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This pasta bake from the Falastin book would make a great party dish. We’re still a good way off holding a party in terms of restrictions but we’re very happy to have heaps of leftovers. It’s full of warm spices and the feta on the top makes it a bit different from the more familiar pasta bakes. If you make the ragu the day before it’s pretty straightforward to assemble and bake when you need it. If you do this, warm the ragu slowly first before adding the pasta.

Wine Suggestion: this goes great with a warmly, spiced southern French or Spanish red. Our choice tonight is a rarity, a wine from the Southern part of Aragon near the provincial city of Teruel. An ancient inland region of Spain that was de-populated during the civil war and is being rejuvinated by some young winemakers replanting the vineyard terraces of their grandparents. The Jesus Romero Rubus is a Garnacha Tempranillo organically grown and made without intervention, but with a lot of love and care to avoid any bacterial issues. Joyful red and black fruits, warm spices and refined tannins.

Spicy pasta bake – serves 6 generously

FOR THE RAGU:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 2 green peppers, roughly chopped
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1¼ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500g beef mince (not too lean, about 20% fat if possible)
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 5-6 plum tomatoes, coarsely grate and discard the skins – if you have a mouli you could use this
  • 2 red peppers, cut into rough 3cm dice
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 20g parsley, roughly chopped, plus a bit extra to serve

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL:

  • 45g unsalted butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 500ml full cream milk
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 130g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 2 egg yolks

OTHER INGREDIENTS:

  • 350g macaroni pasta or similar
  • 180g feta, roughly crumbled
  • ¾ tsp Aleppo chilli flakes, to serve

First make the bolognese. Put the onion, celery and green peppers into a food processor and pulse briefly, until finely chopped.

Put the butter and oil into a large, heavy saucepan and put over a medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture and cook for 7 minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic, tomato purée, oregano, spices and bay leaves and cook for a minute.

Add the beef mince and cook for a few minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cooking until no pink bits remain.

Add the tinned and fresh tomatoes, red peppers, sugar, 100ml of water, 2¼ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and leave to simmer very gently for 2½ hours, stirring roughly every 30 minutes, until the sauce is thick and rich. We took the lid off for the last half an hour as our ragu was very liquid. Discard the bay leaves, stir in the parsley and set aside until needed.

To make the béchamel, put the butter into a medium saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, stir or whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking or stirring continuously. Reduce the heat to medium, add the nutmeg and 1 tsp of salt, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes, then stir in the yoghurt and egg yolks until mixed in.

Heat the oven to 200C fan.

Bring a large pan of salty water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente (use the minimum time on the pack). Reserve 3 tbsp of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and add to the ragu with the reserved cooking water. Mix well then pour into a large baking dish (about 30 x 22cm and 8cm deep).

Pour the béchamel over the top and spread out evenly. Sprinkle over the feta and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with some extra parsley, the aleppo chilli and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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Roasted red pepper and walnut dip – Muhammara – serves 4

A new favourite side-dish/dip, called Muhammara, from Falestin, one of our favourite books of 2020, the year we did nothing but cook! This is such a handy thing, good with pitta breads but also as a delicious side dish. We served it with lamb and rice.

  • 110g walnut halves
  • 6-7 red peppers (1kg)
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes (or 1 tsp of regular chilli flakes)
  • 35g panko breadcrumbs
  • 1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C fan.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Add the walnuts and roast for about 8 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside.

Increase the temperature to 220C fan. Put the peppers onto a parchment-lined baking tray and toss with 1 tsp of oil. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until completely soft and charred. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the skin, stems and seeds.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a medium sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and browned. Add the garlic, tomato purée and spices and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Remove from the heat and tip into a food processor with the roasted peppers, panko breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp of salt and some black pepper. Blitz for about 30 seconds to get a coarse paste. Add 90g of the walnuts and pulse again briefly, just to break the walnuts down a bit. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Roughly crush the rest of the walnuts with your hands and sprinkle these over with the parsley.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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This was our last feast of 2020, the year that we cooked more than any other. It helped us to have a shared interest and something to entertain us in the evenings when we couldn’t do anything else. We miss sharing our food with friends and family but we’re hoping it will return before too long. We served this with Muhammara (a roasted red pepper and walnut dip), sumac yoghurt (see below) and a rice dish. You need to start a day ahead and in fact it works well if you cook the whole thing in advance and reheat to serve. 

Wine Suggestion: A gem of a discovery in 2020 after reading an article by Jancis Robinson was the Thymiopoulos, Jeunes Vignes de Xinomavro. A vibrant and exciting red from Náoussa in Greece this grape we’ll be exploring more as we found it had elegance, hints of Mediterranean sunshine and gentle, middle eastern spices.

Pulled lamb shawarma – serves 8

  • 3 onions, 1 roughly chopped and the other 2 cut into wedges
  • 2 heads of garlic, 1 cut in half horizontally, and 8 cloves from the other roughly chopped
  • 25g piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 20g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1½ tbsp ground cumin
  • 1½ tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 2-2.5kg lamb shoulder, on the bone
  • 700ml chicken stock
  • ½ a lemon
  • salt and black pepper

FOR THE SUMAC YOGHURT:

  • 200g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 60g tahini
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sumac

Make the spice paste by putting the chopped onion into a food processor with the chopped garlic and ginger. Pulse until finely minced, then add the parsley and spices. Pulse for another few seconds, until just combined. Scrape down the sides, then add the vinegar, oil, 2¼ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Pulse again to form a coarse paste, then transfer to a non-metallic container that can hold the lamb. 

Pat the lamb dry and pierce all over with a small, sharp knife. Put the lamb into the dish with the spice paste and coat generously in the mixture, so that it is covered on all sides. Cover with foil and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. 

Take the lamb out of the fridge an hour before you start cooking so it comes to room temperature. 

Preheat the oven to 140C fan. 

Put the onion wedges and the halved garlic bulb into the centre of a large roasting tray and pour over the chicken stock. Sit the lamb on top of the veg, then cover tightly with foil and bake for 4 hours. Remove from the oven, discard the foil and continue to bake for another 90 minutes, increasing the temperature to 160C for the last 30 minutes. The lamb should be very soft and come away easily from the bone. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then shred the lamb directly into the pan juices. Transfer the lamb with the pan juices, onions and garlic cloves to a large serving bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice.

To make the sumac yoghurt, put the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, the sumac and ¼ tsp of salt into a bowl and whisk well to combine.

Serve the lamb with the yoghurt alongside. We served with a rice dish and a dip but you can also serve with pitta breads, sliced tomatoes, red onions and herbs – a lamb shawarma sandwich.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.) 

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We cooked this fish from Falastin on a Saturday night for our 7 year old, who gets to sit up and have dinner with us at the weekends. Jono’s not too keen on fish skin so I warned him to make sure that Orlaith didn’t see him taking it off, or she wouldn’t eat it either. Orlaith announced very quickly that the skin was the best bit – that’s my girl! Crispy skin is the key and this cooking method delivers it to perfection. Even Jono ate the skin!

Wine Suggestion: A very left-field suggestion tonight, but with some logic: the Herdade de Portacarra Manda Chuva. This is a Blanc de Noirs – a white made from a red grape. In this case Sangiovese which is the logic; this grape works superbly with tomatoes. Interestingly this is from Setubal, in Portugal, and by making a white it makes a great match for both fish and tomatoes.

Seared sea bass with lemon & tomato sauce – serves 4

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 4 tsp fish spice mix (to make: 2 tsp ground cardamom, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 2 tsp turmeric)
  • 8 sea bass fillets, skin on, lightly scored and halved widthways at a slight angle
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped, including seeds
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 x 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes, blitzed in a food processor until smooth
  • 1 ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 20g dill, roughly chopped
  • 25g coriander, roughly chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 150g datterini or cherry tomatoes
  • ½ a lemon, very thinly sliced into rounds

Combine 2 tbsp of oil, 2½ tsp of fish spice mix, 1 tsp of salt and a plenty of black pepper together in a shallow dish. Add the fish pieces, turn to coat and set aside while you make the sauce.

Put 2 tbsp of oil in a large sauté pan and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring now and then, until softened and browned. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes, until fragrant. Add 1½ tsp fish spice mix and the tomato purée and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, two-thirds of the dill and coriander, the stock, 1 tsp of salt and plenty of pepper. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce is thick and rich. Keep warm on a low heat.

Toss the little tomatoes with 2 tsps of oil. Put a large frying pan on a hight heat, add the tomatoes, and cook for about 4 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until charred all over. Add the lemon slices and cook for another 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan a few times. Add this to the tomato sauce along with the remaining herbs and keep warm until ready to serve.

Wipe the frying pan clean and put over a medium-high heat with 1½ tsp of oil. Add a quarter of the sea bass fillets, skin side down, press them gently if necessary to stop them curling. Cook for 4 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and browned, then flip the fish over in the pan. Cook for another 30 seconds, then transfer to a warm plate. Repeat until all the fish is cooked.

Divide the sauce between 4 plates and top with the sea bass. Sprinkle over some coriander leaves to serve.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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Buttery Rice with Toasted Vermicelli

A very simple and effective way to pimp up your rice.

Buttery rice with toasted vermicelli – serves 4

  • 300g basmati rice
  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 50g spaghetti, roughly broken into 3cm sticks (or you can use 50g vermicelli wheat noodles)
  • 520ml hot water or hot chicken stock

Rinse the rice in cold water until the water runs clear, then set aside to soak in a bowl of water for at least an hour. When the rice has soaked, transfer it to a sieve over a bowl and leave to drain for 15 minutes or so.

Put 25g of the butter and the cinnamon stick into a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until deep golden. Stir in the rice to combine well, then add the water or stock and 1½ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Cover the pan tightly with tinfoil, followed by the lid. Turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave aside for 15 minutes, still covered.

Remove the lid and dot with the extra butter, then set aside for another 10 minutes, covered.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi & Tara Wrigley, Ebury Press, 2020)

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Spiced Salmon Skewers with Parsley Oil

We started these kebabs from the Falastin cookbook on the barbecue and then finished in the oven. Oh my goodness, they’re delicious. This is the best cookbook we’ve bought in ages!! You can make the parsley oil and marinade the salmon well in advance.

Wine Suggestion: to avoid fighting the spices we opened a La Source de Chateau Vignelaure Blanc from Provence. A blend of Vermentino, Semillon and Sauvignon it was uncomplicated joy in a glass; pure freshness with light fruits and a textured core.

Spiced salmon skewers with parsley oil – serves 4

  • 800g salmon fillet (no skin & bones), cut into 4cm chunks
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 3½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, halved lengthways, then each half quartered into 4 chunks
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 lemon, quartered into wedges, to serve

PARSLEY OIL:

  • 40g parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 90ml olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut off the ends, then remove the skin and cut between the membranes to release the segments

Put the chunks of salmon into a large bowl with the cardamom, cumin, paprika, turmeric, sumac, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, ¾ tsp salt and plenty of black pepper. Mix to coat the fish, then leave in the fridge for at least an hour but it will be fine made earlier in the day and cooked when you need.

Put 1½ tbsp of olive oil into a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured, they’ll fall apart and that’s fine. Scoop them out of the pan and set aside.

To make the parsley oil whizz the parsley, garlic, oil, ¼ tsp of salt and plenty of pepper in the small bowl of a food processor for about a minute, or until, smooth. Add the lemon segments and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 230ºC and get your barbecue going (if you don’t want to barbecue you can use a well-greased griddle pan).

Put a tomato onto 4 long metal skewers, then alternate chunks of salmon with pieces of onion. Finish with another tomato at the end.

When the barbecue (or griddle) is smoking hot, add the skewers and grill for 3-4 minutes, turning so they’re charred on all sides. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment and put into the preheated oven for 6-7 minutes, or until the salmon is just cooked.

Drizzle over the parsley oil and serve the lemon wedges on the side.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020)

 

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Aubergine, Chickpea & Tomato Bake

Absolute deliciousness from Sami Tamami and Tara Wigley. You could definitely eat a plate of this as it is, but we had it tonight with a barbecued leg of lamb. You can prep it in advance and cook when needed.

Aubergine, chickpea & tomato bake – serves 4 to 6

  • 5 medium aubergines (about 1.25kg), trim off the tops, use a peeler to peel of strips of skin so you have stripy aubergines, then cut into 2cm thick slices
  • 120ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp tomato purée
  • 2 green peppers, cut in to 3cm chunks
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1½ tsp caster sugar
  • 15g coriander, roughly chopped, plus an extra 5g to serve
  • 4 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1½ cm rounds

Preheat the oven to 220C fan.

Line two baking trays with baking parchment.

Put the aubergine slices into a large bowl and toss with 75ml of the olive oil, 1 tsp of salt and lots of black pepper. Spread the slices over the baking trays and bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes. They should be completely softened and lightly browned.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180C fan.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large sauté pan, then cook the onion for about 7 minutes or until soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic, chilli flakes, cumin, cinnamon and tomato purée and cook for another minutes. Add the peppers, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, sugar, 200ml of water, 1¼ tsp salt and and plenty of black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 18 minutes, or until the peppers have cooked through. Stir in the coriander and remove from the heat.

Spread half the tomato slices and half the aubergine over the base of a large baking dish. Pour over the sauce, then top with the remaining aubergine and tomato slices. Drizzle over 1 tbsp of olive oil, then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes before serving. Sprinkle over the remaining coriander to serve.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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Spicy Roasted New Potatoes with Lemon & Herbs

This dish bursts with flavour. We’ve been entertaining in our garden (in small groups and at a distance) and it’s been so nice to cook dishes to feed more than 2! Another triumph from Falastin and great with some grilled meat; this will be done many atime again we suspect. You can prep up to the point before you put the potatoes in the oven. Cook and dress when you’re ready to eat.

Spicy roasted new potatoes with lemon & herbs  – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 7 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 750g baby new potatoes, quartered
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 1 large lemon, finely grate the zest to get 2 tsp and juice to get 2 tbsp
  • 10g coriander, roughly chopped
  • 5g dill, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C fan.

Lightly crush the cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Put the olive oil in a large sauté pan over a high heat. Add the cumin and coriander seed and cook for a minute, stirring. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or until it starts to colour.

Add the chilli and tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, until the tomatoes start to soften. Add the potatoes, sugar, 1 tsp of salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Stir and transfer to a large baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Roast for 40 minutes, tossing once, until the potatoes are crispy and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5 minutes before adding the lemon zest & juice, coriander & dill. Toss gently & serve.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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Falastin Chopped Salad

I’ve been trying to suppress my cookbook habit in lockdown; there’s really no room left on the bookshelves. However, Jono recognised that I could not be without Falastin and it arrived this week. It’s everything we love and know to expect from Tami & Tara. The pages are splattered with tahini and sumac already! We chopped everything a couple of hours in advance, as it takes a while, and then assembled and tossed just before serving.

Chopped Salad (tahini version) – serves 4

  • 4 small Lebanese cucumbers (or 1 normal cucumber), quartered lengthways, seeds removed and cut into ½ cm dice
  • 420g ripe tomatoes, cut into ½ cm dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into ½ cm dice
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 5 scallions, finely sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 30g parsley, very finely chopped
  • 15g mint leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 lemons: finely grate the zest to get 2 tsp and juice to get 3 tbsp
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • plenty of black pepper
  • 80g tahini
  • 1 tbsp sumac

Prep everything and keep them separate. When ready to eat place all of the ingredients, except the sumac, in a large bowl and toss to combine. Sprinkle over the sumac.

(Original recipe from Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, 2020.)

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