Black Olive, Herb and Chilli Pine Nut Cream Cheese

Cream cheese still features in our kitchen, despite its fall from grace. Over-used in the ’80s and ’90s, cooks have relegated it to supermarket shelves. But, thank goodness, really good cream cheese still exists if you look around. It makes very easy, simple but flavoursome dips and spreads, and snack balls.

This spread mixes cream cheese with olives and herbs. Cream cheese is quite bland, so we spice things up by incorporating some chilli toasted pine nuts. It is hardly a recipe, it is that simple. But we share it here anyway.

Use the spread on crackers, on hot toast or crumpets, and with roasted vegetables.

Similar recipes include Quince Molasses and Tahini Spread, Miso and Tahini Sauce, and Yoghurt and Kaffir Lime Leaf Spread.

Browse all of our Cream Cheese dishes and all of our Spreads. Or explore our Mid Winter dishes.

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Tahini and Yoghurt Sauce and Dressing

This is an awesome dressing for salads – think green salads, or salads of warm vegetables. It is also perfect for hot potato chips, and a great sauce for snacks. Try it with Falafels! Or use as a dip for celery and carrot sticks. It is made in seconds, all you need is a bowl and a fork for whisking.

Are you after similar dressings? Try Minty Yoghurt-Tahini Sauce and Dressing, Celery Yoghurt Salad, Green Tahini Sauce, and Lemony Yoghurt Dressing.

Browse all of our Dressings and all of our Sauces. Or take some time to explore our Mid Summer dishes.

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Sweet Quinoa and Oat Congee with Poached Oranges and Vanilla Ricotta

Congee, back in the Ming dynasty, was used as a vehicle for medicinal herbs. Even without the herbs, it is such a great vehicle for love, comfort and nourishment. It is comfort food indeed, eaten at any time but especially when one is feeling under the weather, or has stomach trouble. It is also reputed to be suitable for eating when one has a hangover.

Most people think of congee as a rice porridge, but depending on where you lived in Asia, your congee might be made with millet, barley, corn, mung beans or other legumes, mixed with or without rice. Sadly, it is only the South China version made with rice that has become known more universally, probably because it is so creamy and mild. Congee has lots of names across the world too, eg jook (Cantonese, Korean), jok (Thailand), zhou (Mandarin), kanji (Tamil), chao (Vietnamese), canja (Portugese). In Thailand, they mix additional ingredients into the congee, but in China, it is served with toppings and sides.

Congee is a great way to prepare a meal out of nothing. A cup of rice, lentils or grain can be cooked with 8 – 10 cups of water and whatever flavourings are available in the pantry at the time. I prefer to cook congee in a clay pot, easily available from any Chinese store, as it gives a better flavour.

And most of all, congee is a meal that’s all about personal preference. Cook your chosen grain or lentil, for as long as it takes to get your perfect texture, flavour it as you will, and add the toppings that you enjoy. Today’s congee is made with Oats and Quinoa, a delicious combination that is perfect for breakfast or day time snack. Unlike our other congee recipes, it is one that is sweetened with the addition of dried fruit while cooking.

Similar recipes include Congee, Black Glutinous Rice Congee, and Red Rice and Adzuki Bean Congee.

Browse all of our Congee recipes, and all of our Quinoa and Oat dishes. Or explore our Early Spring recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Yoghurt and Barley Soup

In India, yoghurt curries are very common – yoghurt heated gently and flavoured with spices. In the Middle East, yoghurt is used for soups, and they are also incredibly delicious.

This soup has bite and substance thanks to the handful of pearl barley. The creamy yoghurt and a wealth of spices makes this is a such a nourishing bowl.

Try similar recipes – Turkish Cacik, Pineapple Curry with Yoghurt Sauce, and Yoghurt Curry with Lentil Dumplings.

Barley Soups include Farmhouse Barley Soup and Parsnip and Barley Soup with Garlic and Sage.

Browse all of our Yoghurt recipes and all of our Barley dishes. All of our Soups are here. Middle Eastern delicious recipes can be found here. Or browse all of our Mid Winter dishes.

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Conchiglie or Orecchiette with Yoghurt, Peas and Chilli

A spicy pasta dish hit the table this week, one that certainly packs a chilli hit, but one that also includes yoghurt and feta, and the cooling peas to temper that punch. It is quite a glorious dish, silky and creamy with the texture of toasted pine nuts. I am making it in Winter, but I highly recommend it for Spring. It can be made any time of year, of course, but peas fresh from the vine lift the dish to a different level. Bookmark it now for your spring time.

The recipe is one of Ottolenghi’s from his Guardian column and from his book, Jerusalem. We are cooking our way through Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by.

Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here, and from Jerusalem here. We have written about our experiences cooking through Plenty More. Or explore our Mid Winter recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

Continue reading “Conchiglie or Orecchiette with Yoghurt, Peas and Chilli”

Steamed Tofu with Bok Choy and Sesame

Steamed tofu is the antithesis of the punchy, in-your-face flavours of my usual Indian cuisine. Almost bland, it is gloriously so, adding creamy texture to its accompaniments. In this case we use bok choi (pak choi) and a soy sauce-seasame-mirin dressing. You do have to be willing to enjoy the subtlety of flavours to appreciate this dish. It is not something that would do well on Master Chef, for example, however we love steamed tofu.

We also have a variation to this dish where shiitake and oyster mushrooms are quickly sauteed and added to the tofu. This is inspired by an incredible dish of steamed tofu and mushrooms at the Whole Earth restaurant in Chiang Mai –  Three Flavour Tofu Topped with Shiitake Mushrooms.

Similar recipes include Curry Laksa with Fried Tofu, Kaffir and Tamarind Tofu, and Tofu and Spinach Layers.

Browse all of our Tofu dishes and all of our Bok Choi recipes. Or be inspired by our other Late Winter dishes.

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Thai Silken Tofu with Bean Sprouts and Broth

I remember David Thompson when he had a tiny little take-away Thai shop in Darley St, appropriately called Daley St. Thai. He was famous even then, the queue snaking down the street on a Friday and Saturday night. He then went on to open a high-end restaurant London (where his food was never understood – you lost out London). Then he moved to Thailand to open a Thai restaurant – a brave move for a non-Thai person. It remains a very popular establishment.

Somewhere along the line, David wrote a bible of Thai food. It is a compendium of the cuisine. Of course, there are very few vegetarian recipes in the book, but occasionally I take it down from the shelf and find one of the few suitable recipes to make, as Thai food is wonderful.

Today, with inspiration from David’s Thai Food, is a wonderful dish of soft tofu with garlic and bean sprouts. It is utterly delicious.

Similar dishes include Steamed Tofu with Bok Choi and Sesame, Curry Laksa with Fried Tofu, Baked Marinated Tofu, and Tofu and Spinach Layers.

Browse all Tofu dishes and all Thai recipes. Or explore our Mid Winter food.

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Orange and Pecan Cream Cheese

The problem with food fashions is that really useful ingredients get put aside, left behind, left on the shelf. Remember cream cheese? If you are of a certain age you will recall the cream cheese dips. I had a particularly flavoursome one that involved chilli sauce, a jar of sweet and sour vegetables and loads of coriander leaves. It was quick, easy and magnificent.

But over time, cream cheese has lost its appeal in the food world. It is pretty much ignored in place of feta, ricotta, cream, tahini, avocado and other creamy and fashionable ingredients. In our kitchen, however, cream cheese still has its place on the refrigerator shelf amongst these other beautiful ingredients.

It isn’t a dip today, but the recipe is for a spread that we are making with cream cheese. It is so easy it is hardly a recipe, but we share it in the way that we usually do, for consistency. It is cream cheese mixed with orange juice and pecan nuts. Yum.

Use the spread on crackers, or on slices of fruit. If you would like to use it as a dip, simply whip it until it becomes lighter.

Similar recipes include Black Olive and Herb Cream Cheese with Chilli Pine. Nuts, Quince Molasses and Tahini Spread, Miso and Tahini Sauce, and Yoghurt and Kaffir Lime Leaf Spread.

Browse all of our Cream Cheese dishes and all of our Spreads. Or explore our Mid Winter dishes.

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Roasted Eggplant with Crushed Chickpeas and Herb Yoghurt

How comforting is a dish of eggplant, roasted in thick slices, with chickpeas and cumin, toasted, and a drizzle of minty yoghurt sauce. How satisfying.  The eggplant is darkly roasted but achingly tender, the chickpeas are mixed with lemon flesh for an enlivening tang, and the yoghurt adds a light freshness to the dish.

Of course, this dish is an Ottolenghi recipe – did you notice his signatures? It is from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.

It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar dishes include Babaganoush, Baingan Pora, and Smoky Aubergine with Tahini and Pomegranate.

Browse our Dips and our Spreads, and our Eggplant recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Dakos | Tomato and Bread Salad from Crete

Dakos, the salad, is a loved salad of Crete, made with rock hard crisp breads and tomatoes, feta and olives. Ottolenghi has a version in his book Plenty More, born of his stay in Crete where he fell in love with it.

Dakos is alsothe name given to  oven-dried breads (often called rusks), which are made with barley to make them sweeter, nuttier and more crunchy than their wheat-only counterparts. Spread out on a plate and covered with the best ripest chopped tomatoes, good olive oil, some crumbled white cheese and black olives, they are seriously addictive. (Confusingly, both this dish and the unadorned rusks themselves are called Dakos!)

Cretan barley rusks aren’t easy to come by (try Greek grocers or online), but the salad Dakos is easy to make with any dried bread, e.g. the Italian Frese Integrali (aka friselle, freselle, frisedde, fresedde, frise) or the Swedish wholemeal Krisprolls, which are more commonly available in some supermarkets and many specialty stores. The tomato juices and vinegar seep into and soften the dry bread as they mix with the creamy cheese and olive oil, to create a timeless Greek experience.

However, if you don’t have access to Dakos or other rusks, try drizzling some medium thick slices of wheat bread with olive oil and baking for 10 – 15 mins in a 175C – 180C oven. They need to be hard, and the ingredients of the salad soak into the bread to soften it and make it addictively delicious.

The taste of any simple tomato-based salad is dependent on the quality of the tomatoes. There is a rich and beefy depth to end-of-season tomatoes that can exceed even those of high summer, but if yours are anything other than bursting with flavour, a pinch of sugar or a few drops of balsamic vinegar will help draw out their natural sweetness. And maybe mix your feta with some ricotta, to simulate the flavour of the sweet Cretan mizithra cheese, which is often served with dakos. (Thanks for this advice, Ottolenghi.)

This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.

In fact it is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar recipes include Baked Dakos with Tomatoes and Chickpeas, Simple Tomato Bread Salad, and Tapanade Bread Salad with Mozzarella.

Browse all of our Tomato Salads, and all of our Salads. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

Continue reading “Dakos | Tomato and Bread Salad from Crete”