cooking

moroccan chickpea and lentil soup

moroccan-chickpea-and-lentil-soup-philippa-moore

This soup was a great favourite of mine in my Weight Watchers days - I made it again recently and to my delight, it is still excellent. And perfect for those nights where the air is freezing, you can smell chimney smoke and rotting leaves, and hear next-door’s dogs howling at the moon.


Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup

2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 teaspoons Masterfoods Moroccan Seasoning (or a spicier Moroccan souk seasoning, my favourite is this one from Gerwurzhaus)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
2 x 420g cans chickpeas, drained
2 large or 3 medium carrots, diced
1 large or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 large red capsicum, chopped
1 sweet potato (or large white potato), chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
Vegetable stock (or water), to cover
Fresh coriander to serve, if desired

Coat a stockpot with cooking spray. Saute onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Add a bit of stock if it starts to stick.

Add carrots, capsicum, sweet potato and zucchini (a note on the vegetables: this combination is not set in stone. It works brilliantly with any vegetables so use up whatever you’ve got). Mix well, then add the red lentils and chickpeas. Add the spices. Stir well to coat everything evenly.

Cook for about a minute, until everything is fragrant and combined thoroughly. Add enough stock to cover. Stir well. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Come back to check on the soup every 15 minutes or so. Lentils will absorb the liquid as they cook, so you may need to add more stock or water during the cooking time, depending how thick you want the soup.

After 30 minutes, check the lentils to see if they are tender. If they are, the soup is ready. If not, cook for a further 10 minutes before checking again.

A note on the spices: some Moroccan seasonings can be quite mild so taste the soup as you go and add more if you want. I prefer a kick!

Either serve the soup as it is, or puree roughly with a hand-held blender to break up the bigger chunks of carrot and capsicum.

Serve immediately, or freeze in containers. Makes enough for 8 serves.

This is one of the most comforting things in the world to eat when it’s cold outside.

nan's anzac biscuits

Last year’s batch, made in London, to Nan’s original recipe!

Last year’s batch, made in London, to Nan’s original recipe!

This is the only recipe I have ever used for Anzac biscuits. They are just the way I like them and remember them from childhood - slightly soft and chewy!  Tom loves them too because they taste like his childhood favourite, flapjack!

Nan's ANZAC biscuits

Makes about 40 (I usually double the recipe!)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup coconut [if you don't have this use an extra 3/4 cup oats]
3/4 cup sugar (brown, raw or white)
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
125g butter, melted
2 tablespoons golden syrup (I often use rice malt if that’s all I have)

Mix all dry ingredients. Dissolve bicarb soda in boiling water and add to melted butter and golden syrup. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place in teaspoonfuls on a greased tray.  I roll them into balls in my hands first, which really does remind me of making these as a kid! 

Bake in a moderately slow oven (160 C, 325 F) for 15 minutes.  If you want harder biscuits cook for a few minutes longer.  Let them cool and then store in an airtight container.

They last a long time - they were originally designed to be sent to troops overseas so they had to travel well and not go off for months and months - but in this house they last as long as my and Tom's willpower allows!

Happy ANZAC Day - lest we forget.

best-ever chocolate chip cookies

I do understand why people eat raw cookie dough - this stuff is the bomb!

I do understand why people eat raw cookie dough - this stuff is the bomb!

I recently rediscovered these cookies. I hadn’t made them for years - I guessed around 2010 and, thanks to magic of blog archives, it turned out I was right! But the other week, I noticed a few half-empty bags of chocolate chips in my parents’ pantry and my mind travelled back to these cookies, which I first discovered via a now-offline blog in 2005 and which were always my contribution to staff morning teas when I lived and worked in Melbourne. I only had to make and bring them in once to have people clamouring for more. They really are that good.

And you might wonder at the addition of rolled oats - it might seem like the equivalent of having a salad at McDonalds but trust me, they are a non-negotiable part of these cookies. Don’t leave them out!

Everyone loves these cookies. Try them and you’ll see!

Best-ever chocolate chip cookies

2 and 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (note: I love salt in sweet things. I up this to 2-3 teaspoons, but that's just me. And I use Maldon sea salt)
1 cup butter (2 sticks/220g)
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (I used a mixture of white and milk for this particular batch as that’s what we had but prefer dark)
1 cup rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 190 C (350 F). Line several baking trays with baking paper.

Put the butter, vanilla and sugars in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until creamy and fluffy.

Add 1 cup of the flour and fold in. Then add the rest of the flour, the baking soda and salt. It will look very thick and you'll think you need to add water or something, but don't! It will all be fine! Keep stirring!

Once all the flour is mixed in, add the oats and choc chips, again a bit at a time. Stir through thoroughly.

Use two teaspoons to spoon the mixture into small dollops on to the baking trays. You'll probably be able to get 12 on a normal baking sheet. Make sure you leave lots of room in between them, as they spread out when baking.

When your trays are all loaded, put them in the oven and bake for 10-11 minutes or until they look golden on top.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly before removing from trays. Then spoon remaining mixture back on to the trays as before, put back in the oven, etc. until all the mixture is gone.

It takes me about 7 trays to use all the mixture.

Depending on the size of your dollops, you can get up to 80 cookies from this - I usually average around 65.

Allow the cookies to cool. You’ll need a will of iron to resist them while they’re warm, but it’s worth it - they’re a bit too soft when warm. When cool and firm, you will have cookie heaven.

Enjoy!

best-ever-chocolate-chip-cookies-2

summer couscous salad

couscous-salad

You know how you go through phases of not eating something for years - perhaps a decade - and have written it off in your mind as a bit boring, but then you rediscover it and think "why did I ever stop eating this?!" That is the story of me and couscous.

Twenty years ago, when I first tried couscous, I thought it was the best thing ever. My uncle made a lovely dish with it, lightly spiced, full of fresh herbs and studded with dried apricots. My favourite dish at a local trendy restaurant - Rockefellers, I think it was called - was their roast vegetable couscous salad. Every time I cooked it myself at home, I pretended I wasn't a bored 17-year-old living at home with three rowdy younger siblings, but some sophisticated trainee journalist in her Sydney or London apartment (clearly I thought trainee journalists living in such places were loaded). But like so many things, I had it so often that I got couscous fatigue. After a few disasters where it ended up clumpy and gross rather than fluffy and perfectly cooked, I threw in the towel and hadn't bought couscous since. 

I'm on a mission to clean out my pantry at the moment, dragging all the packets that were flung to the back when they were hopefully bought in 2014 or 2015 (eek) out to finally fulfil their culinary destiny. I found a packet of couscous, amongst the packets of kombu and nori when I was going through my making seitan from scratch phase, and felt a pang of nostalgia. Why not, I thought. 

It has also been uncharacteristically hot here this past week or so. For the first time in my 11 years here, London is experiencing a proper summer. Not just one or two hot days and then cloudy grey skies for the rest of the season, but full on 29 degrees every day for well over a week now. It's a miracle. I'm loving it. 

So any meal that involves not having to turn the oven or stove on is a winner during a heatwave. But there's only so many baby gems and packets of rocket and watercress you can eat. So this is where couscous is a GODSEND. All you have to do is boil a kettle. 

And after eating this salad, it's safe to say couscous won't be off my menu any time soon. Couscous and I are friends again and I couldn't be happier! 

It's seriously sensational. You can make this for a barbecue, as part of a mezze where you serve several salads, or just have it on its own. Cook the whole packet so you can pick at it all week during the heatwave.

Summer couscous salad

Serves 10 if served as a side, makes 5 generous portions if served alone

500g couscous
4 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra if needed)
800ml vegetable stock made with boiling water and stock powder

Rocket, as much as you have/want
Watercress, as much as you have/want
2 large pieces of roasted red pepper (out of a jar), chopped
Cherry tomatoes, as much as you have/want, halved
Sugar snap peas, as much as you have/want, halved
3 tablespoons capers
200g feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 small bunch dill, chopped
Salt and pepper

Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons basil pesto

Place the couscous in a large bowl, preferably a clear glass one so you can see once all the liquid is absorbed. Add the oil to the top. Boil the kettle and make the stock. Pour the stock on top of the couscous and oil, stirring briefly to combine. Cover the top of the bowl with cling film and leave for 15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is cooked.

While you're waiting, prepare the salad vegetables, feta and dressing. Put the dressing ingredients in a clean empty jar, put the lid on and then shake until well combined. Set aside.

Once the couscous is cooked, stir it well with a fork to make it all lovely and fluffy and break up any lumps. If it's too dry, add a little more olive oil. Once you're happy with it, turn it all out into a large, shallow serving bowl.

Add all the salad vegetables, capers, herbs, feta, chilli, salt and pepper and stir well to make sure everything is mixed well together. Finally, dress with the dressing and give it one final toss. 

It will sit happily if you have other parts of your meal that you're waiting on, otherwise dig in! It also keeps brilliantly and makes a great portable lunch for the office.

couscous-salad-2

Seriously, I will happily make and eat this every day for the rest of the summer if it means we can have more weather like this. Alleluia. It only took 11 years but thank you weather gods for giving London a proper summer at last! 

super easy baked eggs

baked-eggs

I wrote off baked eggs from my repertoire a few years back, as I'd had nothing but disasters with them. I think, looking back, it was simply a case of not knowing the strength of my oven (they do tend to vary from flat to flat!). But I've recently been converted, mostly because I wanted a brunch dish that just made serving two people at the same time easier, rather than turning my stove into an omelette station every Sunday morning. It's a bit depressing when you finally sit down to eat yours and your partner has already finished theirs! Baked eggs alleviate this problem, furthering marital togetherness. Try them and I'm sure you'll be a convert! 

Super easy baked eggs

Serves 2

8 cherry tomatoes, halved
6-8 tablespoons of greek or natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon pul biber (Turkish chilli flakes or Aleppo pepper: use plain chilli flakes if you can't find it)
A spoonful or two of crumbled feta per portion
A handful of fresh basil and thyme leaves per portion
2 heaped teaspoons sun-dried tomato pesto
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Boil the kettle.

Butter two ramekins. Divide the halved cherry tomatoes, yoghurt, pul biber, feta and herbs between the two, stirring until just mixed. Place a heaped teaspoon of sun-dried tomato pesto on top, then make a small indent in the centre. Break in an egg and then season.

Once the kettle has boiled, place the two ramekins in a deep baking tin. Pour in enough boiling water to come roughly halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Very carefully place in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes but keep an eye on them....you want them just set and the yolks still runny. They can turn from undercooked to overcooked in mere seconds! 

Serve both portions immediately with crusty bread/toast. Preferably in the garden.