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Tag: tomato

Vegetarian Harira with Date and Almond Couscous

harira

I feel like it’s high time I give you guys something sweet for you to sink your teeth into, but for some reason it’s the savouries that have captured me and taken me on a trip to enthusiasmville, and I must say I quite like it.

Up next is a soup I had forgotten about for more than two years, which is bordering on criminal because it truly is a beautiful soup. Harira is one of those exotically seductive yet immensely comforting soups, flashy enough to serve as a special dinner but also perfect for a midweek meal. To make up for the lack of lamb in this vego version, I’ve added a few chopped up dried porcini mushrooms. I’ve also replaced celery, not because I have split feelings about it, but because I think that parsley stalks have an incredibly complex flavour, which cooked along in the soup do a fabulous job at adding that dynamic that usually le celery is responsible for. The medley of spices work spiffingly with the vibrant tomatoey broth, and is made even better by the accompaniment of the sweet buttery almond-flecked couscous. The soup will taste better the next day, as most soups do. But even a few hours after you’ve cooked it will do if that’s all the time you’ve got.

And yes I have a thing for shooting food in tiny (blue) dishes. And no, that is not a serving size I would ever dare to serve someone, let alone myself.

Vegetarian Harira with Date and Almond Couscous

Serves 4

4 slices dried porcini mushroom, very finely shopped

3-4 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cinnamon quill

1 tsp each of ground turmeric, ginger, cumin and paprika

1 pinch saffron

the stalks of half a bunch of parsley, tied in a knot

1 large red capsicum, finely chopped

400g tin chopped tomatoes

800ml stock

1 can chickpeas, half of them crushed with a fork

splash of soy sauce, salt

¼ tsp chilli flakes

half a bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped

half a bunch coriander, leaves picked

Place the chopped porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and carrot. Fry until softened. Add the garlic and the spices, and stir until fragrant. Add the soaked mushrooms with their liquid, the capsicum, parsley stalks, capsicum, chopped tomatoes and the stock, and bring to the boil. Let it cook until all of the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas and soy sauce and season to taste with the salt and chilli flakes. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with the parsley and coriander. Serve with the couscous (below).

almond and date couscous

Almond and Date Couscous

Serves 4

1 big nob of butter

1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped

1 cup / 190g couscous

1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus more to serve

1 cup /250ml boiling vegetable stock

10 dates, chopped into tiny cubes

1/3 cup /40g slivered almonds, toasted

In a small pan, melt the butter and add the garlic. Once it starts to go golden, remove from the heat and stir in the couscous and cinnamon. Pour over the boiling veggie stock and cover for about 5 minutes until completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork and stir through the chopped dates. Divide the couscous amongst serving dishes and top with the toasted almonds.

Tomato Soup

So you know how you tend to be a bit crazy about something for a while? Usually it’s a lifelong addiction to chocolate, ain’t it ladies? Or you have some sort of lolly you can’t live without. Or a specific chilli sauce. My current such pleasure is somewhat ridiculous, but hey, we all are to some extent. Truffle oil. I could drink that stuff from a shot glass. I want it on everything. Especially on tomato soup. That beautiful savoury garlicky umami character of the oil compliments the sweet creamy tanginess of the soup perfectly. This is rich stuff. This is gourmet comfort food. It is anything and everything I could ever want from a soupe de tomate.

It is also perfect for cold, grey Swiss days. Yes, the weather here in Bern is shite, but you know what? It’s so good to be back. I’ve missed you beautiful people. And the cheese. And the chocolate. I could go on but I know you’re hungry. Now go make this soup and think of me.

The Best Tomato Soup (with Truffle Oil)

Makes 1 Litre, serving 4 as an entrée, or two greedy people as a main.

1 tsp butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

2 pinches cinnamon

2 pinches ground cumin

2 pinches chilli

4 parsley stalks, knotted together, plus extra, to serve

2 cans chopped tomatoes

300ml water

2 tsp chicken stock granules

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp honey

4 Tbsp crème fraîche, plus extra for serving

2 tsp truffle oil, plus more for drizzling

cracked black pepper

melt the butter with the oil in a saucepan and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and sweat on low heat until soft. Add the spices, parsley, chopped tomatoes, water and stock powder. Let it simmer for about half an hour. Remove from heat, remove the parsley, and give it a whizz with a hand held blender, until it’s all smooth and creamy. Now add the soy, honey, crème fraîche and truffle oil, and give it another whirl. If you’re being all fancy you can pass it through a fine sieve, but that would be a waste of healthy fibre, would it not. Reheat if necessary, add some more seasoning if need be, then pour into bowls, swirl in some of the extra crème fraîche, drizzle over some more of that delicious oil and add a sprinkling of parsley. I love parsley with tomato soup. It’s old fashioned, but good. Crack some pepper over the whole beautiful mess and treat yourself to a bowlful.

Salad time

So it’s getting warmer slowly. Yep, lug out that litre bottle of 30+  suntan lotion. We don’t want to burn now, do we. Long sleeves and hats people, time to cover up. And if you’re one of those gorgeous olive skinned people, well whatever, ignore those first four sentences. Continue on living that amazing bronzed life of yours while I suffer through crimson complexions, irritating sun rashes, and aloe vera overdoses. The fairness of it all.

What I do like about this time of year however, is salad. I would say I’m relatively open to anything and everything with the word “salad” in its title, as long as it doesn’t include strawberries or sprouts or some other “genius” ingredient.  Berries belong into cakes and smoothies and champagne glasses, and alfa alfa sprouts can just go die. Thirteen years of having to eat them in salads is enough to traumatise you for life, believe me. Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts.

Back to salad. Greek salad. À la Laura. I like mine to be chopped into relatively small pieces – not only do I want a perfect burst of salty, sour, sweet and crunchy with every bite, I want to be able to fit it into my mouth. A lot of restaurants will present you a huge plate with tomato quarters, half a cucumber and a whole block of feta. Not here with me. And no, I didn’t forget the capsicum. I just think it’s not needed.

Greekish Salad 

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped

16 (I’m serious here) kalamata olives, finely chopped

5 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp mustard

salt, pepper

1 large telegraph cucumber, seeded and chopped into little cubes

5 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped into little cubes

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

200g fetta, in 1 cm cubes

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. They may not look like a traditional Greek salad dressing, but hey, I’m not traditional. And it’s delicious like this. So just add the rest of the ingredients, give it a good stir and you’re done. You could heap it onto grilled sourdough for some Greekified bruschette, have it as part of a mezze spread or just serve (and eat) it with a spoon.

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