When you’ve had one of those manic days but want a hot, comforting meal for dinner, this is a hearty, healthy winner that takes less than 15 minutes. In fact. We’re having it for dinner right now!
Portions: 2 large main portions or 4 small ones
For the Cous Cous:
1 cup cous cous
1 1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon fish curry powder (if you don’t have fish specifically then just curry powder will do)
1 tsp salt
1 tsps lemon thyme or regular thyme -optional
For the curry:
Some olive oil for frying the onions, garlic and spices
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsps chopped tinned tomatoes
2 tins of tuna (220g drained)
6-7 leaves of Cavalo Nero, chopped up (you can use kale or spring greens if you can’t find Cavalo Nero)
1 cup of frozen peas, blanched quickly in hot water and removed
1 1/2 tsp curry paste or 2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp preserved lemon (or rind of 1 lemon + juice of 1/2 lemon+ 1/2 tsp sugar) – optional
Place thecous cous in a bowl and add the salt, curry powder and thyme. Pour in the hot water and cover. Leave aside.
Pour the olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Fry till soft and translucent and then add the garlic and cumin seeds. Fry for a minute till the cumin releases its gorgeous smell. Add the curry paste/powder and fry for another half a minute. Add the tinned tomato and the preserved lemon and mix it in with everything in the pan. Now add the Cavalo Nero and tuna and cook until the Cavalo Nero begins to soften. Add the salt and stir in. Take it off the heat and mix in the peas (which give the dish a little sweetness to balances out the spice). Now, add thecous cous to this pan and mix it all in well. Done!
X Anu & Suba
PS: If you don’t have preserved lemon, no problem! This is a quick replacement (not as good to be honest, but gives it a similar kick) Add the rind of 1 lemon to the juice of half a lemon and 1/2 tsp of sugar. Stir it and let it sit while you prepare everything else.
Ah ! the wonder that is Turkish food ! Pide, Dolma, Lokum , Baklava … we just can’t get enough. Having woken up with a Turkish food craving this morning , and with no reliable Turkish restaurants around , we decided to go ahead make some homemade Lahmacun.
Lahmacun is a Turkish flatbread traditionally topped with minced meat. It’s often compared to pizza but to us it actually tastes quite different and the making of the dough also utilises different techniques.
The first few times we tried it we faced a few issues ; soggy dough , meat that kept sliding off the bread , dough that rose too much and so on …so after some trial and error and with our now full, happy tummies , we’re sharing this recipe with you. This recipe is somewhat modified from Rebecca Seals’ Istanbul , with some ideas from Yotum Ottolenghi and Claudia Roden and some of our own tips on getting your Lahmacun just right. It’s a wee bit laborious but worth the effort!
Makes 4 Prep time : 30 mins Resting time : at least 1hr 15 mins Cooking time : 10-15 mins
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
350 ml lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
500g bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
450g minced lamb or beef
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large tomato (skinned, seeded and finely chopped)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon tomato puree
Bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes or harissa paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons tahini or 1 egg beaten
25g pine nuts
Parsley to garnish
Lemon slices to garnish
Mix the yeast, water, sugar & olive oil in a jug or bowl . Stir through with a fork and allow to rest for 15 minutes until it forms a thick , foamy top. Meanwhile, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Once the yeast has been proofed, pour it little at a time into the flour mixture , stirring as you pour. You should get a doughy mass.
Transfer the dough to your kneading surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Oil a large bowl, place the dough inside and cover it with clingfilm.
Place the dough in a warm place to let it rise. It should take about an hour or a little more. To test if the dough is ready, make sure it’s a least double its original size and forms a dent when you press on it with your finger.
If the weather is cold, place your dough near a warmed oven to help it rise. You want a warm environment , but not too warm – the dough needs a slow rise to maintain its flavour.
Activated Yeast forming a foamy top
Dough kneaded and ready to ferment
Preheat your oven to its highest setting If you have a small oven, you will have to bake the lahmacun one at a time. Brush oil over your baking trays or pizza stones and keep them aside.
We like to use a round pizza tray to when we spread out the dough , so it gets a nice round shape.
While the dough is resting, make the topping.Dry roast the cumin & coriander seeds. You know they are ready when they start to release their fragrant scent. Grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar.
If you don’t have a pestle & mortar, a handy trick is to place them on a flat surface atop some cling film, then use a rolling pin to press hard and roll over the seeds so they get crushed).
Place the seeds and all other ingredients into a bowl and use your hands to mix them together well until it forms a paste.
It’s really important that the mixture is paste like so its easier to spread. Also make sure that your tomatoes are properly deseeded. If you are using particularly moist tomatoes, squeeze the excess water out of them. This will help to ensure that the water from the tomatoes doesn’t seep through your dough while cooking, making it soggy.
When your dough is ready, knock it back by placing it on your kneading surface and kneading the air out of it , about 5 minutes. Then divide in into four equal portions. Roll out each piece of dough with a rolling pin into 30 cm (about 11 inches) rounds. Place the rolled out dough on your oiled baking tray or pizza stone.
If like us, you have trouble getting perfect rounds, roll out the dough halfway with the rolling pin, then place it on a round pizza tray and spread it out with your fingers until the dough reaches the tray all around. This will help to get it round and prevent it from losing its shape as it bakes.
Now you can either spread a thin layer of tahini on the surface of the rolled out dough or egg wash it – this will help the topping to stick to the dough. Then spread a quarter of the topping over the dough , spreading it out evenly almost to the edges, leaving just a thin crust. Use the back of a spoon to spread the topping and press it well into the dough.
Sprinkle the pine nuts over it and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust golden and the meat is cooked and bubbling.
We spent three lovely days in Geneva this August and much to our delight , we found that there was more than enough to keep our days fully occupied. The harsh summer heat gave us a good excuse to make regular stops for excellent , albeit expensive beer and when the heat became a little too much, there were parks and gardens aplenty to stop for shade and give Baby A some much needed time to run wild! Here’s our list of top 5 things to do and see if you find yourself in this charming little city.
1.Stroll around the Old town
Hands down my favourite part of the city, Geneva’s Old town is right in the centre of Geneva and one of the nicest walks we had during our stay. In fact, it was so picturesque, we took more than one walk through the little maze-like streets lined with masonry style homes, bookshops, pastry shops,cafes, little boutiques and small grocery shops. We almost sort of stumbled upon the Old Town area (Vieille Ville in french) while walking along Rue de Marche , the main shopping street.
Despite being there in the height of summer (i.e tourist season), the place managed to maintain a sense of calm, which we loved. Stop by the Maison Tavel (Tavel House) , the oldest house in Geneva originally built in the 12th century, now a museum focusing on Geneva’s history during the medieval times. Place du Bourg-de-Four, the oldest place in Geneva which used to be a Roman marketplace is also worth a visit. Just remember to wear your walking shoes and be prepared for a bit of a climb.
Pastry shops around the Old Town
Petit Fours at 4 Francs a piece, but oh so worth it!
Do make sure you stop for some Petit Fours along the way. They cost us 3-4 Francs a piece but were oh so worth it…
2. Visit St Pierre’s Cathedral & The International Museum of the Reformation
Every guide to Geneva will tell you that a visit to St Pierre’s Cathedral is a must, but don’t miss out on the International Museum of the Reformation, located right next to the Cathedral, which showcases the history of the Protestant Reformation and its’ impact on Switzerland. You’ll be seeing a number of references to the Reformation & to John Calvin (French Theologian , Pastor and key figure in the development of Calvinism) around Geneva, so brush up on your history at the museum!
The Jet d’Eau or water jet is a huge fountain and quite literally a jet in the Geneva Lake. It’s a symbol of the city’s strength and ambition and is one of the tallest fountains in the world going up 140m. It’s hard to miss this iconic landmark, you can see it from pretty much any spot in the centre of Geneva. Its a great place to take some stunning photos. If you are travelling with children, stop by to see and feed the beautiful swans on the lake- Baby A had a ball with that!
If you’re up for something educational, then a trip to CERN is in order. CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) is basically a research organization focusing on the study of particle physics. You can walk around their permanent exhibits featuring a variety of apparatus that they use or join one of their guided tours. The highlight of CERN is the Passport to the Big Bang Tour, an interactive tour where you can explore the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator. We guarantee you’ll leave geneva feeling a little smarter!
If you can’t make it to Geneva’s Botanical Gardens, Parc Des Bastions is a lovely alternative located just under the Old Town.
Originally a Botanical Garden and the site of Geneva’s first University, this park makes a lovely lunch spot. Bring along a picnic mat, grab some sandwiches from the park cafe and find a shady spot to sit and enjoy the lively yet peaceful atmosphere of the park.
We were impressed by the life-sized chess board and even more impressed to see people actually playing chess in front of large crowds. When you are done resting, take a walk along the Reformation Wall which pays tribute to the founders of the Reformation. A great option for those of you travelling with kids – a chance to take a little break while the kids are free to run around the wide open spaces.
If you haven’t caught on to the rage, it’s not too late to start – we just have! Trade in a glass of smoothie in the morning for a bowl of it and use it as a canvas for fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs – excellent fun! This may be our first, but it’s certainly not going to be our last!
1/2 cup oats (cooked according to packet instructions)
2 ripe bananas
1 cup blueberries (we used frozen ones as we wanted a cold smoothie)
1/2 cup almond milk (you can use regular milk too)
1 tbsp greek yoghurt
Grated rind of a medium orange (optional)
Cook the oats according to packet instructions – we used almond milk for the oats.
Break up the bananas and put them in a blender. Add the blueberries and the almond milk and blitz it on medium till everything is blended together.
Next, add the cooked oats, the yoghurt andrind. Blitz again on medium till combined. Empty it all out into a bowl and unleash your creativity!
This cake was inspired by two things – 1) needing to use a bag of polenta we bought in Switzerland last month for a family dinner but never used and 2) a recent discovery that the maroon and cream livery of the Great Northern Railway’s dining carriage in the 1940s (random fact of the day) came to be affectionately known as ‘Plum and Spilt Milk’, which sounded like a divine flavour combination! So obviously, we had to make a cake featuring those ingredients. It turned out a real treat with a cuppa tea so we thought we’d share it with all of you.
Serves 8 (big slices) or 10 (medium slices)
Prep Time: 20 mins Baking time: Approx 50-60 minutes
3/4 cup muscovado sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup (250g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup polenta (we used fine polenta)
1 cup sifted self-raising flour (or plain flour with a tsp of baking powder sifted in)
1/2 cup double cream
a tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsps strawberry or current jam
Turn the oven on to 160 degrees c. Ours is an electric fan oven. Grease a round tin and line with baking parchment.
Cut the plums down the middle and twist each half in opposite directions. Slice the half with the stone in half again and twist, same as above – this will help in removing the stone. Cut each quarter into half again so that from each plum, you get 8 slices in total. Set aside.
Next, put both types of sugar together with the butter and beat until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat till well mixed in. After adding all three eggs, add the double cream and vanilla. Mix well.
Now add half the flour and half the polenta, fold in. Now, add the other half of both and fold in until well mixed. Careful not to beat the flour and polenta in and don’t mix vigorously either. Just patiently fold it in, we promise that will be worth the effort!
Pour the batter into your tin and smooth the surface. Now, starting from the edge of the tin, place the plum slices one next to the other, vertically, all around the tin (sneak a quick look at the picture above to see what we mean about the placing – that said, if you place it horizontally, it’ll be fine too!). Keep going till you fill up the whole top of the cake. You may want to choose the plum slices according to how they fit but really, don’t hesitate to squeeze them together or force them into shape! What you want to avoid is pressing the plums in because the cake will rise and you don’t want the plums sinking in when that happens.
Put the tin in the oven, middle shelf, and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Put the cake on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes and while that’s happening, zap the jam in the microwave for 10 seconds or put it in a bowl and the bowl in a bath of hot water – basically loosen the jam so you can brush it all over the cake. Brush the cake with the warm jam and leave it to cool completely.
There’s just a month left before the leaves leave their many shades of green behind and start to take on that distinctive carrot soup colour. It’s also looking like it’s going to be the hottest month of the year, at least here in London. So all is not lost if you haven’t yet thrown your glorious summer picnic or BBQ! Check out our earlier ‘perfect picnic’ posts for some ideas on grub and look no further for some tips on how you can add some extra ‘scene-setting love’ to your outdoor party!
1. Picnic mat alternatives
Don’t fret if you don’t have a ‘proper’ mat. Blankets, quilts, tablecloths and even fabric can be more interesting. Nothing says picnic like checkered fabric. If you’re doing your shopping online, instead of searching for ‘tablecloths’ search for fabric instead. It’s cheaper and since it’s a picnic it won’t matter too much of the ends are little frayed and not stitched up. If you’re getting fabric and have some dosh to spare, get two or three colours or complementary prints and line them up side by side.
2. Leather or fabric bound books
If like us you never throw any books away or you know a cheap little second hand bookshop, then short stacks of 2 or 3 fabric or leather bound books add some vintage elegance and double up as a place to stand a plate or a tumbler of juice when you’re sitting on the grass. Even 6 books will do the trick – remember they can be heavy so don’t cart too many along with you if you’re setting up a distance from your own home.
3. Individually packed picnics in DIY brown bags
Instead of laying all the treats out on the mat, why not pack everyone’s picnic individually? Grab a pack of brown bags, you can decorate each one in a variety of ways. We like to get some paper doilies, apply glue on the back and stick them on or around the bag. You can also stick on dried flowers, use pretty ink stamps or just write your guests names on them and tie them up with pretty ribbon. Then pop in a sandwich, a little tupperware of potato salad, a cupcake or jammy scone wrapped in greaseproof paper and even a cute mini bottle of prosecco or juice.
If your picnic is in your garden or you have access to wheels (4 would be preferable to 2! Though some amazing folk can balance a lot of stuff on a bike!) grab cushions off your couch and armchair and use them to add a bit of homey-ness to your set up. Paired with cosy blankets or striking fabric, they make the whole idea of sitting on the ground extremely inviting!
5. Bunting, paper lanterns, fans and Pom poms
If you can find a spot under a tree with low hanging branches, you’re sorted! String up some bunting, paper fans, lanterns or Pom poms. You can even tie long pieces of ribbon on branches to create a lovely curtain effect or go for a more wispy look by tying long lengths of white or pale coloured ribbon at wider intervals around a few different branches.
6. Fruits and flowers
Never to be underestimated for the instant value they bring to any setting. Save up old jam jars, tie ribbon or brown parcel string around the rim and fill them with meadow flowers or seashells if you’re having a beach picnic. Salad Bowls, each piled with peeling oranges, tangerines, apples and peaches make for striking pops of summery colour and double up as easy to eat picnic dessert!
*Do click on the links for the photos we’ve posted. They’re from some really talented folk who have some excellent ideas for making life a little prettier!
Next in our stone fruit series are these cute hand pies made with ripe , sweet plums. This one was a hit with my daughter, probably because they were small and therefore easy for little hands to hold- its a bonus that they’re sweet and crumbly (toddlers seem to love making a mess with crumbly things!). The pastry is so simple to make and is taken off a recipe from Bon Appétit , the filling is a thick plum jam with a hint of cinnamon. Just remember to start with ripe plums.
Makes 8 hand pies
For the pastry
1 1/2cupsall-purpose flour
1 stick (115g butter) cut into small cubes and kept in the fridge
1/4 cup ice water
1 beaten egg for brushing
For the filling
2 cups ripe plums, stones removed and sliced
1 Cinnamon stick
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Pastry cutter of any shape (we used one that is of 5 cm diameter)
Pastry brush (for egg wash)
First make the pastry dough. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Then add the cubed butter, rubbing it in with the tips of your fingers until you get a coarse , breadcrumb like texture.
Don’t work the dough too much, just enough to get that desired texture. Then add the ice water slowly and form the dough into a ball. Flatten it into a square shape, then wrap it in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge to firm up for 2 hours.
While waiting, make the filling. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the plums , sugar, salt, cinnamon stick and water. Stir to combine all the ingredients.
Cook the plums until they completely soften , melt and become a jam. This could take about 30 minutes over low heat. Keep stirring, especially towards the end so the jam doesn’t stick to the pan.
Once the filling is ready, take it off the heat and let it cool. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
When the pastry is ready, take it out of the fridge and place it on a floured surface. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. Dust your hands and your rolling pin with flour too. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1.5 cm. Then using a cutter of your liking, cut out as many shapes as you can. Re-roll the leftover dough and do the same.
Lightly brush the cut-outs with the egg wash, this will help to ensure the filling doesn’t soak through the pastry. Place half a tablespoon of filling in the middle of one cut-out , then place another cut out on the top- egg washed side down. Repeat with the rest. You now have your pies.
Using a fork, press down the edges of each hand pie to seal them. Using a small sharp knife, make 2 small vertical cuts on the top of each pie. Then lightly egg wash the tops of each hand pie as well.
Bake in the oven for about 15 -20 minutes until the pies are golden.