Friday, 22 May 2015

Smokey and nutty Mtabbal Badinjan (or eggplant's Mutabbal)

How you prepare your eggplants will make all the difference in this famous Levantine mezze/starter.

Before we get on with the recipe, what looks like Mutabbal for some is considered Baba ghanouj for others. The two have many ingredients in common.

So the confusion is on a worldwide scale. However, if you go to a Syrian restaurant, they will be clear on which is which (on a general note), while some other Middle Eastern countries will call this Baba ghanouj (- the yogurt)

Roasting the eggplants in a oven would not give you an authentic smokey taste. Your best bet is charcoal or over an open flame of a gas knob  and you just rotate every 4 minutes until it's done.

Now the seasoning of the mashed eggplants is also a matter of personal preference. Some like more tahini, some like more lemon..You just have to adjust it to your own taste.

Serves 4
Prep: 5 min - Cooking: 20-30 min

  • 1 medium-size eggplant/aubergine, roasted (char-grill or over a gas knob is the best option)
  • 1 tbsp of tahini
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of thick natural yogurt
  • 2 tbsps of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp of vinegar
  • 1 raw garlic clove , grated (or less, depending on the garlic used)
  • Salt to taste
For garnish
  • Good extra virgin olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Parsley, chopped


Prick the eggplant in different places. Roast it until it looks withered and charred from outside. Place in a plastic bag for a couple of minutes then remove the skin.

Scoop the flesh and transfer it to a strainer. Press the eggplant against it and discard the liquid. 

If you have used a type of eggplant which has a lot of seeds inside, discard them. Some are bitter.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mash the mix with a fork or chop them transfer to a pestle and mortar. Using a food processor for this is not my thing. I like a rough texture with tiny bits of eggplant.

Garnish it and dress it with the best extra virgin olive you can get hold of, Sprinkle some paprika and chopped parsley.

Serve chilled with pita bread or crackers...

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Quince paste turnovers/chaussons

This has to be the easiest recipe of sweet turnovers. I only use leftover puff pastry dough to make it.

These quince paste turnovers can be served to satisfy a craving for a sweet bite but also served along some strong cheese such as blue cheese. They go well together if you omit the cinnamon.

Quince paste is a Spanish product sold in Northern Morocco. But you can also find it in Spanish shops (I found some in Notting Hill).

No quince paste? Make some quince preserve when they're in season just like our Sephardic Moroccans do. It's lovely.

No quince in sight? Use any thick jam but quince is majestic! So try to find it.

Serves 12 
Prep: 10 min - Baking: 15 -20 min

For the wrapping

  • 800 g cold all butter puff pastry (I use homemade puff, find the classic here or the quick here) OR
  • Croissant dough (leavened puff pastry)
  • 1 egg yolk 
For the filling
  • 400 g of quince paste or jam or preserve, shop bought or homemade, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon 
Egg wash
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp of milk or water


Preaheat the oven at 220 degrees C. 

Roll the cold dough in length and only 2 mm thin. Place a teaspoon of quince paste or a small but if quince preserve. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Smear the dough with egg yolk around each quince filling. Fold the dough on it and press to seal the edges of each half-moon.

Cut each turnover and place it on a baking tray covered with a baking sheet.

Egg wash, make patterns with a fork. Prick or make a hole in the middle to let the steam out during baking. Make sure the egg wash does not go over the edges or the dough won't puff like in the picture.

Bake at 200 degrees until nicely golden.

Serve at room temperature, never hot or warm.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

British steak and Kidney pie

Steak and kidney pie is, hands down, my favourite British dish. Since I started making it at home, I went for the 3 times National champion recipe right there and I never changed it since.

Passed the smell of kidney when it's cooking in the first 15 minutes, you will be left with a wonderful filling to make one of the yummiest savoury pies in this world.

I serve steak and kidney pie at least twice a month. I  prepare small steak and kidney pies and freeze them unbaked. Then I thaw it in the fridge for a day and bake it at dinner time. Serve with salad on the side. Give this a try!

My recipe is adapted from The Windmill Mayfair. It even comes with a video.

Another steak and kidney pie baked in another occasion

Serves 6
Prep: 10 min - Cooking: 1 h - baking: 30 min

Savoury shortcrust dough (make it ahead of time)
  • 250 g of all purpose flour
  • 125 g of cold butter, in cubes (original recipes call for suet/shortening)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 heaped tbsp of parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp of mustard
  • 3 - 5 tbsps of cold water
  • 650 g of beef steak at room temperature (for fast cooking) or skirt/brisket/oxtail, top side for long cooking
  • 250 g of kidney (beef or lamb), membrane peeled, cut into small cubes
  • 100 g of white mushroom, chopped (add other mushrooms for deep flavour)
  • 1 medium-sized yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 20 g of corn starch or flour
  • 2 tbsps of Worcester sauce or soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of Dijon or English mustard
  • 2 tbsps of tomato sauce, ketchup or a chopped tomato (optional for me)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme or a sprig fresh
  • 2 tbsps of parsley
  • 3 tbsps of oil (original recipe calls for dripping)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 250 ml of water or beef stock (initial recipe calls for beer too)
Egg wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp of milk or water

And another steak and kidney pie in another different occasion


Make the dough 

Mix the flour with parsley, salt and pepper. Rub the butter in to make crumbs (or use a food processor with a blade).

Add the rest of the ingredients and quickly bring everything to a dough without overworking it. Slightly flatten to make an "abaisse". Wrap with cling film and freeze for 15 min or place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Make the steak and kidney filling

In a large pan, heat the oil. Add sliced or chopped onions and cook them for a few minutes until soft.

Add in batches of chopped meat (or cut in small cubes) so it fries instead of boiling (too much meat in the meat will cause steaming). Stir. Cook for a few minutes.

Dust the flour into the pan and stir from the bottom of the pan. The mix will darken a bit and that's good. 

Add the kidney, the chopped or sliced mushrooms. Stir. Give it a couple of minutes then add the rest of the ingredients except the parsley. Stir and cover. Bring to a simmer on low heat for 60 - 80 min if using long cooking meat or 30 min if using fast cooking meat. In the end of the cooking process, you want the meat to be tender and the sauce to turn to a nice gravy with a body.

Season to taste and allow to cool.

In a pie dish or medium-size ramekins, place a bit of filling (at your discretion). Cover with rolled dough. Trim around the edge but be generous on the sides so the dough does not fall in the middle of pie dish. 

Egg wash, make patterns with a knife or a fork. Make a hole in the middle so the pie breaths the steam out.

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C and bake at 180 degrees C for 30 - 40 min until nicely golden.

Serve slightly warm or just about room temperature.


Sometimes, I do sneak in some vegetables such as peas, spinach or carrots.


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