Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush...

I have a love hate relationship with aubergine, but had my eyes opened when I tried some baba ganoush made by a friend. I had to have a go at making my own.

I associate baba ganoush with the Middle East, so when I was looking for a recipe my first query was basically Yotam Ottolenghi baba ganoush. What turned up was unexpected though, as it turns out that Felicity Cloake has done one of her How to make the perfect… for baba ganoush on The Guardian website.

I decided to go straight for Felicity’s recipe, as life is too short to go through the angst of picking one of the others and then being disapointed. I’ve made it twice now, and I have to say that it’s bloody delicious.

If like me, you don’t have a gas hob and don’t want to soften the aubergine under the grill, then buy a disposable barbeque. The small ones are big enough for four aubergines and the smokiness that’s imparted isn’t too much. Although it can take quite a while to soften large aubergines, as some of these wee barbeques aren’t the most powerful.

This will most likely become a staple dish at parties and barbeques going forward, it’s definitely worth trying.

Ginger Beer-Battered Stuffed Tofu with Asian Mushy Peas

Ginger Beer-Battered Stuffed Tofu with Asian Mushy Peas

This recipe is the whole reason I bought Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian book. To be honest though, I’ve been a bit too scared to cook it. I think that’s mainly due to me having no confidence in my ability to produce something that remotely resembles the photos of any dish I want to make. I always feel that I’m going to cock it up somehow and produce something that’s inedible. I’m my own worst enemy in that regard. It just so happened that one weekend I said to my wife that I’d cook her anything she wanted, but it had to be from this book. She chose this recipe, mainly because she knew I wanted to make it.

I thought there might be a few issues trying to put this dish together and I wasn’t wrong. The recipe calls for cutting a slit into the tofu and stuffing some of the filling into it. Now to me, any recipe that has a filling, obviously has the right amount of filling, i.e. there shouldn’t be any left over. So in this case, exactly a quarter of the filling should be stuffed into the slit in each of the four bits of tofu. Now, if you use the Cauldron Foods tofu like I do, there is no way you’re going to get anywhere near that much filling into a block of it, as it’s just too fragile. So either I’m using the wrong type of tofu, or the recipe produces way too much filling.

If you find yourself making this recipe and you’re using the Cauldron Foods tofu, don’t despair, there’s an easy solution. Instead of cutting a slit in the tofu, cut a trench. So rather than just the one cut in the middle of the block, make parallel cuts on the thirds and then scoop out the middle with the handle of a teaspoon, remembering to leave enough tofu at the edges and bottom. Then you should have enough space to stuff about a quarter of the filling into the tofu without any risk of it bursting open.

The only other thing I’d say about tofu, is that it’s pretty flavourless stuff, even when stuffed with a flavorful filling and encased in tasty batter. It’s especially tasteless, if it hasn’t been completely drained of all moisture, which I’ve never quite been able to do; at least not without damaging the tofu. I think that dusting it in some sort of spice mix, inside and out, might go some way to alleviating the watery flavourless lump that you encounter between the two really tasty bits.

Finally, this isn’t the biggest dish in the world, even with the mushy peas, it’s crying out for a side of chips, wedges, or something similar. I have an inkling to pair it with the Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips, or a variation thereof. Either way, I’m definitely going to make it again, although I might try and make my own tofu first…

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad

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I’ve made this Yotam Ottolenghi Mango and Coconut Rice Salad a number of times, it’s a firm favorite. A couple of things though; don’t use rancid coconut flakes, make sure they’re relatively fresh, nothing worse than munching on rancid coconut flakes. Also, it’s currently the arse end of the alphonso mango season at the moment, so do yourself a favour and pop down to your local exotic ingredients shop and buy some; your taste buds will thank you.

Chocolate Truffles

I bought Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian last year and if I’m being honest, I’ve not used it enough, not nearly enough. I’ve made a few things out of it though, including a couple of the batches of the chocolate truffles, using differing flavour combinations. The first one I tried, was the rosemary and sea salt combination, which I made as a Christmas present for my wife. They didn’t go down well…

I thought they are OK, which is just as well, as I ended up having to eat the lot! To be fair, they were quite strong, with the rosemary imparting quite a powerful taste. I’m not overly surprised that they polarised opinion in the house because of that. To make amends, I made my wife another batch of truffles, this time, using the pomegranate and mint flavour combination, mainly as I had some mint stalks left over and we have a bottle of pomegranate molasses in the house. These went down a lot better, although they still didn’t get finished.

This time it was the flavour of the pomegranate molasses that didn’t go down as well as it should have. It’s got quite a sharp sweet sour tang thing going on, and maybe I put it a bit too much in, I liked them though, even if they were a bit on the soft side. I think the next batch will use the cardamom and orange flavour combination, hopefully it’ll be third time lucky…

Quinoa Salad with Dried Iranian Lime

This is one of those Yotam Ottolenghi recipes that we don’t make enough, it’s really delicious. Just go easy on the dried lime though, as it’s very potent and pungent. Making this dish isn’t with out a bit of middle class angst though, mainly caused by reading Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa? on The Guardian website

If you’re struggling to find any dried lime, then pop down to your local Asian supermarket, if you’re lucky enough to have one. We have the most excellent Nasreen Dar in Cambridge, which is one of my first ports of call when I need to pick up some more esoteric ingredients.