Moroccan Vegetable Tagine
We couldn’t help but be inspired by a recent trip to Fez, the ancient imperial city of Morocco. The old Medina with it’s narrow, chaotic labyrinth of alleyways bustling with 250,000 locals, many of them dressed traditionally in head-to-toe woolen hooded coats and looking like extras in a scene from Lord of The Rings, grandiose domed doorways decorated with fine mosaics and mirrors, treacherously steep tiled steps winding up to tremendous views across the roof of the city and to the hills beyond, then back down at street-level, Aladdin’s cave-like souks stuffed to the gunnels with superb handicrafts and market stalls stacked high with fresh veg and herbs and spices tucked into every available nook & cranny along the way! Wonderful!
All the senses seemed to be working overtime. Not only were the sights a feast for the eyes, the sounds a symphony to the ears, but so too were the aromas a sensation with every inhalation! The wonderful thing about spices is that they pack really well into a suitcase! I brought heaps home with us!
So here is my version of what we regularly ate ~ a moroccan spiced veggie tagine with couscous and dukkha. My kitchen became the kasbah and smelt like Morocco itself!
For the tagine ~ 1 sweet potato, peeled & cut into long chunks; 3 carrots, peeled & cut into thirds; 1 onion, chopped;1 tablespoon sunflower oil; 1 teaspoon ground ginger; 1 teaspoon ground cumin; 1 teaspoon paprika; 1 teaspoon ground fennel; 1 teaspoon ground cardamom; 1 teaspoon ras el hanout blend*; 400 gms cooked chick peas; 4 or 5 fresh dates, stoned; zest of 1 orange; large handful of fresh flat-leaved parsley; handful of fresh coriander; 1/4 preserved lemon, thinly sliced – optional; S&P to season.
Part-boil the sweet potato & carrot together in the same pan, then drain and set aside. You can reuse the water for the couscous later. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan or tagine if you have one, then add the chopped onion and stir in. Add all the spices and mix to a fine smooth paste. Add a little water if needed so that the mixture isn’t too dry. Toss in the chickpeas and gently fold in with the spices. Layer over the sweet potato and carrots, and zest the orange over the top. Add the chopped dates, parsley, coriander and preserved lemon, if using, piling them on top of each other rather than mixing in too much. Cover with a heavy lid or the dome of the tagine and simmer very slowly for an hour. You can do this on top of the oven or in it, depending on your preference.
For the couscous ~ 30ml of couscous; 50 gms of raisons; 50 gms slivered almonds; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 60ml of hot water (ie. double the amount of couscous); knob of butter or dash of olive oil
Pour out the couscous into a measuring jug or mug. Whatever you use, double the measure to get the right quantity of water to add. Put the dry couscous into a wide bottomed serving bowl which you can fit a lid over. Sprinkle the raisons, almonds and cinnamon on top. Pour over the right amount of boiling water, add the knob of butter, or olive oil, cover with the lid and leave to fluff up for 20 minutes. Uncover and fork through when you’re ready to serve.
For the dukkha ~ not to be confused with Duhkka, the First Noble Truth of Buddhism! 50 gms sesame seeds; 50 gms hazelnuts; 2 tablespoons cumin seeds; 2 tablespoons coriander seeds; 1 teaspoon sea salt. Optional additions ~ 1 tablespoon fennel seeds; 2 tablespoons shelled pistachios. Dry roast or toast all ingredients for a few minutes then grind in a mortar & pestle to crumbs.
Dukkha, in the food sense, is a blend of seeds which is a staple of Egyptian street food. It goes marvelously well with tagines or couscous or falafels and other exotic middle eastern dishes. Seeds are roasted or toasted and used as an accompanying sprinkle over and delicious addition to the main dish.
*Ras el Hanout ~ The name means “top of the shop” in Arabic and refers to the best mixes a seller has to offer. Although there is no set combination of spices, typically it would contain cardamom, coriander, turmeric, cumin, clove, nutmeg, ground chilli pepper, fenugreek, fennel and garlic to name but a few! There can be up to 50 spices included in the best mixes, all of which are toasted before being ground up together. It’s a available as a blend in the spice section of most good supermarkets.
Fresh Mango & Melon Salsa
Start how you mean to go on folks ~ with a happy, healthy, healing new You! This quick salad fits the bill perfectly.
Fresh mangoes and melons are still available to add exotic flare to basic everyday ingredients ~ cherry tomatoes, red onions, black olives, and avocado. (Ok, well, they might not be everyday to you, but when you’re veggie, and certainly if you’re vegan, you gotta have them ready, everyday!) A sprinkle of ginger, a dash of chili pepper, some toasted pine nuts, a scoop of pink grapefruit and a final flourish of nigella seeds and voila! ~ there’s you’re new happy and healthy you!
It really is that simple!
1 pink grapefruit; 1 mango; 1 melon; 1 avocado; 4 or 5 cherry tomatoes; 1 red onion, finely chopped; a handful of black olives, deseeded & chopped; a tablespoon of pine nuts, toasted; nigella seeds if you have them; some rocket leaves for garnish
Cut & segment the grapefruit like you would an orange, or use a a grapefruit knife. Save the juice in a large bowl. Halve the cut segments and pop them in a small oven proof dish with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar or honey or maple syrup sprinkled over and grill for a couple of minutes. Now is the time to toast the pine nuts too, so put them on a baking tray under the same grill. Allow both grapefruit & pine nuts to cool.
Cut the melon in quarter and the avocado in half. Keep the skin of the melon. Using a teaspoon, scoop the flesh into the same bowl as the grapefruit juice. Cut the mango in thirds length ways, avoiding the large nut in the middle. Take each side piece and score it in a crisscross pattern without piercing the skin if possible. Turn it ‘inside out’ by putting your hands underneath the skin and turning upwards. All the flesh should be presented to you, so that it looks like a hedgehog! Cut each piece of mango into the melon mix. There’s still a lot of flesh on the outside of the nut itself, so trim off the skin and cut pieces into the same bowl. Sprinkle the ginger and chili powders on top. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl. Crack some sea salt over the lot. Add the grapefruit to the bowl when it’s cooled.
When you’re ready to ‘plate up’, place each melon skin on a plate first, then spoon the salsa salad into it, sharing the quantity between each serving. Garnish with the rocket leaves, red onion, black olives, pine nuts and nigella seeds.
Red lentil bake with Butternut Squash, dried apricots, ginger & almond flakes ~ a sensational super food supper any day of the week! This recipe is an old favourite of mine, and so I now consider it one of my ‘signature’ dishes. It’s so versatile and can accommodate whatever starchy veg is seasonal ~ winter squashes, sweet potatoes or indeed, ordinary potatoes. I’ve been using mostly sweet potatoes recently, but now that we’ve harvested our daunting supply of butternuts, what better time to roast one of them in the agar, and stir it in to this amazingly healthy super-food dish! The red lentils are the star of the show, along with the dried apricots, fresh ginger and almond flakes. You could cook all of these up and serve them on their own, but the result is much more a dhal, not a bake. When I was inventing this dish (usually means making a mistake somewhere along the line, and discovering a new way to do something!) I wanted a main dish I could throw together relatively quickly on the stove, then pop into the oven to set and finish off while I prepped the rest of the meal. The result was so successful that the only main part of the original recipe that changes is which source of ‘good’ carb to add to it. The addition of a starchy carbohydrate bulks out the dish and adds nutritious high fibre which is complex and slow to digest. “Good” carbs are used to describe foods that have more fiber and more complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are carbohydrates that take longer to break down into glucose; such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Butternuts and sweet potatoes are the perfect starch to compliment the other ingredients because the combined effect is to provide a steady flow of energy to the body without spiking blood sugar and insulin levels (which is what the ‘bad’ carbs do). High fibre foods (including all lentils) also help to regulate blood pressure, naturally detoxify the body and are rich sources of vitamins, proteins and minerals. They’re the ones that put the “super” in super food! 250 gms red lentils, cooked; 250 gms butternut squash, cooked; 1 red onion, chopped; 1 inch or so of freshly grated ginger; 1 handful dried apricots, sliced; 2 handfuls flaked almonds; 2 tablespoons of olive oil or 50 gms butter for frying; 150 – 200ml good quality tomato sauce, and/or 1 heaped teaspoon chill sauce for an optional extra kick Rinse and cook the red lentils according to instructions, drain and set aside. Peel, cut into chunks and either roast the butternut or boil it, drain and set aside. Heat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Whilst the lentils and squash are cooking, heat a little olive oil or butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat and when hot, add the onions and ginger. Keep shaking the pan to coat the ingredients and after 5 minutes, add the tomato sauce and/or chilli sauce. Turn off the heat. Mix the lentils and butternut together, then mix in the onion, ginger and apricots and pack into an oven proof dish. Finally sprinkle over the flaked almonds and pop in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown on top. It’s totally tantalizing with warmed wholemeal bread, roasted veg, green salads and coleslaws! If you use olive oil instead of butter, this is a vegan dish and very very good for you! You can add in chopped sun-dried tomatoes, crushed peanuts, roasted red pepper, spinach, sliced leeks or even chunks of mozzarella if you’re desperate for a dairy hit!
Leek, Spinach & Feta, Filo Wrap ~ as easy as pie!
Light and fluffy, this easy pie is great as a side dish or filling enough to be the main star of the show!
1 leek, sliced & washed; 2 table spoons olive oil; 100 gms spinach; 200 gms feta, drained; 125 gms greek yoghurt; 1 tea spoon dried oregano; 3 eggs, separated; 4 slices roasted red pepper; 50 gms butter, melted; 5 sheets ready rolled filo pastry.
Pre-heat the oven to 190, gas mark 5. Grease and line a deep rectangle or oval baking dish. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized frying pan then add the leek and gently fry until softened. Turn off the heat and add the spinach to the same pan and stir through. Allow to cool. In a large bowl, mash the feta with a fork and add the yoghurt, rocket, oregano and 3 egg yolks. Add the leek & spinach mixture when it has cooled. Stir through. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk to stiff white peaks (about 2 minutes). Gently fold into the feta mixture in batches. Brush each filo sheet with the melted butter and place all 5 sheets in the lined baking tin, leaving enough pastry over one edge to wrap over as a cover. Pour in half the feta mix. Arrange the slices of red pepper over, then pour in the remaining feta mix. Wrap the excess filo over the top and tuck in the edges. Gently score the top and brush with any remaining melted butter. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving with oven roasted seasonal veg and a variety of slaws and salads. Great cold the next day too!
Mushroom & Chickpea Loaf ~ simply sumptuous!
I’ve been so busy this summer, with B&B guests, and Pamper Day clients as well as my usual massage clients that it’s been difficult to keep up with all the Monday’s that have passed between now and my last Meat Free Monday post!
Even our guest for supper took this photo! As it begins to quieten down though, I hope I’ll have more time to test & post my recipes and to tempt you with some delicious photography!
In the meantime, here’s the recipe for this simply sumptuous moist mushroom loaf…
500 gms button mushrooms; 400 gms cooked chickpeas, drained; 2 medium onions; 100 gms wholemeal breadcrumbs; 1 handful of pitted black olives; 1 handful of fresh spinach leaves; 1 handful fresh tarragon; heroic grind of black pepper.
Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 4(180C). Loosely chop all ingredients, then blend together in a processor in batches. Spoon into a greased and lined loaf tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
That’s it! How easy is that? Serve with a tomato salsa, crusty bread and some good friends!
UTLT gets a featured slot in Elle magazine’s “Hot Weekends” travel section in the November issue! And nearly fluffed it! Here’s how…
“Si elle lit, elle lit Elle” (If she reads, she reads Elle)
According to Wikipedia, Elle is the world’s best selling fashion magazine focussing on fashion, beauty, health and entertainment and reaches over 21 million readers. Oh my! The vast majority (82 percent) of Elle’s audience are women between the ages of 18 and 49, with a median age of 34.7 years.
“Our readers are young enough to think about life as an adventure and old enough to have the means to live it”, says Robbie Myers, current editor in chief. Well, I can honestly say that I haven’t thumbed through very many editions of Elle in my more-than-median-age range, but that hasn’t stopped me still thinking about life as an adventure!
Elle was founded in France in 1945. In the 1960s, it was considered to “not so much reflect fashion as decree it”. Among its past editors is Jean-Dominique Bauby, who became known for writing the book “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” after suffering almost total paralysis during a stroke in 1995. (The book is a fabulous read by the way, and the film does it great justice).
So how did the feature article come about? The Cool Place to be is Hot!
We can all have the best product in the world, or offer the best service, but how we sell our product and market it to the world is an entirely different ball-game, and it’s not always based on meritocracy. We can spend an inordinate amount of time and money climbing the marketing mountain ~ advertising here, promoting there, re-inventing ourselves always ~ hoping that our efforts will reap rewards. None of this happened in this particular case. In fact, it’s a good old fashioned lucky break, and a classic example of never knowing who’s going to walk through your door and what they’re going to say about you!
I first got an email in early August, which without any prior intro, was from the Picture desk at ElleUK asking for “hi res images to be sent asap for a feature article in the november issue”. Yeah right! I put the email in my Trash, thinking it was a spoof (I get lots of them) and didn’t give it a second thought. Later the same day, there’s a message on my ansaphone, “Hi it’s ElleUK, we’re doing a feature article on Under The Lime Tree, please send hi res images asap…” Ok, now it got my attention!
I grabbed the email from the Trash mailbox and was in touch immediately. After inquiring as to what was the focus of the feature, I got the reply, by email, two words only, “Hot Weekends”. Well hello? Excuse me? Hot Weekends? I know I have a hot tub, but really? Hot weekends here, at UTLT, really? It’s said that any publicity is better then no publicity, but I was getting pretty hot under the collar thinking of the potential misunderstanding ~ especially as a residential massage therapist! Not good!
Anyway, long story cut short, turns out it’s for Elle’s travel section ~ hot places to be. Ha! Ha! But Under The Lime Tree is the Cool Place to Be! No matter! I sent images, (never used, incidentally). By the end of September I still had no idea of who was writing the copy, despite relatively persistent requests to find out. I had to let it go. Do you say to Elle, over 21 million readers world wide, no you can’t use my images if I don’t know what you’re saying about me, or do you trust and hope for the best? I hoped for the best ~ and got a luck break! Out of the blue, a regular B&B guest emailed to say “Hi Nikki hope you’re well, I’ve written about you in this month’s Elle”. And that was it! PDF’s included.
The prices are wrong, the flights quoted are to the wrong airport, but hey! A vegetarian and vegan B&B gets mainstreamed alongside other hotels and B&Bs because of it’s emphasis on providing consistently good food and good service.
And there’s the rub! You never know who’s going to walk through your door. A business does well because it builds up a good reputation and people want to come back for more and they recommend you to others. You’re marketing yourself every moment ~ so do it with love, naturally, and to the best of your ability. And of course, with equal respect for all your clients, because you just never know…
Under The Lime Tree ~ The Cool Place to B & Be!™
Scrumptious Sweet & Sour Stir Fry with Green Peas & Cucumber
This stir fry is an eclectic mix of subtle flavours and textures to tantalize the taste buds! Hot ginger is contrasted with cool cucumber & refreshing lemon. Soft tofu is contrasted with crunchy cashew while the coconut & coriander bring it all together to create an easy Thai style dinner!
Did you know..? Peas contain many of the B group vitamins and are the richest food source of vitamin B1~ also known as Thiamin ~ essential for normal heart, muscle & nerve cell function. They are Power Packed with loads of other vitamins such as C, A and K and folate. They are an excellent source of iron, and have considerable amounts of zinc, manganese, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
They contain as much protein & energy as meat and are one of the best sources of soluble fibre. Frozen peas retain a high level of their nutrients, making peas one of the most popular and versatile foods! Make more use of Peas Please!
Pre-prep ~ Marinade : ½ cucumber, sliced into half moons; 250g firm tofu, drained then crumbled ; ½ lemon or lime, squeezed; 1 dessert spoon freshly grated ginger; 3 table spoons sweet & sour sauce
Put all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and leave to stand for a couple of hours.
Prep ~ 3 table spoons olive oil; 1 onion, peeled & chopped; 2 chilli peppers, deseeded & chopped; 1/4 fresh fennel, sliced; 100g green cabbage, shredded; 50g cashew nuts; 100g frozen peas; 200ml coconut milk; handful fresh coriander
Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add the onion & chilli. Fry for 5 minutes over a moderate heat. Add the fennel and after 2 minutes the cabbage and cashews. Continue frying for 2 minutes. Add the marinade mix, along with all the juices and the frozen peas. Pour in the coconut milk & coriander, stir, then simmer gently to heat through. Turn off the heat to let the stir fry rest, then serve with noodles or steamed rice.
Try using any green veg seasonally available ~ spinach, broccoli, curly kale, Brussels sprouts.