Ayurveda: The Science of Life

Ayurveda

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is traditional Indian medicine and is the most ancient system of medicine known to humankind. It is believed to be at least 5000 years old but some say it’s even older. Therefore, often called as “the Mother of Medicine” and is recognised by World Health Organisation as alternative medicine.

Ayurveda is a medical science and its purpose is to heal and to maintain the quality and longevity of life. It offers a profound understanding of each person’s unique body, addressing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realities in harmony with the laws of nature. In other words, Ayurveda is a system that helps maintain your health by using the inherent principles of nature to bring you back into equilibrium with your true self.

The Meaning of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word which is derived from two roots: ayur and veda. Ayur means life. According to the ancient Ayurvedic scholar Charaka, ayur is comprised of four essential parts and is the combination of mind, body, senses and soul. And, veda means knowledge of life or knowledge of longevity. The word Ayurveda can be translated in at least three different ways:
• Science of life
• Knowledge of life
• Art of living

The Origins of Ayurveda

Ayurveda originated within the tradition of the Vedas which are India’s sacred books of knowledge and wisdom. They are produced by the seers (rishis), enlightened wise men who directly realised God. The Vedas are believed to be more than 10,000 years old. The four main Vedas are Rigveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda and Samaveda which are considered to be the oldest bodies of recorded/written knowledge in human culture. Vedas contain practical and scientific information on various subjects beneficial to humanity, not just health but also philosophy and engineering. Some say Ayurveda is developed from the youngest of the Vedas; the Atharvaveda and the others feel the origin was within Rigveda.

How did I come to know Ayurveda? I will tell you all about it in my next post. So, stay tuned.

Indian Home Cooking by Ajoy Joshi and Jan Purser

Indian Home Cooking Ajoy Joshi Jan Purser

Book Review: Indian Home Cooking by Ajoy Joshi and Jan Purser

You have seen the cover and I know what you’re thinking: this is not a vegetarian cookbook. And you’re absolutely right; it’s not. However, I actually own quite a few non-vegetarian cookbooks and I use them, too! How is that possible? Well, I use the recipes as a base to create vegetarian dishes. And most Indian cookbooks include many vegetarian recipes anyway.

Indian Home Cooking by Ajoy Joshi and Jan Purser is a very good example. First of all, there is so much in it for vegetarians and not just vegetable dishes section but also “vegetarian” section. Besides, snacks, starters, certain soups, desserts, some rice dishes, drinks, raitas, pickles and chutneys are all vegetarian. Yes, all the mains are grouped together around chicken, seafood and meat but it’s amazing what you can come up with if you want to create vegetarian versions of these dishes –see the recipe at the end of this post.

In this cookbook, Indian Home Cooking, you will find good instructions on ingredients, spices, equipment, techniques like garam masala and cooking onions and basic spice mixtures before you get to the recipes section.  The recipes section is divided into:

  • Appetizers and Snacks
  • Soups
  • Chicken
  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegetables
  • Rice and Breads
  • Raitas, Pickles and Chutneys
  • Desserts and Drinks

When Dad came to visit us here in Sydney he and I cooked a dish each from Indian Home Cooking. Dad cooked a mushroom and corn dish which is originally vegetarian and I converted Chili Chicken recipe. They were both delicious. Next time, I am planning on converting one of the prawn dishes.

About Authors

Ajoy Joshi

Ajoy was trained in Madras (now Chennai), India and started his career at the prestigious Taj Group of Hotels where as Executive Chef he orchestrated the opening of the now famous Karavali Restaurant, renowned for its ethnic coastal South Indian Cuisine. Ajoy’s training was completed in the gruelling culinary education he received from six Indian master chefs who are experts in their own regional cuisine. Ajoy now lives in Sydney, and is the owner of Nilgiri’s and Tellicherry with his wife,Meera Joshi –personal friends of ours.

Jan Purser

Jan Purser is contributing nutrition editor for leading magazine Australian Good Taste, and is also a nutrition consultant, remedial therapist, meditation teacher and freelance writer. For almost a decade, Jan has been writing on food, health and nutrition for several publications. Jan’s passion for Indian food and cooking began in earnest during a trip to India some years ago and it is with delight that she has written this book with Ajoy Joshi.

Indian Home Cooking Ajoy Joshi Jan Purser

Ajoy Joshi’s Chili Chicken

Indian Home Cooking Ajoy Joshi Jan PurserMushroom and Corn with Cilantro (Khumb makki hara dhania)

Vegetarian Chorizo Pizza for Eurovision 2016

vegetarian chorizo pizzaYesterday, I was forced by my husband to get out of the house and buy some ingredients from The Cruelty Free Shop in Glebe. There are reasons for this…

The reason number one: I have been couped up at home, rehearsing for Open Mic Night at The Vanguard or in Big Music Studios with the rest of the band. Now that the event is behind us, I can focus on other things.
The reason number two: I have been experimenting with ready-made, supermarket-bought pizza bases for a while and hoping to get more of Gran chorizo which works really, really well. When you have it in your cupboard, though (which I didn’t). So, I had to go out and get some ingredients.
The reason number three: Since we are way into Autumn here in Australia and experiencing really good weather makes you think how many more days like this we have left? Saturday was a really good example so use these days wisely while you can.
The reason number four: Eurovision semi-final was on last night which was screaming pizza and large quantities of alcohol to drink after every key change and wind machine 🙂

vegetarian chorizo pizza

Vegetarian Chorizo Pizza

Ingredients:
1 pizza base (I used Pomodoro Brothers brand which I buy from Coles)

For Passata:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped or grated
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
Salt to taste

For the Pizza Topping:
2 rings pineapple, chopped
10 slices Gran Chorizo
1 spring onion, chopped
2 pickled baby cornichons, sliced
1/3 banana chili, chopped

Grated cheese

Method:
• Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan forced) or 200ºC.
• Place the pizza base on a tray (preferably earthen pizza tray).
• To make Passata: Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the tomato, garlic powder and onion powder. Cook over medium heat until tomato pieces lose their shape completely and the consistency is sauce like. While hot, spread it all over the pizza base. This will soften the pizza base a little.
• Arrange the pineapple pieces, vegetarian chorizo, spring onion, baby cornichons and banana chili on top of passata. Top it all up with grated cheese and place it in the middle of the oven. Bake the pizza for 20 minutes.
• Slice and serve immediately.

Deviled Eggs with Avocado

deviled eggs avocado

Deviled Eggs with Avocado
Deviled eggs are simple yet elegant starters and can be added to any type of appetizer platter without much trouble. They just play well with the other kids. They are also easy to make. Especially, if you boil and refrigerate the eggs overnight.

The classic deviled egg recipe uses the actual hard-boiled egg yolks alone, mixed with mayonnaise, herbs and spices. Of course, there is always room for improvisation. And, that’s exactly what I did last time with my deviled eggs. I added avocado to the mixture!

Deviled Eggs with Avocado

Ingredients:
6 large free range eggs
1 small avocado (ripe)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chives, snipped

Method:
• Place the eggs in a saucepan and fill with enough cool water to cover the eggs by 3 to 5cm (an inch or two). Place the pan over high heat. Once the water reaches a boil, remove the pan from heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
• To peel the eggs, tap the eggs gently against the counter to crack the shell in a few places, then submerge in ice water for at least 1 minute. Then, peel the eggs.
• Place the peeled eggs on a large, flat plate and slice the eggs down their length, from tip to bottom. Remove the yolks by gently squeezing the eggs to separate the yolks from the whites. Then, use your fingers to remove the yolks. Transfer all the yolks to a mixing bowl.
• Arrange the empty whites on a platter, cut-side up.
• Place the avocado on cutting board. Insert knife into stem end; slice into halves lengthwise to the pit, turning avocado while slicing. Remove knife blade; twist both halves to pull apart. Scoop out the inside of the avocado halves and add it to the egg yolks.
• Mash the yolks and avocado with a fork until they are completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
• Transfer the filling to a plastic bag or piping bag. If you don’t have a real piping bag, you could use a zip lock bag instead. Here’s how you do it: Just scoop the filling into the zip lock bag, squeeze the filling into a corner and snip off that corner. Then squeeze the filling into the egg whites. If you have a piping bag, just pipe the filling into the cup of each egg white and around. Alternatively, scoop the filling into the egg whites with a spoon.
• Sprinkle with fresh chives over the top of each egg before serving. That’s it! Enjoy!

Ingredient Profile: Tomatoes

tomatoes

Vegetable Profile: Tomatoes

Origin of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are native to Central America and had been brought to Europe by the Spaniards. However, Europeans initially thought that they were poisonous so they did not gain popularity for quite some time. They were right to a certain degree as tomatoes belong in nightshade family of plant and they contain alkaloids –substances can cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals.

Tomato Varieties

Here’s a list of commonly available tomatoes:
• Apollo
• Sweet grape
• Beefsteak
• Truss tomatoes or on-the-vine tomatoes
• Red cherry
• Cherry cocktail
• Cherry gold
• Tommy toe
• Mini yellow pear
• Heirloom tomatoes
• Roma
• Cherry Roma
• Oxheart
• Tiny Tim

TomatoesSeason

Tomatoes are available all year around. They are grown just about everywhere in the world, either in the open or under glass. If you don’t like the fresh ones this month and only want them for cooking, buy them canned.

Selection of Tomatoes

Choose firm, heavy, well-formed tomatoes that are free from deep blemishes. Avoid over-ripe and split ones. The colour should be deep red and even. Pale ones –unless they the natural yellow variety—tend to have less flavour.

Storing Tomatoes

Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature or in a cool but not cold place. Keeping tomatoes in the fridge is not ideal as the cold reduces their flavour. It is advisable to purchase them close to serving time. Use tomatoes within 7-10 days if they are red. If they are green, ripen them in a dark, slightly cool place.

Preparation Techniques

Tomatoes are usually considered a salad ingredient but they also make a fine cooked vegetable. They quickly lose their shape when cooked, though.
To peel tomatoes: First, cut a cross at the bottom of tomato –not too deep. Dip into boiling water for about 1 minute, then plunge in cold water; slip off skin. Alternatively, pierce the tomato with a fork at the stem end. Hold the tomato over a low flame, turning slowly, until the skin pops. Remove from the flame and peel the skin away.
How to seed tomatoes: An easy way is to slice the tomatoes in half, then gently squeeze and press out the seedy portions. Then dice or cut in sections as called for.
Other preparation methods: Peeled or unpeeled tomato slices or wedges.
Chopping tomatoes: Wash, remove the stem and core. Then chop them into small pieces.

Cooking Tips for Tomatoes

Grilling tomatoes: Start with firm tomatoes and slice them in half horizontally. Brush with olive oil. Grill until stripy grill marks form. Flip and repeat. Sprinkle with salt.
Stuffing tomatoes: Slice them in half horizontally and scoop out the inside. Fill with your choice of filling (deep-fried eggplant, breadcrumbs, cheese, spinach, mushrooms, rice and quinoa are some possibilities). Slice them in half horizontally and scoop out the inside. Bake at 400ºF/200ºC/Gas Mark 6 for 20-30 minutes.

Where to Use

Tomato is the main ingredient in passata (pizza sauce), tomato paste, ketchup and a variety of pasta sauces. There are many dishes featuring tomatoes. Here are some examples:
Shakshuka
• Mexican salsas
• Sauces like in this Smoky Tomato sauce
• Soups like Gazpacho
• Sandwiches
• Stews like Zucchini Stew with Green Lentils
• Vegetable bakes
• Raw salads like Shepherd’s Salad with Sumac or Sumaklı Çoban Salata
• Bruschetta
• Sun-dried tomatoes as in Bruschetta with Cream Cheese and Tapenade
• Pasta sauces like Spaghetti with Bolognese Sauce or Fusilli Pasta with Eggplant and Corn
• Breaded green tomatoes (not very common in Australia, however, this one for my friends from the US)

Complimentary Flavours

Here’s a list of ingredients which I believe go nicely with tomatoes:
• Fresh basil leaves
• Olive oil
• Parsley
• Dill weed
• Garlic
• Onion
• Chives
• Oregano (fresh or dried)
• Parmesan cheese
• Peppers
• Capsicum
• Chilli
• Black pepper or white pepper
• Tarragon leaves
• Balsamic vinegar
• Curry pastes like Nyonya curry paste and Harissa
• Yoghurt

Nutritional Profile of Tomatoes

When the tomato is perfectly ripe, it is a highly nutritious vegetable, containing a good level of vitamin A, C, K, manganese, folate, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. Tomatoes also contain 95% water.

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

The biggest health benefit of tomatoes is its lycopene content. This anti-cancer ingredient is the most powerful antioxidant among the carotenoids and is the pigment that makes tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and strawberries red. Tomatoes are the second lycopene richest plant, watermelon being the first. Lycopene is fat-soluble. Therefore, it is more readily absorbed when tomatoes are cooked and oil is added. You don’t have to look any further than your pasta sauce with olive oil in it. However, heating foods destroys enzymes, life force and some of the vitamin C, folic acid and other nutrients.

The other anti-cancer substances tomatoes contain are coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid which combine with nitric oxides in certain foods to prevent them forming cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Special Note on Tomatoes

In botany, tomatoes are actually fruit, not a vegetable. No wonder why I sometimes feel like eating a whole tomato over the sink.

How to Put Together a Cheese Platter

cheese platterHow to Put Together a Cheese Platter

Entertaining? How about putting together a cheese platter? Gathering around a delightful cheese plate and some wine is becoming more and more popular these days. So this post is all about how to put together a decent cheese platter that everyone will enjoy.

Assembling a cheese platter sounds easy but there are a few rules to follow. Here are basic guidelines to get you started:

Choosing Your Cheese

All you need is three different types of cheese and maybe more if you have a large number of guests but always in odd numbers –it’s a French thing. However, there is no need to overwhelm anyone’s palate. So, aim for different textures like hard, soft, semi-soft, aged or choose your cheese made from different types of milk like goat’s, cow’s or sheep’s milk.

cheese platter

For a well-rounded cheese platter, choose a good variety of cheeses. Here are the suggestions:

• Semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, Colby, Edam and Gouda
• Blue cheese varieties like Roquefort, Danablu (Danish Blue), Cabrales, Gorgonzola and Blue Stilton
• Soft ripened varieties like Brie or Camembert
• Hard or aged varieties like Parmesan, Romano or Asiago
• And if you would like to add a fresh type to your cheese platter I recommend Chevre (fresh goat’s cheese)

How Much Cheese to Serve?

The amount of cheese you serve depends on how many people are invited. Obviously, if you are planning to serve an after dinner cheese platter, you will need less amount of cheese. In that case, allow 60gr of cheese per person. If the cheese platter is the only food on offer, then the amount of cheese would be 90-120gr per person.

Shopping for Your Cheese Platter

Artisan cheese shops can be a bit intimidating with their wide variety of unpronounceable products. However, it is totally expected to ask questions and even taste before you buy. There is a French cheese shop on the ground level of Drummoyne Shopping Centre –factory outlet, to be precise. Every time we go there to do buy some shoes and clothes, we end up buying cheese although cheese is never on our shopping list. You know why? Because they always carry something different and interesting. For us, it’s like education. There are many places like that in Sydney where you can buy artisan cheeses and they help you choose the right type of cheese for your guests.

If you prefer to try your nearest supermarket, that is also fine. I seem to find a great variety of cheeses at our local Wollworths these days. And they are guest-worthy, too.

Sometimes, you get farmers bringing their produce to local markets. This is extra special because they tell you stories of how each block of cheese is made. Again, you taste and buy.

cheese platter

Sweet and Savoury Accompaniments

One thing you need to consider when you choose accompaniments for a cheese platter is this: The other foods you serve with cheese can intensify or even change the flavour of cheese. Some of these accompaniments are sweet, some of them are savoury. I have grouped them together here for you.

cheese platter

Savoury Accompaniments
• Crackers like water crackers have neutral taste and they are good for soft cheeses. Biscuit crackers, on the other hand, are ideal for hard cheeses. If you have any guests with coeliac disease, serve gluten free varieties like rice or potato crackers.
• Raw, toasted or smoked nuts like walnuts (goes especially well with blue cheese) and almonds
• Marinated olives (always serve with a little spoon and make sure they are pitted)
• Vegetarian deli slices like Tofurky hickory-smoked, smoked ham style, oven roasted, Vegusto, and Sanitarium deli slices are all suitable.

Sweet Accompaniments
• Fresh fruits like grapes (red, green or even champagne grapes), apple slices, pear slices, berries and figs
• Dried fruits like fig, muscatel clusters and apricots
• Jams like fig jam or quince paste (membrillo)
• Chutneys (they go nicely with hard cheeses in particular)
• Honey (raw or otherwise)

Cheese Knives

• If you buy a wheel of cheese, you will need a big, sharp and sturdy knife to cut it. A sharp chef’s knife would do the job. Just dip it into hot water and wipe before you cut the wheel.
• To serve cheese, provide a different knife for each type of cheese to avoid mixing all the different cheese flavours together.
• Cheese knife sets these days come with a lot of useful pieces. One of them is serving prongs or forks. They make it easier to lift cheese slices from the board onto the individual plates.
• For cutting soft cheeses, either use a wire cutter, spatula or a knife with holes. Because soft cheeses are stickier than the others.
• Use the right knife for the right cheese. Please refer to the photo.

cheese platter

• If you’re serving marinated cheese in oil, a small fork or a spoon will suffice.
• Cheese knives with short and stubby blade and cheese planes are ideal for slicing hard cheeses like Parmesan.

Wine and Cheese Pairing

Wine and cheese pairing is actually a huge topic and should be tackled in a separate post. Still, I need to talk about it here as wine and cheese are inseparable.

Here’s the problem though: you have an assortment of cheeses –at least three—and each one has its own characteristics as well as its corresponding wine. This makes wine pairing tricky for a cheese platter. So, we need to focus on one type of wine that will be broad enough to complement all three cheeses. And for that, I have two recommendations for you:

  1. Riesling –especially off-dry—is one great choice because it’s low in alcohol yet sweet with tropical fruits. Acidity and mineral content make it a broad enough to pair with many types of cheese.
  2. Alsatian Gewürztraminer is another great choice; it’s dry and yet floral. So it would create a nice contrast to savouriness of cheese.

Additional Tips

• Remove cheese from the fridge and let it rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes before serving –an hour is better—as cold deadens the flavour of the cheese.
• Let your guests slice their own semi-hard cheese. Pre-slicing cheese allows it to dry out around the edges.
• Hard cheeses like parmesan will crumble a little and it’s OK.
• Rennet is used in the production of cheese and is derived from stomach lining of calves. Many cheeses we buy today are made with rennet. However, I see “suitable for vegetarians” on the label more often these days. Some vegetarians tolerate the fact that their cheese is made with animal rennet but some don’t. If you are catering for vegetarians it may be wise to include cheese made only with vegetarian rennet.

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

I order our fruits and vegetables –along with some other pantry items –through Harris Farm to be delivered to my door every week. They now have this “imperfect picks” option. Basically, your usual fruits and vegetables that don’t look good on the outside. The ugly guys, so to speak. However, they taste good and are cheaper as well.

We’re having friends over for dinner on Friday night. So I put together a menu after I talked to them if they were allergic to anything or if there’s anything they don’t like –standard dinner party procedure. Based on what I’ll be cooking for them and our weekly menu items, I put my order in. Luckily, the ugly zucchinis I ordered happened to have large bottoms! That means, they are large enough to stuff!

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini Kabak Dolması

A note on vegetarian mince: I used Quorn vegetarian mince in this recipe because I can’t get Linda McCartney’s mince anymore in Australia and I really don’t like Sanitarium’s mince. The other alternative to vegetarian mince is The Redwood VegiDeli Gourmet Meat Free Mince but I find it quite expensive and not so easy to get. Quorn mince, on the other hand, can be purchased from Woolworths or Coles, depending on the branch.

A note on an absent ingredient: The traditional Kabak Dolması has rice in the stuffing mix and we have it with plain buttered pasta as a side dish –very German/Austrian, I know. I didn’t use rice this time because I was planning on making a rice pilaf as a side dish and didn’t want things too rice-y. Well, I didn’t make the rice pilaf in the end but dolmas were already cooking when I made that decision. Let’s not talk about it, shall we?

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini or Kabak Dolması

Ingredients:
4 large pieces zucchini

For the Stuffing Mixture:
4 tablespoons Quorn vegetarian mince, thawed (see note above)
½ small brown onion, chopped finely
1 small tomato, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon Turkish pepper paste (hot)
A drizzle vegetable oil
A large pinch Turkish dried mint
Salt to taste
A pinch ground sweet paprika

For Garlic Yoghurt:
4 tablespoons Greek style plain yoghurt
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 twig fresh dill, chopped

Method:
• Peel and carve out the fleshy part of zucchinis.
• Mix together the vegetarian mince, chopped onion, chopped tomato, Turkish hot pepper paste, vegetable oil, chopped dill, dried mint, salt, black pepper and ground paprika.
• Fill the hollow parts of zucchinis with the stuffing mixture. You will have some extra stuffing mixture.
• Place the extra stuffing mixture in a saucepan and lightly cook. Carefully transfer the stuffed zucchinis into the saucepan and fill up the gaps between dolmas with boiled water. Put the lid on and once it starts to boil, reduce the heat.
• Meanwhile, prepare the garlic yoghurt by mixing together yoghurt, crushed garlic and fresh dill weeds. If it’s too thick, add a few drops of water until you reach the right consistency –it should be a little runny. Set aside.
• When stuffed zucchinis are fully cooked, serve immediately with garlic yoghurt. Afiyet olsun!

Turkish Stuffed Zucchini Kabak Dolması

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)Turkish Pepper Paste or Biber Salçası

Some like it hot, some like it sweet. Whichever you prefer, Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası) is the ultimate ingredient of every Turkish pantry.

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası) –also called kırmızı biber salçası –is made from crushed and sun-dried red peppers. Salt is added as a preservative so that it would last through the winter. There are two varieties: hot pepper paste (acı biber salçası ) and sweet pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası).

Pepper paste is used widely in Turkish cuisine. However, my mother was not a huge fan of it or anything hot. I remember the first time I tried pepper paste; I had itchy arms for a day although it was mixed with plain tomato paste and not hot at all. Eventually, I learnt to like it. Now I use it all the time like in the winter, I use it in clay pot dishes. In the summer, mostly in mezes and dips.

Back in Turkey, making your own pepper paste at home is widely practiced in villages and small towns, even today. Village ladies make large quantities of pepper paste when the peppers are in season and abundant. Then the pepper paste is left to sun-dry, usually on a terrace. Sometimes, they sell their produce at their local markets, too.

For those of us who cannot get home made Turkish pepper paste, a store-bought ones are ideal. They come in glass jars (see photo below) and you can get them from shops specialising in Turkish or Middle Eastern food. Check out my list in “Where to Buy” section below.

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)

Where to Buy

In Sydney – Australia, hot pepper paste I available through these shops:
Gima Supermarket
31 – 35 Queen Street
Auburn NSW 2144
Phone: 02 9749 4588

Arzum Market
61 Rawson Street
Auburn NSW 2144
Phone: 02 9649 9327

Izmir Delicatessen
Shop 5, 471 Seaview Street
Dulwich Hill NSW 2203
Phone: 02 9568 3243
Website

Oriental and Continental Food Wholesalers
43 Carlotta Street
Artarmon NSW 2064
Phone: 02 9906 8990

Sometimes Super Sahel Persian Market and Deli has the pepper paste. They also sell hot nuts 🙂
Address: 337 Penshurst Street
North Willoughby NSW 2068
Phone: 02 9417 6766

In the US, Turkish pepper paste can be ordered online through Tulumba and they deliver nationwide.

Where to Use Turkish Pepper Paste 

Generally, pepper paste is used in stews, main dishes, pide, lahmacun and börek mixtures, mezes, dips, spreads and in sauces. More specifically, Turkish pepper paste can be used in:
Famous Kisir (spicy cracked wheat salad). This is the style what we normally get from Turkish fast food places in Australia and in New Zealand although that’s not how my mum used to make Kisir.

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)Stuffed Cabbage Leaves or Lahana Sarma (above) I use hot pepper paste in the actual stuffing mixture as well as the sauce I cook stuffed cabbage leaves in.

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)Turkish Spicy Spread or İzot (Biber Reçeli) This is an incredible meze; the first meze to run out when we have guests.

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)Spicy Bean Dip, VegFusion Style (above) I made this one Turkish by using Turkish pepper paste.

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)Savoury Bulgur Pilaf with Banana Chilli (Meyhane Pilavı) Hot pepper paste add so much flavour to this pilaf (above).

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)Turkish Pastrami Flavoured Faux-Chicken (above)

Turkish Pepper Paste (Biber Salçası)Turkish Pastrami Flavoured Cannellini Bean Stew (above)

Please note that Turkish pepper paste should be stored in the fridge.

A Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

A Middle Eastern Classic BabaganoushA Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

Babaganoush is a Middle Eastern classic and it is one of those mezes I learnt from a neighbour back in Turkey. Thank you Asiye Teyze!

Babaganoush showcases smoking eggplant (aubergine) over flame and this is where that distinctive smoky flavour is coming from. However, you could do the same thing with barbeque. The recipe below covers both cooking methods.

A Middle Eastern Classic: Babaganoush

Ingredients:
1 round eggplant (aubergine)
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons tahini paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
Ground sweet paprika, to decorate
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling (optional)
Pitta bread, to serve

Method:

To smoke eggplant (aubergine): Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Over a gas flame, evenly char the skin of eggplant, turning regularly. Transfer to a plate and when cool enough to handle, peel the skin. Drop the eggplant into a bowl filled with cold water. Wait for a few minutes and then squeeze out excess water with your hand.
• Chop smoked eggplant finely and transfer into a bowl. Add lemon juice, tahini paste, crushed garlic, cumin and salt. Stir until smooth and well combined. If the mixture is too thick gradually add a little water. Drizzle with olive oil if you like and serve with pitta bread.

How to Barbeque Eggplant (Aubergine)
The rules are the same as smoking eggplant: Prick the eggplant a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Place the eggplant directly over the flame and barbeque, turning to char on all sides until the skin blisters and the eggplant is completely soft. Remove from the heat with a pair of tongs. Allow to cool and peel off the blackened skin. After this stage, follow the recipe.

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style is a savoury version of French toast; a total contrast to its sweet cousins. They make excellent lunches so I make them for me and my husband during the weekends. They are also a great way of using stale, left over bread. I always serve them with a little bit of raw salad as it freshens things up a great deal. In this recipe, I used fresh tomato salad but you can use whatever you have in your fridge at the time. Green salad is another alternative or even coleslaw would go well.

You may have noticed the fact that the recipe does not have much in the way of measurements. The reason for that is because I never use measurements for a recipe like this myself while making savoury French toasts.

The recipe below serves 2 hungry people.

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style

Savoury Herbed French Toast, VegFusion Style

Ingredients for Tomato Salad:
1 large tomato, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Lemon juice

Ingredients for French Toast:
2 eggs
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried oregano
Dried mint (spearmint)
10 slices French stick (stale works better than fresh)
Oil for pan-frying
Fresh chives

Method:
To make the tomato salad: slice the tomato and place on serving plates. To make the salad dressing: Whisk together extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Drizzle over tomato slices.
To make the French Toast: Crack the eggs in a bowl. Beat the eggs with salt, freshly ground black pepper (if you want, you could use white pepper instead), dried oregano and dried mint (spearmint). Set aside.
• Slice the bread into 10 even slices. Set aside until the frying oil is ready.
• Heat the oil in a heavy-based, large frying pan. Dip the bread into egg mixture and drop them into hot oil. You could do them in batches. Once one side of the bread is golden brown turn them over and fry the other side too.
• Drain the slices on paper towel.
To serve: Arrange French toast on serving plates next to the tomato salad and sprinkle all of them with fresh chives. Serve immediately.