These will have to be the softest chickpeas ever. They are par boiled then baked in a slow oven for 2.5 hours. The dish is served either hot, warm or cold – it will make a meal in itself with a little feta and a green salad or some cooked greens. The recipe is adapted from Ikaria, by my favourite Greek cookbook author, Diane Kochilas. It is a dish that can be made at any time of the year.
In the time of COVID-19 we are cooking very simple meals, and our routines have changed dramatically. We often cook late in the evening instead of early in the day. We are adjusting, but like it at a time where the rushed requirements of travelling to meetings, offices, and events have disappeared.
We, like everyone else, are scouring our cupboards and our challenge is really to reduce the amount of food we normally keep. Because I cook all the time we have so much in the pantry, and many ends-of-packets that haven’t been used up.
So today it is coarse burghul‘s turn. We cook this in a simple but special way – with butter and olive oil – then we let it steam off the heat for up to 20 mins. It is the way we love to cook it. Note that it needs different handling to the finer burghuls that are available. If you have never explored different styles of burghul, head down to your local Middle Eastern or Afghan grocery.
Anyway then we mix the cooked burghul with some cooked beetroot and eggplant, and toss through some gremolata. A worthy dish indeed. A plate of incredible tones of deep pink and purple—lurid colours indeed, but such warming, and super tasty flavours.
Black Barley with its inky taste makes beautiful salads, like this one I made from pantry and garden ingredients during the COVID-19 lockdown (2020). Black Barley mixed with some home-made peach chutney, soft oven dried tomatoes, purslane from the garden, and garden herbs. A little olive oil and the tiniest bit of something acid (taste first as purslane is a little sour) – lemon or lime, preserved lemon, or rice vinegar. You might not have peach chutney ;), but you can substitute with something sweet-tart like barberries or dried cranberries, or use sweet – raisins for example – with a little more acid in the dressing.
Congee conjours up wintery days and long slow cooking of rice, beans, lentils and/or grains on the stove top. They can be cooked slowly in the oven also – imaging an overnight slow slow cooked congee ready for breakfast when you finally emerge from the doona. One of the delights of Winter is congee.
Jook is another name for congee. I hear that jook means “arrow.” I don’t know about that but a warm satisfying bowl of congee sure goes straight to the heart. When cooked, congee should be soupy, a little runny, not thick enough to hold a spoon. But there’s no standard for consistency, so it’s perfect when it’s as you like it. It will thicken on standing, but can be thinned with some water or stock.
Congee is perfect for breakfast, if you can get up early enough to cook it. Or cook in a low oven overnight. But it also goes down well at any time of the day, especially a cold Winter’s day. I like it best cooked in a Chinese clay pot – it makes a difference and I keep one just for congee.
Ricotta Salata is a ricotta that has been salted and dried. It is not a cheese that stands alone – it is rather dry – but acts so well as a cheesy seasoning. It goes particularly well in salads and pasta dishes. It is VERY hard to find here in Adelaide, surprisingly, but is readily available in Sydney.
Today we make a salad with red or black rice – the thin rice often called Forbidden Rice – with radishes, herbs and ricotta salata. You can make this salad with other rices too, but the red and black rice give a lovely nutty flavour and a little bit of texture.
Upma is a delicious breakfast dish and snack from South India. Rava (also called Rawa, Sooji, Suji or Upma grain) is a semolina product that is cooked with spices and sometimes finely chopped vegetables for a stunningly delicious dish.
Ottolenghi, in his book Plenty More takes his version of Upma and allows it to set before pan frying wedges. It is a delicious way to use Upma and a great use of left-overs. Rather than use his recipe, I cook Upma in a more traditional South Indian way, using his method to pan fry it, then serve it with either seasoned yoghurt or ricotta.
Rava, like semolina, is a granulated wheat flour that have a grainy and coarse texture to it. There are two types available, a fine-grained version and a coarser-grained one that is better for making Upma. In general, sooji will have a finer grain than rava. If you use the fine grained one for Upma, you might have to reduce the water so that you don’t get a pasty texture.
I cook Upma until it is thick and holds shape. One variation is to add more water to get a looser consistency. If making the fried upma, cook until it is quite thick.
As an aside and just for your information if you are interested: There are many different types of rava, perhaps thousands of regional variations. Some of the variations are because different wheats are used. One of them called Bansi Rava and also known as samba wheat in many parts of India, is a very fine powdered flour unlike the more coarsely granulated Rava. It is made from a variety of wheat called samba godumai that has a long body and slightly sharp edges on both sides.
Another famous Rava is the Bombay Rava which has a very coarse texture that is a little bigger than regular Rava. It is made from whole wheat grains of a wheat called mottai godumai. There is another type, chamba rava, which is a by-product of wheat flour. Semolina, on the other hand, is always made from Duram wheat.
Browse all of our Semolina recipes and all of our Breakfast dishes. Indian Snacks are here. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.
You know we like our spreads and dips, especially classic Italian ones. Here is a simple recipe for pureed beans seasoned with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and fresh basil that can be made mostly out of cupboard ingredients. It is divine in flavour and texture, with a multitude of uses. It is difficult to get fresh ingredients during this CV-19 lockdown, I know. If you don’t have basil, use parsley, coriander or chives. I have even used rocket and baby spinach (use a little less). Or simply leave the basil out.
The optional tomatoes and fennel seeds is an idea from one of the Moosewood cookbooks of long ago – we adopted it and use that combination in all sorts of things now.
I happily eat this buckwheat salad as is for a light lunch or snack. You know I love my salad snacks. It is lovely just on its own. Or it is great served with, say, some fritters, herby new potatoes and roasted beetroot. Yum.
This is an excellent dish for the cooler days of Summer and Autumn. The recipe is based on one from Ottolenghi’s Simple. He uses beans in the salad. After the devastating bushfires in Australia, fresh beans are difficult to source. Broccolini makes a great alternative. We cook a lot of Ottolenghi dishes but always feel free to use what is in our pantry, on our kitchen benches, in our garden, or available locally. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Some say buckwheat is an acquired taste. But I think of it as a creamy quinoa, and adore the flavour and texture. You will too. It has a slightly earthy and nutty flavour.
Browse all of our Buckwheat recipes and all of our Broccolini dishes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Simple are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through Plenty More. Or explore our Late Summer recipes.
I have been lying in bed this morning – a cold morning of Autumn where it is nice to be sipping coffee and reading under the warm blankets. I have been watching the sky as I read, wondering what kind of day it will be, and it has varied from bright blue and cloudless, to dark and stormy, and back to few clouds and a bright blue sky. Such are the joys of our Australian weather. We watch the sky in Summer to see what heat levels we need to endure during the day, in Autumn we watch the sky for much needed rain, in Winter it is about how cold and wet it will be, and in Spring we wait for the first warm to hot day to arrive.
So it is nearly Winter and the soup pot has emerged from the depths of the cupboard again. We made an awesome spicy tomato soup the other day, quite Indian in style, and today we turn towards Italy and the simple but awesome products that come out of kitchens. I have heard the food of Tuscany particularly is called Poor Man’s Food, that is, food that is made from locally grown produce without fanciness or pretension. Exactly my kind of food. I remain a country girl at heart despite living in various cities for the majority of my life. The influence of those first 15 – 20 years never leaves you.
I have roasted the broccoli in this dish, but you can just add it to the onions if you prefer to skip that step.
Here is another of my loved rustic soups. It is a health-boost in a bowl, this soup. I usually don’t make it until later in the Wintery cough-and-cold season, but here we sit, at the beginning of the coronavirus scare. It is early March as I write, so I am putting attention to boosting the immunity of family and friends – and myself of course.
This is a very easy soup to make, and the chickpeas can be cooked the day before if you wish. Tinned chickpeas can be used – just skip the instructions for cooking them.