pastry called a flaouna, which I morphed into Halloumi pie. If you don’t, go here. Or listen to me bang on abut how much I love these parcels of salty cheese, fresh mint and sweet fruit, all held together by a tender pastry.

They are only made at Easter, and only made in Cyprus. I have spoken about them to mainland Greeks before, and they just shrug at me.

Flaounes have been made in Cyprus for decades, and are served as a celebratory food for the breaking of the Lenten fast. They are traditionally prepared on the Good Friday for consumption on Easter Sunday by Orthodox Christians. They are eaten in place of bread on Easter Sunday, and continue to be made and eaten for the weeks following.

These are THE taste of Easter. You usually have to cook by committee if any other family members are around, because everyone will have their own ideas about how these should be made.

A lot of you will also know about my love for aubergines. That much maligned – and oft poorly cooked – vegetable, that can be as silky and comforting as any chicken soup, or as spiced and punchy as one of The Rib Man’s sauces. Yes, I go on about them a lot. That’s because, so often, people do not cook them right at all, and thus their reputation for being unpalatable carries on.

I just wanted to take two of my favourite things in the world, both tastes of my childhood, and bring them together. Work lunches can be boring, but this makes them incredibly enjoyable.

So. This is my entry for the Destinology “Reimagine a Classic” competition. A re-imagining of a classic Cypriot pastry, that really only Cypriots will know, and taking that and turning it into a very delicious and easy lunch for these carb conscious days.



1 x pack of halloumi, grated*

1 x 250g pack grated mature cheddar

1 small bunch fresh mint, finely chopped

Large handful of sultanas

4 small eggs

1 tsp dried mint

1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon


1 large aubergine, cut into thick slices (enough to cover the base of the dish)

olive oil, the good stuff, as it’s a main flavour

Lay the aubergine slices on the bottom of a deep sided casserole dish. One that you know you can safely get baked cheese off of again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Brush – or if you’re me, drizzle -  very generously with oil, and bake or grill until golden on one side.

Turn them and bake them until they are soft all the way through.

While they are baking, mix all of the ingredients for the topping together. I used 4 small eggs, but you may only need 3 depending on your eggs. Just enough to hold the cheeses together, there need be no extra eggy liquid in there.

I started with 2, and added more as I went.

Pour on the topping, and cover them. The cheese will spread out.

I baked it at 170C Fan which should be a Moderate oven / 325F / 160C / Gas 3/4.

You want the edges all browned and bubbly and the middle set. I cook mine til the edges are quite dark.

Serve when it’s stopped being volcanic.

(You can use peppers, or courgettes too. Just make sure they are well cooked.)


*I use Cypressa brand, as it’s the most consistent, in both texture and salt levels.


Ingredients close up

Baked aubergines

Finished bake



Mmm Kikkoman Mushrooms!

Having rather a lot of Kikkoman’s reduction left over (the thinned out version from brushing the dumplings, here), and remembering I had mushrooms and rye bread to use up, this one was a bit of a no-brainer, but I really have to share.

1 pack chestnut mushrooms, quartered

2 banana shallots, cut in half lengthways and sliced thinly

2 – 3 tbs olive oil

1 tsp butter

2 tbs Kikkoman’s reduction (or you could use 2 tsp Kikkoman’s plus 2 tsp aged balsamic)

2 slices rye bread

2 tbs Greek yoghurt with honey (or use 2 tbs plain Greek yoghurt and add a drizzle of honey)

Coat and then slowly cook the shallots in the olive oil and butter until they are soft and starting to brown at the edges.

Add in the soy, mix well, then add in the mushrooms and mix well to coat.

Cook on high for a couple of minutes only, then cook slowly,covered, until the mushrooms release their own juice.

Take the pan off the heat, allow to cool a little.

Mushrooms part 1

Then stir in the yoghurt.

Serve piled over rye bread drizzled with olive oil.

Scoff, then bemoan the fact that you haven’t got any more mushrooms.

Mushrooms part 2


Comfort Food & Kikkoman’s


Update 11.11.14 – I didn’t win – BOO – but man, do I have some tasty dinners in the freezer from making this!

DISCLAIMER: If the photos are slightly shaky, I apologise, but I broke my wrist on the 1st September, so it’s still healing, and my camera is a bit heavy!

Dedicated to Nigel Slater, because he always makes me feel such a sense of autumnal comfort and calm. Something about this dish, and his books and TV shows, fill me with gentle happiness, and the sense that a cup of tea, and a decent slice of cake or a good biscuit, will make everything alright again.

A few weeks ago I was asked if I’d like to have a go at a recipe competition run by Kikkoman’s, the soy sauce people. I love their soy sauce, with its rich, salted caramel flavour, so of course I said yes. Info on them here: www.Kikkoman.co.uk

The twist was to make a NON ORIENTAL one pot dish, using the sauce as a seasoning, not just as a stir fry sauce. It’s surprisingly hard to get every single oriental dish out of your brain when they are trying to crowd in, all yelling their ideas, but I managed to clear a space. Eventually.

I decided to go with a fairly British autumnal comfort food. Stew and dumplings.  I have, of course, managed to make this on the one day that is as warm and sunny as an early summer day, but never mind.

As the idea was to use the sauce not just as a sauce, but as a seasoning, and as salt is one of the most important seasonings, I was struck by the idea of dehydrated soy sauce. Would it crumble up into salt crystals so I could use it in a dried form?

The answer is yes, it does. Very soft, sticky flakes, admittedly, but oh my they work. I fought back ideas of chocolate and soy salt tart, and got on with the savoury. (But don’t think I won’t be trying that sweet version.)

It took 2 bits of prep, but the taste was so worth it that I’d definitely do batches of these two things again to keep in the store cupboard/fridge. That would make this a very easy one pot dish.

Crystals *

Soy on foil

1 shallow roasting tray, lined with non stick foil right up the sides too.

2/3 cup Kikkoman’s

Pour the sauce into the lined tray and bake on about 160C until it looks like this.

Dehydrated soy

Some of it will still be liquid underneath the crust, so I tipped the tray until those bits ran out and kept baking until they crystallised as well.

Then leave it to dry overnight, and scrape it off gently into an airtight pot. It is quite sticky.

The Reduction **

Getting started

1/3 cup Kikkoman’s

1/3 cup good aged balsamic, one with a sweet edge

1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix the above together in a pan, and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer until it’s reduced by half. It will go foamy, and then as it cools it will thicken to what looks like Marmite. To use as a drizzle just put the pan on a very low heat and it will liquefy again. This is one of the most umami-laden things I have ever tasted. I had to keep tasting it just to make sure, of course. Thinned down with a bit of water it would make an amazing salad dressing.

This is a shaky photo, taken one handed, of just how thick it becomes, and how bubbly it looks when it’s ready.

Thickened soy


1 large oven proof casserole dish that can go on hob and in the oven

2 packs of Lidl venison meatballs

1 cup red wine

1 tin good quality chopped tomatoes and juice

1 pack Merchant Gourmet ready cooked chestnuts, half chopped, half left whole

4 large banana shallots


6 oz plain flour

3 oz suet

1 – 2 tsp soy crystals

A good grate of fresh nutmeg

Tiny pinch sea salt

Small pinch dried thyme

Chop the shallots down the middle and then across.

Chopped shallots

Fry them in some olive oil until they start to soften and brown at the edges, then add in the meatballs and some of the reduction.

Meatballs with added glaze

Keep frying and mixing until the meatballs are all coated, adding more reduction if they don’t seem coated enough.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes, red wine and then add the chopped chestnuts. DO NOT ADD SALT.

Knife and chestnuts

Mix everything together well, then add in another tablespoon of the reduction.

Meatballs in sauce

Leave the whole lot to cook in the oven on around 150-160C for about an hour.

Make up the dumplings. 

Mix the flour and soy salt together then mix in – but do not rub in – the suet. Grate in 1/8 tsp of fresh nutmeg, and add 1/4 tsp dried thyme.

Soy salt and flour

Now add just sufficient cold water to make a fairly stiff but elastic dough that leaves the bowl clean. It took about 10 tablespoons for me.

Knead it lightly then shape it into 12 dumplings.

Turn the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C)

Place the dumplings on top of the stew, brush with some watered down reduction, and bake uncovered for a further half an hour. As you can see, it really thickens up! The bottom of the dumplings hold lots of gravy, and the tops are slightly crunchy.


I am definitely making this again. If you left out the meat, doubled the amount of chestnuts, and added mushrooms and parsnips, this would make an excellent vegetarian winter casserole. (Using vegetarian suet, obviously.)

Finished dish


* – if you can’t be faffed, just use smoked Maldon sea salt in the dumplings, and add a tiny touch of Marmite to the mixing water.

** – again, if you can’t be faffed, mix very good, sticky aged balsamic with the soy sauce.


Bean cakes. Yes. Beans.

I have bought a lovely book by Tori Haschka. I bought it because I saw photos on her Instagram feed of Raspberry, White Bean and Rose Cake, and Chocolate, Black Bean, and Cherry Cake. I was hooked, there and then.


Of course I bought the book!

Lowering your carb intake isn’t always easy. If you love cake, then it’s tricky, but you can do it. It just so happens that these bean cakes make it even easier.
The first one I made was this. I am a total sucker for rose in anything. (Except in Dr Who. Let’s not speak of this again.)

Raspberry, White Bean and Rose

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, well rinsed and drained
3 x medium eggs
100g caster sugar
3 tbs ground almonds
3 tbs desiccated coconut
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs rose water
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp rose extract (I use Star Kay White, excellent extracts.)
8-10 fresh raspberries.

Blitz everything apart from the fruit together in a food processor until smooth.
Butter a loaf tin. Dust the inside with desiccated coconut and place a row of raspberries on the bottom.
Pour the mixture slowly into the tin (silicon for me, but inside another metal tin as it stops the sides bowing out) pop the rest of the raspberries on top and bake for 35 minutes.
I bake them at 170C in a fan oven.


Original white bean
 Basic batter Inside sliceBean, Pistachio and Rose
  Pistachio, Rose and Fruit cakeChocolate, Black Bean and Cherry
Gingered Fruit Cake

Finished cake

It is a dense texture, with a mouthfeel reminiscent of the red bean filling in Chinese new year cakes. I added in the coconut because I adore coconut and raspberry, plus it shoves the Brain Says Beans thing to one side. I might add more next time.
This was so nice, that I had to make another. Many more tweaks this time.

1 x 400g tin of flageolet beans, rinsed and drained
3 x medium eggs
100g caster sugar
6 heaped tbs ground toasted pistachios + 1 tsp for dusting the tin
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs rose water
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp rose extract
½ tsp cinnamon extract
Whole pistachios, dried raspberries and strawberries

Blitz everything (apart from the dried fruit, and the 1 tbs ground pistachios)together in a food processor until smooth.
Butter a loaf tin and dust the whole of the insides with ground pistachios.
Pour the mixture into the tin (silicon again for me) and bake for around an hour, again at 170C in my fan oven.
I tested at 40 minutes, and it needed more time.
The very first one I made was the basic one direct from the book, with minor tweaks because I had things I wanted to use up. This one was because I so wanted to experiment. Tori’s book does that to you.
I took this one to work, and nobody even guessed there was a tin of beans in it. It all disappeared fast.

Nuts and stuff
Pistachio cake slice
And again…next up was

I halved the sugar in this version and added Splenda, as a test, mainly, to see if it works. I could, in all probability, use all Splenda.
1 400g tin black/turtle beans, well rinsed and drained
3 tbs cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
1 shot strong espresso (30 ml)
3 medium eggs
50g golden caster sugar
125g glacé cherries, most chopped, 4 reserved for the top
3 tbs Splenda
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Blitz it all together, stir in the chopped fruit, pour into a greased tin, pop four whole cherries on top, and bake for 40 minutes at 170C fan. (I greased the tin with orange olive oil. Good taste.)
It’s even darker in appearance than the photo shows.

Black bean, chocolate and cherry

And so to today. A grey, rainy day that needed spice and warmth. Ginger. Yes.

1 400g tin borlotti beans, well rinsed and drained
6 tbs ground almonds
3 medium eggs
50g golden caster sugar
3 tbs Splenda
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp each mixed spice/cinnamon/orange flower water
2 tbs fig molasses (or use black treacle)
10 glacé cherries, chopped in half
Handful of sultanas
Blitz all except the fruit in a food processor.
Stir in the fruit.
Pour into a well greased tin (I use silicone brushed with the orange flavoured olive oil again) and bake at 170C fan for 40 minutes.
Beautiful colour, and an even rise.

Gingered fruit cake

I can’t wait to taste these! But they are for Cake Club at work. On Thursday. [sigh]
I shall just have to eat toasted pistachios, and bide my time.


05.03.17 Another variation!

Coconut and Raspberry Cakes

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, well rinsed and drained
3 x medium eggs
1 tbs light olive oil (coconut flour soaks up moisture and I was loathe to use another egg)
3 good tbs Sukrin Gold
3 heaped tbs ground almonds (Wilton Foods brand)
3 heaped tbs coconut flour (fine ground, I used RealFood but any fine grind brand will do I think.)
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp coconut extract
5 drops caramel extract
(I also added 3 tbs crystallised raspberry pieces, but raspberry fruit roll, chopped up, would work.)

Essentially, you whizz all of the above in a food processor, then bake in silicone muffin moulds for 20-25 minutes until golden. I would add in 1-2 tbs desiccated coconut next time, for texture.


Soft Cows’ Milk Cheese

I want to make cottage cheese. It never seems to happen though, but I keep trying. The shop bought stuff used to be lovely but these days, to me, it always tastes off, no matter what they put into it. It can’t be that hard, but I never seem to manage it.

Along the way, though, I have ended up with a very nice Something Else. A very fresh, soft cheese.

I had bought some full cream milk (found it in Sainsbury’s) so wanted to use that for my cheese attempt. I had no rennet so lemon juice it had to be. Sainsbury’s Basic lemons are quite possibly the meanest I’ve come across, juice-wise, (it took five of them to get 1/3 cup of juice) but they smelled gorgeous.

Milk and lemons

1 litre Graham’s Gold Jersey milk

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/2 tsp white vinegar

pinch salt

Put the milk in a stainless steel pan, and heat it gently until bubbles start to form around the edge and the top looks foamy.

Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and vinegar, plus a pinch of salt, stir and then leave to sit for 10 minutes. It should curdle and start to split. It doesn’t split into large lumps, but it does split.

(If it doesn’t, heat gently again and add another tablespoon of lemon juice. NOT vinegar.)

Line a colander with a large piece of cheesecloth or a clean teatowel.

Pour the split milk into this then bring the corners together to form a bag.

I tied the top of mine with a piece of string that I could then loop over the tap to drain.

I let it drip for around 2 hours, then turned it out into a Tupperware.

I’m going to try rennet next time, as I don’t always want the lemon flavour, but this is really good on bread or crackers with honey on top, and I’m going to stuff peppers with it tomorrow.

For my taste, next time I would also not add white vinegar as it was a bit too strong. It does make for a very tangy cheese for eating on its own, but with a drizzle of honey it’s perfect.

The Gold milk gives it such a buttery colour, so I’ll definitely use that again!

The hunt for cottage cheese will continue…


Edited: Later that weekend…

I made a salad. The cheese had sat in the fridge for 24 hours. It crumbled perfectly, and went incredibly well with not just the salad ingredients, but with chargrilled aubergine too. Lovely! Next time I shall try and turn it into feta. Sorry. Salad cheese.


Those are Essex olives, picked from my own tree and home cured. Smile




This is all entirely Pete Favelle’s fault. All of it. It started with this post over on Kavey Eats. I couldn’t get the things out of my head.

I bought crumpet rings, but the horror tales of not being able to dislodge the crumpets put me off and I hid them away for a few months.

The germ of an idea refused to leave, and one day I decided to make just one BIG crumpet in a frying pan – no rings - and see what happened.

The batter was very thick, so the whole lot just flopped out into the hastily added cake tin. (Added as I realised the skillet had sloped sides and crumpets don’t.)

It was huge, and I faffed at it a lot,  creating the hashtag of #crumpetgate along the way, but I did it, and it tasted really good!

Batter Stage 1Batter stage 2Stage 3 with cake tinStage 4 OMGWILLITCOOKUndersideSplit

Dinner plate sized crumpet

But the thought of individual ones was stuck in my head. So I braved the dreaded rings.

I adapted the recipe as I had no white bread flour, only wholemeal, but you know, it worked! I also added lemon juice to the milk, to make it more like buttermilk, for no reason other than I was curious as to how it would taste.


4 ounces plain flour

4 ounces strong wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pint milk and water (50/50 mix, ish) – warmed slightly in the microwave, to body temperature

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon light olive oil

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1 tsp honey

one packet of dried yeast

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 1 tbs warm water


Add the lemon juice to the milk, and mix. It will separate, that’s ok.

Whisk everything together really well, except for the bicarb.

Leave to stand, covered, in a warm place. It should double and froth up.

Pour in the dissolved bicarb and mix very well. It will knock all the air out and hopefully make it pourable. (I had to add a bit more water to thin it out.)

Heat a griddle on a medium heat. Add the rings. I used Lurpak’s cooking mist to properly spray the rings and the pan, and poured in the batter to a depth of about 1 cm.

THIS DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK. The batter is alive. It has its own rules. Crumpet size may go up as well as down.

Gradually the sides will start to dry out, and bubbles will appear. AT NO POINT did I burst these with a skewer. Nope. Not me.

I turned the heat down so that the bottoms didn’t burn. Each one takes maybe 5 minutes to dry out, and then I removed the rings – carefully – and flipped the crumpet to brown the top.

They aren’t as light in texture as a purely white flour mix would be, but they are damned tasty. I am looking forward to toasting some for breakfast tomorrow.

Rings stage 1

Rings stage 2


Released side view

I had one with Blueberry No Sugar Jam for tea.

Blueberry No Added Sugar Jam

Bear in mind this will not last long, as there is no sugar to preserve it apart from that in the blueberries.

1 large punnet of blueberries

2 tsp Splenda

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbs water.

Mix everything together well in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer on low until all the juices have reduced and you have a thick jam. Keep in the fridge.

Crumpet in the sun

Bavette, Flat Iron and my version of chimichurri

Whenever I go and stay in Penge on a weekend, it’s very hard not to head straight to The Butchery in Forest Hill. Every single piece of meat that I have bought from there has been exceptional, and the prices are very good considering the high quality of the meat that you are getting.

Last time I was there,  I bought one large piece each of bavette and flatiron steak, two bags of proper pork scratchings and 1/2 a pound of smoked bacon. That was £16. The steaks easily did two dinners, and possibly four had I not eaten all of mine.

I’ve had onglet before, as that seems to be the steak of fashion these days, but I hadn’t had flatiron or bavette, and wanted to give them a try. They have a reputation for being incredibly flavourful, but also for being tough if not cooked right, so I decided on a marinade. Red wine, lots of garlic, thyme. Can’t go wrong with that.

Roughly 2 glasses of red wine, 5 cloves chopped garlic, handful of chopped parsley, teaspoon of dried thyme and a glug of olive oil.

Put the steaks in it, leave for 2 hours, turning every half hour.


Cook on a searing, smoking hot griddle for 3 minutes per side. Serve with chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce (not authentic so don’t kill me)

Bunch flat parsley

3 spring onions

2 cloves garlic

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar

Chop the garlic, parsley and onions all together until very fine.

Put in a bowl, pour over equal parts olive oil and vinegar.

Stir in 1 tsp sugar until dissolved ands add salt and pepper to taste. Add in some dried chilli flakes if you want a kick.

Almost chimichurri

The steaks cooked up brilliantly, despite it being my first steaks cooked on an electric hob.

Steak and chimichurri


Tahini & Rose Cookies

This was inspired by a recipe that Rebecca Bakes Cakes put up. I did have some nut butters, but I also had the end of a jar of tahini that I needed to use. Tahini, for me, goes hand in hand with cinnamon and rose, two of my favourite flavours, so I decided to go with those rather than the orange water I’d been contemplating.

I had to adjust the recipe as I think that the egg I used was very large, and tahini may be more liquid/oily than peanut butter. Once I’d mixed in the 100g of flour, I added a bit more, 10g at a time, until the dough reached a roll-able consistency. I chilled it for half an hour to make sure.

I can’t wait to try this again, and have a bit more of a play with the recipe, perhaps make a pistachio honey paste to sandwich the cookies together.

50g soft butter

50g golden caster sugar

50g soft brown sugar

50g Cypressa tahini

1 tsp cashew butter

1 large egg

150g self raising flour

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp Star Kay White rose extract (the best one I’ve found)

Beat the sugars, butter, tahini, cashew butter, cinnamon and extract together until well mixed and fluffy.

Beat in the egg.

Then mix in the flour.

You should be able to roll the dough into balls about 2cm in diameter. If the dough gets too sticky, pop it back in the fridge for 5 minutes.

Space them out on a lined baking tray about an inch apart and press down lightly with the tines of a fork. They don’t spread too much.

Bake for 13 minutes at 170C fan. I turned them round halfway through. (I know it was 13 minutes, I set a timer and everything.)

Leave them to cool on the tray for a couple of minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. They will crisp up around the edges. If you can resist eating them all before then, well done.

They are quite a light biscuit, and very moreish. The tahini doesn’t overpower, and the rose/cinnamon flavours are in the background.

Tahini batter


One missing