Shakshouka

Shakshouka 1Last Friday our lovely friend Andy came over and we took the opportunity to introduce him to our favourite restaurant: No. 4 Peterville.  Now, Andy is a bit of a foody and he eats out A LOT in some very nice restaurants so we were thrilled that he loved No. 4 as much as we do but, you know, what’s not to like?

Not only did we eat our way through the menu but we also drank our way through the wine list.  The boys even finished up with some amazing cognac but I confess that I was done by that stage and settled for espresso.

Needless to say, after such indulgence, Andy was staying overnight at our house.  Anticipating some serious hangovers (“not me – I don’t get hangovers” she said smugly) I planned a revitalising breakfast – nothing like a bit of chilli heat to bring you back to life after an evening of excess – so I decided to make shakshouka.

However, as Andy was eating out again on Saturday night (and Sunday and Monday apparently) he decided to skip breakfast and head home to Plymouth.  We ate the shakshouka anyway and I just thought I would post this to show him what he missed – I am such a gracious host!

By now you may well be wondering what on earth it was that we ate.

If you decide to research shakshouka (or shakshuka) you will find that it is Tunisian or maybe Israeli or Moroccan or Egyptian in origin.  The more you read the more you will  realise that most North African countries have their own version of this dish.  What is more, everybody makes it in a slightly different way, which is brilliant because you can vary it according to your own desires and it will always be authentic somewhere – even if only in your kitchen.

This dish is tradionally served for breakfast and we love eating it for brunch at the weekend but it also makes a great lunch dish or, with the addition of some potatoes, a perfect dinner.

Some recipes (like this one) use peppers and some don’t, others add spicy sausage or chunks of cheese.  For me, the joy of a dish like this is the variability.  In our house it belongs to that category of recipes called a “bung in” because you can just “bung in” whatever is in the fridge; finally a use for 3 slightly wrinkled mushrooms and a lonely half courgette.

The eggs are a fairly fundamental part of shakshouka but if you are vegan (or you just don’t like them) leave them out.  Try adding tofu or beans instead.

One thing is sure though; it absolutely has to be eaten with lots of fresh, crusty bread to soak up the lovely sweet, hot, spicy juices.

ShakshoukaIngredients

(Serves 2)

1 large Onion (sliced)

2 cloves of Garlic (chopped)

1 red Pepper (sliced)

1 orange Pepper (sliced)

2 fresh Chillies (red or green to suit you)

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp Ground Coriander

2 tbsp Olive Oil

1 x 400g tin Chopped Tomatoes

A generous handful of fresh Coriander (chopped)

4 large Eggs

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add the sliced onions and cook gently until softened.  Add the garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin and ground coriander, stir well.  Add the sliced peppers and chopped chillies (seeds in or out depending on how hot you want it to be) and cook gently until softened.

Turn the heat up a little until the peppers and onions begin to colour a little (don’t overdo it).

Add the tinned tomatoes, season well with salt and pepper and stir.  Cook together for five minutes adding a little water if it gets a bit dry.

Make four wells in the mixture and break an egg into each one and cover with a lid or some tin foil.  Be careful here.  There is a bit of an art to getting the heat right.  You want the whites to set before the yolks are overcooked so start off with a gentle heat and adjust it as you see fit.

Once the eggs are cooked sprinkle over the chopped coriander and serve.

This dish is traditionally served straight from the pan at the table with bread, lots of bread and then maybe a little more bread.  Eat, enjoy, feel better.  Now get out there and enjoy your weekend.

 

Quick and Healthy Banana Pancakes

Banana PancakesThis recipe was originally a Pinterest find.  I love Pinterest and can easily lose a day just browsing recipes and photos of food but this particular one intrigued me.  I have been making pancakes forever – traditional English pancakes, savoury Dutch pancakes and American style pancakes but none of them claim to have only 2 ingredients.   Yes, that’s right, 2 ingredients.  I am not even sure that 2 ingredients constitutes a recipe.

These pancakes are made using just eggs and banana which is fantastic if you are following a gluten or dairy free diet.

To be honest I wasn’t totally convinced until I tried them.  Eggs and banana?  Isn’t that actually a banana omelette?  Is a banana omelette something I actually want to eat?

Not to be daunted I gave them a go and I was very pleasantly surprised; they are scrumptious.  They are also a really healthy way to start the day.  Your kids will love them because they are naturally sweet.  You will love them because they give a great protein kick plus one of their five a day without them even noticing it.  You could save them for weekends but they are also quick enough to do on a school day and take less time to make than boiled eggs.

If you really want to be indulgent you could drizzle them with maple syrup but they absolutely do not need it.  I am thinking that they might be nice with a handful of blueberries or a pinch of cinnamon but I really don’t want to over complicate something which is the very essence of simplicity.

Whatever you do with them – give them a go.  I guarantee that they will set you and your kids up wonderfully well for the day ahead.

Ingredients (per person)

1 very ripe banana

2 large free range eggs

Method

Lightly oil a non-stick frying pan and place it over a medium heat.

Mash the banana well.  If you like your pancakes very smooth you could blitz it with a hand held / stick blender but I quite like a few little lumps of banana.

Whisk in the two eggs.

Pour large spoonfuls of the mixture into the frying pan and cook until browned.  Flip and cook the other side.

Serve.

It really is that simple.  Enjoy your pancakes.

 

Home-made Tomato Sauce

yummy pasta sauceI am shuffling sideways into this blog, glowing with embarassment.  I have a confession to make:  I recently bought, and used, a proprietory jar of pasta sauce.  I know.  I feel like I have let you all down; I am so, so, sorry – please know that I am suitably contrite.  It’s just that I thought it would be a quick, cheap way to feed the family.  It was quick.  It wasn’t any cheaper than home-made and the flavour was downright disappointing.

I buy very little processed food and when I do I check the labels carefully and there was nothing nasty in this jar of tomato sauce; nothing unpronouncable, nothing I don’t have in my own cupboards at home.  So I really don’t understand why it tasted so synthetic.

I take some solace in the fact that I am not the only one taking short cuts:  According to Statistica over 57 million people in the UK used a bought pasta sauce last year (2014).  Not bad in a population of around 64 million.

I don’t suppose I can convince all of them to make their own sauce but I hope I can convert one or two of you lovely scufflers.

Bowl of homemade tomato sauce

The recipe below makes lots of lovely tomato sauce so you can put some in the freezer and then it will not only be tastier than a bought sauce but will also be just as quick. This home-made sauce is also really versatile:  If you make a plain sauce, as I have, you can give it a flavour boost when you serve it.  Use it as a simple pasta sauce by adding fresh basil and parmesan; as a pizza topping by adding thyme or rosemary, in a chilli con carne by cooking fresh chillies and spices with the meat, in a vegetable shepherd’s pie; in an aubergine bake…  The list goes on.

I have included celery and carrot because I think using this classic mirepoix base adds lots of flavour (not to mention some extra veg) but you can leave them out if you prefer.  I also use bouillon powder to season but you could always use a vegetable stock cube or even just some salt and pepper.

If you grow your own lovely, flavoursome tomatoes this is a fantastic way to preserve them but, for most of the year in Britain, fresh tomatoes lack the depth of flavour needed so I have used tinned in this recipe.

Whatever you do with it I urge you to try it – just once.  Go on – you know you want to.

Ingredients

2 large White Onions

3 large Cloves of Garlic

1 Bay Leaf

1 stick of Celery

1 large Carrot

4x 400g Tins of Tomatoes (you can use chopped if you wish)

2 tbsp Tomato Puree

2 tbsp Bouillon Powder

2 tbsp Olive Oil

Method

Place a deep frying / saute pan over a gentle heat and add the olive oil.

Finely chop the onion, garlic and celery and add to the pan.  Peel the carrot and grate it directly into the pan (grating the carrot lets it cook away almost completely leaving only the flavour – great for fooling kids who don’t like veg!).  Add the bay leaf, stir and cook gently until all the vegetables are soft and translucent – do not allow to brown.

Add the tomatoes, bouillon powder and tomato puree and bring to the boil.  Break the tomatoes up with a spatula, cover and simmer very gently for an hour.  I realise that this sounds like a long time, and you can reduce it, but long gentle cooking gives it more flavour.

If you are using the sauce straight away add your extra flavours and off you go.  If you want to keep some for later it will store happily in the fridge for a few days or you can pour it into plastic boxes and freeze it.

 

Crustless Quiche

Quice sliceI make quite a lot of quiche. In fact I just calculated that, since opening the café, I have made approximately 400 of them! That really is quite a lot of quiche…
We have some kind of quiche or tart on the menu every day at bun scuffle; perhaps with a shortcrust base, a puff pastry base or maybe even with a filo base but the crustless quiche is by far the most popular. It is loved by those who need to choose a gluten free lunch but also by those who just want a lighter option.

Now, I have to confess that it does cause a little confusion at first – people read it on the menu and don’t always know what to expect. I have lost count of the times when I have been asked “A crustless quiche? Isn’t that just an omelette?” In case you were wondering the same thing – no it is not. It is a quiche – just without the pastry.

A quiche is made with a mix of eggs and dairy whereas an omelette is made with just eggs. I make the café quiches using crème fraiche but you can also use double or single cream. In fact a quiche is a really good way to use up odds and ends of dairy products and I have made it using a mix of cream, crème fraiche, yoghurt and soured cream (I really do hate waste) with no detriment to the flavour or texture at all.

When I first started making quiches I was a little overwhelmed by the number of different recipes – the ratio of eggs to dairy can vary quite significantly. I experimented and found that too much cream stops the quiche from setting whilst too much egg makes it a bit bouncy and rubbery. This recipe will give you a light and fluffy quiche with a good set.

I would say that this recipe is foolproof but we are all capable of being foolish from time to time.  I recently received an order of quiche from a regular customer but when I went into the kitchen I couldn’t find it!  Then I remembered – when the timer went off that morning I decided that the quiche needed another 5 minutes.  With some trepidation I opened the oven door to find something that looked like a dessicated, dried out Yorkshire pudding.  Oops.  If you can just avoid leaving yours in the oven for 4 hours you will probably be fine…

I have included a range of suggested fillings / flavourings but feel free to experiment. It’s great way to use up leftover vegetables or even scraps of cheeseboard cheeses. Just go a little easy with the cheese or the quiche can end up a little greasy.

Crustless Quiche
Ingredients

450 ml Crème Fraiche
5 Eggs
Salt & Pepper

Suggested Fillings

Roasted red pepper and goat’s cheese  (1 Sliced roasted red pepper and 150g firm goat’s cheese – sliced).
Mushroom and gruyere  (1lb / 450g mixed, cooked mushrooms [sliced where appropriate] with 150g grated gruyere).
Pea, Parmesan and Spring Onion  (A generous handful of frozen peas, 50g finely grated parmesan and 6 spring onions [finely chopped])
Quiche Lorraine  (200g /7oz cooked ham or bacon cut into strips, 10-12 cherry tomatoes – halved, 150g grated mature cheddar).

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Lightly grease an 8” / 20cm round or square oven proof dish.

Whisk together the eggs and crème fraiche. Season with a good grinding of black pepper and a little salt. Pour into the oven dish. Add the filling of your choice.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes. When done the quiche will be set but still have a little wobble. It will rise and puff up a little like a soufflé but this will drop almost as soon as it comes out of the oven.

You can eat this quiche hot, at room temperature or chilled – whichever you prefer.

 

Connie Thornton – Guest Blog

Earlier this year I was both pleased and privileged to be asked to act as an assessor for Connie Thornton, who had opted to complete a food module for her Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Connie chose to focus on healthy but tasty food and we had some really interesting discussions as she developed her portfolio of recipes. I was most impressed by the enthusiasm with which Connie talked about the food ideas she was developing and began to ask her about her influences. Like many creative cooks she was first influenced by the important women in her life; in this case, her mother and her grandmother. I suggested that she write a short piece for the bun scuffle blog and this is what she gave me.

I owe an apology to Connie as I have been sitting on this piece for so long that she is actually 16 now but I am finally getting my act together – and here it is:

Connie with her Narnia

A young Connie with her Narnia

Hey! My name is Connie and I am 15. Fiona has been very kind and invited me to write this piece for her blog.

I have always been interested in food… especially eating it!

My nanny (who I call Narnia) used to live in Shropshire in a magical cottage… well, in my head it was and always will be. We always cooked together, even when I was a little dot! Actually, writing this has just brought back a memory: Me & Narnia used to go and collect the eggs from under her chickens. We did this every morning; I was only 2 years old – yes, I was a very confident 2 year old to be putting my hand under a giant and ferocious chicken! Now, on this particular morning, Narnia finally let me carry an egg in my hands instead of putting it in the basket. I carried it VERY carefully… up the pathway, past her little strawberry patch, until we reached the gate onto this beautiful cottage garden where Narnia’s dogs were waiting for us. Suddenly, I must have decided that I should try and bounce the egg like a ball; to Narnia’s horror, the dogs’ delight and my surprise: eggs don’t bounce!
… My first experience of scrambled egg.

Narnia's Hens

One of the “giant and ferocious” hens of Connie’s childhood.

I thought it would be good to share one of Connie’s recipes too – so while we are on the subject of eggs…

Recipe  Breakfast pancakes with grated pear or apple:

Ingredients

1 tea cup of self raising flour
1 egg
1 tea cup of milk
sprinkle of salt
1 grated apple or pear

Method:

Put the flour, egg, pinch of salt and milk into a mixing bowl and gently mix together
until the mixture is smooth and lump free.

Grate a whole apple or pear into the mixture in one go, then mix the fruit in until the mixture looks smooth.
Heat a little butter in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Place a table spoon of the batter into the hot pan, once the butter has melted (you can put as many pancakes into the pan as will fit in).

Cook for a few minutes until the top appears to be drying out and bubbles appear.
Now you can flip them over; the underside should be a light golden brown colour. Repeat
until the underneath is a golden brown colour.

Tip onto a plate and serve with your favourite toppings, such as blueberries, banana and
a drizzle of honey, or a dollop of natural yoghurt to dip. Any sliced seasonal fruit works
really well with this dish.