Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Imam Bayildi (vegetarian version)

February 2016: Photos at last! I can't believe I never posted photos. We eat this dish a lot. This time I used cherry tomatoes as we had a few punnets. I just simmered the topping until the tomatoes were soft.
After Fabiana's guest recipe for the meat version - here is the way I make the vegetarian/vegan/gluten free (replace couscous with rice or quinoa) version.

I just love aubergines - and this is one of my favourite ways to prepare them as this dish is delicious hot or at room temperature. When served cold it can be prepared in advance, for example for a summer lunch or BBQ. I ususally serve the hot version with couscous but it also tastes great with warm crusty bread. For the

Depending on your appetite and the size of the aubergines, use either 1/2 an aubergine or a whole aubergine per person.

(serves 4)
2 large aubergines
2-3 mixed peppers (or any colour you prefer)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (in thick juice, if available)
1 large onion, halved and sliced
2 fat garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp. freshly ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped

250 g couscous
a little sea salt
500 ml boiling water
fresh herbs, chopped (optional)

1. Heat a good lug of olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Cut the aubergines length-ways and cut the flesh in a coard criss-cross pattern.
2. Fry the aubergines cut-side down until golden. Remove, season with pepper and a little salt and place cut-side up into a roasting tray.
3. Add more olive oil to the frying pan and sauté the onions, garlic and cumin for a couple of minutes.
4. Add the peppers to the pan and keep sautéing for a nother 3 minutes.
5. Season the vegetable with pepper and salt.
6. Add the chopped tomatoes and bring to the boil.
7. Take off the heat and stir in half the coriander.
8. Heap the mix onto the aubergine haves and cover the roasting tray with tin foil.
9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 5-6/175-200° C for approx. 45 minutes or until the aubergines are soft.
10. With about 15 minutes of cooking time to go boil the kettle and soak the couscous in a bowl covered with a lid. If using fresh herbs mix them in before serving.

Imam Bayildi (meat version)

This is a family recipe from Fabiana who currently divides her time between Romania and Italy.

The origin of this dish is Turkish, its very old - presumably more then 300 years ago. The name derives from a legend about an Imam (Turkish title) who fainted (bayildi means faint, pass out in Ottoman) when he tasted this dish.

The original dish apparently did use the meat but then it was left out and nowadays people in Turkey prepare it mainly without meat, where as I do - I love it with meat and tastes great.

(serves 6)

aubergines (one or two per person)
300-500 gr mince (e.g. 50-50 pork and beef or lamb and beef)
3-4 onions
6-7 ripe tomatoes tomatoes or a 500 g tin of chopped tomatoes
Mediterranean herbs (e.g. oregano, basil, thyme etc.)
whole garlic cloves, peeled (two per aubergine)
fresh basil, 2-3 leaves per aubergine
olive oil
1 glass of red wine
1 hot red chilli (optional)

1. You start by peeling one line of skin all around the aubergines, then split the aubergine lengthways and hollow out some of the flesh to make room for the filling. Chop up the scooped out flesh and sauté with the onion.

2. To make the filling finely chop the onion really and sauté together with the chopped aubergine in a pan with olive oil. When they're golden, add the mince. Fry together until all the meat is browned stirring occasionally to prevent the meat from sticking together. When the moisture has evaporated from the meat and onions add some red wine and then regularly add a little water and cook for 2 hours (keep adding water regularly). After two hours or so, add the chopped tomatoes and herbs of your choice and cook for another two hours. This procedure is pretty similar to the Bolognese Sauce (ragu Bolognese). Optionally add the chilli at this stage as well.

2. Sauté the aubergines all around in a pan with oil until they are a little colored. Then set aside on kitchen paper to drain. Place into a roasting tray.

3. When you are happy with the sauce let it cool a little. Take a spoon and start filling the aubergines with the meat sauce. Pour the remaining sauce around the aubergines. Then add 1-2 garlic cloves per each eggplant and 1-2 basil leaves per each eggplant. Put in the oven and bake for 40 minutes at 190-200°C/gas mark 5-6.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


To be honest, I can't remember where this recipe comes from. Somehow I doubt it's my own concoction but I found it in my handwritten recipe book and it's so tasty I've decided to share it anyway.

(serves 4 as a side dish)

1 large or 2 small aubergines, cut into cubes
3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp. raisins
3 tbsp toasted pinenuts
1 sweet red pepper, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
sea salt
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. maple syrup
60 g of pitted olives (green or black), sliced
1 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed

- To start with, soak the raisins in a little tepid water.
- In a bowl combine the vinegar and maple syrup.
- Place the tomatoes in a bowl, add boiling water and leave for 30-60 seconds. Then remove the skind and chop up the tomatoes.
- Slice the olives.

1. Sauté the aubergines in olive oil until browned. Cover and continue cooking over a low heat until they're soft. Then drain on kitchen towel.

2. Sauté the onions in a second frying pan for approx. 2 minutes, then add the sliced pepper and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the chopped tomatoes and olives. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Add the capers, aubergines and the mixed maple syrup and balsamic to the onion-and-pepper mix. Heat through and check the seasoning. Sprinkle with pinenutes before serving hot or cold.


Black & Brown Rice with Black Beans

I'd not made this for a while so couldn't figure out why I should cook the brown and wild (black) rice separately as they both take approx. 30-40 minutes. Well, I remembered as soon as the water started to heat up - the wild rice was leaking colour. I'll have to update the photo next time I make this dish.

(serves 4 as a side dish)

50 g wild rice
200-250 g of wholegrain rice
2-3 tbsp. raisins
2-3 tbspl toasted pumpkin seeds
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 red onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 sweet red chilli, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 can of organic black beans (no salt or sugar added), drained and rinsed.

1. Pour each type of rice into mug or something similar, then transfer into a saucepan. Add 3.5 times as much cold water and optionally a little salt. Boil for 30-40 minutes until the rice is tender, adding more water if required. Then drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile cover the raisins with a little tepid water and set aside.

3. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and sautée the onion, garlic and chilli over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Then add the cumin and sautée for another minute or so.

4. Next add the beans and season with pepper and salt. Heat through.

5. Combine both types of rice, the drained raisins, the pumpkin seeds and the bean mix.

Delicious hot or cold.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Königsberger Klopse (Meatballs in a tangy creamy sauce)

Here's another guest recipe, this time from Peter in Maidenhead.

This is a recipe of my mother’s which she, in turn, learned from her mother. Mum grew up in East Prussia just before and during the Second World War which is just about as far east as you could go in the old Germany. It is the area in the eastern “elbow” of the Baltic Sea just below Lithuania, and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) is its capital.

The “Klopse” of the recipe’s name are in fact meatballs which are cooked in a typically East Prussian creamy, yet tangy sauce. The dish was a favourite Sunday dinner in the Königsberg region and even though we have become a bit blasé about meatballs these days, I think it still holds up well as a choice for an informal dinner party with friends or a Sunday lunch for the whole family.

A couple of advisories before we start: The recipe calls for “gemischtes Hack” as the basic ingredient for the meatballs. This is a 50/50 mixture of ground beef and ground pork. I would wholeheartedly recommend using this rather than straight minced beef and I would also recommend not going for the “extra lean” option. In my experience, meatballs turn out much juicier if the meat has a little bit of fat in it. An alternative to the ground pork is ground veal and I have also tried the recipe with half ground turkey, although I didn’t think this turned out as flavoursome as it could be.

Secondly, the dish involves pickled capers which will cause concern to some. My recommendation is not to tell anyone about the capers beforehand – you will most likely find that your guests love them in this dish (even if they were iffy about them beforehand). However, if you really can’t stand the taste of capers, then diced pickled gherkins will serve as an adequate replacement.

I hope you will enjoy this unique taste of the Baltic as much as I have – both as a child and as an adult.

OK, now on to the recipe...

(serves 4)

For the meatballs
500g ground meat (ideally 250g beef and 250g pork, not too lean)
2 dry white rolls (or slices of white bread)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 egg
marjoram, salt & pepper to taste

For the broth
1 medium onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
A few pepper corns and allspice berries
Approx. 0.75 litres (1 1/2 pints) of beef stock (a stock cube and water will suffice)

For the sauce
A large knob of butter (ca. 40g)
2 tablespoons of plain flour (ca. 30g)
1 small glass of pickled capers
3 tablespoons of soured cream or crème fraiche
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A good splash of white wine
1 egg yolk

Soak the bread in warm water, then press to remove excess moisture. Combine the meat, bread, chopped onion, and egg in a large bowl and knead thoroughly (use your hands for this, so that you can really feel the ingredients come together). Season to taste with salt, pepper and marjoram. Form meatballs roughly the size of an egg and put them aside on a plate.

Meanwhile, heat up the broth in a suitable saucepan and let it boil on a medium heat for a few minutes while you finish making the meatballs. Add the meatballs to the saucepan, bring the broth back to a boil and then cook on a low to medium heat for 10-12 minutes. When the meatballs start rising to the surface, they are usually done. Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and keep them warm.

Pour the broth through a fine sieve and reserve it. Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the flour and make a light roux. Gradually add the broth, stirring well all the time. Add the capers (including the pickling juice), lemon juice, wine and soured cream and cook on a low heat for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and maybe even a bit of sugar (if the sauce is too tart for your taste). Re-introduce the meatballs and let them simmer in the sauce for a good 5 minutes. Finally, take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the whisked egg yolk.

Decorate with extra capers in the serving dish. Traditionally, this is accompanied by boiled potatoes, grated carrots and pickled beets (or gherkins).

Any leftovers can be frozen and will make a quick and tasty supper on a slice or two of fresh granary bread.

Schmorgurken (Braised Cucumbers)

This recipe is from Birgit in Berlin. I hope you'll enjoy the story that goes with this dish as much as the dish itself.

This is a family recipe exactly how my grandmother used to make them. There are hundreds of different variations, as each family has developed their own over the years. But my grandmother’s was special: Since I am a vegetarian she made it meat free for me.
A few years ago I returned from hospital after a gall bladder operation and whined to my grandma that just that day they were going to have braised cucumbers at the hospital, and that I missed having my favourite dish. So she came over, bags full of goodies and cooked me braised cucumbers. That day I watched her closely and wrote everything down.
For this dish you best use garden cucumbers, these are the fatter, yellow-green type of cucumber rather than the green long things you usually get in a supermarket. If you can't get garden cucumbers, you can use normal ones too.

(serves 2)

500 g cucumbers
1 medium onion
½ red pepper
1 medium red tomato
Powdered vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Peel the cucumbers and halve lengthways. Deseed the cucumber with a teaspoon. This will produce quite a bit of juice, so put the seeds in an extra bowl and strain them keeping the juice. This way you don't have to add water to the cucumbers later which gives the dish a stronger taste. Quarter the cucumbers and cut them into thick slices (6-8 mm).
2. Cut half a pepper into very thin strips (2-3 mm). Quarter the pepper rings. Also slice the tomato very thinly. These slices will actually disappear in the stew, so you might want to peel the tomato first (pouring hot water over it makes the job easier) or pick out the tomato peel from the stew later.
3. Dice the onion and lightly sauté in butter or margarine until transparent. (You can also use olive oil, but butter tastes better).
4. Add the cucumber, pepper and tomato and stir for a couple of minutes. Pour in the cucumber-juice and two teaspoons of powdered vegetable stock, stir and leave to simmer on very low heat for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Serve with boiled potatoes.

If you want meat with your meal, a common variation is to put very small meatballs into the stew. In that case you don’t need the vegetable stock. You can also serve the meatballs separately.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Spaghetti with Tiger Prawns

(serves 2)

200-250 g spagetti
16 tiger prawns, cooked or uncooked
1 garlic clove, very finely sliced or coarsely grated
1/2 red chilli, finely sliced
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
juice of 1/2 lime
a few basil leaves, finely sliced
extra virgin olive oil

1. Cook the spaghetti in salted water according to packet instructions.
2. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the prawns and season with pepper and salt. Sautee the prawns until they're cooked and very lightly browned. (Sautee cooked prawns just for a minute or use them simply at room temperature.) Squeeze over some lime juice and remove from the pan and place on kitchen towel.
3. Once the pasta is finished, drain.
4. In the pasta pot, heat a some olive oil and sautee the garlic and chilli at a low temperature to soften.
5. Add the spaghetti and prawns. Mix and check the seasoning.
6. Drizzle with the remaining lime juice. Sprinkle with the basil and serve immediately.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Vegetarian Quiche

Please see Variations under Quiche Lorraine.

Quiche Lorraine

I have abolutely no idea whether there are onions and garlic in a traditional Quiche Lorraine but they are in here. It's really easy to convert this dish into a vegetarian option. See variations below.

Shortcrust pastry:
125 g wholemeal flour
100 g bread flour
100 g unsalted butter
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp water
a little sea salt

3-4 eggs
150 ml soured cream
2-3 onions, finely chopped
60-100 g lardons or chopped pancetta
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
75 g cheese (e. g. Gouda, mature cheddar, gruyère, emmental), grated
sea salt
black pepper

1. Make the pastry by combining flour, baking poweder, salt and butter adding water as required. Wrap in cling film and leave at room temperature until needed.
2. Fry the onions, garlic and lardons at a low to medium temperature in olive oil until the onions are soft but not brown.
3. Combine the eggs, soured cream and cheese and season with pepper and salt.
4. Grease a 26 cm quiche base with a little olive oil and press the pastry into it. Stab several times with a fork make. Cover with grease-proof paper and dried peas or similar and bake blind at gas mark 5, 200 °C for 10 minutes.
5. Remove the grease-proof paper and beans.
6. Fill with the onion mix and pour over the egg mix.
7. Place into a hot oven and bake at gas mark 5, 200 °C for 30-40 minutes.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Make this an onion pie by omitting the lardons and adding a red onion instead.
2. Sauté a mix of onions and mushrooms.
3. Sauté sweet red peppers.
4. Use tiny uncooked broccoli florets.
5. Use your imagination ;)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Pan-fried whole Seabream

The amount of fish really depends on the individual. So you either use one seabream for two people or one for each person.

(serves 1-2)

1 whole seabream, descaled and gutted
fresh basil
thinly sliced lemon wedges
sliced garlic
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil

1. Season the fish inside and out with pepper and salt.
2. Stuff the cavity with basil, lemon wedges and garlic slices.
3. Pan-fry in olive oil for approx. 10 minutes on each side.


I just love aubergines and for many years I've only made vegetarian moussaka, which come to think of it I must try again, particularly the version with baby courgettes.

(serves 4)

800 g small to medium potatoes
2 aubergines, sliced
500 g mince (half pork, half beef)
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 - 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1 tsp dried herbs, e.g. Oregano, Herbes de Provence
extra virgin olive oil
250 ml semi-skimmed milk
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp of white or wholemeal flour

1. Peel the potatoes. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the potatoes, pepper and salt and boil for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat some oil in a large frying pan, sauté the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the herbs and keep sautéing until soft.
3. Add the mince, season with pepper and salt and fry until cooked. Then pour into the base of one or two oven-proof dishes
4. Clean the pan and fry the aubergine slices in batches in olive oil. Layer on top of the mince and season with a little salt and pepper.
5. Now slice the potatoes and place them on top of the aubergines. Sprinkle with a little nutmeg.

6. Now make the béchamel by heating a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add the flour and stir until the flour is bubbling lightly. Add the milk and stir until the sauce starts to thicken. Season with pepper and salt. Take the sauce of the heat and add one egg yolk at the time, constantly stirring to prevent it from cooking.
7. Pour the sauce over the potatoes. Cover the dish(es) with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes at 200-220° C/gas mark 5-6.

Believe it or not, this is actually quite a light dish as it doesn't have a lot of sauce. You may also double the quantity of béchamel and pour some of it onto the mince.

Spätzle with Chanterelles

A couple of weeks ago, on a visit to Germany I spotted chanterelles at the supermarket and just couldn't resist. Although they're in season in September you just can't find them in UK supermarkets.

(serves 4)

1 packet of fresh spätzle
500g chanterelles, cleaned
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1 tsp dried herbs, e.g. Oregano, Herbes de Provence
extra virgin olive oil
250 ml whipping cream

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the herbs and keep sautéing until soft. Remove from pan and set aside.
2. Heat a little more oil in the cleaned pan and add the chanterelles, season with pepper and salt and sauté till softened.
3. Add the onion and garlic, mix together, then pour in the cream.
4. Add the spätzle and heat through.

Serve immediately with a leafy salad.

1. If using dry spätzle, cook as per instructions and mix in at the end.
2. If you can't get spätzle, Italian trofie make lovely alternative.