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Recipe: Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot Shards, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Some of my favourite dishes are happy culinary accidents. You have a plan, it seems perfect and then for some reason something doesn’t work. Frustrating, but somehow, the solution offers up an alternative that you might not have thought of, so instead of one new dish, sometimes you have two.

I found myself in that situation this morning. I have declared May a month of health, of vibrant lunches full of flavour, and of new dishes. I was making it last night, and had some enormous beetroots that I bought at the farmers market on the boil for well over an hour and a half, but they were still hard. I left them in the hot water overnight, hoping that they might cook a little as it cooled down, but they didn’t. I guess they were really very big! So, I was left with some semi-cooked, but still mostly raw beetroots which wouldn’t fit in with my original recipe idea.

What to do with them?

One thing was for sure, I was bringing lunch in, so I needed to figure out an alternative. I surveyed the scene in my kitchen at 7am this morning. I had already cooked my Israeli cous cous, and it was waiting patiently with some finely sliced red onions in olive oil. In olive oil, as I wanted to remove the sharp acidic tang that they have, and didn’t want to use lemon as it wouldn’t go with the dressing I had in mind.  I was using a fresh cheese, again from the farmer’s market. I wanted to make my own but they had sold out of their raw buffalo milk. What to do?

I know – grate them! Cue, rumbling in boxes for 10 minutes trying to source the grater (I have just moved house) to no avail. I did find my vegetable peeler so proceeded to peel slices from the peeled semi-raw beetroots, which I then sliced into smaller shards. They were slightly sweet, still firm and had a great texture, one that’s lost to cooked beetroot normally. Perfect!

I had intended to avoid balsamic in the dressing preferring something fruitier and livelier but couldn’t resist adding a 10 year aged balsamic that I found in my rummaging. Balsamic vinegar and beetroot are perfect partners. This worked especially well as the beetroot was only slightly sweet as it was very undercooked and the rich vinegar complemented it. I am going through a smoked sea salt phase, so used this to season with black pepper and it was delicious. It’s worth seeking out – Halen Mon or Maldon both sell it. Pea shoots added colour and texture, and a nice delicate flavour. Mint would work very well here too though, maybe even better.

Where can you get Israeli cous cous? Look in the kosher section of large supermarkets, or seek out Jewish delis. An alternative, which is a bigger bouncier and equally delicious version is mograbiah which you can find in Turkish shops.

I am presenting the recipe here as I did it, but really, you can just finely grate the beetroot too, it will be just as nice and certainly very healthy. Also, you can substitute the fresh buffalo cheese with any fresh cheese, goat’s curd or young goat’s cheese e.g. caprinhia.

Enjoy!

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Israeli Cous Cous, Beetroot Shards, Fresh Buffalo Cheese & Pea Shoots

Ingredients:

1 beetroot (normal size will work fine!), whole
100g Israeli cous cous
1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced
100g fresh cheese or chevre, crumbled
A handful of fresh pea shoots
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
S&P

Method:

Cook the Israeli cous cous according to packet instructions. Cool under a cold tap and leave to the site with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Peel & grate your beetroot OR boil for 20 minutes, then peel & slice with a vegetable slicer as I have.

Combine the cous cous, beetroot and red onion and dress with 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp vinegar. Adjust to taste. Season with S&P and add half of the pea shoots. Stir through. Place the other half on top and around the salad.

Et voila! Enjoy.

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Festive snack: Toasted Pita with Mozarella, Tomato, Onion & Roast Tomato Dressing

I expect that I am not the only tail chaser this close to Xmas. Running around, doing last minute laundry, frantically packing suitcases, checking presents. Have I everything? Yes-I-think-so. I do, don’t I?

Time for a snack! I am about to embark on an epic overnight trip to Ireland. Train to Holyhead, ferry to Dublin, and then train to Waterford, followed by an hour car drive home. Long, eh? And you thought Ireland was close to England, didn’t you?!It’s as close as you make it, and with all of my recent trips home, a budget jaunt was called for. So, the ferry it is.

What to have? Not much in the fridge, so I slipped and slided to the shop, along the shiny reflective river of glass that my street had become. I contemplated and tried not to fall. Something light is required, for I am not a good traveller. I will also be awake through the night. I quite fancy some mozarella, and I do have slow roasted pulped tomatoes with a nice pinch of chilli which would make a fruity dressing, with something bold like parsley, and maybe some pomegranate molasses for sweetness and umami, and sumac for sourness to balance the sweetness. Done.

I spy some pretty, sweet and perfectly ripe baby plum tomatoes, pita breads and some buffalo mozarela bocconcini. I slip-slide home, cargo in hand and starving.

Quick, delicious and light and a festive red and green into the bargain. I feel healthier for it. A perfect quick snack which works very well with some rocket on the side. The pepperiness and texture is a good addition.

I wish you all well on your journeys home this Christmas, if you’re making them. I am off to embark on mine, wish me luck and see you on the other side!

Ingredients (per person):

1 pita bread, toasted and opened
4 baby plum tomatoes/cherry tomatoes, quartered
Some red onion, sliced finely
3 buffalo mozarella bocconicini (or 1 normal ball)
some flat leat parsley to garnish

Dressing (enough for 4/5):

3 tbsp roasted tomatoes or the equivalent in small juicy ones
a glug of extra virgin olive oil
a handful of flat leaf parsley
1 tsp pomegranate molasses
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
a pinch of sumac
S&P to taste

Method:

Make your dressing by mashing everything together. Blend if necessary but only lightly.
Arrange the mozarella, red onion and tomato on one half of the open pita and drizzle with the dressing. Grill until the mozarella is starting to melt. Just a minute or so.
Serve with a garnish of parsley while still warm.

Enjoy!