Moroccan Harira Soup

I enjoy this soup during the winter, unfortunately I only got my hands on a good recipe last week, but I decided to make it anyway. It’s a hearty soup, very nutritious and fulfilling and quite a famous soup in Morocco and the Arab world.

Recipe from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food


Ingredients (for 5 people)

- 300g beef meat, cut into cubes

- 2 onions, roughly chopped

- 1/2 cup of chickpeas

- 5 cups water

- 2 tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

- 1/2 cup of lentils

- 3 Tbsp of tomato paste (or more, according to taste)

- Salt

- 1 tsp pepper

- 1/2 tsp of ground ginger

- 2 Tbsp flour, dissolved in 1/2 cup of cold water

Method:

1. Put the meat, onions and chickpeas in a pot with the 3 cups of water. Bring to boil and then simmer on low heat for 1 hour and a half.

2. Add the tomatoes, lentils, tomato paste, pepper and ginger. Bring to boil again and then simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils are tender.

3. Add the salt and the flour in water and boil for ten minutes or so until the soup thickens well.

The soup is supposed to be thick, not watery or clear like broth. Enjoy hot as a meal with a few drops of squeezed lemon juice. It’s a quite rich soup with lots of nutrients and fiber.

Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (aka NUTELLA!)

No, your eyes are not deceiving, we have just concocted a Nutella-like chocolate spread from scratch!

When you are living with a Nutella fanatic who forces you into an unfair competition with the legendary Nutella spread, you can’t but try your best at making your own way to his heart. I am not one to be defeated easily, so I took the express highway to his heart and made my own Nutella-like chocolate and hazelnut spread!

But before I get too excited and forget mentioning where I got the recipe from (because I am not yet a professional magician!), I found this recipe on David Lebovitz‘s website that I find very informative and a great reference. I am taking no credit for creating the recipe, but I can assure you that it is a successful one that will leave you dazed and unconfused!

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread – copied from David Lebovitz’s post Homemade Nutella
Two jars (about 1 cup each)

Adapted from the Encyclopédie du Chocolat under the direction of Frédéric Bau

1/3 cup (40g) whole almonds
1 1/3 cup (160g) hazelnuts

1 3/4 cup (400g) whole milk
7/8 cup (60g) powdered whole milk
3 tablespoons (40g) mild-flavored honey
pinch of salt
170g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
140g milk chocolate, chopped

1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet, keeping the almond separate, and toast the nuts in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven, stirring a few times, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the hazelnuts are browned.

2. While they are roasting, warm the whole milk and powdered milk in a small saucepan with the honey and salt just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat.

3. In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in a microwave oven, melt the chocolates together until smooth.

4. Once the nuts are well-toasted, remove them from oven and use a spatula to place the warm hazelnuts in a clean tea towel, then fold them inside the towel and rub them vigorously to remove any loose skins. They don’t need to be pristine; just try to get as much off as possible.

5. In a food processor, grind the warm hazelnuts and almonds until they’re as fine as possible.

6. Add the melted chocolate and continue to process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl, as necessary.

7. Once the mixture is smooth, add the warm milk mixture and process until everything is well-combined.

8. Transfer the mixture into two jars and refrigerate until ready to use.

Storage: The Chocolate-Hazelnut Paste will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Let’s Go Biking!

I guess Spring has indeed arrived! I love cycling!

Cycling makes me feel free yet focused, one of my favorite feelings. When I was young (younger than a teenager), riding my bike was my second nature. I had a dark red bike that was made in Czechoslovakia. I distinctly remember that ‘Made in Czechoslovakia’ sign because I remember that its spelling baffled my mind!

On a side note, I love her jacket!

What is your favorite Spring activity?

Phota via The Sartorialist

Tuna Sandwich

I like to make these tuna sandwiches when I feel like eating something that is good for my health and for my appetite! This is a very simple recipe, no fancy herbs or weird-sounding sandwich spreads. I used to make these for dinner when I was back home working at night from home.

The recipe below makes two sandwiches, so be a generous soul tonight and share with a friend!

In a bowl, empty half a tuna can (75g), add lemon juice of 1/4 of a lemon and a teaspoon of mayonnaise and mix well. Add in around 2 Tbsp of finely chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. I love pickles, so I also add 1 Tbsp of pickled cucumbers chopped finely. Mix well.

To make the sandwiches, I squeeze around a teaspoon of mustard on toasted toast. Scoop 1 Tbsp of the tuna mix and spread it over the mustard, lay slices of tomatoes on top (or lettuce if you’re not a big fan of tomatoes) and sprinkle dried coriander on top. I like the taste of coriander with the tomato, but you can leave that out, it’s optional.

That’s it. In the summertime back home, I used to enjoy this tuna sandwich with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice sitting on our balcony in Beirut that overlooked a busy street bustling with life. Good days!

 

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Swirls

Cute, no?! I started these cupcakes with the intention of mixing raspberries in the batter, but the frozen raspberries I was using didn’t thaw properly, so my rescue plan was to make a raspberry syrup and create swirls with it!

Ingredients for 10 cute cupcakes:

- 2 cups flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– Vanilla

- 1 egg
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 cup milk

Raspberry syrup: I used 200g of raspberries and 2 Tbsp of sugar. Over low heat, I let the raspberries and sugar melt into each other and then with a hand processor, I blended them into a liquid.

Method

Preheat the oven to 350F.

1. In a bowl, whisk the egg, add the sugar and whisk well into a cream. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the milk.

2. Fold the flour, baking powder and vanilla  into the liquid mixture and stir with a spatula until you get a silky batter.

3. Pour the batter in paper cups.

4. Place a drop of raspberry syrup (make it as small as your pupil) on top of the batter in the paper cups, and with a toothpick gently form swirls.

5. Pop your cupcake tray in the oven for 20 minutes.

4.

Baked Rolled Lasagna Stuffed with Spinach in White Sauce

I have several bags of frozen spinach and here’s another great recipe using spinach and two of my favorite ingredients: cheese and cream. If you use frozen spinach then this recipe won’t take longer than half an hour.

Ingredients (for 4)

- 350g frozen spinach
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– A pinch of salt

- 250ml cooking cream
– Salt, white pepper and a pinch of nutmeg
– Half of a handful of shredded mozzarella

- 8 sheets of lasagna, cooked

- Shredded mozzarella and Gruyère cheese, separate

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

1. Thaw the spinach in a bath of hot water for five minute. Drain and with your hands squeeze out the water from the spinach. Sauté the spinach in olive oil until they’re soft and cooked. Add a little bit of salt and set aside.

2. Pour the cream in a saucepan, season it and add the little bit of mozzarella cheese. Bring to boil and then lower the heat to the minimum and leave it simmering while you roll the lasagna pasta sheets.

3. Lay out a lasagna sheet on a wooden chopping board. With a small spoon, scoop spinach and make a row on the lasagna sheet across the width. Roll the lasagna around the spinach to form a thick finger, much similar to a cannelloni. Repeat with the rest 7 sheets.

4. Spread two spoonfuls of the cream all over the bottom of the baking dish. Line the lasagna rolls side by side to cover the area of the baking dish. Pour over the white sauce, it will not cover the pasta, it will just coat them a little. The pasta is cooked so there’s no need for any liquid to completely cover the pasta. Now sprinkle some Gruyère cheese on top and another final layer of mozzarella cheese.

5. Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. For a golden effect, place the dish under the broiler for a few minutes.

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

These bars are ideal to take to work to share with colleagues or to have in a picnic basket. They don’t take a lot of work and they cool down fast, so the whole process won’t take longer than 30 minutes.

Ingredients for a baking tray with 8.5 inch x 8.5 inch dimensions

- 2 eggs
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup brown sugar

- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
– 2 Tbsp butter, room temperature

- 1 and 1/4 cup flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– Pinch of salt

- 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add the sugar and the brown sugar and whisk again.

3. Add the peanut butter and butter and whisk again.

4. Gradually add the flour and baking powder and salt and mix well.

5. Spread in your baking tray and then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.

6. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before cutting them into 5cmx5cm sqaures.

Chicken with Ginger and Coconut Cream

It’s been a while I haven’t cooked with chicken, and it’s on purpose. I’ve been focusing more on vegetables because to tell you the truth, I miss them and I miss all the different ways you can use them. But tonight I felt like cooking something Indian or Thai and I had in mind to try a recipe with coconut cream. I had jotted down a few spices that go together (turmeric and garam masala for example) and I know that ginger goes well with coconut cream. I also had a basic chicken ginger recipe that I built on and arrived at this recipe.

This is a beautifully aromatic dish. Maybe not as aromatic as Thai food (there’s no lemon grass here), but the coconut cream with the spices and the gentle squeeze of lemon at the end give it a mild citrus-y taste.

Chicken with Ginger and Coconut Cream

Ingredients (for 2 or 3 people):

- 500g boneless chicken breasts cut into cubes
– 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger, diced
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 75g yogurt

- 1 onion, finely chopped
– Dried peperoncino, I used two

- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 tsp ground coriander
– 1/2 tsp turmeric
– 1/2 tsp garam masala

- Salt to taste

- 50g coconut cream
– Water

- 1/2 a lemon

Chicken with Ginger and Coconut Cream

Method

1. Marinate the chicken with the garlic, ginger and yogurt for a a few hours. I marinated them overnight.

2. Fry the turmeric, coriander and garam masala in the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and chili and fry for a few minutes.

3. Add in the chicken cubes with the marinade and fry for ten minutes or so. The chicken should cook but be completely done.

4. Add the coconut cream and a little bit of water to cover the chicken 3/4 of the way. Season with salt and bring to boil. Simmer and cover for 30 to 40 minutes.

5. When the liquid has evaporated to less than half , you can turn off the heat or increase it to high to have more liquid evaporate. It depends if you like sauce with your chicken or you prefer it to be just chicken.

6. Turn off the heat and squeeze in the lemon juice of half a lemon, but don’t squeeze it to the last drop, just give it a gentle squeeze. Mix and serve with plain basmati rice, boiled or steamed.

Mini Spinach Frittatas

I’ve been wanting to use spinach in an untraditional way more often in my cooking. I like spinach stew cooked the Lebanese way, but I also love spinach in quiches, frittatas, casseroles and on pizzas. For the following recipe I used frozen spinach instead of fresh spinach just for the convenience, but frankly you wouldn’t tell the difference. Frozen spinach is just as good and nutritional as fresh spinach and if you can incorporate it in your daily cooking then you’ll be doing yourself a favor. Spinach is very rich in iron, antioxidants, and vitamins A & C. When using spinach try to steam it or microwave it instead of boiling it. Boiling spinach will reduce its nutritional value (especially the folic acid it contains) by half.

Spinach Frittatas

Ingredients (will make 10 mini frittatas)

- 3 eggs
– 3/4 cup cream
– 1/4 cup milk
– A pinch of nutmeg
– 75g of spinach
– 1 cup of shredded cheese (I used Gruyère)
– A bunch of fresh thyme leaves
– Salt and pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. If using fresh spinach, wash it well and either steam it or boil for a few minutes, just enough to soften the leaves. If using frozen, soak the spinach in hot water for a few  minutes and then drain and use as cooked spinach.

3. Whisk all the ingredients in a bowl.

4. Spray a cupcake or muffin tray with oil and then scoop the mixture into the molds almost 3/4 of the way.

5. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes and for a golden top, broil for an extra few minutes.

Enjoy with a green rucola salad or green lettuce salad.

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

I can hear you going “yummmmmmy!”

Ingredients for a 22cmx33cm baking dish (9inchx13inch)

- 450g broccoli

- 1/3 cup short grain rice

- 1 Tbsp olive oil

- 2 cups grated cheese, as usual I use a mix of mozzarella and Emmental

- 4 eggs

- 1 tsp salt

- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

- 1 cup cooking cream

- 1/2 cup of dry bread crumbs

- A handful of fresh thyme leaves

- Olive oil for drizzling

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 375F and brush the bottom of the baking dish you’re using with olive oil.

2. In a pot of boiling water, let the broccoli florets boil for 2 minutes, just to soften a little. Drain and keep aside.

3. In the same pot of water (or a fresh new one), boil the rice for ten minutes and then drain and set aside too.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt, nutmeg and black pepper.

5. In a  large bowl, mix the broccoli, 1 Tbsp of olive oil and rice. Add the cheese and mix. Add the eggs and then stir in the cream. Pour the mixture in the baking dish.

6. To prepare the bread crumb topping,  in a food processor whiz together the breadcrumbs with the thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, and then sprinkle over the mixture in the baking dish.

7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Check every now and then to see if any air bubbles are forming and if so, simply poke with a knife.

8. Let cool for 5 minutes  before serving.