Flat bread

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

puylentilstahini

I celebrated the end of a vegetarian Lent with scampi and chicken bites at Scarborough’s wonderful Clock Café. This is my favourite cafe in the world, it’s fabulously old school with a menu that probably hasn’t changed in 40 years.

The next day I ate battered fish with chips at Whitby’s Quayside restaurant and was very happy.

The week before all that, when I was still being a vegetarian, I finally managed to make an Ottolenghi recipe work. I’m a big fan of red lentil dhal, which is a staple of mine, but this was the first time I’d attempted to cook with puy lentils which I’ve been told are tricky.

It was very tasty (even though I forgot the tiny sliced onion which I’d painstakingly prepared) but this is not surprising considering the amount of butter and oil involved. The cold hardboiled egg garnish really worked well with the hot lentils.

I have one more vegetarian recipe to tell you about next week. Bet you can’t wait.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

Serves 2

  • 200g of puy lentils
  • 30g of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 3 medium tomatoes, skinned and cut into 1cm squares (I used a third of a tin of tinned tomatoes, chopped)
  • 25g of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini paste
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ a small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Bring a pan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook according to the pack instructions until completely cooked, drain and set aside. Yotam suggested that this would take 15-20 minutes. My packet suggested cooking for 60 minutes but I found they were done after half an hour. If you can squash a lentil easily between your fingers then they are done.

Put the butter and oil in a frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, 20g of coriander and the cooked lentils and cook for a couple of minutes stirring all the time.

Then add the tahini, lemon juice, 70ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes more, stirring all the time until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up.

If at any time it looks too thick then you can add a little more water.

Serve on a platter with the sliced onion, the rest of the coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and the hard boiled eggs on the side.

Serve with homemade flat bread (or bought naan or pitta if you can’t be bothered).

Frugal cooking – Dhal with a sort of ‘naan’ bread

Dhal 2

This is one of the savoury dishes that I first learnt to cook (spaghetti bolognese being the obvious other). My home economics teacher was so surprised that I even knew what lentils were, let alone how to cook them, that she gave me a special achievement award at the end of term! That was the kind of school I went to – learning to spell was less important.

It was actually quite a challenge to write this recipe down because I cook it from instinct. I’ve listed the ingredients in terms of what is essential and what is optional, just in case you don’t have any of the later in your cupboard. This is because dhal is an excellent standby for when you’ve not had a chance to go shopping, or when you’re on a really tight budget, and I don’t want to put you off making it just because you don’t have one of the spices or some fresh coriander.

This is another recipe for my daughter Elizabeth who has been eating dhal with gusto since she was 4 months old.

Dhal

Serves 2 with leftovers for the children

Essential

  • 250g split red lentils
  • ½ litre of cold water
  • 2 dessert spoons of ghee (you can use less if you’re being good)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion finely chopped or sliced finely
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt (I use at least 1 teaspoon but then I love salt)

Optional

  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of ground coriander
  • ½ tin of tomatoes
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Begin by cooking the lentils. I like to rinse them first (I find this reduces their wind inducing capacity). Put them in a medium size pan and top with cold water. Swirl the water around with your hands and then drain. Do this about 3 times or until the water is a lot less cloudy when you swirl. Add the ½ litre of cold water to the pan and bring to the boil.

Simmer on a low heat until the lentils are soft and have absorbed most of the water (this should take about 30 minutes), you don’t need to drain them. Add the tomatoes (if using) in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic with the salt and dry spices (turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander).

Heat half the ghee in a frying pan until smoking hot. Add the onions and fry until well coloured. Then add the dry spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes stirring well. Finally, add the remaining ghee and when the mix is really hot add to the lentils. Stir until everything is well mixed and check the seasoning. Add most of the chopped coriander and then ladle into bowls.

Garnish with the remaining coriander and serve with a naan style flat bread (as below) or rice.

NOTE: You can cook the lentils in advance but it’s best not to add the hot spice and ghee mix until just before serving. This is because lentils have a strange quality that absorbs all flavour and dulls it down so you’ll just end up having to add more salt and spices later to get the taste back.

A naan style flat bread

I’ve tried several different recipes for naan and they have all come out tasting like a dry flat scone –just not right at all. Bizarrely the recipe below is the most naan-like even though it’s just a regular bread mix rolled flat and cooked in a dry frying pan. Because of the addition of yeast the texture is lovely and soft. You could brush them with ghee once cooked if you wanted a more authentic taste.

Makes 4

  • 275g strong white bread flour
  • 3g yeast
  • 5g salt
  • 175ml of tepid water (you may not need all this amount)

Mix together all the dry ingredients then add the water a little at a time until the mix comes together in a soft dough.

Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is nice and elastic. Cover and set aside to prove for at least an hour (although 2 is better).

Divide the dough into four portions and roll each out with a rolling pin to form a thin disc. You will need to flour your work surface and pin liberally to stop the dough from sticking.

Heat a frying pan until it is very hot and then cook the flat bread for about 4 minutes on each side until golden. Don’t worry if it catches a little and don’t add any oil to the pan. Once cooked keep warm under a tea towel while you continue the process with the remaining three portions.

NOTE: I find that using an old frying pan where the non-stick has come off works a treat for flat breads.

Chickpea soup with fried eggs

chickpea soup

When I was a little girl I wouldn’t touch a cookery book without pictures – I had to be able to see what I was going to cook in order to be inspired. Nowadays, I’m the opposite and I get rather fed up with bad value tomes that seem rather short on recipes and rather full of smarmy pictures of celebrity chefs cooing over their own food. Also, I once worked for a design agency and I know some of the tricks food stylists use, (super glue, waterproof spray, soap!!!) mean that you couldn’t actually eat any of the food photographed for recipe books. That’s why I don’t beat myself up too much about the photos for this blog, even if it does sometimes look a bit like dog food, it is actually edible.

Some of my dearest cookery books have no pictures whatsoever, like Lindsey Bareham’s wonderful book ‘A Celebration of Soup’. It’s more like a soup manual really with so many recipes that I’m not sure I could ever cook them all. We’ve taken to annotating the ones we’ve tried so that we don’t lose track. Here’s the annotation for this one in my husband’s hand.

I promise I don't really drink that much!

I promise I don’t really drink that much!

This is one of my favourite soups from the book, it has a really clean flavour and the surprise fried egg makes it seem more like a proper meal than just a bowl of soup. I’ve simplified the original recipe to use a can of chickpeas rather than dried so it takes no time at all to make.

Chickpea soup with fried eggs

Serves 2 as a main course

1 400g can of chickpeas in water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
A good handful of mint leaves finely chopped
350ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sweat the onion and garlic over a medium heat until soft. Add the whole tin of chick peas to the pan without draining and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add the mint and stock, then purée well until smooth. Pour back into the pan and season with the lemon juice and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

When you are ready to serve fry one egg for each person in some olive oil and slip the egg into each soup bowl. The egg doesn’t have to be completely cooked on top as it will continue to cook in the soup.

I like to serve this with tahini flat bread. Make plain pizza bread (as in my post ‘Basic pizza dough and two ways to use it for a Saturday night tea’) but replace the olive oil with tahini.

Ready for the table with tahini flat bread accompaniment.

Ready for the table with tahini flat bread accompaniment.