Monday, 30 September 2013

Egypt Month - Vegan Egyptian Recipes

September has been a very busy and very delicious month for me! Not only was I posting up lots of Egyptian recipes, but I signed myself up for VeganMofo - which was a lot of work!! I didn't even get to post everything I had planned for VeganMofo and yet I still feel like I posted a mammoth amount of posts. Looking forward to next year's VeganMofo already though, as it was pretty fun. Also, I've got so many spices left on my spice rack to experiment with.

Egypt Month was a great one to pair with the My Spice Rack theme, because it uses up lots of delicious spices! Look how colourful it all is in the photos, doesn't it look gorgeous?

Ingredients of the Month: Cumin, All Spice, Citrus


Mesa'a'ah - Spicy Egyptian Eggplant
I'm a real sucker for baked eggplant dishes. Well, eggplant in any form really. So I couldn't pass by this tasty dish. It's called Mesa'a'ah (or Mesa'a'a or even sometimes just Mesa'a) - Eggplant and onions layered in a baking dish and smothered with spicy tomato sauce. It's quite hot with the inclusion of green chilli, but you can make a milder version to suit any palate. Check out the recipe here.

Orange & Olive Salad with Cumin
Not too sure on the authenticity of this one - but don't let that stop you because it was one of my favourite dishes of the month (ok, that is a tough call...), it's light and refreshing nature makes it pair perfectly with the spicy dishes we ate (such as the Mesa'a'ah, above). I'd never had a salad quite like this before and I will definitely be making it again! Check out the recipe here. 

"Ancient Egyptian Peasant" Beer Onions
Ok (admission!), this one comes with a bit of creative license. I don't think anyone in Egypt ever cooks this dish! BUT, it was inspired by my research into Egyptian food. While I was reading up on Egyptian food and history I came across a fun fact - peasants and labourers in ancient Egypt were often paid with onions and beer. Now, I'm not suggesting they whipped them up together in a dish like this - but it made my mind tick and I thought that they would work great together. They did - it's delicious. Perfect for a side dish or as a filling in a pie or atop some tart shells as an appetiser, or on a foccacia even. There are so many things you could do with these onions! So don't let pesky authenticity stop you! Just eat these onions and be glad you're not an Egyptian peasant. Check out the recipe here.

Egyptian Tahini Sauce
This is sometimes translated as a Tahini Salad by Egyptians on the internet, which is interesting because it's not what we would think of as a salad in many countries. Whatever you want to call it though - this dish is very versatile. You can use it as a salad dressing, as a sauce, as a dip or just to eat on the side of anything. It's perfect drizzled over your felafel or your salad stuffed pita bread. Check out the recipe here.

Ful Medames
Ful Medames is a ubiquitous dish in Egypt, and it's actually often eaten for breakfast. I think it's suitable for any time of day though! There are many different ways to make Ful Medames, every family has a slightly different recipe. This one was perfect eaten on pita bread and with a dollop of tahini sauce to accompany it. Check out the recipe here.


Egyptian Khushaf (or Khoshaf) is a really easy and delicious dessert. It's free from added sugar, just relying on the sweetness of the dried fruits. I think it also makes a pretty delicious breakfast, or just a sweet snack. Check out the recipe here

This Egyptian lemonade it something quite special. It's mostly just lemon juice and only a little bit of sugar- which means it's very strong and is designed to be drunk just a little bit in your glass and topped up with soda water (or lemonade if you want it sweeter). The beautiful touch of orange blossom water to flavour it gives it a special and unique flavour. Plus the fact that you only drink a bit at a time topped up with soda water meant that this small jug of it happily kept 10 people happy all night! Check out the recipe here. 


Preserved Lemons
Something I've always wanted to do! Preserved lemons. They're so expensive to buy and, it turns out, incredibly simple to make! They're eaten in Egypt as a side dish to just about anything and they were a delicious tangy compliment to everything we ate during Egypt month. So why not try preserving your own lemons? It's easier than you think! Check out the recipe here.

I hope you've enjoyed this month of Egyptian food! I ate sooo much :) Which dishes do you think look the best?

After all that posting for Egyptian food month and VeganMofo, I think I might need a bit of a rest for my sanity. But next month I'll be back into the world of food (after a week off I think!).

Next month we'll be having lots of dishes from.....

Very exciting to get stuck into Nepalese (or is it Nepali?) cuisine, keep your eyes out for the recipes.


I'll end this month of delicious spicy and Egyptian food with a simple but beautiful dish. This is Khushaf  or Khoshaf, a traditional Egyptian dish which is often made during Ramadan to break the fast. It's good for Ramadan because of the high amount of sugars to give you energy during the day and the protein from the nuts.

It's like a compote, but not cooked. Or perhaps like a fruit salad, but made with dried fruits and nuts. It's very quick and easy to make and makes a delicious dessert, breakfast or snack at any time of the day. It's a lot healthier than a lot of other things you could have for dessert and conveniently you make it the day before, so it is a stress free dessert to serve up to guests.

You can soak the fruit in apple juice instead of water if you want to make it sweeter - but in my opinion it is sweet enough! You can also substitute other types of nuts, if you like.


1/2 cup raisins (I used golden)
1/2 cup whole prunes
1/2 cup halved dates
1/2 cup sliced dried apricots
1/2 cup halved dried figs
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dry roasted almonds (you can just used blanched if you prefer)
Water, to cover

To Make
1. Place all the dried fruit and the nuts in a bowl.
2. Cover with about 6 cups water, the fruit should be covered by at least 2 inches.
3. Leave in the fridge over night to soak. Check to make sure that there is enough water - if the fruit has absorbed all of the water then you'll need to add more. There should be plenty of syrupy juice left in the bowl after the fruit have absorbed as much as they can.
4. Eat! We just ate it as it is, but you could also serve over ice cream or with yoghourt.

Serves 6.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Egypt.
Check out my other Egyptian recipe posts:

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Ful Medames (Egyptian Mashed Broad Beans)

This delicious dish of mashed up broad beans is considered by some to be the national dish of Egypt. Interestingly, it is eaten for breakfast. Breaking with it's traditional time of consumption, I served mine as an appetiser at a dinner party like a dip. It also makes a great side veggie dish though. It's easy to make and very tasty - you can even make most of it the day before and then just reheat it and mash it up when you want to serve it.

Ful Medames

600g frozen, fresh or canned broad beans (fava beans)
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground corriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more or less, to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

To Make
1. If using frozen broad beans, thaw. If using canned, drain. You can peel them if you don't like the chewy skins in there, but I like them so I didn't.
2. Put the broad beans, garlic, spices, lemon juice and vegetables stock in a saucepan, cover and simmer until broad beans are soft and cooked and the water is mostly gone, about 20 minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper and then mash roughly with a fork or potato masher (if you'd prefer it smooth you could use a food processor), so that there are still big chunks of bean in it.
4. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread, tahini sauce, fresh lemon wedges and, if you like, preserved or pickled chillis.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Creamy Tahini Sauce (Egyptian Tahini Salad)

Tahini is my idea of heaven - who knew that sesame seeds could purée to such a delectable paste? Tahini is one of the "basic essentials" in my cupboard. You know how most people think "basic essentials" and they think bread, milk and butter? Not in our house. Our basic essentials are soy sauce, tea, vegetable stock and tahini. So I never pass up the opportunity to make a new recipe containing tahini.

This recipe is called a tahini salad - I'm not sure if that is a literal translation or just a culturally different definition, but it's more what I would call a sauce. It is served as an accompaniment to a lot of Egyptian food. It goes perfect drizzled on your falafel, pita bread or salad. Smear it on your veggie burgers, drizzle it over your tofu or just use it as a dip with fresh chopped veggies and crusty bread. Yum!

Creamy Tahini Sauce

1/2 cup unhulled tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup water
1 tsp cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced finely
Salt and pepper to taste
Sumac, to garnish
Fresh mint, to serve (optional)

To Make
1. Place tahini in a bowl and add the lemon juice. Mix well until completely combined. Add the water bit by bit, stirring well all the while until the sauce is creamy and there are no lumps of tahini remaining.
2. Add the cumin, garlic, salt and pepper and mix well.
3. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Egypt.
Check out my other Egyptian recipe posts:

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

"Ancient Egyptian Peasant" Beer Onions

My schedule for posting fell apart a bit this week - I had great intentions but to be honest a few things in my personal life have fallen to pieces over the last couple of weeks and posting was the last thing on my mind. Hopefully I won't be booted off the Vegan Mofo blogroll for not posting enough!

In keeping with my Egyptian food month theme - I bring you this dish. Now, before people jump on me I'll write a disclaimer about this dish. It's not an Egyptian recipe. I don't think it ever gets cooked in Egypt. So why is it part of Egyptian food month? Well, when I was doing reading about food and ingredients in Egypt I found a piece of interesting information. Apparently anicent Egyptian peasants and labourers were paid in beer and onions. Now, I'm not naive - I'm not suggesting that they cooked these up together in a fancy schmancy dish with cumin seeds. But when I heard "beer" and "onions" my brain just went "beer onions!". It sounded too delicious not to try so I did. And it was.

So these onions are inspired by ancient Egyptian peasants, hence the name. But it's a bit of artistic license on my part including it in Egyptian food month. Never mind about that - just eat some onions! These beer onions made a lovely side dish. They would also be great in a pie or wrapped in pastry like triangles. Or in little open tarts as canapés. You could do all sorts of things with them. Try adding some veggie sausages or some seitan to make a very hearty pie.

This recipe uses whole cumin seeds from my spice rack - as part of my theme for Vegan Mofo. I've already written up some interesting bits and pieces on cumin on this post, so I won't repeat myself! Jump over and check it out - you might learn something about cumin!

"Ancient Egyptian Peasant" Beer Onions

6 onions
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 x 375ml bottle of beer (pick your favourite vegan friendly brand)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh thyme, to serve (optional)

To Make
1. Peel and slice the onions.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large frypan. Add the cumin seeds and toast for about 30 seconds then add the onions and sauté over a medium heat until they are softened and translucent.
3. Add the bottle of beer. Cover and cook over a medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the onions are completely cooked and the beer has become saucy and thick.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve sprinkled with fresh thyme (optional).

Serves 6 as a side dish, or makes enough filling for 1 pie.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Egypt.
Check out my other Egyptian recipe posts:

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Raspberry, Lime & Black Pepper Salad Dressing

I've been cooking with a lot of gorgeous olive oil lately sent to me by Bertolli - they sent me some bottles of their different types of olive oil so that I could experiment with using different types for different uses. I'll confess, I have never in the past given thought to which type of olive oil was better for different styles of cooking so it has been great to use different types and learn as I go. Bertolli sent me three different types of their olive oil - Extra Virgin, Classic and Light. Their light olive oil was perfect for frying, and I made these amazing healthy Chilli Tofu Lettuce Wraps using it, the light olive oil really tasted light and didn't make the fried tofu oily at all.

When it comes to salad dressing though, you really want the flavour of an extra virgin olive oil. It mixes well into dressings and brings out the flavour of the other ingredients. With warmer weather on the way I wanted to make a pretty special salad dressing to celebrate. Raspberries are something that it always special to me because generally they're expensive, so they're a real treat. You can use frozen raspberries for this recipe as well, just make sure you thaw them out completely first.

This post is also part of my Veganmofo My Spice Rack theme, using black pepper from my spice rack.

Raspberry, Lime and Black Pepper Salad Dressing

2 tbsp fresh rapberries
1 tbsp Bertolli extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cracked black pepper

To Make
1. Crush the raspberries roughly with the back of a fork, they don't have to be smooth though.
2. Combine the raspberries with all the other ingredients in a jar and shake well. Can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.

What to put it on?
This dressing has a delicious strong flavour, so goes well to make a fairly plain salad something special. Try drizzling it over some lettuce, cucumber, tomato and avocado to really make your salad shine. Or, toss with baby spinach, thinly sliced fennel and toasted almonds for something a bit more fancy.

A quick note on this post: I received free olive oil from Bertolli to use on my blog, however, I am not being paid for this post nor am I an ambassador for this brand.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Peri Peri Hummus Cucumber Bites (Easy Healthy & Vegan Appetiser)

Sometimes you just need appetisers to be quick, easy, delicious and healthy. Because who wants to fiddle around with tiny things when you're in a rush (or just not in the mood). This is the perfect healthy appetiser to whip up quickly - you can even use store bought hummus! Use home made if you feel like it of course. It has a bit of a kick with the addition of some Peri Peri Spice blend from my spice rack. You can substitute peri peri sauce or even just a pinch of dried chilli flakes if you don't have access to either. Start with just a little peri peri and then gradually add  more until you get to the level you like it. If you or your guests don't like it hot at all, just substitute a little cumin or garam masala instead.

Peri Peri
Peri Peri is just chilli really, but it's a chilli blend which is used extensively in South Africa. The term Peri Peri (or Piri Piri) is used loosely to describe chillies in India and South Africa. Both peri peri spice powder and peri peri sauce are simply made from a blend of chillis, generally being quite hot. If you want some interesting facts about chilli that you probably didn't know jump over to my Spicy Chickpea Salad with Olive Hummus Dressing where I've written up some info about chilli :)

Reference: Hemphill, 2006
For my month of spices I'm using Spice Notes and Recipes by Ian Hemphill as my reference tool to learn about spices and for all the information above. Thanks Ian for writing such a great and informative book! 

Peri Peri Hummus Cucumber Bites

1 tub store bought hummus
1/2 tsp peri peri spice blend (or 1 tsp peri peri sauce), add more or less to taste
2 cucumbers
1/2 cup black olives, sliced in half and pitted.

To Make
1. Stir the peri peri through the hummus.
2. Slice the cucumbers about 1 cm thick and arrange on a plate.
3. Top each cucumber slice with 1 tsp of hummus and half a black olive. Serve as soon as they are made (preferably).

Friday, 13 September 2013

Egyptian Orange Olive Salad with Cumin

I love trying new salads, and with spring well and truly here now it's the perfect time to be experimenting with them. I found this beautiful salad on (shifty eyes) wikirecipes. I know, it's not the most reliable source of information. But it was listed with the Egyptian recipes and even though I really wasn't sure if it was authentic at all, I thought it sounded delicious so I decided to make it  anyway - maybe an Egyptian reader can tell me whether it is the kind of thing that Egyptians would actually eat :)

In the end though, it didn't matter if it was authentic or not because it was really, really tasty and I will definitely make this again. It is a fresh and light salad which makes a perfect accompaniment to heavier, carby-er main dishes.

This Orange & Olive Salad is flavoured with ground cumin - which is not an exotic spice but it's not something I normally put in salads in ground form (I often do use toasted cumin seeds in salads which is delicious!), so it was nice to learn a new use for this incredible spice.

Cumin is a cooks best friend, it has amazing flavour and enhances any curries, soups, casseroles and salads you could dream to put them in. It is believed to be indingenous to the middle east and has a strong history in Egypt.  Cumin seeds have been found in the pyramids of the pharoahs, they were used by Egyptians in their mummifying process. There is also references in the Old and New Testaments of the bible to cumin. In ancient Rome, cumin was a symbol of greed and the miserly emperor Marcus Aurelius was nicknamed "Cuminus".

Reference: Hemphill, 2006
For my month of spices I'm using Spice Notes and Recipes by Ian Hemphill as my reference tool to learn about spices and for all the information above. Thanks Ian for writing such a great and informative book! 

Orange and Olive Salad with Cumin

8 navel oranges, sliced and with skin and pith sliced off
1/2 cup halved marinated black olives
1 small Spanish onion, peeled and sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

To Make
1. Combine the orange slices, olives and onion in a salad bowl.
2. Mix the lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper in a jar and shake well.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and allow to sit for 20 minutes to let the flavour meld. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6-8 as a side salad.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Egypt.
Check out my other Egyptian recipe posts:

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Mesa'a'ah (Egyptian Spicy Eggplant)

Had to take a couple of days break from Mofo blogging because I've been flat out at work, but I'm back to it now! My themes for this month are Egyptian food and 'My Spice Rack' and this delicious dish is part of both of those themes. This eggplant dish is called mesa'a'ah or sometimes spelled mesa'a'a or even just mesa'a - I don't know which one is most accurate because I'm just a chick with the internet. This dish uses allspice for flavour, a common ingredient in Egyptian and middle eastern dishes.

Given it's confusing name, you would be forgiven for thinking that allspice was a spice blend. It is actually made from a dried unripe berry and is also sometimes referred to as 'Pimento' (which, confusingly, is the Spanish word for pepper). Allspice has a long history - the Aztecs added allspice and vanilla to their chocolate drinks and the Mayan Indians used it in embalming. It is also commonly used as an aid to preservation and even after the invention of refrigeration practices, it still appears in some preserved meats and in Scandinavian canned fish.It is also often used as a substitute for cloves, as it can achieve a much more subtle clove flavour. Allspice contains the same volatile oil (eugenol) as cloves and, surprisingly, as basil. Hence it is a spice which compliments tomatoes very well.

Reference: Hemphill, 2006
For my month of spices I'm using Spice Notes and Recipes by Ian Hemphill as my reference tool to learn about spices and for all the information above. Thanks Ian for writing such a great and informative book! 


3 large eggplants
2 tbsp olive oil (you will need more if your pan is not non stick)
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 jalapeños (fresh or preserved), chopped (you can use less if you don't like it too hot)
2 x 400g tins chopped or crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 tsp allspice
Salt and pepper to taste

To Make
1. Preheat the oven to 180.
2. Slice the eggplant thickly. Heat the oil in a large frypan and fry the eggplant on both sides until just softened (doesn't need to be completely cooked). The eggplant soaks up the oil so you will have to replenish the oil between batches, if you use a non stick frypan you will use less oil.
3. Place about half the eggplant pieces in a layer along the bottom of a large lasagne dish. Top with the onions and jalapeños and then layer the remaining eggplant over the top.
4. Combine the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, water, allspice and salt and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and then pour it all over the eggplant.
5. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes (or until the onion is cooked through).

Serves 4-6.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Egypt.
Check out my other Egyptian recipe posts:

Monday, 9 September 2013

Wild Blueberries on the Stockholm Archipelagos

We've just recently come back from an amazing trip in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Riga, St. Petersburg and Tallinn. There were so many amazing food experiences going on in these countries but I have so say one of the most memorable food experiences was the wealth of gorgeous berries growing around. Berries were sold in big punnets in street stalls for very cheap in Sweden, Denmark and in Riga and we are a lot of berries.

On only our second day after arriving in Scandinavia we took a little day trip out to the Stockholm Archipelagos. We only had one day so we picked an archipelago called Grinda which was a quite small island with lots of lovely plants and animals all over it. It took us a couple of hours by ferry to get out there but it was a lovely place to spend the day.

We strolled all over the whole island and had lunch by the water. A couple of little friends stopped to watch us have lunch, hanging around hoping for some crumbs.

After lunch we went on a long walk over the island down a narrow little walking track through forests and over rocky outcrops. But along the way we happened to spy this.... See all those little shrubs growing all over the ground? They turned out to be.... blueberry bushes! They were everywhere, a carpet of blueberry bushed all over the forest floor.

Not only were they blueberry plants... they were covered in little tiny blueberries. They were small and tangy blueberries and absolutely delicious. We ate handful after handful of them as we walked along!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Icing

A couple of days ago I posted these gorgeous and quite unusual Chocolate Five Spice Cupcakes for my Veganmofo theme of "My Spice Rack". I posted the cupcakes recipe but I didn't post the chocolate buttercream icing. I had quite a few people ask me for the vegan chocolate icing from these pictures so I thought I would oblige. I don't use a recipe for icing. When I was a kid my mother taught me how to make icing and I've made it that way ever since. I never measure quantities, I just mix it until it tastes right. But I can give you a general recipe that you can adapt in any way you like. This is my basic chocolate icing, plus I've added a few ideas for variations down the bottom. You can be as creative as you like, just have fun. It's not healthy, but it sure it delicious!

Easy Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1 cup margarine (I use Nuttelex)
3 cups soft icing mixture
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder

To Make
1. Cream the margarine and vanilla together with an electric mixer or with a butterknife (or a spoon for that matter).
2. Add the cocoa and 1 cup of the icing mixture. Mix well.
3. Continue to add the soft icing mixture bit by bit until it is all added. Now here is the important bit - taste test it and make sure it doesn't have any of that oily margarine taste left. If it does add a bit more icing mixture until it tastes perfect.
4. Spoon or pipe generously on top of your cake or cupcakes.

This recipe makes quite a bit, as it is designed for generous piping. If you're not piping it on you can probably make a half batch.

~ Add 1/2 tsp mint extract to make choc mint icing
~ Swap 1 tsp vanilla extract for 1 tsp orange extract and add some fresh orange zest to make jaffa icing
~ Add 2 tbsp finely chopped dark chocolate for chocolate chip icing
~ Use kirsh or cherry brandy instead of vanilla extract and top with cherries for black forest icing
~ Add 1 tbsp frangelico and an extra 1/2 cup soft icing mixture
~ Swap the vanilla for strong coffee or kahlua for mocha icing

There are so many more things you could do with this, there are just a couple I came up with on the spot. If you've got some great ideas I would love to hear them.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Egyptian Limoonada (Orange Blossom Lemonade)

The second of my Egyptian Food Month recipes stays with the "lemons" theme :) A couple of days ago I posted my Preserved Lemons (yum!!) and now here is some absolutely fantastic Egyptian Lemonade. This is a bit different to traditional lemonade, it's mostly lemons and has very little sugar. This means it isn't very sweet and it's very lemony! It is smoothed out with delicious orange blossom water and fresh mint but it's actually not meant to be served as it. Because it's so lemony, it is served with only a bit on the bottom of the glass on ice and then topped up with soda water. This small jug of limoonada plus two bottles of soda water kept 8 people very well watered for a whole evening - so a little bit can go a long way! I, personally, much prefer this to the sugary sweet lemonades which I'm more used to. 

Egyptian Limoonada

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup boiling hot water
10 lemons
2 tsp orange blossom water
1/2 bunch mint, roughly torn

Ice & soda water, to serve

To Make
1. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling hot water and set aside to cool.
2. Juice the lemons and tip into a jug. Add the sugar and orange blossom water and stir well. Chill until ready to serve.
3. When ready to serve, stir through the mint.
4. Pour a small amount over ice in a glass and top up with soda water. Enjoy!

If you'd like to make this a bit more adult you can add a splash of vodka, gin or white rum.

I've submitted this recipe to the Vegan Virtual Linky Potluck - click here to see the other entries.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Egypt.
Check out my other Egyptian recipe posts:

Friday, 6 September 2013

Vegan Makowiec (Polish Poppy Seed Strudel)

I made this delicious poppyseed strudel during Polish food month (July 2013) but didn't get time to post it, so I'm bringing it out for Vegan Mofo and my Spice Rack theme. Poppy seeds are possibly not actually a spice (although I guess that depends on your definition) but they're kept with my spices so I'm including them in the list.

Poppy Seeds
Two varieties of poppy seeds are commonly consumed - white and blue poppy seeds. Blue poppy seeds are most commonly seen in European/Western cuisines - they're the ones you'll find sprinkled on bread rolls, pastries and in your orange and poppyseed cake. White poppy seeds have a slightly milder flavour but otherwise are fairly interchangeable - they're more commonly found in Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Both types of poppy seeds are gathered from the same poppy that produces opium, however the ones used in cooking have virtually no narcotic content (just 50 ppm). Poppy seeds contain a relatively high amount of oils, so can easily become rancid if they are old or stored improperly. Try to buy small quantities of poppy seeds (only as much as you need) from shops which have a high turnover and store any remaining ones in an airtight container.

Reference: Hemphill, 2006
For my month of spices I'm using Spice Notes and Recipes by Ian Hemphill as my reference tool to learn about spices and for all the information above. Thanks Ian for writing such a great and informative book! 

Makowiec (Polish Poppy Seed Strudel)

1/4 cup soy milk, warmed
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup apple sauce
2 cups plain flour

3/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tbsp vegan margarine
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnut halves, broken up

Soy milk, for brushing the top
Whole poppy seeds, to garnish

To Make
1. Cover the poppy seeds in hot water and soak over night. Then drain and grind in a food processor.
2. Whisk together the warm soy milk and the dry yeast and set aside for 10 minutes, until foamy (if this does not foam up, your yeast may no longer be active and you may need to buy some fresh stuff).
3. Add the 1/4 cup sugar, oil, salt and apple sauce to the yeast mixture and mix well to combine.
4. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 minutes by which time you should have a smooth ball of dough. Return to the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let sit in a warm spot for 1 1/2 hours to rise.
5. To make the filling: combine the soy milk, margarine, sugar, ground poppy seeds, orange zest and raisins in a saucepan and place over a medium heat.  Cook until thickened, stirring frequently. After about 4-5 minutes it should be quite thick, remove from the hear and stir the vanilla extract through.
6. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into a big rectangle. Spread the filling over the rectangle of dough, leaving about 1 1/2 cm around the edge. Sprinkle the walnuts on top.

8. Roll up into one big log (starting from the longer side of the rectangle) and place seam side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
9. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool, then slice and serve.

Check out my other Polish recipe posts from Poland Month:

Thursday, 5 September 2013

How to Make Your Own Preserved Lemons (Egyptian Style)

A lot of middle eastern cuisines use tangy preserved lemons either in dishes or as an accompaniment. It's delicious! But have you seen how expensive a jar of preserved lemons can be? Ouch. This month I'm exploring Egyptian cuisine. They use preserved lemon commonly as a side or an accompaniment to the main meal. I really wanted to do this but didn't want to spend $10 on a small jar of preserved lemons at my supermarket. The solution is to make my own - I got a much bigger jar for much less money :)

It isn't difficult and the result was delicious. Commonly in Egypt lemons are preserved in brine with things like nigella seeds and safflower to flavour. I didn't have any safflower in the house sadly (I've substituted peppercorns) but I did have some nigella seeds and conveniently this month I am doing Vegan Mofo with the theme "My Spice Rack" in which I try to use up lots of the spices which I rarely use. Nigella seeds are definitely something I'm keen to find more uses for - I've got a big jar of them but I'm not really sure what to do with them. Does anyone have any other ideas?

Nigella Seeds
Nigella seeds (Nigella satvia), also sometimes referred to (incorrectly) as Black Cumin (Carum bulbocastanum), is native Western Asia and Southern Europe. According to online sources Nigella satvia has been used in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine and in Aryuvedic medicine. That's somewhat my area so I pulled down my Materia Medica and had a look. Nigella satvia doesn't appear in my Materia Medica of Chinese Herbal Medicine so I cannot vouch for the claim that it was used in TCM. It may, however, have been used in Ayurvedic medicine (not my area!). Most commonly, nigella seeds can be found sprinkled on top of Turkish bread and some naan breads. The spice compliments carbohydrates particularly well and so if often used on bread or in potato dishes.

Reference: Hemphill, 2006
For my month of spices I'm using Spice Notes and Recipes by Ian Hemphill as my reference tool to learn about spices and for all the information above. Thanks Ian for writing such a great and informative book! 

Egyptian Preserved Lemon

1 cup boiling hot water
1 tsp salt
5 lemons
1-2 tbsp nigella seeds
1-2 tbsp whole peppercorns

To Make
1. Dissolve the salt in the cup of boiling water and then set aside to cool. Crack open some of the peppercorns using the side of a knife or a mortar and pestle (but don't crush them up).
2. Scrub the lemons and slice either in 1 cm thick slices or you can cut them into quarters or eighths, whatever you like. Place the lemons in a saucepan and cover with water.
3. Place over a low heat until the water is not quite boiling yet. This will soften the lemons up but not cook them (don't let the water come to a simmer). Remove from the water immediately so they don't continue cooking (but keep the water).
4. Grab a sealable jar and wash well with hot water. Place the lemon slices in layers in the jar and sprinkle some nigella seeds and peppercorns over each layer. When you have crammed all your lemons into the jar add the cup of salty water. The lemons should be completely immersed in the liquid - if you need a bit more liquid you can use a bit of the water you had the lemons in.
5. Seal the jar and store in a dark place for 2-3 weeks. After 2-3 weeks store the jar in the fridge and use as needed.

Preserved lemons can be eaten whole, including the skin.

This month I'm featuring lots of delicious food from Egypt.
Check out my other Egyptian recipe posts:

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Chinese Five Spice Chocolate Cupcakes

It's day 3 of Vegan Mofo and thus far I'm managing to keep up with posting! My theme this year is My Spice Rack. I've got so many spices piled up in my kitchen that I thought I had better start thinking of ways to use them all up! Yesterday I posted a Spicy Chickpea Salad with Olive Hummus Dressing which used 4 spices from my shelf. Today, only one, but it's an interesting one!

Chinese Five Spice
Chinese Five Spice is a blend of star anise, fennel seeds, cassia, black pepper and cloves. It is used in many Asian recipes but usually in combination with meat, although it can be added to stir fried vegetables. In place of the meat, it could be used as a rub or a marinade for tofu or other meat substitutes. But I wanted to do something a bit different with it. So I made dessert, a bit unusual! The zing of the Five Spice gives these Chocolate Cupcakes something pretty special and a couple of my friends went pretty crazy over these babies. Start of adding just a 1/2 tsp of five spice to the mix and then taste it. If you can't really taste the Chinese Five Spice then add some more and taste again. I ended up using a whole teaspoon, but it's something you can make to taste.

Reference: Hemphill, 2006
For my month of spices I'm using Spice Notes and Recipes by Ian Hemphill as my reference tool to learn about spices and for all the information above. Thanks Ian for writing such a great and informative book! 

Chinese Five Spice Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup oat milk (or soy milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice (or to taste)

To Make
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the oat milk, sugar, canola oil and vanilla extract.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until all combined.
4. Fill your cupcake baking tray with liners and fill them 3/4 full of batter.
5. Bake for 23 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool. To serve, dust with icing sugar or ice with a chocolate buttercream icing or a chocolate ganache - whatever you feel like!

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Chinese Five Spice Chocolate Cupcakes pictured here with my

Monday, 2 September 2013

Spicy Chickpea Salad with Olive Hummus Dressing

This delicious salad uses four spices from my overflowing spice rack - and all of them red, giving this salad a lovely red-orange hue. Chickpeas fried in chilli and sweet and smoked paprika with a creamy olive hummus dressing and a sprinkle of middle eastern sumac.

Well, you all know about chilli. There are hundreds of varieties of chilli and they have a long history in many countries. There is evidence that chillies were eaten by Mexican Indians as early as 7000 BCE. In modern times chilli has become a commonly used all over the world in a myriad of ways. Chillis apparently contain more Vitamin C by weight than any citrus fruit and are found in our spice racks in dried form, flakes and many powdered varieties including chilli powder, hot paprika and cayenne pepper. Chilli is also purportedly excellent for weight loss as it speeds up the metabolism (in my experience it also good in this regard because it limits the amount of food you eat - because I can't eat as big a quantity of really hot food as I can mild food!). The heat of chilli can depend on what you cook your chilli with - oils and fats can mollify the heat of a dish so adding a high fat coconut milk can tame your curry. When eating a super chilli dish it's natural to reach for a glass of water - but don't! Water will actually make it worse - the best relief will come from a spoonful of sugar, but beer is also a good accompaniment. Milky drinks using yoghout or coconut milk are also a good option.

In the same family as chilli (Capsicum family), paprikas origins go back the same as chilli - to the Mexican Indians in 7000 BCE. However, it was the Spanish that first turned these fruits into a powder after Christopher Columbus brought them back to Europe from the new world. Paprika in it's many forms is now ubiquitous in Spanish and Hungarian cuisines in particular. But during the Turkish occupation of Hungary in the 17th Century, paprika was prohibited and it's use and trade was punishable by death! This resulted in many people growing paprika illegally and a black market for paprika evolved, keeping the spice firmly entrenched in Hungarian cuisine. Interestingly, paprika can be used to tone down a dish if you have accidentally added too much chilli.

If you haven't spent much time eating oodles of middle eastern food, then this is a spice which may have passed you by! Sumac is made from berries which grow on a tree in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Since there were no lemons in this region during the Roman era, sumac was used as a sour flavour in many dishes. Not only was it used for flavouring, but the berries were also used for dying as they are a rich deep red. Sumac was brought to Australia by middle eastern migrants, you may have encountered it sprinkled on hummus, fleshly sliced onions or used in salads such as fattoush. When buying sumac, the colour can be a good indication of the quality - darker red sumac contains more berry and less stem and seed than lighter varieties. 

Reference: Hemphill, 2006
For my month of spices I'm using Spice Notes and Recipes by Ian Hemphill as my reference tool to learn about spices and for all the information above. Thanks Ian for writing such a great and informative book! 

Spicy Chickpea Salad with Olive Hummus Dressing

1 tbsp olive oil
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas (or 350-400g cooked chickpeas), drained well
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground chilli (chilli powder)
3 cups baby spinach
3 tomatoes, chopped

Olive Hummus Dressing 
3 tbsp hummus
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4-5 kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil

To Make
1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the chickpeas and spices. Fry, stirring occasionally until fragrant and the chickpeas are coated in the spices.
2. While they are cooking. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing (except the sumac) in a small bowl and mix well.
3. Remove the chickpeas from the heat and set aside while you put together the salad. Wash the baby spinach leaves and dry as much as you can. Place in a large serving bowl and sprinkle the chopped tomatoes over the top. Add the chickpeas and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle liberally with sumac.Toss just before serving.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side.