Freekeh Pilaf

VeganMoFo Day 30

DPP_00016 (1280x842)The recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook called “Plenty”. I own a signed copy of it along with the other Ottolenghi cookbooks; Jerusalem with Sami Tamimi and The Ottolenghi Cookbook. When my husband was in London for work, he got them for me. He ordered them online and they were delivered to his office the next day. That’s how fast things are in other countries.

I’m sure you’re wondering what freekeh is. Ottolenghi explains it very well. So I quote:

“We normally enjoy grains once they have matured and dried, but there is a widespread culinary tradition of consuming green, semi-mature grains, which taste grassier and more nutritious than the dried version. Throughout the Middle East it is common to process young and green durum wheat into freekeh. This is done by literally burning the wheat head in order to scorch the chaff and thus to assist removing the grain. The result is lightly charred green grains with a wonderful smoky aroma, which are often used like rice or bulghar wheat. Freekeh isn’t easy to find but you should come across it in Arab grocery shops. Or you can use bulghar as a substitute, in which case reduce the cooking time by 10 minutes and leave to stand as with the freekeh.”

But I did find a pack of freekeh at a specialty shop in Sydney! And the recipe was there. It sort of happened…

1 medium onions, thinly sliced
25 gr vegan margarine
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
1 cup freekeh
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 cups vegetable stock
Handful parsley, finely chopped
Handful coriander, finely chopped
Handful mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and roughly broken
Salt and black pepper

• Place the onions, salt, vegan margarine and oil in a large, shallow heavy-based pot and sauté on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, or until the onion is soft and brown.
• Meanwhile, soak the freekeh in cold water for 5 minutes, drain in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Drain well.
• Add the freekeh and spices to the onions, followed by the stock and pepper. Stir well. Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat to a bare minimum and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it covered for 5 minutes. Finally remove the lid and leave the pilaf to cool down a little, about another 5 minutes.
• Stir the herbs into the warm (not hot) pilaf. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon onto serving dishes and sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts and finish with a trickle of olive oil.


Stuffed Peppers (Capsicums) or Zeytinyağlı Biber Dolması

VeganMoFo Day 29

After taking a break from posting for VeganMoFo, I am back with another Turkish classic!

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Stuffed vegetables, generally, are incredibly difficult to give the right measurements for. It’s simply because that is not how you learn to make them. You sort of develop an eye for it and don’t need measurements along the way. It gives you a great sense of achievement when you get it right the first time.

There is a difference between Istanbul style of stuffed peppers and Mediterranean style. As you move towards to the Eastern part of Turkey, things get hot and spicy. To make things even trickier, everyone’s version is different but at the end of the day, you can’t go wrong.

A tip on creating lids for the peppers: If the lid part breaks apart while you are cutting the tops –which happens a lot –you could use sliced tomatoes as lids.

2 green capsicums, washed
½ cup medium-grain white rice, washed and rinsed
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp dried currants
1 tsp dried mint
½ tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used light olive oil)
Salt and pepper

• Cut the tops of capsicums and remove the stalks. Get rid of all the seeds and trim down the membranes too.
• Mix together the onion, rice, oil, pine nuts, dried currants, mint, allspice, salt and pepper in a bowl.
• Loosely stuff the peppers and put the lids back on.
• Place them in a small pot and add some boiling water to the level of the lids. If you pass that mark then the stuffing releases itself into the pot and you end up with half-stuffed peppers.
• Cook the peppers over medium heat until their colour is slightly turning yellow and the rice is thoroughly cooked. Afiyet Olsun peoples!


İmam Bayıldı or Turkish Stuffed Eggplant with Onion and Tomato

İmam Bayıldı Turkish Stuffed Eggplant Onion Tomato

İmam Bayıldı or Stuffed Eggplant with Onion and Tomato

This dish is a Turkish classic and originally vegan! The name means; imam (Muslim cleric) was exhilarated. He was said to be so impressed with the dish when he first tried it. I have an old recipe in my archive without measurements which I’ve had for ages. I just work out with the number of eggplants I have at the time, how big they are and so on.

In the original recipe, the eggplants are fried before you stuff them. I must admit, it is such a messy process –and unhealthy- and your kitchen smells terrible for 2 days too! So, I made a few changes. I grilled the eggplants and once they are stuffed, instead of cooking them on the stove I baked them. If you have gas in your kitchen with fantastic heat control, that’s what you should use. With the electric type, simmering is a challenge. Alternatively, you could use a slow cooker, although getting the eggplants out is a challenge.

İmam Bayıldı Turkish Stuffed Eggplant Onion Tomato

Here’s some tips before you start:
OK, the first tip is the eggplant is never halved and topped like you see in cookbooks. When you think about it, you can’t even call that “stuffed” because you haven’t created an area to be stuffed, have you?

The second tip: We have this way of semi peeling the eggplants; we peel them in stripes. This way, you even out the toughness of their skin and they still keep their shape because you don’t peel them completely.

The third tip: Size does matter. It is one of the challenges in Australia that eggplants are either too small or too big for stuffing. I found these Angela aubergines at the supermarket the other day. They have the perfect size for Imam Bayildi. They taste slightly different to the normal purple type but ever so tasty.

İmam Bayıldı or Stuffed Eggplant with Onion and Tomato

2 medium-sized Angela aubergines (eggplants), washed and dried
1 large tomato, diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Light olive oil
Salt and pepper

• Preheat your grill. Line your oven tray with aluminium foil –saves you cleaning up afterwards.
• By using a potato peeler –that’s the easiest- peel the eggplants I stripes. Make an incision in the middle of each eggplant with a small knife. You cut them along in the middle without going all the way through.
• Brush each eggplant with oil –I also put salt in the oil. Place them under the grill and roast for 30 minutes, turning and basting during the process.
• Once they are all nicely browned, transfer them into a baking dish. I used individual baking dishes for this.
• Heat the oil in a saucepan, and add the onions with a little bit of salt. Sauté the onions until they are soft. Add the garlic and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Just before you remove it from the heat, stir fresh parsley in.
• Preheat the oven to 150°C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
• By using a spoon, enlarge those incisions you made earlier. Stuff that area with the onion mixture. Return the eggplants to the oven and add a little bit of boiled water to the bottom of the dish to stop them from sticking. Cook Imam Bayildi for another 30 minutes. Then serve. Afiyet Olsun!

Note: As a summer dish, Imam Bayildi should be served either cold or lukewarm.

İmam Bayıldı Turkish Stuffed Eggplant Onion Tomato

Turkish Mashed and Shaped Potato and Pea Salad or Bezelyeli Ezme Salata

VeganMoFo Day 24

Some of you may remember that I have posted something quite similar to this before. It’s because my husband is not quite keen on broad beans, this time I decided to make it with peas instead. This style of salads are quite popular in Turkey and if you use those rings, like I did, they look quite good too!

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Here’s the recipe…

2 large potatoes
1 cup frozen baby peas
1 tbsp spring onions (shallots or scallions), chopped diagonally
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp pine nuts, lightly dry-roasted
7 peppercorns (whole)
1 clove garlic, peeled
½ tsp Himalayan salt

• Boil potatoes in their skin. Drain and peel the skin. Mash them with a potato masher in a bowl. Set aside.
• Choose another small pot for boiling peas but this will be used for the pine nuts first. Put the pot on a medium heat and add the nuts. You will need to keep an eye on them as they burn very easily. So, toss frequently and remove from the heat when they turn golden and start smelling nutty. Remove from the heat and set aside.
• Wipe the same pot with kitchen towel and add the peas with enough water. Cook until they are soft. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add the peas to potatoes and mash them with the same potato masher. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.
• To make the dressing: Pound the garlic with salt and the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar. Add the toasted pine nuts to the mixture and pound again. Stir gently and add extra virgin olive oil and the vinegar. It may seem like you are adding too much olive oil but the whole mixture will be absorbed in no time; you’ll see.
• Add the dill and spring onions (shallots or scallions) to the potato-pea mixture as well as the dressing. Stir well.
• If you use kitchen rings, wipe the inner surface with oil and place it on a serving plate. Fill it with salad mixture and press down with a spoon. Remove the ring and carry on in the exact manner until all the mixture is used. Garnish with dill and serve.


Shakshuka (Şakşuka), VegFusion Style

Shakshuka (Şakşuka), VegFusion Style 

People ask me what Shakshuka is. Well, it depends on who you ask really. It’s originally a Tunisian dish with lots of tomatoes, peppers, harissa paste, spices and eggs. They even have seasonal ones that use potatoes in the winter and eggplant (aubergine) in the spring. The name suggests that it is something that can be put together fast like in one shak and one shuck which makes me believe that Tunisian one is the real Shakshuka. In Turkey, it is a vegetable dish (more on the meze side) with garlic yoghurt and tomato sauce. So, if you ask for shakshuka in Turkey what you’ll get is pretty close to my recipe.

Shakshuka (Şakşuka) VegFusion Style

The first time I had Shakshuka was at a restaurant around Bodrum peninsula where a relative worked as a chef. Because I was vegetarian at the time, he served quite a few Mediterranean style vegetable dishes. Shakshuka –his version was from Antalya- was made of deep-fried potato and eggplant (aubergine) cubes mixed with garlic yogurt and tomato sauce.

The process of making shakshuka is not only unhealthy but also quite messy as all the vegetables are deep fried. I hear that most housewives switched to roasting because of it. You know what eggplants (aubergines) are like when they are deep fried. They’re like a sponge and no matter what you do, they transform themselves into this oil drinking monsters. You overcome that by roasting your vegetables. Well, here’s my version of Shakshuka…

Shakshuka (Şakşuka) VegFusion Style

1 large round eggplant (aubergine), peeled and cubed
1 large or 2 small zucchini (courgettes), peeled and cubed
2 banana chillies, seeded and cut into small squares
2 medium-sized waxy potatoes (I used Nicolas), peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I actually used a little bit more than that. I couldn’t help myself)
3 twigs fresh thyme (no one else does that, by the way)

For the Tomato Sauce:
1x tin chopped tomatoes (about 400 gr)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons light olive oil

For the Garlic-Yoghurt Sauce:
4 tablespoons Greek style plain yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed

• Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
• Prepare all your vegetables and toss them with salt and oil to combine. Make sure that all the vegetables are covered with oil evenly.
• Spread the vegetables onto the oven tray and roast for 30 minutes.
• To make the tomato sauce: Heat the light olive oil in a saucepan. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
• To make garlic-yoghurt: Mix together yoghurt with crushed garlic. Stir well and set aside.
• Transfer the roasted vegetables onto a serving plate. Spread garlic-yoghurt over and top them up with tomato sauce. Serve immediately.
• Well, afiyet olsun peoples!

Shakshuka (Şakşuka) VegFusion Style

Moroccan Faux-Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives

VeganMoFo Day 21

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Aren’t we over the moon with our latest purchase? This is my first tagine ever and after using it for the first time, I definitely know that it won’t be the last.

Well, I am quite happy about the results although it was my first attempt to this traditional tagine dish. To tell you the truth, we totally pigged out on it –had only one piece left at the end of the dinner. The last piece is photographed by me on the next day and it looked so lonely -photo below.

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A few tips:
Go easy on the salt because preserved lemons and olives are salty already. I only used a pinch while I was browning the onions. The other reason for going easy on salt is, the dish is quite fragrant due to all those spices. You won’t need anything else.
While you are mixing the spices, use a glove. There is turmeric in the mix and it takes about 2-3 days for that yellowness to disappear. I have lost 3 fingers to that yellow monster myself.

Things to do if you are using a clay tagine:
• If you are using a clay tagine, the bottom part of it should be soaked in water overnight.
• You will also need a heat diffuser and it should be placed on the heating element –between the heat and the tagine –to prevent the tagine from cracking.

2 large pieces from a pack Sayur Vegetarian Chicken
1 tablespoon light vegetable oil

1 teaspoon paprika (I didn’t have paprika, used a mixture of ground chilli and sweet paprika)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespon light olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup pitted green olive, soaked in water for a few hours, rinsed and chopped
3 wedges preserved lemon (I used Blue Kitchen band), rinsed in cold water, pulp discarded and rind into thin strips
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup raisins
½ water
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 twigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 twig fresh coriander, chopped

• Combine all the spices in a large flat plate. Spread evenly.
• Pat dry the vegetarian chicken pieces and cut them into almost equal 8 pieces. Place them on the plate, coat well with the spice mixture. Let the vegetarian chicken stand for one hour in the spices.
• Heat the oil in the bottom part of the tagine and add the vegetarian chicken pieces. Fry until they are crispy on both sides. You will need to press each piece to create even frying surface as they have wrinkles.
• When the pieces are cooked nice and crispy, remove them from the tagine and set aside.
• Wipe the tagine with paper towel and add 1 tablespoon of oil. If there are any tiny little pieces of vegetarian chicken in the tagine, make sure you wipe them all off.
• Add the onions, olives, strips of preserved lemons, raisins and garlic -and if you are going to add a pinch of salt, this is the time to do so. Fry for a few minutes and return the chicken pieces back to the tagine.
• Drizzle with water and turn down the heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
• When done, sprinkle the whole dish with fresh coriander and parsley. Serve hot with couscous.


Harissa Flavoured Couscous with Raisins and Pine Nuts

VeganMoFo Day 20

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I am absolutely sick and tired of serving cold couscous. You know those instant ones (flavoured or plain) that come out of a pack and you mix it with hot water and wait for 5 minutes. Then fluff it up. When you finally put it on the table, it’s already cold. Surprisingly, this one isn’t like that at all.

First redeeming feature of it is the fact that it is not plain. Second, if you cook it in a stainless steel pan –which I did–it’ll retain the heat when it’s time to serve, it is still warm. You still wait for 5 minutes before you fluff it up and it’s still warm. Third, you know exactly what’s in it.

We had this Harissa Flavoured Couscous with Moroccan Faux-Chicken with Lemon and Olives the other night –the tagine dish that I have been blabbing about for a few days. The recipe didn’t come directly from anywhere. I was moving my recipe archive from one computer to another the other day –I use an incredibly cool software for that but I’m saving the topic for another post –and noticed some couscous and tagine recipes that I haven’t tried yet. Well, this one below is a hybrid of a few from my archive.

½ teaspoon harissa spice mix
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
1/4 cup dark seedless raisins
1 tablespoon vegan margarine
1 cup couscous
1 tablespoon pine nuts

• Dry toast the pine nuts until they are slightly golden. Remove and set aside.
• Combine 1 1/4 cups water with harissa spice mix, turmeric, cumin, salt, raisins and vegan margarine in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
• Stir in couscous; remove from heat.
• Add pine nuts, then cover. Let stand 5 minutes.
• Using a fork, fluff couscous and place in a serving bowl.


Salata Adas (Garlicky Lebanese Green Lentil Salad)

VeganMoFo Day 20

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I know what you’re thinking; this is not a good looking salad. I know. I know, I should’ve rinsed the lentils. I know I should’ve boiled them a little bit less so they wouldn’t lose their shape. I know, my lentils look mushy –and they are. But they are also incredibly delicious!

I was going to make the Syrian lentil salad but I don’t seem to be able to locate any Swiss chard in Australia at the moment. So I had to give that one a miss. Like everyone else, my recipe is adapted from the one at famous Saveur magazine. It seems to be the trend these days. However, I am not going to tell you to pair this salad up with roasted lamb or grilled sausages. Instead, I reckon you shouldn’t kiss anyone for the next 24 hours.

Anyway, here’s my version of this delicious salad.

1 cup green lentil, picked over and rinsed well
3 cups water (to boil the lentils)
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
4 large, fat cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp allspice
3 twigs fresh mint, chopped
4 twigs falt-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

• Put lentils in a pan with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
• That kind of depends on the lentils. Drain well.
• Heat half the oil in a pan over very low heat and add the garlic. Once the garlic gets fragrant but the colour is slightly golden remove the pan from the heat. Add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and allspice.
• Add cooked lentils to the pan and gently combine all ingredients. Set aside to cool.
• Once cooled, stir in the fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper.
• Serve in room temperature.



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Yes, I bought one! Since I am doing Mediterranean style of food during VeganMoFo, I thought this is the right time to get myself a colourful tagine. And wasn’t I lucky that an incredible sale is on at the moment –as I mentioned on VegFusion Facebook page yesterday. Sydneysiders, if you can get yourselves to any Victoria Basement stores, the tagines are for $69 instead of $300 and they are those Chasseur ones! The bottom part is cast iron and the lid is ceramic. They come in lovely colours. I picked “citron” as you can see in the photo.

What is a tagine? Well, it is a two-piece traditional North African cooking pot with a conic lid. They are mainly made out of clay –mine isn’t but I actually have a clay baking dish and it smells so bad every time I use it, so who cares?

Tagine is not just a cooking vessel either. You cook and serve your tagine dishes in it. Tagine also refers to cooking style which is one of those healthy cooking methods as you retain the nutrients like you would in a slow cooker and not much oil is required either. Apart from being healthy and nutritious, they say that cast iron gives tagine dishes a unique flavour too. We’ll see.

Anyway, I will be making a faux-chicken dish tonight with preserved lemon and green olives. So stay tuned…


Mediterranean Style Cauliflower Salad

VeganMoFo Day 17

Sometimes you buy a whole head of cauliflower, use some of it and you don’t know what to do with the rest. Being a fresh product, you need to do something with it; fast. Well, this is usually me. I particularly don’t like buying half or quarter of something. Once the cell wall of a vegetable is broken, you start losing nutrients. If the cell needs to be broken, I’d like to do it myself, with my own knife. Am I right?

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The recipe I have here came from a neighbour back in Turkey. She comes from the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and has many good recipes in her repertoire. Mind you, the original recipe uses hard-boiled eggs but I substituted that with The-Vegg-Fried tofu.

Here’s your ingredients:
1/3 cauliflower, broken into small pieces
4x Turkish cornichons, chopped finely (optional)
1 spring onion, chopped
2 twigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only

For The-Vegg-Fried Tofu:
1/3 pack soft tofu, cubed
1 tsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp black salt
2 tbsp oil

For the dressing:
1 tsp ground sweet paprika (I used sumac instead)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or freshly squeezed lemon)
Salt and pepper

• Steam the cauliflower florets until al dente. Drain and set aside to cool.
• To make The-Vegg-Fried Tofu: Mix together nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp of oil and black salt in a bow. Add the tofu cubes and combine well. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the tofu cubes until brown. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
• In a salad bowl, combine The-Vegg-Fried Tofu, cauliflower, cornichons, spring onions and parsley.
• To make the dressing: Whisk together salt, pepper, sumac or sweet paprika, vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil.
• Drizzle the dressing over the salad and combine. You’re done. Afiyet Olsun!