Thursday, 28 March 2013

Moroccan Beef Tagine & Cookbook Challenge - Recipe

Last weekend my and husband went to Morocco for a long weekend trip. We went to Tangier in north. Will do a separate post about that soon. The food was as expected amazing. Their couscous, tagines, street food and best of all, their freshly squeezed orange juice was just out of this world delicious. I must have drank 2 glasses of orange juice for 4 days!!

Since I bought special spice mix for tagines and the spice Ras el Hanout in Tangier, I was inspired to cook something Moroccan. Luckily, I have a great cookbook at home by Lesley Mackley called The Book of North African Cooking. It is an old cookbook published in 1998 which I bought from our local library, and has some amazing recipes. One of my favorite recipes in this cookbook is Moroccan Couscous. 

Being inspired by Helene, I wanted to take on the cookbook challenge and try out this recipe. This will be my first cookbook challenge, which is basically where you plan to cook a recipe from one of your cookbooks. Now you can challenge yourself and cook a new recipe every day, week or month. We will see how good I will be in following this routine but will give it a try now.  

Moroccan couscous is a great recipe for how to make couscous from scratch and includes a beef tagine. According to this cookbook, traditionally seven vegetables are used in this dish. Since I did not have all the ingredients requested in the recipe, I had to improvise a little. Will write down the recipe here as well as the changes that I did while cooking this dish. Following the original recipe it will serve at least 6.

1 kg trimmed lamb cut into pieces (I used 300 g beef)
2 onions, chopped
55 g chickpeas, soaked overnight (I used canned butter beans)
1 tsp ground ginger
salt & pepper
pinch saffron thread (I skipped this)
4 small turnips in large pieces (I used 4 potatoes instead)
2 small carrots in small pieces
450 g regular couscous (I used instant couscous)
25 g smen or butter, melted
a little rosewater ( I didn't have)
55 g raisins
4 medium courgettes, halved length ways
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp each chopped fresh coriander and parsley (I used dried herbs)

Spices: I used 1 tsp of the tagine mix as well as 1 tbsp of Ras el Hanout mix.

1- Place the meat, with onions and chickpeas in a large stockpot. Stir in the ginger, saffron and 1 tsp pepper. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Add turnips and carrots.

Since I did not use exactly the same ingredients I changed the way to cook slightly. I boiled the meat separately and seared it and then added the vegetables.

2- Place the couscous in a large bowl. Dissolve 1 tsp salt in 150 ml water and sprinkle over the couscous. Stir with your fingers and break up any lumps. Place it over the stockpot with the simmering stew. Steam, covered, for 20 minutes. Then, turn the couscous onto a large earthenware dish and sprinkle with little salted water. Lightly rub in the melted smen or butter and rosewater and put the couscous back into the bowl and place it over the cooking stew. 

Since I used instant couscous, I followed the recipe on the package. For 3 persons, I used 1 cup of couscous for each person and added 2 cups of boiling water as well as 1,5 cup of the simmering stock from the stew.

3- Add raisins, courgettes, squash  tomatoes, salt, coriander and parsley to the simmering stew then replace the couscous over the pot. Steam for a further 30 minutes, occasionally fluffing the couscous grains with a fork.

I added my vegetables earlier, but added at this point the raisins and the butter beans as well as the herbs.

4- To serve, pile the couscous onto a large earthenware serving dish. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat and vegetables to the center of the dish. Pour over some of the broth.

Traditionally couscous is eaten from a big earthenware dish by everyone with their hands. I used a normal plate to serve the couscous individually for each person. Garnished it with basil in lack of any other fresh herbs.


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Mirza Ghasemi (Persian Aubergine Dip) - Recipe

From the north of Iran, around the Caspian sea comes this lovely light dish, Mirza Ghasemi. First time I tasted it, was during a family dinner at a Persian restaurant. We ordered the dip as a starter. It was so delicious and tasty that afterwards I could simply not forget about this dish. I had to try it myself and did some research online. Luckily I found a great videoclip on youtube (see the video below) and gave it a go myself. 

It is such a light yet meaty dip, which is usually the case when you use aubergine in a recipe. It adds great flavors to this dish especially since you grill the aubergine. Mirza Ghasemi is very versatile as you can have it as a light lunch, appetizer or side dish. It works very well as a starter in a Mediterranean menu. It is another simple dish that takes no time to make and is simply divine. 

I have to say that it was somewhat hard to find an authentic recipe online, as different people followed different recipes. Some added garlic to it, some did not add onions at all and some used eggs in it as well. This specific recipe that I am using here was chosen simply because it has the same taste and texture as the Mirza Ghasemi I had in the Persian restaurant and fell in love with it.


1,5 tbsp oil
1 aubergine, diced
2 small onions, diced
2 tomatoes, diced,
salt and pepper
Chili flakes
1,5 tsp tomato puree

(I also added a spice mix from Kurdistan which goes really well with fried tomatoes and onions, but can be skipped.)


1- Grill the aubergine over the fire if you use a gas cooker or grill it in the oven until well cooked.

2- Dice the onions and fry them until golden brown and then add the diced tomatoes as well.

3- While the onions and tomatoes are frying, peel off the grilled skin from the aubergine and dice it as well and then add it to the mix once the onions and tomatoes have been cooking for about 5 minutes on medium heat.

4- If the mix becomes to dry add 1,5 tbsp of water and also add 1,5 tsp of tomato puree.  Season the mix with the spices and stir well. Let it cook on medium heat for about another 5 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and mash it with a food mixer. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes before serving.

5- Serve with pita bread or freshly baked naan bread.

The following youtube clip is the inspiration for this lovely aubergine dip.


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Swedish Chocolate Balls (chokladbollar) - Recipe

In Sweden, you will hardly find anybody who does not like chocolate balls. This treat is one of the first dishes we learn in our cooking classes in school and usually the one that all children love to make. Why? It is easy, takes no time and it is chocolate!

I made these for work as a Swedish treat and everyone loved it. So I thought I will share the recipe here. In Sweden we call them "chokladbollar". Since you basically just mix all the ingredients and roll them into round shapes, you can make them bite-sized or into giant balls. I remember during high school, me and a close friend would buy one chocolate ball and share it as it was so big, in our favorite Cafe. Serving it with a nice cup of coffee or tea is simply delicious. I love the pearl sugar around the balls, however if it is hard to find it here in UK, you can use desiccated coconut to garnish them. I usually buy my pearl sugar in one of the Scandinavian shops in London, for instance the shop Totally Swedish.

Serves: ca 20 chocolate balls
Time: max 20 minutes

150 g butter
2,5 dl sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or 1,5 tsp vanilla extract
4,5 tbsp cocoa powder
4 dl oats
1,5 dl desiccated coconut
3 tbsp cold instant coffee (if you do not like the coffee taste, you can use water instead)

Garnish with pearl sugar or desiccated coconut.


1- Mix the butter and sugar well, make sure that the butter is not too soft otherwise the batter will be runny. Give it a taste and see if more oats or sugar should be added.

2- Mix in the rest of the ingredients and roll them to rounds shapes.

3- Roll the balls in pearl sugar or desiccated coconut. Make sure they are well coated. They should be refrigerated for 15 minutes to set, before eating them.


Monday, 18 March 2013

Chicken and Vegetable Stew served with Rice - Recipe

Having taken a nice break from the blog I am now ready to post really nice recipes that I have working on lately. Today, I did my lovely Chicken and Vegetable Stew served with Rice. This dish was really needed, as I went to do some shopping today and it was rainy, blustery and cloudy outside. All I could think of was warm, rich and comforting food. So it had to be a stew and rice, and this one was perfect. The vegetables complement the chicken in this appealing one-dish supper. Usually stews are done in a slow cooker, but this stew did not take a long time to put together. Stews are versatile and great for eating days in a row or freezing the leftovers. I basically took whatever vegetables I had at home.


6 chicken thighs with bones but remove the skin.
5 small potatoes, diced
1/3 aubergine, diced
1/2 courgette, diced
1 onion, diced
1 cup water
1/2 tbsp paprika paste
1 tbsp tomato puree


1/2 tsp turmeric powder, garlic powder, paprika, curry powder, fenugreek powder, clove powder, 
1 tsp coriander powder, cumin powder, ginger powder, salt, dried parsley.


1- Wash and remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Put them in a casserole and put on the lid and let them cook in its own water. I am using my favorite round cast iron casserole from Le Creuset

2- While the chicken cooks, peel and dice the vegetables and measure up the spices.

3- Once the chicken has boiled and cooked through, sear the chicken thighs until browned. I salted the chicken thighs while searing. 

4- Remove the chicken thighs from the casserole and put them aside. In the same casserole put in all the vegetables and spices. Don't forget to salt the vegetables.. Fry them until browned for about 10 minutes on medium/ high heat. Then add the chicken to the vegetables and add a cup of water. Stir well and let it come to a boil.

5- After few minutes of cooking add the paprika paste as well as the tomato puree and turn down the heat and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes. Check it once in a while and stir and taste to see if it needs more seasoning. I also added 1 tsp dried parsley as I forgot to added earlier.

6 - I usually cook rice once the stew is simmering on low heat, as it usually takes 30-40 minutes to make the rice and they finish at the same time. I use Tilda rice. I love this rice as it is not to fragrant and easy to cook, and comes out well every time. I basically use 1.5 cup rice to 2 cups of water. I heat up a pot with 2 tbsp of oil and add the washed rice. Then add the 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil. Put on the lid and turn down to a low heat and let it simmer for about 30- 40 minutes. Do not stir until the rice is fully cooked.

7- Serve the stew with rice and a nice green salad.