Recipe: Spicy Lamb Sausage Rolls

Aren’t sausage rolls just the perfect party or picnic food?! I’m not talking about the dubious, slightly flabby ones you can buy in Greggs (although I have to admit I have been partial to one or two of those the morning after a heavy night!), but ones fresh from the oven. A really meat filling, full of flavour, with crispy pastry that’s as buttery as it is flaky.

These are just that bit more special. Instead of the more traditional pork filling I’ve used lamb mince, which I’ve spiced up with harissa. I’ve added other spices, plus some lemon zest to add some freshness. The lamb mince is bulked out with an egg and some breadcrumbs, as the true sausage roll isn’t *too* meaty. This keeps the filling nice and moist too. Now, W likes these hot and fresh from the oven, whilst I’m a fan of them cold the next day. Either way, they’re gorgeous with a salad on the side, and also alongside a soup. I can imagine they’d be perfect next to a tomato soup, damn you allergy!

These Spicy Lamb Sausage Rolls are just wonderful – comforting pastry combined with chilli heat. I know they will be featuring in many of our picnics this summer!

Recipe – makes 8 large sausage rolls, inspired by a Waitrose recipe

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp harissa paste (I use this one, it’s super spicy!)
  • 1 regular pack of lamb mince, I used around 400g
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 slice fresh bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs (around 40g worth)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 sheet of ready-rolled pastry
  • Seeds – I used a mix of sesame and poppy – for scattering over the top

First off, fry the onion along with the fennel and cumin seeds in a little oil until soft, around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the harissa and continue to fry for another few minutes. Allow to cool completely, before mixing together with the lamb mince, lemon zest, breadcrumbs, one of the eggs and some seasoning. You’ll need to get your hands dirty to make sure the mix is full combined.

Cut the pastry in half lengthways (so you have two long strips). Form the meat mixture into two long ‘sausages’ along the middle of each piece of pastry. Brush along one edge with pastry, then roll the other edge over the top of the meat and seal together – repeat with the other piece of pastry. Slice each roll into four, then brush with plenty of beaten egg, sprinkle with seeds and bake at 200C for around 25 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

These are delicious both warm and cold – perfect for an early summer picnic! Or an indoor picnic (as in these photos) if the British weather decides to be a tad wetter than ideal!

What picnic food are you partial to?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #39

Happy Monday! As I type it’s Sunday evening I’m currently sweltering in my flat, wondering whether it’s acceptable to eat ice-cream whilst my dinner is cooking… (read: trying to justify it to myself!). I’ve had the most wonderful couple of weeks, I’m really making the most of this not-studying malarkey with plenty of plans. I have to say, though, I’m hoping for a slightly more relaxed three-day weekend next week, I’m in need of a rest!

  1. Nice Cream. I love making soft-serve style ‘ice-cream’ out of frozen bananas and a splash of milk. A weekend treat is a big bowl made with peanut butter, and topped with peanut butter cups. So, so good and just that bit kinder to my bank balance and waist-line than Ben & Jerrys!
  2. A trip to Wakehurst Place. I met my girls, we had a delicious picnic (I made a Quiche Lorraine which is one of my favourite treats), drank Shloer out of plastic champagne flutes and wandered around the gorgeous gardens. It was such a lovely day, and now I’m sorely tempted to get a National Trust membership…
  3. Steak Salad. I’ve felt a bit anemic lately, so decided a steak dinner was in order! We usually serve it with homemade chips and a whisky sauce, but lightened it up – puy lentils, roasted broccoli, asparagus, mixed salad leaves and Parmesan with a dash of balsamic vinegar. It certainty hit the spot!
  4. Re-vamping our interiors slightly. After a good spring clean I’ve switched a few things round in our flat, picked up some new bedding and generally just gave it a good old refresh. You can read some bedroom decor tips from both me and some other lovely bloggers over on this Laura Ashley post*
  5. Afternoon Tea at Dandelyan. This was my first foray into luxury afternoon teas and it was wonderful – four cocktails, the most gorgeous food and a stylish setting. A full review will be live in the next week or so but I highly recommend a trip!
  6. Shopping for honeymoon clothes – because my wedding is now less than 20 weeks away! I’ve picked up a few bits in H&M but still want some more summery dresses and skirts. Any places to look?
  7. Sorting out wedding ceremony details with our vicar. We’ve confirmed a basic running order, our hymms are virtually chosen and it’s all feeling a lot more real now. Invites are slowly going out as and when I manage to finish them off, they should all be sent by next weekend. Eeek!
  8. And speaking of weddings, how gorgeous was the Royal Wedding this weekend?! I loved the dress, the veil was insane, but what made me super-emotional was how Harry looked at his bride. Utterly fairy-tale.
  9. Gin. I’m not a fan of tonic so haven’t really drank much gin in the past, but recently I’ve been enjoying it with various other mixers. Elderflower is a good combo!
  10. I’ve managed to keep my house plants alive for a year now. I think I’m more than ready now to be responsible for my own puppy… 😉

*in collaboration with Laura Ashley, all thoughts and opinions are my own as always!

And that’s it! I’m planning quite a quiet Bank Holiday weekend next week – I’m hoping to go to Immy’s yoga class, then I’d like to take a trip to Kew Gardens for a bit of a photo sessions, then possibly a walk around Richmond too. Other than that it’s a big weekend of blogmin and wedmin!

What’s made you happy lately? What are your plans for the upcoming Bank Holiday Weekend?

Recipe: Everyday Turkish Eggs (Poached Eggs with Warm Yoghurt and Chilli Butter Sauce)

If you follow me on Instagram (and if not, why not?!) then you’ll have seen me waxing lyrical over the last few months about my new favourite egg dish. Turkish Eggs.

I’d seen them popping up on a few brunch menus towards the end of last year, but it was only when we popped to The Dynamo for W’s birthday breakfast (see a previous review here) that I plucked up the courage to try something new. And, reader, I loved them. The combination of the thick, tangy, creamy yoghurt against perfectly poached eggs and spicy butter is so much tastier than I’d imagined. It all combines together to be more than the sum of it’s parts, a little bowl of tasty goodness that I’d happily have for breakfast any day of the week.

And I’ve come up with a method which means I can make these every day of the week. A relatively hands off method which means I can eat my favourite breakfast dish before work. Perfect!

Recipe (serves 1, makes enough chilli butter for 2-3 days)

  • 75g salted butter
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 100g natural yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • Toast, to serve

To make the chilli butter, melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat with the chipotle paste and chilli flakes, stirring until it is well combined. Pour into some Tupperware and keep in the fridge.

When making your breakfast, heat the oven to around 75C. Add the yoghurt to a small baking dish or ovenproof bowl, and 2-3 tbsp of chilli butter to an ovenproof ramekin. Pop in the oven for 15 or so minutes, or until the butter is melted and the yoghurt is warm. Meanwhile poach the eggs to your liking (I use the clingfilm trick). Serve the eggs in the yoghurt, drizzled with the chilli butter, alongside some toast for dipping.

And that’s it! So easy, so quick and such a tasty breakfast that’s full of protein.

What’s your favourite breakfast dish?

Review: Modern Thai Food at Yum Sa, Putney

I watched Yum Sa being put together every day for months, walking past it on my way to/from East Putney station twice a day. To say I was excited about it opening is perhaps an understatement – Thai food is one of my favourite treats, and not something I indulge in very often.

We visited one Friday evening and found the restaurant pleasantly full, but the layout meant it was fairly quiet and intimate for most tables – although unfortunately we felt rather squeezed into one corner, to the point the couple next to us had to move slightly so we could squeeze in. A point made repeatedly by my fiance was that his chair was decidedly uncomfortable (I had no problems), to the extreme that we actually left before ordering dessert and he’s still going on about it a few weeks later. His complaints aside, I loved the look and feel of the restaurant. It was modern without being stark, relaxing music played throughout and everything seemed well thought out. The bar area is utterly Instagrammable too, I’m just gutted it was too busy to take a decent photo!

Service was – ok. Nothing to write home about, a bit brisk and efficient for my liking, a bit lacking in character. One point to note was that despite our cutlery being placed on our starter plates, it was removed and left with us for our mains. The food was also a tad lack lustre, though I think I had very high expectations.

Hoisin Duck Gyoza were completely and utterly delicious. I really enjoyed them, with the rich and tender duck being perfectly balanced by the sweet and complex flavours of the hoisin. Likewise, the Crab & Chicken Roll was also good, with the sweet chilli style dipping sauce being particularly excellent. However the texture of the latter was a little rubbery, and the delicate flavour of the crab completely lost. My biggest issue was the price. The two starters came to just under £19 and yet the portion sizes were, frankly, disappointingly small. I’d have happily paid a bit less for the two dishes and probably raved about them, but as it was I felt a little short changed.

It turns out this theme continued with the mains. My Lamb Massaman was a fine example of a massaman (though could have arrived at the table slightly hotter, as it quickly become luke-warm). The sauce was creamy, aromatic and with a delicate hint of spice. The rice it came with was some of the nicest rice I’ve had at a Thai, sticky without being stodgy. However, and I don’t exaggerate here, my pot of curry contained only two pieces of lamb, and not particularly sizeable pieces either.

W went with the Yellow Curry, and our servers suggestion of King Prawns. He at least fared slightly better in terms of portion size, but still received only 5 or 6 prawns. Again, the sauce was wonderfully creamy and well-spiced, the flavours absolutely spot on.

And this is my issue with Yum Sa. Everything was delicious, the food nearly perfect. But we left still feeling slightly peckish. And at £80 for two courses, water and service charge, that has left a bad taste in my mouth. That said, I do have my eye on their Brunch deals (which sounds like a far more purse friendly way to indulge my love of Thai food) and I’m sure I will be back to visit on occasion. I’ll just maybe have a slice of toast before hand…

Do you have any recommendations for Thai food in London?

Cooking From: Duck & Pineapple Tacos (Delicious Magazine)

Is it cheating, using a magazine as part of this cookery book series? Probably, but this recipe was too good not to share! We recently switched from subscribing to BBC GoodFood to Delicious magazine, and I have to say I’m really glad we did. We’d been unimpressed with GoodFood for a few months, finding the recipes a bit repetitive and predictable – and the ones we did try often didn’t work out so well. Since switching we’ve constantly found many recipes each month we’d like to make, and all of them have worked. Several of them have even been recooked, which is high, high praise in our house!

This is one such recipe. We’ve been loving Mexican flavours lately, whether it’s complex layers of flavour from authentic Pork Pibil Tacos, to cheats Fish Tacos made with Fish Fingers. These Duck Tacos are equally as good.

The duck legs are slow roasted in a mix of pineapple and chipotle, before being shredded and piled into tacos with a creamy yet spicy dressing. They are then topped with a tangy, fresh salsa of pineapple, red onion and chilli. It’s sweet, it’s hot, there’s crunch, there’s softness. The combination of flavours and textures in this dish is insanely good, and far superior than the effort required to put it together. I can imagine this would make a great informal supper party dish!

We’ve edited the recipe slightly, adding a little onion to the duck to (1) bulk it out a little and (2) had an additional level of flavour. We’ve simplified the creamy dressing, as we don’t tend to have mayonnaise on hand. We’ve added garlic, because why not. Oh, and whilst we usually leave out the avocado from the original I can imagine it would be delicious with it. And finally, we’ve used pre-prepared pineapple. Yes it’s more expensive, but it reduced the risk of me slicing my hand off, and I also tend to get sore hands if I handle the fruit. You can, of course, use a small pineapple here instead!

Recipe (serves 2, easily scaled up)

  • 1 duck leg
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • 1 medium pack of prepared pineapple, 2/3 for the duck and 1/3 for the salsa
  • 75ml tequila or pisco
  • 75ml chicken stock
  • 2 tsp chipotle paste
  • Pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • For the salsa – 1 red onion, 1 red chilli, bunch fresh coriander (all three should be chopped) and 1/2 lime (zest and juice, serve with the remaining half)
  • For the chipotle sauce – 4 tbsp soured cream and 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 4 soft tortillas, to serve

Heat a casserole dish over a medium heat, then add the duck legs (skin side down) and fry for 5 minutes until brown. Add the onion slices and fry briefly until softened. Blitz two-thirds of the pineapple in a blender (I used my mini-chopper) with the tequila, stock, chipotle paste, chilli flakes and salt/pepper to make a smooth sauce, then add to the duck. Put in the oven and cook at 160C for around 2 hours. Once done, shred the duck meat and add back to the sauce (discarding any bones and non-crisp skin).

For the pineapple salsa, finely dice the leftover pineapple and put in a bowl with the chopped red onion, lime zest, chillies and coriander. Add the juice of ½ lime, season and set aside. To make the chipotle sauce, mix together the soured cream and chipotle paste.

To serve, warm the tortillas (I use either a microwave or dry frying pan). Serve everything in small bowls, and assemble your tacos with the sauce, duck and salsa. Squeeze over a little extra lime before serving. Yum!

Are you a fan of Mexican food? Have you read Delicious magazine?

Recipe: Middle-Eastern Inspired Tahini Ice-Cream with Honey Caramel

When we have people round for supper (which is not as often as we’d like), one of my favourite desserts to make is brownie, ice-cream and some kind of sauce. It might sound kinda boring, but actually we switch up flavourings to go with the rest of our menu, and everything is homemade. We’ve done a Nutella-inspired hazelnut combination, a Snicker’s style dessert. And then there’s this. Slightly Middle-Eastern inspired, this tahini ice-cream is almost savoury with deep notes of sesame. Tempered with the exceedingly sweet and sticky honey caramel, it’s wonderful paired with a dark and gooey brownie.

I’ve already shared my ultimate brownie recipe, but today it’s the turn of one of our favourite ice-creams to date. It’s originally inspired by a Butterlust recipe (and in fact the honey caramel is largely unchanged – also the images on that post are insanely gorgeous!).

Using tahini in an ice-cream might seem a little odd, as it is one of the most savoury things I’ve tasted. However it produces the creamiest ice-cream I’ve ever tried, with a slow melt that coats the mouth. Combined with honey both in the ice-cream base and the caramel, it’s the perfect salty-sweet combination. I personally wouldn’t eat this ice-cream without the caramel (unless you added extra sweetness to the base), but give it a go and see what you think!

Tahini Ice-Cream Recipe (makes around 4 servings)

  • 100g tahini
  • 100g honey
  • 400ml milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks (from medium eggs)

Place the tahini and honey in a large saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then stir in the milk and cream gradually.

Beat the egg yolks and vanilla in a small bowl and stir in two tablespoons of tahini mixture until well combined. Add this eggy mixture to the saucepan, and return to a very low heat. Gently cook, stirring constantly, for five minutes until thickened. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin forming, then transfer to an ice-cream machine and churn as per the machine’s instructions before popping in the freezer.

If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, pour the cooled mixture into a freezeable container and freeze, whisking every half an hour, for three hours. As a word of advice, this ice-cream does freeze quite solidly so I’d recommend removing from the freezer a good 10 minutes before scooping.

Honey Caramel Recipe (enough for four servings, baked on Butterlust’s Recipe)

  • 250g honey
  • 125ml double cream
  • 15g salted butter

Combine the honey and cream in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 110C on a sugar thermometer. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the butter, then allow to cool before serving. Blast in a microwave if you need to soften it to a pouring consistency.

Serve the tahini ice-cream and honey caramel with  gooey chocolate brownie (slightly warm), scattered with chopped pistachios. It’s creamy, it’s rich, it’s delicious – and it’s the perfect end to a slightly Middle-Eastern inspired dinner party.

Do you have a go-to dessert to serve to guests?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #38

Happy Bank Holiday Monday! It’s a bit of a miracle here in the UK that a Bank Holiday weekend has been combined with hot and sunny weather, but I for one am not complaining (other than the bright sunshine makes it far more difficult to take photos!). We’ve spent the weekend exploring new (to us) areas of London, lying in the sun, eating tacos and generally just relaxing. I’d like to do something a bit more exciting next Bank Holiday though, so let me know what you got up to!

  1. Tacos for dinner. We love eating Mexican food, and with a tub of leftover roast chicken needing using up we took inspiration from Chelsea’s recipe. The avo-corn salsa combo was DELICIOUS (I used frozen sweetcorn, and fried it in the pan we’d used that morning for bacon, before cooling and adding to the avo), and perfect with the roast chicken (tossed in a chipotle dressing with some onions). We topped with feta, a squeeze of lime and lots of coriander and *really* enjoyed it. Plus it was ready in 10 minutes, so I can see it becoming a regular fixture in our meal plans.
  2. Olive Oil and Lemon Cake. It was light, zest and delicious – have a look on the ‘gram for more!
  3. Exams are done! I finished my latest exam sitting a fortnight ago and, whilst hugely relieved, I’m not feeling overly confident with how they went. Either way I’m not retaking in the next sitting (as it’s right before the wedding) so I’ve got a nice break from heavy studying for now. I’ll still be sitting a smaller exam in September, but no written paper this time – vain as it may be, I get awful finger blisters when revising and being left-handed means I *really* want to avoid them just before the wedding!
  4. Launching a new blog series. I’m going to be reviewing cookbooks with a recipe from each – you can read the first Cooking From posts here and here.
  5. A wander around Hampstead Heath. It’s an area of London I’ve not explored at all, but I’m desperate to go back and see more of it. We just won’t mention the fact I stupidly wore sandals and now have insanely painful and swollen ankles…
  6. Wedding prep! I bought the final bits I need for my ‘look’ on the day (highly recommend Dress Me Pretty if you’re in the Midlands), we’ve finalised our invitations, bought a couple of things for decorating the reception. It’s now five months to go – eek!
  7. An impromtu date night at Home SW15. It’s quite honestly our favourite place at the moment, and we wish we had the pennies to visit more often. We enjoyed a Lemon Sole (me, it was perfectly cooked), a Bavette Steak with Red Wine Butter (him, I stole a piece and it was the best tasting steak I can remember eating) and shared a portion of fries with aoili. If you’re ever in the Putney area I highly recommend a visit!
  8. Saying hi to puppies. There’s a gorgeous Border Terrier pup who lives near me and I’m worried the owner will think I’m stalking him as I bump into him far too often…
  9. Ice-cream! Sun and heat = ice-cream craving. Chalet Chiro in Putney does the best ice-cream I’ve tasted in London, and one of the best outside of Italy (there’s a small hidden place in Brighton that *just* pips them to the post).
  10. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. We had this for dinner last night and it was perfectly – just the right amount of soft, sweet garlic, with tender chicken. Keep an eye out for the recipe!

What’s made you happy lately? How have you spent the Bank Holiday weekend?

Recipe: Staple Storecupboard Stir-Fry with a Soy, Ginger & Peanut Butter Sauce

A stir-fry is such a staple for us. We usually have it on a Monday night, using the leftover meat from the Sunday Roast the evening before, but it’s equally good without any meat, or using meat bought especially for a stir-fry (I have a massive soft spot for a prawn stir-fry).

A stir-fry is, for is, the ultimate in fast and healthy cooking. Yes, there’s a fair bit of chopping involved but once that’s all done it can be cooked in five minutes flat. And if we’re really short on time you can buy those bags of pre-prepped veggies, making it even quicker.

This particular stir-fry sauce is my favourite. It’s made using only store cupboard ingredients (although of course you could use fresh ginger and chillies if you had them) and so we can make it pretty much any time we need to. The sauce is also fantastic tossed through plain noodles (no veg) if you’re sick which is a bonus!

Recipe (serves 1)

  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, spiralized, or peeled into strips with a vegetable peeler
  • 1/4 of a small cabbage (I like using either savoy or red), sliced finely
  • 1/2 a pepper, sliced
  • Other veggies – I like to add mushrooms, kale, beansprouts etc, but it really depends what I have in the fridge
  • Handful of leftover meat, if using (in the photos I had leftover roast chicken to add)
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp sesame oil, if you have it
  • 1/2 tsp runny honey
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (I usually keep a bottle in the fridge)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Pinch dried chilli flakes, more if you want it hotter
  • 1 nest of egg noodles, or rice, to serve (I’m a noodle girl!)

Stir fry the veggies (and meat) to your liking. I usually like to soften the onions first on a lower heat, before stir-frying the rest on a higher heat (adding the carrots towards the end) as I’m not a fan of crunchy onions. Cook the rice or noodles according to pan instructions.

In a small bowl or mug, combine the peanut butter, sesame oil and runny honey. Gradually add the soy and lime juice, mixing constantly, until you have a smooth sauce. Stir through the ginger and chilli. Once the veg is almost done, add the sauce to the wok and continue to stir-fry until everything is hot and cooked. Serve on a bed of rice or noodles.

And that’s is – super-easy, super-quick and super-tasty!

Are you a stir-fry fan?

Review: Doughnut Workshop @ Bread Ahead Bakery, Borough Market

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s ever visited Borough Market will have ooh-ed and ahh-ed at Bread Ahead’s doughnuts. Possibly bought one, possibly snapped a picture of these utterly-Instagrammable pillows of joy. They are a bit of an icon in London, and rightly so. Sure, we’ve had a few more doughnut shops pop up over the last year or so, but these aren’t sickly-sweet. These are made over two days, with a well-flavoured dough and perfectly thought out fillings. They’re super-freshly made, with thousands being made a day. And I highly, highly recommend you pick one up the next time you’re in Borough Market.

We, however, went one step further than just buying the doughnuts.

Yep, we went to one of Bread Ahead’s workshops and learnt how to make them. Justin Gellatly was our tutor for the class, so that caused a massive fan-girl moment by yours truly!

It might take a full two days to produce one of these doughnuts, but the course is very cleverly squeezed into a few (delicious) hours. We first use some dough that has been ready-made by the team, and learn how to roll the perfect doughnuts. All Bread Ahead doughnuts are rolled by hand, and it’s definitely harder than it looks… We popped them on to prove, and then go going with actually making a batch of dough.

As someone who shies away from enriched dough and kneading in general (there’s a reason I love Jame’s Morton’s bread recipes, and it’s that I rarely need to get my hands dirty!), I was nervous about making this dough – however it has actually made me a lot more confident. Who knew a pinch of lemon zest could prevent the dough from getting overly greasy?! With the dough popped in the fridge, we got on with fillings – some of the 14 strong class demonstrating how to make honeycomb and custards. We then got to sample a doughnut cooked in from of us by Justin, still hot from the fryer. I’m not sure doughnuts will ever, ever be the same again…

After a quick coffee break, we got on with frying our own shaped doughnuts, before sugar bombing them in the largest bowl of sugar I’d ever, ever seen. It was then time to pipe in the fillings, a process that got messy, sticky and ended up with an awful lot of the caramel custard ending up in my mouth rather than my doughnut (#sorrynotsorry). We left the class with a bag of goodies each – 6 freshly made doughnuts (plus an extra we’d squeezed out from some leftover dough), a pot of dough for another six doughnuts, and 2 big bags of honeycomb.

Oh, and we bought a deep fat fryer on the way home purely for making more doughnuts. We’re nothing if not committed!

At £80 per person this class was far from cheap, but it was without doubt the best cookery class I’ve ever, ever done. It was very hands-on, we got lots of delicious goodies, and we came away feeling confident in making enriched dough, in deep-frying, in making custard, and with a doughnut addiction. I’d highly recommend a class, though they book up wayyyy in advance!

*Disclaimer – this workshop was paid for by myself as part of my fiance’s birthday present, and I wasn’t asked to write a review (we just had a fab time and I wanted to share!). I am, however, due to be working with Bread Ahead on a little review opportunity over the summer as a result of my Instagram posts following this workshop. All opinions, as always, are my own!

Are you a doughnut fan? Have you tried a cookery class?

Cooking From: Roasted Cauliflower & Caramelised Red Onion Salad (Fress)

“To eat copiously” is what the Yiddish word “Fress” means. And what a wonderfully appealing title for a cookery book that is. Masterchef finalist Emma Spitzer’s  book mergers the food of the Middle-East with that of Eastern Europe, incorporating her Polish and Russian heritage in a combination that is both homely and exciting. Spiced up comfort food, if you will. The recipes are appealing too, with Emma’s aim to get as much flavour as possible from a simple recipe without spending hours in the kitchen.

The book includes recipes for sharing, soups, big plates with meat and fish dishes (the Sticky Pomegranate Salmon looks especially good),  salads, and some sweet treats. There’s classics like Chicken Soup, which looks wonderfully comforting, something I’ll be sure to get W to make me the next time I’m under the weather. Of course, it helps that this book, this cover is the prettiest one to grace my bookshelves.

The recipe I’m reviewing today is aesthetically pleasing too. The cover recipe for the book, upon tasting it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as not only does it look good, it also tastes amazing. I’ve made the recipe as per the book several times, but the version I’m giving you today is my regular recipe – I generally cook it for lunchboxes, so I’ve made it even less complicated, using less pans, using less ingredients to make it a bit cost effective. I highly recommend you try the original version as the flavours are a lot more complex, but this basic salad is just as delicious.

Recipe – makes 3-4 lunch servings

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced relatively finely
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into small-ish florets with the smaller leaves kept
  • 120g giant couscous, cooked as per pack instructions
  • 3 tsp za’atar spice
  • 100g blanched almonds
  • 3-4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the onions with a little salt over a low heat until soft – around 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile toss the cauliflower florets in the remaining oil, spread out onto a baking tray and roast at 180C for 15 minutes – then add the za’tar and the cauliflower leaves, toss together (with some additional oil if it’s looking dry) and roast for another 10 minutes. Tip into a large bowl along with the cooked giant couscous.

When the onions are soft, turn up the heat to medium and turn in the sugar and balsamic vinegar, before cooking for around 5 minutes until sticky and caramelised. Add to the bowl along with a good grind of black pepper and toss everything together.

When ready to serve (at room temperature, not fridge cold), add 25g of almonds per serving, plus a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds. This is excellent on it’s own, alongside homemade pitta breads, or part of a Middle Eastern style spread (think hummus, falafel, spiced chicken, fesenjan…).

Have you tried any Middle Eastern recipes? What would you recommend?