Baba Ghanouj

Baba ghanouj, with its distinct smoky flavour and creamy texture, is up there with the best of Middle Eastern food in my book. Along with  hummus it holds a certain nostalgia for me, forever being on the table alongside fresh saj and soujouk when we'd sit down to eat with family in Cyprus. We'd usually keep a tub of it on hand back at home in London, but up until recently I hadn't really tried making it myself. 

Baba Ghanouj | Thyme & Honey

This was in part due to the fact we didn't have a gas range at home, and also because the purist in me remains stubborn on charring the aubergines instead of the simpler (and cleaner) process of baking them, but once we moved into our flat last year, equipped with a gas range cooker, I couldn't resist trying it out.  

There is a fair amount of debate concerning what makes the 'perfect' baba ghanouj, and writer Felicity Cloake tackles this quite well in her column for The Guardian. Like Felicity, I like researching and testing different takes on a recipe to get the perfect version, and among other resources I used her article as an aid in my quest for the ultimate creamy, smoky and garlicky dip. 

Personally I like enough lemon to taste but not enough to make the flavour obviously citrusy, a hint of garlic (1 clove per every two aubergines), and the essential ingredient, tahini - although just a little otherwise you'll end up with something more akin to hummus. The below recipe is what I consider to be the perfect baba ghanouj, and now that I've found the right balance the only thing likely to change when I make it is whether I garnish it with chopped mint or not. 

Don't let the process of charring it put you off, likewise if you don't have a gas hob don't let that deter you either as you can still make delicious baba ghanouj without this process. What I find is most important is creating the right balance of flavours according to your own personal taste - although I think you might quite like the recipe below nevertheless. 

Baba Ghanouj | Thyme & Honey
Baba Ghanouj | Thyme & Honey

Baba Ghanouj

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 medium aubergines

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons tahini paste

Juice of half a lemon

Pinch of salt

Olive oil and pomegranate seeds to serve

 

Method

  1. Burn the aubergines using a gas cooker. Sit the aubergines on top of a low-medium flame, turning often. Cook until they are practically caving in on themselves. If you don't have a gas hob, prick and bake the aubergines whole in an oven set to 180°c (160°c FAN) for 30-40 minutes. 
  2. Leave the cooked aubergines to cool slightly before peeling away the skin. Place the flesh into a fine mesh sieve and leave to slowly drain for 20 minutes. 
  3. After draining, break the flesh up gently with a fork - I like to keep mine quite chunky but you can mash it up as much or as little as you like. 
  4. Stir in the minced garlic, tahini and salt. Add the lemon juice and taste - adjust with more tahini/lemon/salt as needed. 
  5. Serve with olive oil and pomegranate seeds. 

 

Chive + Basil Pesto

Everyone has that one recipe that they go back to time and time again, and for me it's pesto. Perhaps it's the ease in throwing it together, or the fact that its traditional use is with my favourite carb, but there is something about its herby, garlicky notes that keep it firmly on my go-to recipe list. 

Recently I was asked what my favourite plate of food was, and I'll admit I had never really considered what my last supper request would be should I be faced with the fairly morbid scenario. My answer? A heaving plate of pasta with pesto. 

I can't say this revelation didn't surprise me, I really had always considered myself to be one of those who would opt for a steak with a side of fried chicken and macaroni cheese to be all and end all with. Ultimately pesto just has a space in my heart and stomach that is reserved indefinitely, and I guess that's not a bad way to finish things off, amirite?  

What I love about pesto is its versatility. Every green herb or leaf that I throw at it seems to work in its own right, with unfamiliar flavour profiles lending themselves to different parts of the palate, adding an element of discovery each time I try a new combination. This particular pesto is made using chives as well as basil, resulting in luxuriously garlicky undertones while keeping it classic. Use it on pasta like I've done here, or dot it onto ricotta on toast - it is all good.  


CHIVE + BASIL PESTO

Makes 200g 

Ingredients

20g fresh chives

10g fresh basil leaves, stalks discarded

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 garlic clove, minced

6 tablespoons olive oil

30g parmigiano reggiano, finely grated

 

Method

  1. In a food processor, add the herbs, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper and blend.
  2. Scrape the pesto mixture into a bowl and by hand stir in the grated parmesan. Add an extra glug of olive oil for good measure.  
  3. Cook your pasta of choice until al dente (allow 100g per person), reserving a little of the cooking water before draining. Add 1-2 heaped tablespoons of pesto per person, along with a splash of the reserved water.
  4. Serve immediately. 

Homemade Goat's Ricotta

Recently I've been trying my hand at making as much as I can from scratch. From nut milks and butters to jams, bread and pasta, I've been searching for ways to make the food that I cook more clean, economical and most importantly resulting in less wastage.  

Of course there is the added wow factor of a meal made in its entirety by your own hands, a certain smugness when telling those eating it how you spent time peeling the tomatoes that would come to be in the most delicious sauce, or kneading the dough that would eventually be the toast on their plate. Yes, a little bit of smugness might irritate even the politest of guests (read: live-in boyfriend), but you know - modesty is a virtue, right? 

When it comes to cheese, ricotta is up there with halloumi (forever my undisputed favourite) and in my house it's spread on toast, stuffed into pasta shells or simply eaten with a spoon. Yes, I am one of those girls that eats cheese with a spoon. I HAVE NO SHAME. 

Luckily, when it comes to cheese, ricotta is probably the easiest to make at home. All it takes is three ingredients, a thermometer and a muslin cloth and pow, you've got the good stuff. How does it work I hear you say? Heat milk until scalding, pour in your acidity (white wine vinegar, lemon etc), add a pinch of salt and then leave it be before straining and slathering onto sourdough toast topped with radish slices and freshly cracked pepper. Or whatever else you fancy. 

This recipe uses goat's milk in place of regular cow's for a mild goat-y finish, and a consistency closer to a somewhat crumbly chèvre. Just like regular ricotta but with a bad ass attitude. 


Homemade Goat's Ricotta

Makes 500g

Ingredients

2 litres goat's milk

80ml white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

 

Method

1. Add the goat's milk to a saucepan and heat on medium until it reaches 200°F.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the white wine vinegar and the salt.

3. Leave undisturbed for 10 minutes in order for the curd to separate from the whey.

4. At this point, scoop the big curds using a slotted spoon and place in a fine mesh strainer lined with a cheese cloth. Then pour in the remaining whey and smaller bits of curd.

5. Leave to strain for 10-60 minutes depending on the desired consistency. I like mine relatively crumbly so I left it for around 20 minutes. If you strain the ricotta for longer than you'd like simply add a little of the whey back to the curds to make your ricotta more creamy.

Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week. 

Fennel + Blood Orange Salad

Over the past couple of months I've been lucky enough to have done a bit of travelling, with trips to Switzerland, Denmark and Spain. The latter trip I plan on talking more about soon, and about the exciting project I was involved with over there. But for now, let’s get back to this salad.

Blood oranges – the true elites of the citrus family. Gracing us with their presence for a month or so before disappearing for another year, they are by far my favourite citrus fruit, and not just for their pretty colours. Now that they’re in season I'm buying them whenever I can and using them in just about anything (I have a cake planned and some marmalade, too). But this salad is, with its few ingredients and minimal effort, one of the best ways to enjoy them.

The natural sweet tartness from the blood orange, and the slight bitterness from the fennel results in this salad sort of dressing itself. Add a splash of olive oil and you’ll find that all the flavours come together yet manage to still stand out on their own – it is magical.

Fennel + Blood Orange Salad | Thyme & Honey

Fennel + Blood Orange Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 fennel bulb

2 blood oranges

Seeds from half a pomegranate

2 inches of fresh chives

Olive oil

 

Method

  1. Using a mandolin, slice the fennel into a bowl. 
  2. Remove the peel from the blood oranges and then cut into slices.
  3. Arrange both the fennel and blood orange discs on a plate, drizzle over olive oil, add a sprinkle of pom seeds and your chopped chives. Simple!

Copenhagen in Pictures

Some photos from a weekend spent wandering in Copenhagen. 

Benahavís + A Photography Project

At the beginning of February Stephanie from Angel's Belly asked if I would fly out to Benahavís, a small mountain village some 7km inland from the southern coast of Spain, to shoot their first yoga and brunch retreat.

Stephanie set up Angel's Belly as a way to reach out to people with a shared interest in healthy eating, and with an aim to spread a healthy message and help educate others to feel empowered to make better choices about their bodies and what they put in them. Recently she launched Angel's Belly retreats, the first of which took place at the Gran Hotel Benahavís. Guests started off with a yoga class, followed by a plant-based brunch club with things like cold-pressed juices, cashew yoghurt parfait, homemade granola, baked quinoa-stuffed mushrooms and a variety of plant-based/vegan spreads and breads on offer. To finish there was a lecture given on the benefits of eating a plant-based diet and a few myth-busters on foods and alternatives that are promoted as being good for you. It was hugely inspiring to spend time with a group of passionate people who take a considered and holistic approach to eating and personal well-being, and I came away with a few new opinions and a lot more knowledge. 

I spent a few days in Benahavís exploring the village and surrounding area - the landscape was nothing like I have seen in Spain before: brooding, mountainous, wild. The village itself is perched on patch of mountain that stays sun-soaked through til dusk, with steep, winding cobbled streets lined with white-washed houses. There was a certain charm in its isolated location, I felt as if I'd stumbled across a secret place that no one else knew about. 

Below are some of my favourite photos from the project.

Vegan Fennel, Radish + Broccoli Slaw

It started out of sheer laziness, adding raw vegetables to salads instead of bothering to cook them. With a single swipe along my mandolin I had slithers of cauliflower, fennel or broccoli that would have otherwise been cooked first had this new option not been so convenient. With the right kind of dressing I found that I could make a sort of vegetable ceviche, the edge taken off that typically unappetising ‘rawness’, the flavour mellowing through marinating in my lunch box on my desk at work.

I’ve been testing various slaw recipes periodically, sometimes opting for an Asian combination of flavours, other times a luxuriously creamy American style, but this really is the recipe that I keep coming back to. The dressing here unlike in other slaw recipes is certainly not the show-stealer, but its subtle nutty flavour thanks to tahini is a welcome note on the palate. Throw this together quickly and leave for a while for the flavours to really gel. I eat this for lunch on its own, or with half an avocado for good measure. Adding a slice of rye bread into the equation is always a welcome addition, too.

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you would have heard me discuss a new found love of plant-based eating, and although I cannot confirm that I have been exercising this new diet religiously and without steak/eggs, I can confirm that for the most part I am still enjoying creating dairy-free/meat-free dishes – on occasion. This slaw just so happens to work extremely well with either a dairy alternative to yoghurt, or the real deal. So, do with it what you will.


VEGAN FENNEL, RADISH + BROCCOLI SLAW

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 medium head of broccoli

1 large fennel

6-8 radishes

100g cavolo nero, stalks removed and leaves shredded

8 stalks of fresh dill

For the dressing:

60ml olive oil

30ml tahini paste

50ml soya or coconut yoghurt

2tsp rice mirin or vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

 

Method

  1. Using a mandolin if you have one will make putting this salad together a total breeze. If you don’t have one, then try and slice the fennel and radishes as finely as possible.
  2. Slice the fennel, radishes and broccoli using a mandolin and place in a large bowl. Add the shredded cavolo nero and tear in the fresh dill leaves.
  3. For the dressing add all of the ingredients to a jam jar and shake well until thoroughly mixed and creamy in consistency.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss well to coat. Season to taste with salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Serve on its own or in rye (or however you like) with extra fresh dill and a drizzle of extra olive oil.

New York in Pictures

I travelled to New York twice last year to visit my brother, here are some photos from those trips. 

Quinoa + Kale Patties

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because we’re all too busy with December to actually sit down and read anything of length right now. If it’s not after work drinks, some kind of Christmas themed event, dinner with friends or present buying then it’s decorating the tree, putting up Christmas lights and perfecting your mince pie recipe. If, and only if you have a spare moment, then it will certainly be to have a big glass of wine and watch shit tv. So, as I said… short n sweet.

I originally saw this wondrous recipe on Green Kitchen Stories (i.e. my happy place on the internet, after Pinterest) and immediately wanted to recreate them in my own kitchen. I tweaked the recipe a fair amount, depending on what I had in my cupboards, and subbed out the cheese altogether in favour of a dairy-free option.

The resulting quinoa patties are delicious little additions to add to any base for lunch or dinner; I enjoyed them with a simple cabbage salad one day and hummus and carrot sticks the next. Plus if you have leftover quinoa to begin with then these can be made in a snap.

Happy December!


QUINOA + KALE PATTIES

Makes 8 patties

Ingredients

200g quinoa

500ml water

Pinch of salt

2 large handfuls of kale, stems discarded

2 eggs

100g silken tofu

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Olive oil for frying

 

Method

  1. Star by cooking the quinoa; rinse 200g under cold water then add to a saucepan with 500ml of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for around 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Once cool add the quinoa, kale leaves, eggs and tofu to a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Season generously and add the dried chilli and oregano. Pat down the mixture in the bowl and transfer to the fridge to set, around 30 minutes.
  3. Shape the quinoa into 8 patties using your hands. Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large pan and cook the patties in batches, around 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp.
  4. Serve warm with a simple salad or perhaps a poached egg.

Notes -

By all means substitute the tofu for feta if you aren’t avoiding dairy. If you are following a vegan diet you could try using 200g silken tofu in place of the eggs as a binding agent.

Charred Sprouts + Asparagus Rice Noodle Salad

It’s been a good three weeks since I embarked on my vegan 5:2 journey, and I thought it was about the right time to write a post about it, and why I’m planning to stick to it.

Firstly let me start off by explaining my diet before this started: I would have considered myself a vegetarian with occasional meat-loving tendencies. On the whole I don’t believe that we need to eat meat to survive (not to mention the environmental impact meat consumption creates and the impending food supply dilemma generations to come will see and likely suffer), and have been an advocate of the ‘if your body is craving it, you probably need it’ diet for years, resulting in an occasional roast chicken on a Sunday, or a beautiful fillet of fish for supper making an appearance a couple of times a month. That, to me at least, seemed like a balanced diet.

Charred Sprouts + Asparagus Rice Noodle Salad | Thyme & Honey

Perhaps more influential on my diet than my environmental view is that I have been lactose intolerant for 5 years. Though in the last couple of those years I have reintroduced butter, non-fat milk and a small range of goat’s and sheep’s cheeses in my diet, plus a healthy amount of non-fat yoghurt and eggs. However despite my lactose intolerance and continued consumption of dairy, I have thought for a long time that overall, dairy is probably not very good for us. Quite fittingly I read this article in the NY Times about how studies on dairy consumption have proven not only that dairy can cause adverse effects, but that there is little evidence that having a dairy rich diet is actually good for us at all, contrary to the milk = strong bones message being pumped out across Western countries. In contrast, in what is probably the most well known literature on the subject surrounding dairy we hear about casein, a milk protein (also found in many meat substitutes) that has been found to be cancer promoting. When you think of it that way do you really want to be putting that in your body on a daily basis?

Switching to a largely plant-based diet didn’t come without its conundrums at first; what to use other than tofu, is there a limit on how many avocados I can eat each week, can I just eat noodles all the time, why aren’t there any substitutes for a good runny egg; but then once I started to explore different recipes and articles on the subject I realised that I would be making little actual change to my diet, and instead a huge one to what I kept in my pantry. I have had to be so much more resourceful, creative and explorative, I have started taking more time and care in choosing produce and ingredients, and I have even (for the benefit of my previously very pizza-loving beau) started playing with creating homemade vegan substitutes (vegan mozzarella being a good example of my efforts).

So why have I decided to stick to eating a more plant-based diet? This is a question I have had to answer on a few occasions. At first I explained that I wanted to try and clean up my diet a bit, but now having seen the great benefits that have come as part of this clean up I have changed my answer: I really, really like eating this way. I feel energetic, I don’t feel bloated, I have been eating a lot of slow-burning carbohydrates and a lot less saturated fat, and I have found excellent sources of plant-based protein to replenish after working out. I haven’t been so satisfied with everyday meals for so long, and eating well seems to have improved not only my skin but my general mood.

So what have I learnt about myself through this experiment? Eating well has its obvious perks but balance is still key to my general happiness, which is why I will continue to enjoy an egg every now and then, or some thick-strained yoghurt, or put butter in all of my cakes (always). So don’t expect to not see any of my usual recipes on here any more, but do expect to see a few more vegan friendly options.

Now about this salad, this salad is my new go-to. Cold rice noodles, dressed with a super zingy, garlicky dressing, flecked with chilli and sesame seeds and tossed with charred greens and avocado for a welcome creaminess.

Charred Sprouts + Asparagus Rice Noodle Salad | Thyme & Honey

Charred Sprouts + Asparagus Rice Noodle Salad

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 smaller portions

Ingredients

200g flat rice noodles

Large handful of Brussel sprouts, halved

1 bunch of asparagus spears, roughly chopped

1 large avocado, diced

2 tablespoons fresh chives, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

For the dressing:

60ml rice vinegar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

Juice and zest of one lime

1 tsp hot chilli flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 inch of fresh ginger, minced

 

Method

  1. In a jar add all of the dressing ingredients, close and shake well.
  2. Cook the rice noodles by placing in boiled water for 5 minutes (or according to packet instructions). Drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. In a griddle pan add the asparagus and Brussel sprouts, sauté on medium for 5 minutes or until vibrant and slightly charred.
  4. Toss the rice noodles with the charred vegetables and pour over the dressing. Mix well and scatter with the diced avocado, black sesame seeds and chopped chives.