Spring is here! I am writing to you from one of our local cafés. Its wide French doors are open to an outdoor terrace. It’s still light and warm and a soft breeze just brought in scents of blossom (and something delicious cooking in a kitchen).
I have chosen to share with you the recipe for Tourlou, a mixed vegetable dish that tastes like spring and summer to me. A fridge chilled portion of it with some crumbled feta (surprise, surprise!) is just as nice to eat as straight after cooking or cooled to room temperature. But I’d prefer the chilled version today because it makes me think of Vourvourou, my friend Maria and resting in the shade in her company sipping a chilled beer (sigh!).
Back to cooking! Tourlou is an easy recipe and great for using a medley of vegetable. It can be a light evening dinner on its own or served with rice, a delicious side dish or alternative to salad, and a fantastic tapa or meze. And apparently Tourlou is the same as briam only it’s cooked on a hob- here’s something new for food geeks like me.
Serves 2 for main and more as a meze or side
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 pepper, chopped (optional)
1 carrot (optional)
200g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped or chopped in blender
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g mixed weight)
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Pepper (to taste)
Takes up to an hour
Wash all vegetable, peel the potatoes, and dice it all in five centimeter (large) chunks.
Sauté the onion and a pinch of salt in about two Tbsp olive oil for a couple of minutes.
Add one or two more Tbsp olive oil, the vegetable, toss and fry for about five minutes.
Add the garlic, let it fry for a minute without burning and add the tomatoes.
Add the sugar and also season with salt and pepper.
Stir well and cover.
Lower the heat and simmer for forty minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
Add the chopped parsley at the end or half way through the cooking.
- For a good Tourlou do not to stir during simmering to avoid breaking the vegetable as it softens.
- The tomatoes should have enough juice for all the vegetable to cook but halfway through cooking check if you need to add a couple of Tbsp of water to make sure the potatoes cook.
- Replace potatoes with other root vegetable such as parsnip if you like.
- I prefer cooking Tourlou with more aubergine and one courgette.
- Use any vegetable you like. Okra is fantastic in tourlou but might take a bit longer to cook.
- For Briam use the same ingredients, add a little bit of water and cover a baking tray with foil. Slow cook for about an hour in the oven.
An alternative to scrambled eggs. It’s nice to imagine recipes for ingredients you did not know how to cook with. Scrambu has made Tofu part of our regular diet easily.
Serves up to 4
350gr Tofu, plain or smoked
1 onion finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika, plain or smoked
½ tsp salt
2 tsp mustard seeds
100gr baby plum or cherry tomatoes (handful)
100gr grated cheddar cheese
1 small bunch of fresh coriander or basil
Garam massala spices (optional if you are using coriander)
Sauté the onion in a bit of oil until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt.
Add the mustard seeds until they start popping.
Add the tomatoes sliced in half or quarters and cook for a few minutes until softened.
Crumble the tofu with your hands into the mixture.
Add the turmeric and paprika and stir with a wooden spoon. Add as much turmeric as you need to make the tofu look like scramble eggs.
Cook the tofu with your spices for about five minutes. Season with the rest of your salt and pepper.
Turn the heat off and add the grated cheese. Toss until the cheese it melts nicely.
Taste and season more if required, tofu is very bland and might need more salt than you thought it does.
Be creative with your spices in tofu. You can make Indian, Thai or Italian flavoured scrambu as we do or make your own version. Coriander goes really well with garam massala spices and you can add a chilli pepper too. But the basil and tomato version is very tasty too with a pinch of cinnamon or pimento berries.
Enjoy on warm buttered toast.
I was in Kerala in October 2012 and it was a delight in more ways than I could ever begin to describe.
One of the reasons is of course that Keralan cuisine is at the top end of the eating experiences that India could offer you. Kerala is in some ways gourmet India, a land blessed with tropical fruits, vegetable and spices and the starting points of many trails of wealth and cultural influence. If you are a culture vulture, a foodie, and a seeker of genuine community spirit, serenity and natural diversity you should make some time to visit Keralan land.
The stew dish I am introducing today is not one I tried when in Kerala- when by the way I was delighted to wake up to savoury rice puddings with egg curry for breakfast.
I learned how to cook Istoo on my return to Wales and whilst reading Vijayan Kannampilly’s, Keralan Cookbook. It is very easy to make, it is light and nutritious, and below is my fish version of it, which I hope you enjoy.
Istoo ingredients for six
700gr white fish (skinless and bones) 
3-4 medium potatoes , cubed (3cm cubes)
100-150g finely chopped ginger
1-2 coarsely chopped medium onions
1 finely chopped chili pepper
1 stalk of fresh curry leaves or a handful of dried curry leaves
2-3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
2-3 tins of coconut milk
Salt and pepper (about 1 tsp each)
Place the potatoes, ginger, onions, chili in a deep pot and add enough boiling water to cover the ingredients.
Season and simmer until the potatoes are just soft.
Add the fish cubed in big chunks, and if the fish is not covered add some more boiling water.
Simmer for another 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
Stir in the coconut milk, add the coconut leaves and heat to a low simmer .
Option: add the washed spinach leaves to the stew as you do this.
Once the stew has reached its simmer turn the heat off.
Heat the coconut separately or other oil and pour it in.
Taste and season more if necessary before serving .
 You can find out about what fish you should consume to minimise your impact on our sees at the Marine Conservation Society’s website: http://www.goodfishguide.co.uk/. Look for alternatives to monkfish for this stew.
 You can add two of the coconut milk tins and some water for a thicker stew that is not as strong in coconut flavor. Or for a more soup-like version of the stew add some three tins of coconut milk and some more water.
The Smoked Haddock Salad was created by chance to complement a colourful mid-week meal with two beautiful friends, the wonderful Chris, a loved fellow Cardiffian, whose company I have been enjoying so much lately (yey!!), and the beautiful Katerina who is brightening up our week with her express visit from Greece- ex Cardiffian (but always one at heart).
This fish salad tastes even better the day after when its simple flavours have infused the haddock overnight in the fridge.
The recipe was inspired by 300gr of smoked haddock that needed to be cooked on the day, our need for a light salad, and a quick google search for haddock salad recipes, of which eventually I followed none but one of which gave me the mustard vinaigrette idea.
It takes 15-10 minutes to makes and can be enjoyed warm too!
Smoked Haddock Salad: Feeds 4-6 as side salad and 2 for lunch
- 300gr skinless and boneless smoked haddock
- 300gr fine green beans chopped in three
- 2 celery sticks, thickly sliced
- a small bunch of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- half a red onion , finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- Olive oil
- 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
- Add the chopped fine green beans in a flat, large shallow pan with 1/3 of it filled with boiling water.
- Simmer for five minutes, remove and drain. Keep the water boiling in the same pan.
- Add the whole fillets of smoked haddock and steam/simmer for ten minutes. Add a bit more boiling water if necessary.
- Prepare the vinaigrette by mixing in a jar the mustard, salt, cider vinegar and olive oil. Use as much olive oil as you think you need but at least five Tbsp. Shake the jar vigorously until the vinaigrette has a loose but creamy consistency. Adjust seasoning to taste.
- Remove the haddock and drain.
- Add haddock to a shallow salad bowl and flake roughly with a fork.
- Add the chopped parsley, beans and onion.
- Dress with the vinaigrette and mix well.
Enjoy as a light lunch or dinner for two on salad leaves or toasted rye bread , or as a light side dish.
Love your belly and your friends. 🙂 =love yourelf
This recipe is dedicated to Denise, an extraordinary lady, working at the PDSA in Cardiff.
If you are looking for a simple and light recipe that satisfies your winter cravings in a guilt free manner, I think you are at the right blog.
Our household is on a health buzz this January, probably like you are, and we feel a lot better for it. The recipe below is the lighter alternative to aubergines recipes like Melanzane al Parmigiano or Moussaka and it is a lot quicker to prepare too.
Many people mistake me for a vegetarian! This is because I don’t normally eat meat more than once a week or every week: there are just too many food groups to choose from! I grew up eating red meat once a week and our family fasted/detoxed a few times a year for 2-3 weeks, gradually giving up different food groups: staring from meat, chicken, fish; moving to dairy; then giving up seafood and sometimes even giving up oils, fats and spices.
It is fascinating that various cultures and denominations incorporate at least one period of cleansing and self discipline in their calendar year. Whatever your way of going through such a process may be, most of you who have will agree that it is worth it.
And why not go a step further this year: why not commit to eating good healthy food all the time? Why not eat less and better sourced meat for ethical, environmental and health reasons? Why not eat less but buy better quality ingredients? And then we can talk about our energy levels and fitness: you might even shed a couple of kilos or more, and maintain that loss in the long term.
Thanks to Dan Green for the fantastic photos, as ever! And for teaching me technicalities and how to select images!
Aubergine bake recipe, feeds 4-6
Ingredients for a 25cm x35cm baking tray
For the first layer
3-4 large meaty aubergines
For the third layer
1 large onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, one red and one green
1 tin of pre-cooked puy lentils
6-8 chestnut or other mushrooms, roughly chopped or sliced
A couple tbspns chopped parsley
A handful of ground pimento berries
For the third layer
300gr grated cheddar or parmesan cheese OR a mixture of the two
- Prepare and start cooking your basic tomato sauce. I suggest you use parsley for this recipe. 25min
- Start by cutting off the stem and ‘nose’ of your aubergine. Slice thickly: 2-3cm slices. Each aubergine should give you at least 3 slices. 2-5min.
- Salt the aubergines and let rest in a large bowl for 20min whilst your tomato sauce is cooking. This process removes excess water from the aubergine and makes the grilling faster. You can skip this step as your aubergines will grill anyway. 20min, optional
- Coat a large non-stick pan with some olive oil and grill the slices in high heat, pressing down firmly with the spatula to quicken the cooking process (removes excess water). For each grill batch you can coat the pan with some olive oil. 15min.
- Layer your baking tray with the cooked aubergine slices, snugly and leaving no gaps.
- Prepare layer 3: sauté the onion, pepper and mushroom is a tiny bit of olive oil for 10-15 minutes. Season with some salt. Drain and add the precooked puy lentils. Grind a small handful of pimento berries in a pestle and mortar and add to your mixture. Once all juices are absorbed, a coupe of minutes after adding the lentils, remove from heat. Season to taste, if needed. You can prepare this layer as you are grilling your aubergines. 15min
- Preheat your grill! 10min.
- Add Layer 2, the tomato sauce, which should be cooked by now, evenly to your baking tray on top of the aubergines. Seconds.
- Add Layer 3 evenly on top of the tomato sauce. Seconds.
- Grate your cheeses to finish off. Seconds.
- Place under the grill for 10-15 minutes or until golden. 15min.
- Cool down for 10-15 minutes and enjoy! 15min.
The two recipes for cabbage rolls (lachanontolmades or sarmades) adjusted from the Greek edition Christmas issue of Olive magazine
For our New Year’s Eve dinner we had a varied spread including a spinach Quiche, the recipe for which I gave you two weeks ago, a butternut squash pie made by Elpida, vegetatian lasagne made by Valentina Brioschi and finally cabbage rolls, lachanontolmades or sarmades.
Cabbage rolls are an ideal party dish but you can also prepare it as a main course. I think it is an fantastic dinner dish for the post-Christmas healthy eating time when all of us are looking for light but tasty treats. It is possible to diet with flavoursome and light dishes, no need to torture yourself.
I got the idea to cook these very different cabbage rolls recipes from the Christmas Greek edition of Olive magazine. The recipes were provided by Simona Kafiri and Georgia Kofina. I adapted the simplified version of the traditional Greek cabbage rolls to my liking, and a tested a new spicier version with a red sauce that uses diced pork instead of minced meat. Both are fantastic. I also discovered that you can use iceberg lettuce to make a lighter but extremely tasty version of the dish. So here is my innovation!
The recipes below can feed 6 people and take nearly 2 hours to prepare and cook.
Thanks to Dan Green for photos.
Two cabbage roll recipes: one traditional and one spicy
Preparation of cabbage, the basic ingredient, 30min
1 large or two medium white cabbages
1 iceberg lettuce
This is the first step of your preparation. But you can also start with the preparation of the spicy filling as it needs to simmer and cool down before the cabbage leaves are stuffed.
It is impossible to fill and roll cabbage without blanching or slightly boiling it. Remove outer cabbage leaves that might be scarred but keep for layering the base of your pots before cooking.
Cut around the base of the cabbage with a sharp knife and remove the stem of the cabbage(s).
Place the cabbage in a large deep pot with boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove and cool down before peeling the leaves and preparing them for filling and rolling.
As I started to peel the leaves I realised that I did not have enough cabbage for all my filling. I was pushed for time so I decided to experiment with iceberg lettuce as an alternative. Iceberg lettuce leaves are quite firm compared to other lettuce varieties, so I peeled and dipped them in the hot, but no longer boiling water, for 30seconds to a minute to soften. Iceberg lettuce rolls are absolutely amazing and surprisingly worked really well, particularly with the traditional recipe.
For the new spicy filling of Georgia Kofina, 20 min:
300 gr pork fillet or chops, finely diced
¼ cup rice (either Carolina variety or Thai rice) – the rice you have will do
½ large onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove
2 Tbspns finely chopped parsley
1/6 cup olive oil or about 4 Tbspns
1 cup stock (either home-made or bouillon meat stock)
¼ glass white wine
½ tspn paprika and cayenne pepper
Sautee the onion in the olive and then add the garlic.
Once translucent add the white wine and then add the meat, rice, parsley, paprika and cayenne pepper, and finally, add the stock and season.
Cover and simmer at very low heat until the rice absorbs all liquid.
Then remove from the heat and set aside to cool down before the rolling begins.
For the sauce of the spicy version of Georgia Kofina, 5 min:
3 celery sticks thickly diced
1 carrot, peeled and roughly diced
200 gr finely diced ripe tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
Prepare all your ingredients for the sauce. You don’t need to do anything else at this stage as all ingredients are added to the cooking pot after you laid your rolls.
For the traditional filling adapted from Simona Kafiri’s recipe:
175 gr minced pork
150 gr minced beef
1 large onion, grated
½ cup of finely chopped parsley
½ green pepper finely diced
¼ cup grated ripe tomatoes (1 or 2 tomatoes)
1 ½ flat tsbns salt
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup rice (either carolina variety or Thai rice) – the rice you have will do
½ tspn ground cloves
½ tspn ground cinnamon
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your hands and set aside for filling.
Filling, rolling and cooking, 1.5 hrs:
2 separate pots, 25cm circumference or at least 20cm
The red sauce ingredients you have prepped for the new and spicy version.
2 Tbspn olive oil or butter (for the traditional recipe)
1 ½ cup stock (either home-made or bouillon meat stock) (for the traditional recipe)
Add a little bit of olive oil at the bottom of each pot. If you have kept the outer leaves of the cabbage layer the pot with these/ Remove the thick end (vein) of each cabbage leaf by making an (upside down) V shaped incision. This way you will be able to roll the leaf more easily.
Add enough filling in the middle and roll the cabbage leaf, by folding its outer sides in and then rolling so that you can have the top of the leaf facing your cooking surface. You should then place the roll in the pot, with the top of the leaf facing the bottom of the pan, this way your rolls will not unfold and open whilst cooking. It is a lot easier to roll with the iceberg lettuce leaves.
Use all cabbage leafs and layer the rolls in the pot close and tight to each other. I made to layers of rolls in each pot. If you are using iceberg lettuce roll too, you can place those on the second layer as they will cook faster.
For the new spicy version, spread the celery and carrots over the rolls, evenly pour the tomato and olive oil and add some salt and pepper. I had to add some more stock to the pot, just a couple of tablespoon. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
For the traditional recipe, add the olive oil and stock in the pot. Cover and simmer for 1 hr. Don’t throw away the liquid.
Once the rolls are cooked, set aside for cooling and serve on long platters garnished with the sauces you have prepare.
For the traditional recipe sauce, Avgolemono, 10 minutes:
1 Tbspn Corn flour
1 Tbspn butter
¼ cup lemon juice
1 egg yolk
Some paprika (optional)
You might prefer to have the traditional cabbage rolls as they are. But this avgolemono, lemon and egg, traditional sauce is the perfect accompaniment to this dish. Simona’s recipe of avgolemono is simple and delicious: I had never made it before but it was very easy to deliver.
Remember the sauce preparation must happen really quickly so have all your ingredients within easy reach. There should be about a cup of juices left in your pot from cooking and you will need all of it for your sauce.
Melt the butter in a small pot and mix in the flour well so that you have no lumps.
Then remove from the heat and mix in your egg yolk swiftly. Aim for a creamy mixture.
Immediately stir in the warm juices from the pot, little by little, constantly stirring on very low heat. Keep mixing until your sauce has thickened to the consistency of double cream.
Pour over your traditional cabbage rolls and enjoy!
There is always that takeaway dish that we all keep ordering again and again in the most unadventurous repetitive manner. That Indian takeaway dish for me is not a balti or a korma and I even managed to overcome my obsession with chicken shatkora, a Bangladeshi specialty flavoured with the exotic shatkora fruit, otherwise known as citrus macroptera or as I prefer to call it ‘ wild orange’.
But I am not going to talk about the culinary potential of the shatokora and its tantalizing combinations with chicken and mutton today because most recently my favourite takeaway dish and inspiration for this recipe is king prawn nawabi bahar. Apart from its taste I am also intrigued by its name. Nawabs were the regional rulers of East Indian provinces and from the little information I can find on the internet they are described as connoisseurs of fine dining. I am not quite sure about the meaning of bahar butin Persian the word translates to ‘spring’ and it also seems to be used as a name in Iran and Turkey. The word also seems to have been used to describe a unit in the trading system that stretched from the ports of China, the East Indies, India and eastern Africa. To me bahar sounds like the words μπαχάρι (bahari) or μπαχάρια/μπαχαρικά (baharia/baharika) the first one of which we use in Greece to describe allspice or pimento berries , which should not be confused with the allspice powder mixture used in Britain or the red pimento peppers of Spain. The second word, μπαχάρια/μπαχρικά (baharia/baharika), is used to describe (aromatic) spices in Greek. So there could be a connection as I imagine that there was spice trade in the ports of China, the East Indies, India and eastern Africa that someone I am sure had to measure in some unit possibly called bahar? Any views on this? In my mind, and in the context of food and this recipe, it may be that the word bahar signifies the generous amount of fragrant spices used in the dish.
Whatever the secret spice recipe of my local takeaway may be I am mostly taken by the combination of aubergines and king prawns in a light sauce dish that is almost ‘dry’ but moist enough to flavour the meaty prawns in their shell. So when a couple of days ago I stopped at ‘World foods’, my local corner store and cornucopia of spices and exotic foods, a basket full with small light violet aubergines, fresh, firm and about 10 centimeters long , caught my attention and had me thinking about making my own version of nawabi bahar. I love this tiny little shop that is always busy but somehow still fits all of us in at the same time. In its tightly but neatly packed space World Foods also fits a halal butcher, a greengrocery corner and a fish and seafood freezer something that made things really convenient last Wednesday as I grabbed all my essential ingredients, the ‘baby’ aubergine 8-10), king prawns (500gr net weight), tomatoes, onions , and was ready to cook a few minutes after leaving the shop.
I committed two ‘crimes’ in preparation of this dish that I would like to confess. First I bought frozen king prawns the destination of which I cannot confirm and that makes me feel bad about the possible unacceptable method in which they were caught. But I have chosen to be honest in this cooking journal and despite my best intentions I do not always buy as local and green as I should and would like. My second confession is about the quick defrosting method of the prawns that many cooking experts will frown upon. I simply had to fill and refill a pot with warm water and immerse the bag of prawns in it to defrost. If you are not too careful with the water temperature this could par cook your prawns that could lead into over cooking them later.
When I started cooking I was not in the mood for generous doses of baharia (spices) as I wanted to focus on the tender aubergine and prawn combination. So when I fried a large onion in a bit of olive oil in low heat I only added a bit of salt and some ground coriander. I tossed in the small walnut size aubergine chunks I cut the fruit in, fried for a few minutes with the onions and then added four crashed garlic cloves. I added the 4-6 medium sized ripe tomatoes, especially ‘soft’ and selected for sauce, blitzed in my minipimer blender (otherwise known as my kitchen chopper!) before the garlic burned. Sugar (not more than a tablespoon), more salt, some ginger power and more ground coriander also went in. I would have loved some lime in this but as I had note the juice of a lemon was a great substitue and an addition that I think is essential. In terms of sauce quantity, I simply aimed to have enough to give the thirsty aubergines some juice to cook in and be left with enough to quickly cook the prawns in. I don’t think this is one of the rich and plentiful sauce dishes that you dip your naan bread in.
Despite my initial instinct to keep this dish simple, I was suddenly convinced it needed cinnamon and something else, but what? I dreamingly gazed over my racks of spices and the colorful jars decorating my wall as well as taking up most of the space of one of my small kitchen cupboards. Allspice, the kind that is used in Britain and mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, appeared boldly behind a harissa jar! Tata! It joined the sauce with a bit more coriander powder. By the time the aubergines had simmered in the tomatoes and onions sauce (for about 15 minutes or maybe 20) it was time to add a taste of the sea. In less than 10 minutes after the shell-on king prawns went in (about 20 of them or about 500gr) my desired aubergine and prawn meal was ready, satisfying and tasty, and served on a bowl of white and red quinoa, as a healthier alternative to rice.