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Shakshuka with tahini and olives

This is the most wonderful brunch or lunch, oozing with flavor and goodness.

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Serves 2 – 4 (but can easily be augmented)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 large organic, pasture-raised eggs
3 medium tomatoes – roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion-diced
5 cloves garlic-roughly chopped
2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1&1/4 tsp harissa
1 handful green olives – pitted and roughly chopped for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

For the tahini mixture;
2 tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic-finely grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
Approx 1/4 cup water
pinch of sea salt

In a bowl, whisk together the tahini, garlic and lemon juice. The mixture will be clumpy. Keep whisking and slowly add 1 tbsp water at a time until the tahini loosens and can loosely coat the back of a spoon. Season with a pinch of salt- set aside

Heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the oil, onions and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes until soft.
Season the onion mixture with the smoked paprika and sauté for 60 seconds- stir constantly to prevent burning.

Add the tomatoes and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir, lower the heat to medium low and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the Harissa.
NOTE- If the tomato mixture dries out during the cooking, add 1-2 tbsp water.

Remove the lid and crack the eggs into the sauce one at a time.
TIP- Use a spatula to create a small “well” in the sauce and add the egg into the well so that the eggs cook in the sauce rather than over the top of it.

Cover with a lid and cook until the whites have hardened but the yolks are runny; approx 6 to 8 minutes.
For firmer yolks, cook for a bit longer.
Remove from the heat, drizzle with the tahini and garnish with the olives

 

Poached eggs on avocado-feta toast

I thought avocado toast was pretty wonderful until I tried mashing the avocado with Greek feta crumbles and my gosh, the flavor shot up like crazy.
This is especially lovely on sourdough toast. If you don’t feel like having the eggs on top, just have the avocado-feta toast on it’s own.

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For 2 people (can easily be augmented)

2 ripe avocados
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili flakes, depending on how much kick you like
3 to 4oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled
salt and ground black pepper
good olive oil
2 slices of sourdough toast
2 large organic eggs

Firstly, add about 1 inch of water to a frying pan and bring to a simmer.

Mash the avocados in a bowl with a few drops of olive oil (about 1 tsp) salt, pepper and chili flakes, then add the feta and mix through but don’t mash the feta too much, just enough to blend.

Toast the sourdough bread.

Drop the eggs gently into the simmering water, then turn the heat down so you barely see the bubbles. As you poach the eggs, gently gather the white of the eggs around the eggs and keep spooning the hot water over the top of the eggs so they cook. (Poaching eggs is something you just learn to do over time. I don’t use vinegar like many chef’s do, as I don’t like the flavor)

Spread the avocado mixture over the toast and season.

Remove the eggs with a spatula when they start to lose that “snotty” look (that’s the only way I know how to describe an under-cooked poached egg!)

Place an egg on top of each piece of toast and season with salt pepper and chili flakes.

A beautiful caper vinaigrette to serve with fish

This is worth posting on it’s own as it is absolutely delicious on a salad or drizzled over a piece of hot salmon or halibut. It also keeps for a long time in the fridge

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2 egg yolks
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp Champagne or White balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup blended oil (1 part olive oil to 3 parts avocado oil mixed together)
2 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
salt and pepper

In a food processor or in a blender, combine the egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic and vinegar.
Slowly whisk in the oil. Remove from the blender into a bowl and fold in the capers, mustard and herbs.
Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle over your seared piece of fish or a salad

Baked butternut squash, ricotta and spinach

Although I’m not a vegetarian, I am always attracted to non-meat dishes and this one, given it’s December and has me making soups, stews and baked dishes, this really attracted me. It’s from the wonderful British website and food magazine, Delicious.

Baked butternut squash, ricotta and spinach

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, halved lengthways (about 2.5 – 3lbs in weight)
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 tsp crushed red chillies
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz baby spinach
1lb ricotta cheese
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese,(not the pre-grated stuff) plus extra to serve
1 large egg, plus an extra egg yolk
A bunch of fresh sage leaves

Heat the oven to 400F
Scoop out and discard the seeds from the squash. Sit the squash halves cut-side up in a roasting tin. Score flesh in a crosshatch pattern with a knife and season.
Scatter over the caraway seeds, chillies and whole garlic cloves, then drizzle with the olive oil.
Cover with foil and roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until soft.

When cooked, set the garlic cloves aside, then scoop all but 2 tbsp of the squash flesh into a bowl, keeping it in pieces. Gently stir through the spinach and season.Leave to cool.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into a large bowl and mash into the remaining 2 tbsp squash using a fork. Add the ricotta, Parmesan and some seasoning. Add the whole egg and extra egg yolk, stir then gently stir through the spinach and squash mixture.

Spoon into 4 x 6 oz individual gratin dishes.Top with Parmesan, scatter with extra caraway seeds and the sage leaves, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately

Zucchini timbales

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A lightly poached puree of zucchini which can be served as an attractive side dish with meat, poultry or fish.

Serves 4 to 8

1lb zucchini sliced
2 oz toasted breadcrumbs
3 oz butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
a good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 oz  Gruyere cheese, finely grated
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
1/2 pint whole milk
parsley, chopped fine, to garnish

Steam the zucchini slices until tender, then blend to a puree. Grease 8 individual ramekin dishes, 3″ diameter max, and coat with the breadcrumbs.
Melt 1oz of the butter in a small pan and fry the onion for 5 to 10 mins or until soft. Cool, then transfer to a bowl.
Add the nutmeg and cheese and season. Beat in the eggs. Heat the milk gently with the remaining butter until it has melted, then pour it into the egg mixture in a steady stream beating constantly. Fold in the zucchini puree.
Evenly divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins. Place in a roasting tin, half filled with water.
Bake at 325 F for about 30 to 45 mins or until the custard is lightly set. Cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edge of each ramekin with the point of a knife. Carefully turn out onto a warm serving dish, garnish with some parsley and serve.

Crustless Spinach and feta quiche with sumac

 

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This quiche is elegant and delicious enough to serve guests, but also a great pie to have in the refrigerator to slice and eat for breakfast (lunch or dinner) all week long. You can lighten up the filling using all milk rather than half milk and half cream. Consider this your blank slate for any vegetables you have on hand, such as sautéed mushrooms or bell peppers.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 box (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces feta cheese
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sumac, divided
4 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Swiss, Gruyere, or mozzarella cheese

Heat the oven to 350°F. Brush an 8- or 9-inch pie plate with olive oil.
Squeeze the thawed spinach to remove as much water as possible. Shred and scatter the spinach over the bottom of the pie plate. Crumble the feta over the spinach, top with the onions, and dust with a tablespoon of sumac and a healthy pinch of kosher salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with a teaspoon of salt until they are smooth. Stir in the parmesan, milk, and cream. Pour the eggs over the spinach and feta.
Top the eggs evenly with the Swiss, Gruyere, or mozzarella cheese, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sumac.
Bake the quiche for about 40 minutes, or until it is puffy and golden and doesn’t jiggle in the center when moved. Serve the quiche immediately with more sumac dusted over each slice. Refrigerate and eat the quiche for up to a week.

 

Mary Berry’s easy frozen chocolate torte

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Mary Berry, for those who haven’t heard of her, is the British queen of baking and her recipes are usually very easy and foolproof. Here is a terrific one that you can make in advance, freeze and keep for a long time, although you won’t want to!

Serves 10

For the mousse
14 oz dark chocolate, 70% or more.
4 oz superfine sugar (caster sugar)
6 tbsp water
4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp brandy
20 fl oz heavy cream

To decorate
Powdered sugar (icing sugar)
12 large strawberries, sliced
Extra cream to pour over the servings

Method
Lightly grease an 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin and line with cling film.
Break the chocolate into sections and drop into a food processor. Process for 1 minute or until just a few pieces remain in the otherwise powdery chocolate.  Alternatively, you could finely grate the chocolate.
Place the sugar and water into a small pan and heat gently over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally.
Increase the heat and boil briskly for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture becomes a light syrup.
Set the food processor running and pour the hot syrup through the funnel onto the chocolate – it should melt, but add a dash of boiling water if the chocolate hasn’t completely melted.
Drop the egg yolks into the melted chocolate and process for a few seconds before adding the brandy. If you are not using a food processor, beat the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream until lightly thickened.
Fold in the chocolate mixture and then spoon it into the prepared tin, leveling the top with the back of a spoon.
Cover with cling film and transfer to the freezer for a minimum of 4 hours or until it has frozen.
To serve, remove the torte from the freezer, release it from the tin and transfer to a nice cake plate.
Leave to soften for about 10 to 15 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar.
Decorate with fresh strawberries and serve with some cream on the side.

 

 

 

Cheesey bacon and egg cups

Cheesey bacon and egg cups

Sometimes one has to have some fun with food, especially at breakfast which can get very tedious.
These are a lot of fun and really tasty
bacon
eggs
Seasonings of your choice
grated sharp cheese (optional)

On medium heat, fry the bacon on a skillet until lightly browned on each side, but still pliable.
Make sure it doesn’t get crispy because it will continue to cook in the oven and it needs to be able to bend in side the muffin tins.
Drain the bacon on paper towels and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the muffin tins with the bacon slices. To make it easier, line the tin with the meat side on the bottom and the fat side on the top.
Cover the bottom of the muffin cup with a piece of bacon, then sprinkle it with some grated cheese.
Crack an egg into each cup. Sprinkle with seasoning of your choice, salt and pepper. (You can also sprinkle some more cheese over the top at this stage, or leave the egg visible.
Bake until set, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Loosen from the cups and remove. Enjoy!

60 second aioli (garlic mayonnaise) to die for

This is the most wonderful garlic aioli, and all you need is a platter of crudites (raw vegetables) and bread and you have a fabulous starter for a crowd.
It is highly recommended to purchase a stick blender like this one;

Then all you need is;
3 large whole cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
4 eggs, at room temp
2 to 2 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 to 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt

Get a tall glass jar and put in the garlic halves and the 4 whole eggs.
Now, add your stick blender and sit it on the bottom of the jar, over the ingredients and turn on.

Very gradually, add the olive oil in a steady stream, keeping the stick blender on all the time.

You will end up with a gorgeous thick garlic mayonnaise. Now put in the lemon juice a tsp sat a time, sprinkle in a little salt, blend with the stick blender, and taste until it’s the perfect flavor for you!

Heavenly one bowl apple cake

 

This is a dark, dense, gooey apple cake. The one extra step in this recipe is for soaking the dates in Apple Brandy or Calvados.

Serves 12 to 16
3/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup Calvados or apple brandy
2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups slightly tart apples; peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1/2 cup melted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
icing sugar for decorations

About 1 hour before starting to bake, place the dates in a small bowl and cover with the Calvados or apple brandy. Stir from time to time and if they get too “tight” just add more brandy.
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Using butter, grease a baking pan. (approx 13″ x 9″ x 2″)
Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Add the chopped apples, dates, melted butter and the eggs. This will be a heavy, thick batter, but don’t worry, just make sure you mix it well together.
Spread in the prepared pan, place on a rack in the center of the oven and bake for 1 hour.
Test with a skewer, if it comes out a bit gooey, then bake for another 5 to 10 mins.
It will be a nice dark color  and should spring back to a light touch.
Serve with some icing sugar (powdered sugar) sprinkled over the top. This is delicious hot, warm or cold.