Slow Cooked Stuffed Zucchini

Old fashioned as they might be, there is a joy in stuffed vegetables, oozing with tomatoey rice or chickpea fillings, perhaps covered with cheese, melted and dripping down the sides. Nothing quite says cold weather more than stuffed vegetables. We love them. But then we were never one for fashion, especially in food.

This recipe is Turkish in origin, although many versions appear around the Middle East and gulf regions, from Israel to Afghanistan. We are stuffing our zucchini from the garden, the late ones that have grown slightly larger. We stuff them flat, that is, laying on their length, slit in half, and cooked with the stuffing in hollows left by the removal of their seeds and soft core. You can, of course, stuff them vertical – cutting into lengths without splitting down the middle, and using a manakra from your Middle Eastern store, to hollow out the middles – sort of like coring an apple.

We are using Ottolenghi’s recipe in Plenty More, but many similar recipes abound, using a range of grains to give substance to the filling. We are using Ottolenghi’s recipe because we have a little project at the moment, to cook through Plenty More, so it is a convenient way to add another dish to our project’s Cooked list.

The thing about many Zucchini dishes is that they are just as delightful served at room temperature as well as warm – this dish, for example, is divine. Today’s recipe is in the same class – serve it warmish, or at room temperature, with goat’s feta (Middle Eastern feta, beautifully creamy) and a salad of sliced onion, radish and tomato. Excellent. Make it a first course or a main dish.

Ottolenghi has changed the recipe for this dish over time, reducing the time taken to cook the stuffed zucchini from 2 hours to 40 mins. That raised a warning signal for us. We find that it all depends on your heat levels. I cooked mine with a heat diffuser to keep the heat low and it takes all of 2 hours to ensure the rice is cooked well. Higher heat levels will mean that cooking time is shorter.

Our suspicion is that the longer time might be more traditional, but less photogenic or visually pleasing. It is often the case with dishes from countries like Greece and Turkey, and neighbouring countries, that dishes are cooked longer than might be fashionable these days. Flavour goes through the roof but the visual appeal is lost. It’s a pity that we put so much store on visual presentation.

HOWEVER, we found that using Ottolenghi’s recipe, the zucchini was overcooked and the rice just a tad undercooked, even after 2 hours. After all, it is being steamed rather than boiled as is usual. Our recommendation is that the rice should be par-cooked before using in the stuffing, and that the cooking time is then reduced to 40 – 60 mins so that the rice is really soft. As it is, the recipe does not work. (See this Guardian article which also recommends precooking rice for stuffed courgettes in general.)

I am leaving the recipe as it appears in the book, in case I missed something or you have other insights and views. If so, let me know. It is unusual to have an Ottolenghi recipe that does not work.

It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi 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 Stuffed Tomatoes with Cheese, Peppers Stuffed with Cherry Tomatoes, and Okra Stuffed with Chilli Paste.

Browse all of our Stuffed recipes and all of our Zucchini dishes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.

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

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Smoky Aubergine with Tahini and Pomegranate

There is a marriage made in heaven, and that is eggplant and tahini. Oh, goodness, how magic happens with that combination. There are a quadzillion recipes that feature that specific combination, and it is no wonder. We have quite a few on this site too. They tend to be Middle Eastern in origin, or in style.

This recipe is no exception – it is Middle Eastern, it is magic, and it is delicious. The combination features pomegranate molasses, and the usual garlic and lemon juice. You will adore it.

It is an Ottolenghi treasure, from his book Plenty. We have a small project at the moment, to cook from his books, and currently we are cooking from Plenty More but not ignoring his other books altogether. I have to say, this is one of his simpler recipes, easy to make without too many processes. It can be made in just a few minutes after the eggplant is charred. This contrasts with the Persian Noodle dish we made yesterday, which contains 7 different processes and 5 different elements. Its a pleasure to cook such a simple dish after that one!

It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi 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 Burnt Spring Onion Dip with Chilli-Garlic Kale, Babaganoush, Persian Style Eggplant, and Begun Pora.

Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.

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

Continue reading “Smoky Aubergine with Tahini and Pomegranate”

Cauliflower “Shawarma” with Pomegranate and Tahini

Cauliflower has been used for ages as a vegetarian answer to the classic Middle Eastern Shawarma recipe. The cauliflower is roasted with a range of spices including toasted cumin and coriander, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and sumac. In this recipe, the cauliflower is then dressed with tahini, pomegranates, pine nuts and rose petals. Beautiful Middle Eastern flavours.

This particular recipe, they say, originally came from Josh Katz of Berber and Q, and it is such a beautiful dish. It has sweetness, tartness, creaminess, ‘burntness’ (umami), warmness from the spices and a fragrance that brings the bazaars of the Middle East to your table. Its such a great dish.

Are you looking for Cauliflower recipes? Try South Indian Cauliflower Soup, Cauliflower Kitchari and Slow Cooked Cauliflower with Lime and Spices.

Or some Middle Eastern recipes? Try Rice and Orzo, Saffron and Rose Scented Aubergines, and Semi Dried Tomatoes with Pomegranate Molasses.

You can also browse all of our Cauliflower Recipes, all of our Middle Eastern Recipes and all of our Pomegranate dishes. Or take some time to check out our Mid Autumn dishes.

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Persian Barberry Saffron Rice with Almonds and Pistachios

We are so in love with our long stranded saffron from Saffron Only. With our delivery we also received several recipe cards including the recipe for this rice dish which has also been mentioned by an Irani work colleague. As beautiful soft barberries are available at the local Afghan shop, the recipe was added to our must-cook list.

The recipe simmers long grained rice until al dente, then steams it on a bed of potatoes or pita bread (optional) until the bottom is crispy and the rice is perfectly cooked. It is then served with saffron water, the toasted barberries, almonds and pistachios.

Berberis, commonly known as barberry, is a large shrub that has yellow flowers and red or blue-black berries. The berries, rich in vitamin C, have a distinct sharp acid flavour. The country in which they are used the most is Iran where they are used in rice pilafs.. Due to their inherent sour flavor, they are often cooked with sugar before being added to rice. Iranian markets sell barberry dried. In Russia they are sometimes used in jams and extract from them is a common flavouring for soft drinks and candies/sweets. They are rarely used in Europe in modern times. (Thanks wikipedia.)

I notice that Ottolenghi has a similar recipe on his website. I mention it only as we have an Ottolenghi Project happening, cooking from his book Plenty More. You can check his recipe out, but I like this one better. 🙂

Barberries are also such a beautiful colour that they make a great garnish to any rice dish or salad.

Similar recipes include Saffron Mograbieh Pilaf, Saffron, Date and Almond Rice, and Golden Saffron Tea.

Browse all of our Saffron dishes and all of our Persian recipes. Our Middle Eastern dishes are here. Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.
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Stuffed Vine Leaves | Dolmades

Dolmas, or Dolmades, are little parcels wrapped in grape vine leaves and simmered until the filling is cooked and the vine leaves are tender. Although there is always a rush to make them in Spring as the vine leaves appear, they can be cooked right through to Autumn. Indeed, if you are diligent enough to freeze or preserve vine leaves, they can also be made in Winter. Of course, if home preserving is not your thing, you can always purchase preserved vine leaves (I’ve seen large jars of them). The leaves can be stuffed with many things, but rice, burghul, or a mix of the two, are common.

These dolmas are stuffed with burghul (bulgar, or cracked wheat) and rice in a typically Middle Eastern version with currants and pine nuts. They are delicious. Serve with lemon wedges.

Similar recipe include Burghul Wrapped in Vine Leaves, Grape Leaf Encrusted Rice Pie, and Grilled Pecorino Wrapped in Vine Leaves.

Browse all of our Grape Vine Leaf Recipes, and all of our Dolmas. All of our Middle Eastern dishes are here. Or explore our Early Autumn recipes.

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Spicy Chickpea and Bulgar Soup

A friend and I recently hit the local Greek Warehouse and then the Central Market in Adelaide, and I found myself stocking up on Wintery food – lots of dried beans, lentils and grains, different flours, Greek herbs, and some new baking trays. It is a fairly subconscious thing that we do, change our diet as the seasons change. At this time our body starts to crave soups, salads with beans and lentils, and rice puddings. Baked dishes. Gratineed vegetables. Bulghar (Burgul) dishes. Slow cooked food a la Grecque. Ah the joys of Winter in the kitchen.

So overnight some chickpeas are cooked in the slow cooker. I find that the best ways to cook them is to slow cook them, unsoaked, for 9 hours, and they are perfect for any dish.

This recipe is one from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. It is one that has done the rounds in various publications and Ottolenghi modifies it slightly each time. In the book, he pairs it with a feta-creme fraiche paste, and elsewhere he replaces it with coriander oil, or salbitxada – a sharp and lightly sweet Catalan sauce. I’ve included all options here, so choose one that suits your mood or the weather. One option is to make a huge pot of soup, and serve with feta-creme fraiche paste one day and with salbitxada the next. The soup does need a little something stirred into it at the end, to liven it. Use lemon juice if you don’t have the time to make the paste or the sauce.

This recipe is a mid-week Soup, substantial enough to be eaten with heaps of flatbread and a green salad. It is hearty and comforting. The flavour improves even more if you allow it to stand for a few hours. Ottolenghi says it feeds four, but I say it will feed 6 or 8, depending on the hunger levels.

It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have made in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.

Similar recipes include Chickpea, Lima Bean and Noodle SoupRoasted Cauliflower Soup, Dried Fava Bean Soup, and Barley and Vegetable Soup.

Browse all of our Soups, all of our Chickpea recipes, and all of our Burghul dishes. We have other Chickpea Soups. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Mid Autumn dishes.

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Broad Bean and Dill Rice

Sometimes we just need to throw something together quickly. This is your recipe for a rice side dish, or a snack if you will – ideal for Spring time when young broad beans are around, or at other times using frozen, peeled broad beans from your Middle Eastern of Afghani Grocer. Grab your dill from there too – they have simply the best, largest, freshest bunches of dill, far better than the limp branch or two we get from Supermarkets. (If you buy your frozen broad beans from the supermarket, it is likely that you will have to peel the individual beans once they are blanched. The ones from a Middle Eastern shop will save you quite a bit of time.)

Similar dishes include Black Pepper and Cumin Rice, Persian Barberry Saffron Rice, Saffron, Date and Almond Rice, Kosheri, and Zucchini Rice.

Browse all of our Rice dishes and all of our Middle Eastern recipes. Or explore our Late Summer dishes.

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Burghul or Couscous with Pine Nuts and Sultanas

An easy dish today, one to bring the Middle East to your table. It makes a great side dish to any meal, and can also be used in place of rice. It is quite pretty! Pine nuts are toasted for full flavour and crunch, sultanas are plumped for sweet lusciousness, and barberries or pomegranate kernels are added for colour.

The base of this dish can be couscous or burghul/cracked wheat, or any similar grain. Cook it, drizzle it with a little ghee or butter, add the ingredients and serve.

Similar recipes include Spicy Chickpea and Burghul Soup, Spiced Burghul Wrapped in Vine Leaves, Burghul Salad with Pomegranate, and Roast Pumpkin Couscous Salad.

Browse our Burghul dishes and Couscous recipes. All of our Middle Eastern recipes are here. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Yoghurt with Cucumber and Mint

Yoghurt and Cucumber is such a heavenly pairing that it is used around the world to make a cooling accompaniment to meals (and the pair is also often blended together to make cooling Summer drinks).

This recipe is reminiscent of the Middle East, where mint and garlic are added to yoghurt with cucumber. This can be used as a dip (for me, dips never went out of fashion), or a cooling yoghurt salad to have with meals. It can be a sauce or dressing, or make it thick and use it as a spread.

Similar recipes include Cucumber, Feta, Mint and Dill, Cucumber Lassi, and Raita recipes.

Browse all of our Cucumber recipes and all of our Yoghurt dishes. All of our Middle Eastern recipes are here. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Thick Thick Yoghurt with Zaatar, Walnuts and Olive Oil | Labneh with Walnuts and Zaatar

While others may call drained yoghurt as Labneh, I have always made it myself and began calling it Thick Thick Yoghurt all those years ago, before I had ever heard of Labneh and before labneh became trendy.

It is a versatile product that can be used in a multitude of savoury and sweet ways. Salt it and add spices to use as a spread, dip, dressing or filling. Serve with wedges of toasted pita bread. Sweeten it a little (or not) and use it with fruits, jam, on scones, on toast and jam and it is a great alternative to cream.

Countries from India through the Middle East and into the Mediterranean make and use thick thick yoghurt. This dish is one that uses golpar, that tangy, slightly tart powder made from Persian hogweed. Speaking in terms of traditional medicine, the use of golpar with yoghurt counteracts the cold property of yoghurt. You can buy it from Middle Eastern, Afghan and some Asian groceries. You can substitute some grated lemon rind – it is a different flavour but will still be very very good.

Use this as a mezze dish, a dip, with tomatoes and cucumbers (and radishes), a spread in a sandwich or wrap, slavered over baked vegetables, in place of sour cream.

To get you started, this is how you make Thick Thick Yoghurt. And read more about Golpar.

Similar dishes include Yoghurt and Kaffir Lime Spread, Ways to Use Thick Thick Yoghurt, Salty, Garlicky Thick Thick Yoghurt, and Blueberry Shrikand.

Browse all Thick Thick Yoghurt dishes and our Dips and Spreads. Or explore our Late Summer dishes.

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Cucumber, Feta, Mint and Dill Salad

Quick salads, they make my heart beat faster. Quick, tasty salads faster still. Salads with the creamy, beautiful feta from the local Afghan shop, that is almost a heart attack! Here is your 3 minute salad, plus one more minute to slice up the crusty bread or tear the tafftoon or Nan-i Afgani flatbreads into bits and set up your place under the tree outside for a perfect light lunch.

Similar recipes include Parsley and Barley Salad with Marinated Feta, Broad Beans with Feta and Preserved Lemon, and Artichoke Hearts and Feta Salad with Tomatoes.

Browse all of our Feta dishes and all of our Salads. Our Middle Eastern recipes are here. Or browse our Early Summer dishes.

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Golpar Namak

Persian Hogwood seeds, ground into a powder called Golpar, makes an interesting spice – slightly bitter, earthy, woody.  You will find it quite aromatic too. It is used a lot in Middle East countries, and you can buy the seeds Middle Eastern or Afghan grocers. You might be able to buy the powder, but I can only get the seeds and grind them myself.

I got chatting to a gentleman in the local Afghan shop, and he says that Golpar is known and commonly used in Eastern European countries too. It is sometimes called Angelica seeds, but that is incorrect.

Golpar Namak is the powder mixed with salt. It is a great seasoning, useful for almost anything, and especially good with beans, grains, rice and lentils. Try it sprinkled over cucumbers and pomegranates. If you can find sour plums, use it with them too. Put some in your preserves and chutneys.

Read more about Golpar here.

Browse all of our recipes using Golpar, and all of our Middle Eastern recipes. Or try our Early Summer recipes.

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Freekeh Pilaf with Herbs and Yoghurt Dressing

Such a wonderful earthy flavour, Freekeh, that strange sounding name (to Western ears) belonging to the nutty grain. Sold whole or cracked, it is easy to find at Middle Eastern stores, some providores and some bulk lentil and grain places. Freekeh actually means rubbed – the process of removing the grains from its husks.

Like quinoa, freekeh is full of protein, with a beautiful smokiness, and is dead easy to cook. It is Middle Eastern duram wheat that is picked while unripe then traditionally roasted over wood fires to burn off the husks – hence its wonderful smoky flavour. Surprisingly it is also a little sweet, so a squeeze of lemon or lime always does wonders to a freekeh dish.

Freekeh is so unusual as generally the grains we use have been allowed to mature and dry on the head.

This dish is a take on an Ottolenghi dish from his book, Plenty, but has some minor variations. It is beautifully cooked by simmering for 15 mins and then leaving covered, to steam until cooked. Then it is tossed with herbs and topped with garlicky lemon yoghurt before serving.

Similar recipes include Vegetable Pulao from the Beaches of Goa, Green Beans with Freekeh, Walnuts and Tahini, Barley Pilaf with Mushrooms, and Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf.

Browse all of our Freekeh recipes and all of our Pilafs. Our Middle Eastern dishes are here. Or browse our Late Spring collection of recipes.

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Bamiya | Okra with Apricots and Lemon

This dish is an Armenian classic, one that brings sweetness through fruits into a dish with the softness of long-cooked okra. This recipe is a straightforward version of the dish – some recipes add tamarind and spices, but this one is quite an easy dish to cook while retaining the beautiful flavours of the cuisine. Tartness is added to the dish with lemons and tomato puree.

The okra are first sautéed and then cooked in the tomato puree with the apricots and lemon, for 40 mins or so, until meltingly soft. You will love it.

Are you after more Okra dishes? Try Okra with Chilli Spice Paste, Plain Kuzhambu with Okra, and Sambar with Okra.

Are you looking for more Armenian dishes? Try Green Peppers in Yoghurt and  Armenian Pickled Okra.

And try our Sweet Apricot Salad with Orange and Thyme.

You can browse all of our Okra dishes, all Apricot recipes, and all of our Armenian dishes. Or simply explore our Late Autumn dishes.

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Crispy Cauliflower with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

This Cauliflower dish is a take on a classic Israeli and Lebanese recipe in Ottolenghi and Tammi’s book Jerusalam. I have twisted it up just a little to suit us and our friends, but I have to tell you that this is a favourite dish in our circle. I love it partly because it is very quick to make if you roast the cauliflower. Ottolenghi deep fries it (and that is delicious) but often time is a real factor in this household. So the cauliflower is roasted when we need awesome dishes in quick-sticks time. We can get on with other things while the roasting happens. I have to say, though, that deep frying gives the cauli beautiful crispy exteriors and cooks the interior just enough to be amazing.

Tahini features in creative ways in Israel, in both simple eateries and upmarket restaurants. For these types of dishes, grab good tahini from your Middle Eastern grocers – you won’t go back to the supermarket shelves, and they have a smoothness not available in the Greek brands. Choose a light-coloured tahini made from hulled sesame seeds.

The tahini sauce, thick and wonderfully rich, is the focal point of this dish. I use about 3/4 of Ottolenghi’s sauce with the cauliflower, and the rest is put to use as dips and salad dressings. This dish fits perfectly in any mezze selection, makes a great substantial meal when served with fresh tomato salad and a warm pitta, or is an excellent side for many meals.

Similar dishes include Cauliflower Shawarma, Indian Style Roasted CauliflowerCrispy Cauliflower with Capers, Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Hazelnuts and PomegranateRoasted Cauliflower and White Bean Puree,  and Cauliflower Slow Cooked with Lemon and Spices.

Also try Miso Sesame Dressing, Green Tahini Sauce, White Beans with Tahini, and Tahina Tarator.

Browse all of our Cauliflower recipes, and dishes where tahini features. Our dips and sauces are here. Explore our Israeli dishes, all of our wonderful Salads, and check out or Early Spring collection of recipes.

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