AFGHANISTAN

Afghani Proverb: Give graciously; even an onion 

With a population just over 33 million, there are 2.7 million Afghani refugees living in Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh alone. Due to a number of civil wars in the 1970s and subsequent internationally led wars since, Afghanistan is now one of the least secure countries in the world with frequent internal violence and the third highest rate of child malnutrition. Taliban factions continue to terrorise many parts of the country, and life for women and children in particular is extremely difficult with poor access to health and education, as well as extreme limitations on their freedoms.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 106,933 people by improving water sanitation and training people to care for children suffering from malnutrition.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Kabuli Palau and Bourani Banjan

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With evidence of civilisation since the neolithic period Afghanistan has a long, rich history; including it’s important part in the trade and presence on the ‘Silk Road’ not least because it was almost exactly half way between the ‘East’ and the ‘West’. Once an extremely wealthy country, in part because of it’s strategic geographical location on the Silk Road, and because of it’s rich agricultural (both crops and animals) and mineral abundance.

This abundance led to an equally impressive food culture, still centred around grand banquet dishes and the sharing of food with both friends and strangers. The national dish – Kabuli Palau is a classic example of this. In Afghanistan rice, is and was, considered to be the most important element of any meal and royal families would invest time and money to impress their guests with beautiful platters of the grain. The sultanas and nuts ( and sometimes pomegranate seeds, as can also be found in Iranian rice dishes) symbolise scattered jewels and the golden hue of the turmeric emulates the precious metal gold.

Ingredients 

Serves 6

Kabuli Palau

  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 6 medium carrots (grated)
  • 300g fatty lamb (chopped into chunks)
  • 1 mug of rice
  • 100g of nuts and sultanas
  • 2 tsps turmeric
  • 2 tsps fenugreek
  • 2 tsps red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsps celery salt
  • 1 tsps ground ginger
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 4 shallots
  • Ghee or vegetable oil
  • Coriander stalks (chopped)
  • Salt & Pepper

Borani Banjan

  • 2 large aubergines (sliced length ways)
  • 1 medium onion (very finely diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (finely diced)
  • 250g lamb mince
  • 1 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsps sugar
  • 2 tbls tomato puree
  • 250g natural yoghurt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

Kabuli Palau

Add the diced onions to a pan with ghee and sweat until soft and golden. Once the onions are cooked, add the lamb and brown followed by the chopped coriander stalks, turmeric, fenugreek, chilli flakes, celery salt and ground ginger. Once the mixture has become aromatic, add a little water and allow to simmer until the lamb is tender. Add the rice and seasoning then stir in boiled water until it covers about an inch above the rice. Transfer the covered pot into a hot (200 degrees C) oven.

While the rice is cooking (around 15 minutes) finely slice the shallots and crisp up in oil, sprinkling a bit of sugar over them to bring out their sweetness. Toast the nuts and sultanas then put both aside till the rice is cooked.

Once the palau is ready stir in the toasted nuts and sultanas and half of the fried shallots. Serve with the remainder of the fried shallots on top of the rice.

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Borani Banjan

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the sliced aubergines and leave to one side. To a medium hot pan with oil add the onions and leave to sweat until soft and golden. Once cooked, add the garlic and stir until golden then add the lamb mince, cinnamon and seasoning and simmer for around 10 minutes. Once cooked through stir in the tomato paste and sugar with a splash of water and leave to simmer on a very low heat.

Rinse the salt off the aubergines and pat dry. Fry on each side in  a little oil until browned and soft in the middle. remove from the heat and place on a serving dish. spoon the mincemeat sauce over the top of the aubergine slices and finish with yoghurt and fresh coriander.

Enjoy!

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

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PAKISTAN

Pakistani Proverb: بھوکے کو سوکھی بھی چپڑی کے برابر – Nothing comes amiss to a hungry man

Alongside continuing internal conflict and political instability, Pakistan suffers frequently from natural disasters which affect vast numbers of it’s huge 199 million strong population.

In 2010 monsoon flooding led to 20 million people needing immediate humanitarian assistance. The affect of this and subsequent monsoons are ongoing. According to the World Food Programme almost 40% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line and spend more than 60% of their income on food.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 728,150 people through their food security, nutrition and water sanitation programmes.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Nihari

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As with most country cuisines, Pakistani food differs from region to region. Often mistaken for Indian cuisine which features far less (or no) meat than it’s northern neighbour, Pakistani food is arguably among the most popular in the world. Rich, spicy and aromatic influenced by South Asian, Central Asian and Middle Eastern flavours, there’s hardly any chance that your mouth won’t start watering at the thought of an aloo gosht, korma or biriyani. The Pakistani love of meat and external influences of the cuisine are particularity recognisable in the national dish of rich slow cooked beef curry, Nihari.

The word Nihari comes from the Arabic ‘Nahar’ meaning day – and this dish is named so because traditionally the curry is made with beef shanks, slowly cooked all night and ready to eat at breakfast following the dawn prayers the next day (or Nahar). Nowadays Nihari is enjoyed at all times of day, though the best most deeply flavoursome variations are of course the ones left to cook for long periods of time.

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Ingredients 

Serves 4

  • 500g beef brisket (This is what I had but it would be even more delicious with short ribs or shanks)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large piece of ginger
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of each of the following: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of fenugreek powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 3 teaspoons of chilli powder (or how ever hot you like it!)
  • 3 tablespoons of ghee
  • 2 cups of basmati rice

Method

Start by heating a pan up and toasting the whole spices until fragrant. Remove from heat and pound into a powder in a pestle and mortar, mixing in the other powder spices.

In a mini chopper blitz the onion, and add to a large pan with warm ghee and half a teaspoon of salt on a low heat. In the same chopper puree the ginger and garlic. When the onion has softened but not browned add the ginger and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes taking care not to let the garlic colour.

When the pot starts smelling good add the meat and brown on all sides then add the tomato paste and ground spices and keep frying on a low heat until the spices become fragrant.

Pour in water until just above the meat and add the chopped stalks of a whole bunch of coriander. Cover and cook on a very low heat for at least 5 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart. The sauce will reduce quite a bit – if it reduces too much just add a little more water. Right towards the end add three quarters of the bunch of coriander leaves.

To make perfect rice every time follow this method:

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add rice making sure that you have boiled water already prepared. Fry the uncooked rice until white and then pour boiling water up to a centimetre above. Place a lid on for 10 minutes and turn right down- when you remove the lid the rice should be perfectly cooked and lovely and fluffy!

Top with fresh coriander and ginger and serve with cucumber raita and a tomato salad.

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Enjoy!

Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

INDIA

Happy Diwali!

अंधेरे पर प्रकाश की विजय – The triumph of light over dark

As the second most populated country in the world, India has the largest number of children suffering from malnutrition than any other country in the world (8 million).

India has had spates of internal ethnic tensions, during and since British colonial rule. Today, despite being the worlds largest democracy there is widespread corruption and poverty.

In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 49,867 people by working with local health authorities to provide access to acutely malnourished children.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Samosa – Pakora – Gobi – Chaat

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Diwali, the Festival of Light observed by Hindus, Sikh and Jains, commemorates the triumph of light over dark, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance. People celebrate by putting thousands of lights around their homes, release sky lanterns, set off fireworks and feast with friends and family.

Not too many words today, just light!

For lots more amazing Indian recipes: Veg Recipes of India

Ingredients and Methods

Samosa

  • 1 packet of spring roll pastry – From any Asian shop or make your own for a flaky pastry version
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 carrot
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 5 birds eye chilli
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter) – From any Asian shop or just use vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons of fenugreek powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoons of celery salt
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Boil potatoes until just cooked then crush – Don’t mash till smooth, you want texture!
  2. Cut carrots into small cubes and cook so that they still have a little bite, towards the end add peas then drain and mix with the potato.
  3. Dice onion and chilli very finely and add to a pan with ghee.
  4. In a hot dry pan toast cumin, coriander, mustard and poppy seeds until fragrant. Remove from heat then pound in a pestle and mortar.
  5. Add the pounded spices along with the extra garam masala, turmeric and fenugreek to the pan with the onion.
  6. Once sweated down add the onions and spices to the potato and mix well and leave to cool completely – If you can leave it over night for the flavour to develop
  7. Fold your samosas – Use this tutorial on how to fold a samosa It’s what I used! 
  8. When you’ve finished folding fry in hot oil until golden. Serve with tamarind sauce or coriander raita.

Coriander Raita

  • Half a bunch of coriander
  • 2 green chillis
  • 1 medium knob of ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 500g of plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  1. In a mini chopper blend everything except the yoghut.
  2. Add everything to the yoghurt and mix well.

Onion Pakora

  • 1 white onions
  • Half a cup of milk
  • 3 red chillis
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger
  • Half a cup of gram flour – Made from chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of celery salt
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Slice onions and add to milk – This helps to remove acidity from the onions and makes them sweet when cooked
  2. In a separate bowl mix gram powder with sliced chilli and ginger, garam masala, whole coriander seeds and celery salt, then make a batter by adding water.
  3. Once the onions have soaked in the milk for about an hour, remove and add to the batter.
  4. Fry in hot oil until golden. Serve with coriander raita!

Pan Roasted Chaat

I only made this dish because I had half a tin of chickpeas left over – it’s a recipe from my head, I can’t claim any authenticity!

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  • Half a tin of chickpeas
  • 4 green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of chilli flakes
  • Sea salt
  1. Heat a pan without adding oil.
  2. Add all the ingredients above until fragrant then remove from the pan and sprinkle with sea salt.

Fried Gobi

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 2 eggs
  • Half a cup of gram flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Tandoori spice mix
  • 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of celery salt
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Chop the cauliflower into little florets.
  2. In a bowl mix all the ingredients apart from the oil and eggs. Coat the the cauliflower with the flour mixture.
  3. Heat vegetable oil.
  4. Dip the coated cauliflower in the egg and then back into the flour then deep fry.
  5. Serve with… tamarind sauce or coriander raita!

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Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Enjoy!

MYANMAR

Burmese Proverb: t utaee nham aamyoe a nwalko raynan lote mai mahote – One sesame seed won’t make oil

For almost half a century Myanmar, formally known as Burma, had been almost totally isolated from the rest of the world. In 2011 the military junta which had been controlling Myanmar for 49 years was dismantled and an ambitious governmental reform strategy has been in motion ever since. Myanmar is geographically the largest country in mainland South East Asia and has one of the most diversely ethnic (over 130 ethnic groups) and religious populations in the region. This diversity has been a critical factor for the long running local sectarian conflicts within the country, notably in the state of Rakhine between the Muslim minority, who are classed as stateless with no voting rights, and the hard-line Buddhists.

Despite having vast natural resources Myanmar ranks 149 out of 187 in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index making it one of the least developed countries in the world. The World Food Programme indicates that 35% of children under five have stunted growth and malnutrition due to extremely poor access to food and a virtually non existent health system.

Since 2014 Action Against Hunger has helped 66,086 people by working towards improving access to treatment for acute malnutrition.

Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Mohinga with Baya Kyaw

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This dish will be the 8th that I have made for my fundraising challenge. I started this challenge thinking that I knew quite a lot about food, and was looking forward to learning a lot more about it and celebrate the beauty that it represents for different cultures around the world. After only 8 countries and with 39 more to go, I’ve already learnt so much that I didn’t know before. I’ve learnt that you can count on two hands the ingredients found in pretty much every cuisine in the world. I’ve learnt that the most delicious food a country can offer, so delicious that it becomes a national dish, can be made up of such a small amount of ingredients cooked in a certain way on opposite sides of the world, to make it recognisably a country’s own.

For the majority of the countries on this list most of the food that is consumed is grown by subsistence farming on peoples own land. In the UK we shop in supermarkets which present us with huge amounts of food that could never be eaten quickly enough. We buy vegetables which come packaged in bulk and use a fraction of what we’ve bought before getting bored, forgetting about it an moving on to something else. It’s not such a bad thing getting bored of eating the same thing more than once, especially when there is so much on offer. But we can eat lots of different things and still use the same ingredients as these national dishes show!

Over the last year I have been working on a separate blog idea called Left Over Lunches – I try to create lots of different dishes with the same ingredients to minimise on food waste. Thankfully I haven’t had to try hard to keep that up for this challenge as I have been able to easily reuse ingredients from dish to dish.

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Mohinga, traditionally served at breakfast, but routinely eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack times is the epitome of  an all day breakfast, and is widely acknowledged as the Myanmar’s national dish. As with many other national dishes, there are many regional adaptations of this well loved dish – soupier versions found in the south and more liberal use of fish sauce in the North. Aside from the regional differences, the composition of the dish means that there is a huge scope for creativity particularly with garnish so after creating the base flavour you can pretty much add or take out anything you like.

Unlike the cuisine of it’s neighbours India and Thailand, Burmese food is still relatively unknown in comparison. In fact the food of Myanmar can be described as a delicate union of the two, and this soup is a showcase of this. Indian style Lentil fritters are served alongside a beautiful fragrant lemongrassy soup to add density and protein to the dish. I love coriander and ginger so I added lots of those and I kept out the commonly used ground rice and gram flour as I prefer a broth over a thick soup.

Although the ingredient list for this is quite big, if you love Asian food like me then most of the ingredients are store cupboard staples that you can use again and again.

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Mohinga with Baya Kyaw

Fish Noodle Soup with Yellow Split Pea Fritters

Serves 4

Ingredients

Mohinga

  • 2 fillets of river cobbler/catfish – sustainable and authentic!
  • 70g prawns – I had some that needed using
  • 10g dried shrimps
  • 1 knob of fresh turmeric
  • 2 sticks of lemongrass
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 knobs of galangal or ginger or even better both
  • 1 pack of rice noodles
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 3 shallots
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander – stalks included
  • 6 fresh chillis – reduce/increase with preference
  • 50g palm sugar
  • 2 limes
  • 1 portion fish stock
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil

Baya Kyaw

  • 100g soaked yellow split pea lentils
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander
  • 4 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 knob of ginger
  • 1 tbls dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp fenugreek powder
  • 1 egg
  • 150g gram Flour
  • Salt

Garnish

  • 4 hard boiled eggs
  • 20g monkey nuts
  • 1 tbls dried chilli flakes
  • 5g fried shrimp
  • 10g sugar
  • 5 shallots
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 50g gram flour
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 fresh chilli
  • Handful fresh coriander
  • 1/2 knob fresh ginger
  • 1 lime

Method

  1. Start by making a simple paste of dried turmeric, sesame oil and lime juice – smear onto the fish and leave to marinate in the fridge.
  2. Slice shallots into rings and cover with milk – This helps to bring out the natural sweetness and cancel out the acid you get with onions.
  3. Move onto the soup base – e ther in a pestle and mortar or a mini chopper make a paste out of shallots, ginger, galangal, fresh turmeric, garlic, coriander stalks, fresh chilli, sugar and lime juice. – You’ve got to be really careful with the fresh turmeric, I’ve completely stained my fingers!
  4. In a heavy bottom saucepan add a stick of lemongrass broken in half to hot oil and cook gently until fragrance is released. Add the paste and cook on a medium heat making sure not to burn. Once heated add a quarter cup of water and simmer gently.
  5. Gently poach the fish in the liquid until just cooked then remove from pot and set aside. To the pot add dried shrimps, fish stock, lime juice and fish sauce. Turn the heat right down and leave to simmer for at least an hour.
  6. While this is simmering you can make the lentil fritters – blitz the soaked lentils with a very generous handful of coriander (with stalks), shallots, ginger and garlic. Transfer to the bowl, season and add gram flour and egg. Form into bowls and put in the fridge to chill.
  7. Next heat a pan with no oil and dry roast shelled monkey nuts with dried shrimp dried chilli flakes. Once roasted season with sugar and rock salt.
  8. Take your shallots that have been soaking in milk and drain. Add gram flour to a bowl and season.
  9. Coat your shallot rings in gram flour then deep fry. Rest on kitchen towel to remove excess oil.
  10. Prepare the rest of your garnish by chopping everything and laying on a plate with the halved hard boiled eggs, peanuts, crispy shallot rings for people to pick and mix.
  11. In bowls add uncooked rice noodles and a selection of all the garnishes. – The noodles will cook when the soup is spooned over them.
  12. Bring your lentil balls out of the fridge, roll in the gram flour you used for the shallot rings then deep fry. Once cooked rest on kitchen towel to remove excess oil.
  13. While your fritters are frying, return your fish to the broth and add whatever other seafood you have to use up.
  14. Once the fritters have cooked, spoon hot broth over the rice noodles immediately. Add extra of what ever you like the most to your bowl!

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Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link:  https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie

Enjoy!

REFUGEE’S CRISIS

This is a slightly different post to the others. This time I dedicate the dishes and my donation to the people currently seeking refuge in Europe. Not a specific country but to the millions of displaced people currently trying to bring their family’s to safety.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) there are over 20 million registered refugees in the world and over 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced. UNHCR calculated that in 2014 42,500 people had to leave their homes, often in other countries to find safety – every single day.

It is reported that this year approximately 400,000 people have travelled to Europe to seek refuge from their home countries due to conflict and persecution.

Developing countries are host to 86% of the world’s refugees. Last year the UK took in 400 Syrian refugees, Turkey took in 1.6 million. So why do we keep hearing about ‘the refugee crisis’. The construction of the sentence suggests a negative situation brought on by refugees – the intention of the sentence does too. We should be saying ‘the refugee’s crisis’. This is certainly a crisis, but not for Europeans. For the people who, often running, having left everything and everyone behind them with no opportunity to turn their heads and look back. For the children who make up 51% of Syrian refugees, the crisis is that their homes have burned and they are now not only ‘someone else’s problem’ but that someone else is saying that their existence and their struggle, will create problems for the very people with whom they seek refuge.

People talking about ‘protecting our freedom from the threat of terrorism’ have clearly not thought about the fact that without exception all the refugees fleeing to Europe are doing so not from the ‘threat of terrorism’ but from real, physical terrorism which has murdered, plundered and destroyed their beloved lands, cultures and histories. The people making these ignorant comments have no concept of what freedom is having never had to lose or struggle or pine or die for it.

There is no refugee crisis, only the refugee’s crisis. This world is not anyone’s, it’s everyone’s and where there is ground to stand on all humans should be entitled to stand regardless of whether they were born on that spot or not.

For this post as well as donating to Action Against Hunger, I have donated to the charity CalAid who are supporting refugees in Calais. In addition to fundraising online: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/CalAid they are also hosting drop off days for people to donate clothes, tents and bedding – check out their website for dates and locations near you.

I will also be attending the Solidarity with Refugees march on Saturday 12th September, starting in Park Lane and ending up outside Downing Street.

Join me there and show your support.

مجموعة مختارة من الأطباق      
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For this post I had initially decided to cook Lebanon – that is I had decided to cook what most people think of as ‘Lebanese’ food. It’s not that it’s not Lebanese food, it’s just that it also happens to be the food I grew up with from my Egyptian mum and the food which has variations of the same dishes all over North Africa and the Levant; stuffed vine leaves and vegetables, dips, salads and all the other delicious things everybody recognises and loves. So when I was deciding which country on the list to attribute these foods to I narrowed it down to Lebanon because of that and because I knew exactly what I was doing for Syria and Palestine. I have a very personal, emotional and cultural attachment to the food, people and region so I also knew that these blog posts would be more than just facts with a recipe attached. I don’t have to research any recipes or learn about the reasons why Action Against Hunger have a presence there. These are universal recipes which represent more than just one country – I will resume the challenge country by country and pick a Lebanese specific recipe to replace this post.

When I started this challenge I had the idea that I didn’t want the blog to be too personal, I wanted it to be about facts and food. I just wanted to state the reason why I was doing it, where the donations where going and why and the recipe – my opinion didn’t have to come in to it. But actually I’ve realised that I can’t do that so here are some facts, my opinion and some recipes, which while clearly Arabic, are for everyone no matter where they are from.

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Ingredients

Hummous

  • Chickpeas
  • Tahini
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper

Mahshi Warak ‘Inab (Egyptian Style)

  • Grape vine leaves
  • Egyptian Rice
  • Onion
  • Stock
  • Garlic
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Dill
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Potato
  • Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper

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Tabbouleh (Lebanese Style with a touch of Palestine)

  • Bulgur wheat or Freekeh
  • Tomato
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Zaa’tar
  • Cucumber
  • Mint
  • Radish
  • Cumin
  • Sumac
  • Salt & Pepper

Muhammara

  • Red pepper
  • Walnuts
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Harissa
  • Salt & Pepper

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Kofta 

  • Lamb mince
  • Onion
  • Toasted Bulgar wheat or Freekeh
  • Cumin
  • Zaa’tar
  • All spice
  • Parlsey
  • Salt & Pepper

Baba Ghanoush

  • Aubergine
  • Lemon juice
  • Tahini
  • Sumac
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Rose petals

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Spinach & Feta and Lamb Borek

  • Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Mint
  • Feta cheese
  • Spinach
  • —-
  • Lamb mince
  • Onion
  • Pine nuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • —-
  • Filo pastry
  • Clarified or melted butter

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Method

Hummous

  1. Take a tin of chickpeas and add some of the water from the tin into a food processor. Drain the rest of the chickpeas and leave a handful aside – add the rest to the food processor.
  2. Add a clove or two of garlic, olive oil, a couple of tables spoons of tahini, lemon juice and salt and pepper then blend until smooth.
  3. Taste and add any more of anything if needed.
  4. Put aside until ready to eat – just before serving garnish with extra olive oil, the whole chickpeas and paprika.

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Mahshi Warak ‘Inab (Egyptian Style)

  1. Soak brined vine leaves in water – leave them soaking while you complete following steps.
  2. Using who bunches, remove the stalks from the parsley and dill. Chop the end of the stalks of the coriander – Coriander stalks carry a lot of flavour and are very good to use in cooking!
  3. In a mini chopper (or with great knife skills) blend or finely dice an onion, garlic and the herbs.
  4. In a hot pan with oil cook off the rice slightly so it’s no longer translucent but white all the way through – I do this every time I cook rice for a fail safe way to avoid ‘stodge’.
  5. Once the rice is white add the onion and herb mixture, sweat off for a bit then add a small tin of chopped tomatoes,cumin and salt & pepper.
  6. Take the pan off the heat and transfer the rice into a bowl.
  7. Without peeling, slice a potato into thin circles and place at the bottom of the same pan. This will prevent the Mahshi from sticking to the bottom and burning.
  8. Drain the soaked vine leaves and rinse off with cold water. One by one you can begin to stuff the vine leaves with the rice mixture. – It is important to cut away the tiny bit at the bottom of the leaf where the stalk would attach to the plant – this makes it easier to roll.
  9. Put some of the rice mixture in the the centre of the vine leaf. Roll up from the bottom then fold in the sides and continue rolling till you have a sausage shape which is closed on all side. It’s ok if there are some which don’t close on the sides, every leaf is different!
  10. As you roll add the mahshi to the pan placing tightly together so there are no gaps – you should get several stacks on top of one another.
  11. Once you have finished filling the saucepan add stock to just above the mahshi. Simmer on a low heat until the rice is cooked.

N.B. This rice mixture can be used to stuff LITERALLY any vegetable you can make a hole in. 

Tabbouleh (Lebanese Style with a touch of Palestine)

  1. First of all bring a pan to high heat without any oil, add the bulgur wheat or Palestinian freekeh and toast until they smell lovely and nutty. Once toasted take off the heat and transfer into a bowl to cool.
  2. Chop cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes into small cubes – I use only the flesh of the cucumber and tomato to stop the salad going soggy. You can use the juicy bit of the tomato in your mahshi and if you add the juicy bit of the cucumber to water you get a drink that’s a million times better than Lucazade with the same effect!
  3. Take a lot of mint and parsley and remove the leaves from the stalks, chop very finely and add to the chopped veg. By now your wheat should have cooled and you can mix that in too.
  4. In a separate bowl make a dressing of olive oil, zaa’tar, lemon juice, cumin, sumac, salt & pepper – I also like to add a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness of the tomato.
  5. Mix well with the salad and serve with an extra wedge of lemon.

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Muhammara

  1. Chop red peppers into large chunks. Add olive oil and salt & pepper and cook in a hot oven.
  2. They are ready when they are soft and slightly charred on the outside.
  3. Put the peppers in a mini chopper with a generous amount of walnuts, Also add lemon juice, olive oil, harissa and salt & pepper, then blend.
  4. Set aside until ready. When ready garnish with olive oil and lightly crushed and whole walnuts.

Kofta 

  1. In a mini chopper blend onion, parsley, lamb mince, a little bulgar or freekeh, cumin, zaa’tar, all spice and salt & pepper until smooth. Roll into egg shapes and put in the fridge.
  2. When ready to cook just drop the eggs into hot vegetable oil to deep fry. Serve immediately.

Baba Ghanoush

  1. Poke holes in an aubergine and put into a hot oven covered in foil. Do other things will this cooks.
  2. Just before removing the aubergine from the oven, juice two lemons.
  3. Once it’s cooked, you can tell because when you poke it it’s soft, remove from the heat an let cool for a about a minute.
  4. Cut open the aubergine and scrape the flesh into a mini chopper. Immediately add the lemon juice – this stops the aubergine from oxidising and turning browny/grey.
  5. Add tahini, sumac olive oil and salt & pepper then blend until smooth. It doesn’t have to be a paste though!
  6. Set aside until ready to serve. When ready garnish with olive oil, sumac and dried rose petals.

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Borek

  1. Dry toast pine nuts in a frying pan, removed to one side. In the same pan add finely diced onion to olive oil and sweat.
  2. Once softened add lamb mince, cumin, cinnamon, salt & pepper. once the mixture is cooked through remove from the pan and set to one side.
  3. In a separate bowl add crumbled feta, olive oil, fresh spinach, cumin, chopped mint and salt & pepper. Mix well.
  4. Lay out a pack of filo pastry and cut in half – one half will be for lamb and the other for spinach. Split the two halves into equal parts of leaves to make individual cigars.
  5. Taking a pastry brush, brush either clarified butter or melted butter on to each individual layer of filo pastry. Once done add some filling and roll up brushing with butter as you go – this will prevent it from unravelling. Place on a baking tray.
  6. Do this until both bowls of mixture are finished. Put the rolled borek in the oven and cook until the pastry is golden. Serve immediately.

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MONGOLIA

Monglian Proverb: А муур шинэ загас идэх дуртай хэдий ч энэ нь усанд орж байх болно – A cat likes to eat fresh fish but will not go into the water

Despite being the second largest land locked country in the world Mongolia actually has the smallest population of any country; 2.8 million. Economic instability following the collapse of the Soviet Union has left 35% of the population living in extreme poverty. Harsh winters have claimed up to 4 million animals and contribute massively to critical hunger in Mongolia. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 30,879 people by working to improve access to clean water and devising food security strategies.

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Buuz and Tsuivan

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Because of the harsh climate very few vegetables are actually consumed and the Mongolian diet primarily consists of meat and dairy. Similarly Mongolian food is not traditionally ‘spiced’, that’s both chilli and other spices due to the difficulty of growing plants. In Mongolia fatty meat is favoured as it actually helps keep people warm! Buuz – the national dish takes influence from neighbouring China, a steamed dumpling filled with mutton.  Tsuivan is also popular and is a noodle dish that uses the same dough and meat as the dumplings; this is typical of Mongolian resourcefulness as a response to the severe weather across the country.

Ingredients

Buuz

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Mutton – with bones
  • Rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • Soy sauce
  • Spring onion
  • Garlic
  • Shallot
  • Ginger

Tsuivan

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Mutton (with bones)
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Szechuan peppercorns
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Spring onion

Method

(Both dishes at the same time!)

  1. Make the dough for the dumplings (and noodles) by adding water and flour together. The dough should be quite springy. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Chop mutton so it resembles Steak Tartare and put the bones to one side – remember to include all the fat for authenticity and flavour! This is much better than mince meat as it has a nicer texture when steamed. It also means that the rest of the mutton can be used in a noodle dish.
  3. In a pan full of cold water add a whole onion, a couple of carrots, Szechuan pepper corns, some ginger and the remaining mutton – complete with the bones saved from the other chopped meat. Bring to the boil then allow to simmer while you make the Buuz.
  4. In a whizzer (or very finally chop) purée together shallot, one clove of garlic and spring onions. Add a splash of soy sauce and vinegar then mix the whole lot into the chopped mutton.
  5. By now the dough should have rested nicely so take out and cut in half. Put one half to one side and roll out the other half till it’s nice and thin. Using whatever utensil you have to hand cut round shapes out of the dough. Add a heaped teaspoon to the centre and then fold up to make dumplings. When you have finished all the mix put the dumplings in bamboo steamers and set to one side.
  6. With the other half of the dough make noodles for the Tsuivan. Roll out nice and thin and simply cut into noodles with a knife! It helps to let them dry out a tiny bit – I just hang them over the back of chairs.
  7. At this point the pot with the mutton should have become a really good stock – remove the vegetables and mutton from the pot with a slotted spoon so only the broth remains. Separate the meat from the bones then dispose of the veg and bones. Add your noodles to the stock (this will give them a really nice muttoney flavour). Pop your bamboo steamers on top of the pot to cook.
  8. Cut carrot and cabbage, mince some garlic. Heat oil in a wok and add the cooked mutton – the fatty bits will render down and add a great flavour to the dish. Add the carrots and minced garlic cook for a minute then add the cabbage, spring onions and a pinch of sugar.
  9. Remove and drain the noodles. Add fresh boiling water to the pot and return the bamboo steamers to carry on cooking.
  10. Make a dipping sauce for your Buuz – fresh ginger batons, vinegar and soy sauce. This is really important as it helps to cut through the fatty taste of the mutton.
  11. To your stir fry add a splash of soy sauce and the drained noodles.- cook rapidly over a high heat turned constantly.
  12. By now the dumplings should be ready, you can tell when the dough has become slightly translucent and they basically look cooked, take off heat and serve everything immediately!

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Enjoy!

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