Hands up all ye who could not keep up with the galloping pace of December this last year! And now those who amidst all the Christmas stress threw a little birthday get-together shortly before Christmas Eve and cooked all weekend to make the cutest cake (ever) and a spread of Ottolenghi’s scrumptious vegetable dishes (aubergines!). A fair few courses were getting axed as the prep day progressed, where are these Heinzelmännchen (German elfs) when you need them to chop and mix and whisk up all those extra-super-delicious sauces for each recipe?!

Well, anyway, by now we all will be in desperate need for a curative hangover breakfast scoring some more health points than the usual remedial fry-up or a fantastic brunch dish that’s easily (and best) prepared in advance. Allow me to introduce you to one of the most restorative & delightful breakfast / brunch dishes ever Continue reading

South Indian Sambhar


If you think dhal is only a lentil curry, you should have one immediately, preferably this Sambhar (or Sambar), a fragrant, rich & savoury stew originating from Southern India and the Tamil cuisine which could be described as an Indian spiced pease pudding. We loved this recipe so much (even my meat-centric husband will admit in front of witnesses how much he liked this) that it will have regular appearances in the James’s kitchen. Not to mention, that I bought a massive Indian cookbook (aptly named The only book on Indian food you’ll ever need) to try out more Sambhar variations.

The ingredients are temptingly exotic: curry leaves, fresh grated coconut, fenugreek seeds, tamarind, Asafoetida (shopping for those is already fun) and though the multiple steps may seem a little daunting at first, it is relatively straightforward. For those who try to minimize washing-up, the Sambhar will loose a few points in this department but it is totally worth it. There are layers of flavours & textures: creamy & smooth with a little bite combined with fragrant spices, the subtle sourness of tamarind and a hint of sweetness. Some Sambhar recipes add a selection of vegetables to the stew, I prefer them on the side (incidently, a good way to use up leftover veg) & serve it with basmati rice or naan bread.

Continue reading

cauliflower fritters, spicy carrot salad & lime sauce

These are fantastic fritters and the original recipe is by Sami Tamimi’s mother who according to the introduction made them once a week for the children. Is there a better recommendation? I stumbled upon this recipe to cope with a ton of baked cauliflower – my favourite way to eat it since I had roasted cauliflower with cumin a few years ago and recently baked cauliflower with brown butter crumbs – and needed a way to rework the last remnants of cauliflower.

Preferably, fritters for me should have some bite, so I adapted the recipe to use almost double the amount of cauliflower given in the recipe, baked it & chopped it into smaller pieces rather than cook & mash it, fiddled with the spices, too. The fragrant & zingy lime sauce is a great condiment to balance the spice-laden fritters and I have thrown in my quick spicy carrot salad for a boost of extra colour and to offer another texture for a complete supper.

Cauliflower fritters with spicy carrot salad & lime yoghurt
makes 2-3 generous portions, adapted from Ottolenghi. The cookbook.

½ head of cauliflower (ca. 250g)
olive oil
60g plain flour (optional: mix in a little chickpea flour)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ garlic clove, finely minced
1 shallot, minced
2 eggs
sunflower oil for frying

2 large carrots
3 tablespoons yoghurt
1-2 teaspoons harissa
1 teaspoon lime juice
olive oil
salt & pepper

150g yoghurt (the recipe recommends Greek, I had ordinary organic 3.5%)
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
zest of ½ lime
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400° F). Cut the cauliflower into pieces (ranging from the size of a lime to that of a walnut, reserve the rubble), toss in a baking dish with a little olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes (stirring occasionally) until some pieces have golden brown & crispy edges. Throw in the tiny pieces after about 15 minutes. Leave to cool, then chop into smallish pieces, don’t mush.

For the carrot salad: Cut the carrots into thin strips using a mandolin or a grater. Mix with yoghurt, harissa, a few drops of lime juice, olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Leave for the flavours to mingle and prepare the other stuff. Before serving check the seasoning again.

Lime sauce: Mix yoghurt, coriander, lime zest & juice, olive oil and season. The sauce should have quite a zing to it.

Fritters: Whisk the flour with the spices, add garlic, shallot, parsley and stir in the eggs for a homogenous batter, then the cauliflower. Heat the sunflower oil (1.5 cm depth is recommended) in a pan over high heat and carefully drop about 1 heaped tablespoon of cauliflower mixture for each fritter into the oil. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Place on a paper towel to drain of excess oil and serve with the carrot salad & lime sauce.

Auf deutsch:
Blumenkohlpuffer mit scharfem Möhrensalat & Limettensauce
für 2-3 Portionen, adaptiert von Ottolenghi. The cookbook.

½ Blumenkohlkopf (ca. 250g)
60g Mehl (man kann auch ein wenig Kichererbsenmehl darunter mischen)
1 TL gemahlener Kreuzkümmel
¼ TL Zimt
¼ TL Kurkuma
¼ TL Cayenne
Salz & Pfeffer
2 EL gehackte großblätterige Petersilie
½ Knoblauchzehe, fein gehackt
1 Schalotte, fein gehackt
2 Eier
Sonnenblumenöl zum Ausbacken

2 große Möhren
3 EL Joghurt
1-2 TL Harissa
1 TL Limettensaft
Salz & Pfeffer

150g Joghurt (empfohlen ist griechischer Joghurt, ich hatte 3,5% Bio Joghurt da)
2 EL gehackter Koriander
geriebene Schale von ½ (Bio) Limette
1-2 EL Limettensaft
1 EL Olivenöl
Salz & Pfeffer

Backofen auf 200°C vorheizen.
Blumenkohl in Stücken schneiden (ungefähr von der Größe einer Limette bis zu einer Walnuss), mit wenig Olivenöl in einer Auflaufform vermischen und für 30 Minuten backen bis die Röschen krosse, goldbraune Ecken haben. Von Zeit zu Zeit den Blumenkohl wenden. Die kleinen Krümel aufbewahren und nach ca. 15 Minuten ebenfalls hinzugeben und mitbacken. Abkühlen lassen.

Für den Möhrensalat die Möhren mit einer Mandoline oder einer Reibe in dünne Streifchen schneiden, mit Joghurt, Harissa, Limettensaft, Öl mischen und mit Salz und Pfeffer würzen. Eine Weile ruhen lassen, vor dem Servieren nochmals abschmecken.

Für die Limettensauce den Joghurt mit Koriander, Limettenschalen und –saft, Olivenöl verrühren und mit Salz und Pfeffer würzen.

Für die Puffer den Blumenkohl in kleinere Stückchen hacken, aber nicht zu klein. Das Mehl mit den Gewürzen vermischen, Zwiebel, Knoblauch, Petersilie hinzugeben und mit den Eiern zu einem dicklichen Ausbackteig verrühren, dann den Blumenkohl hineingeben. Das Sonnenblumenöl in einer Pfanne erhitzen (ca. 1,5 cm tief) und pro Puffer vorsichtig einen gehäuften Esslöffel Masse in das Öl träufeln und bei starker Hitze ca. 2-3 Minuten von jeder Seite zu goldbraunen Puffern backen. Auf Küchenpapier das überschüssige Öl abtropfen lassen und mit Möhrensalat und Limettensauce servieren.

Indian spiced chickpeas with mint & coriander yoghurt dressing

Do you know, when you are using this upbeat voice & add ‘we liked it so much last time’ to sell dinner, everyone is forewarned: “Hey, we are having this lovely aubergine, red pepper & pea curry for supper that we liked so much last time! And it comes with this new chickpea salad!” Well, we had to use up some vegetables and there was a great void in the creative department – all on holiday away from the lead-grey sky (and we really did like that curry last time, honest). Maybe we did not shower it with Michelin stars and “Greatest supper ever”-nominations but it was nice and after some tweaking it was still nice and boring.

What saved the day was the wild card, this little salad that was supposed to be a starter and thrown in at the last moment because I just stumbled over the recipe in Food & Wine and some of the ingredients where on the to-be-used list as well. This tangy, herby dressed salad perfectly balances intense and crunchy spices, lemony sourness and onion-y sharpness against the creamy chickpeas and its success should have not come unexpected since it was on a best-of staff-picks list. I have made a few adjustments: I used crème fraîche  and yoghurt (1.5%) instead of whole-milk yoghurt since that was in the fridge and simplified the spice-frying (tossed all into the oil at the same time instead of delaying some due to slap-dash reading). Those might very well be the reason for the creamyness and lovely crunch and I was quite happy about those particular traits.

Just for the record, yesterday’s vegetarian supper was Bombay potatoes with a fried egg on top (yummy, coming soon) and the wild card side dish fell through. What a shame, it looked so nice.

Indian spiced chickpeas with lemon, mint & coriander yoghurt dressing
serves 6 as a side dish, adapted from Jerry Traunfeld’s (Poppy, Seattle) recipe in Food & Wine

1 tin (800g/28oz; 450g/15oz drained) chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used brown mustard seeds)
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ cup yoghurt
¼ cup crème fraîche (or use another ¼ cup whole-milk yoghurt)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
¼ cup (or more) chopped mint
¼ cup (or more) chopped coriander
¼ – ½ teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
salt & pepper

Pour the rinsed chickpeas into a bowl, they should be drained in a strainer to get rid of too much excess water but no need to worry about a few drops of water. Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet until it is warm and shimmers. You are supposed to add the mustard seeds first and cook them with a partially closed lid for about a minute until they stop popping, after which the cumin and fennel seeds are supposed to be added and fried for 30 seconds. Or, do as I did and add the whole lot to the shimmering oil with one swooshing motion and fry for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pour the hot spice oil over the chickpeas and mix with the yoghurt, crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, spring onion, mint, coriander and season with Piment d’Espelette, salt & pepper. Stir and check the seasoning and add more lemon juice if needed and serve at room temperature.

lentil, leaf & labneh lunch salad

This is my new favourite lunch salad: red and bitter Italian salad leaves like dark red radicchio and treviso, purple radish sprouts and pinks radishes, leftover red lentil tikka masala and the whole dish is finally crowned with some of the labneh you might have made the week before. This cool and creamy yoghurt cheese provides a nice balance to the quite spicy lentil dish and frankly, the colour combinations are amazing. Why is this a superfood salad? Red salad leaves are high in phytonutrients (Splendid table podcast: Wild food), red, orange & yellow foods come with their own backpack of extra benefits, just as pulses are good to add to anyone’s diet.Most of my lunch salads contain some kind of seed, grain or pulse. I absolutely adore the texture and taste that is added hereby to any salad and makes me feel even more virtuous, healthy and smug. You can prepare red or puy lentils, chickpeas, couscous, pumpkin seeds, wild rice or the nutty tasting Grünkern (half ripe & kilned spelt, a speciality of Baden, southern Germany) on the weekend or cook some more for dinner and stow away the rest in the fridge for lunch.To actually find red lentil tikka masala leftovers in your fridge, I took the liberty of adding the recipe below. It is a version of something one might eat on a 5:2 day. As a full dinner, we add steamed brokkoli, snow peas or some baby spinach. Perfect with or without rice, naan, roti.

Orange-red superfood salad with labneh & the night before’s lentil tikka masala
Lunch for one

Radicchio or treviso salad leaves
radish sprouts
radishes, sliced
¼ red onion, chopped
about 3 tablespoons leftover lentil tikka masala
1 ball of labneh or a small round of goats cheese
dijon mustard & nut oil vinaigrette

Make a vinaigrette out of 1 teaspoon coarse Dijon and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, add salt & pepper, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 6 tablespoons of nut (hazelnut/walnut) oil. You can keep the rest for the next days in the fridge.

Arrange salad ingredients on your plate, spoon the leftover tikka over the top and crown with a ball of labneh or goats cheese. Drizzle vinaigrette over the salad.

Quick red lentil tikka masala
makes about 2 portions, 4 if you add the extra vegetables
2 teaspoons sunflower or groundnut oil
2 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3 carrots, finely chopped chopped
2 tablespoons masala paste (bought or homemade)
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
250ml (1 cup) vegetable stock
200g (1 cup or 7 oz) red lentils, washed
3 carrots, cut in discs
1 red paprika, finely chopped

Fry the onions and pepper in the oil for about 4 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and carrot and cook for another minute. Spoon in the masala paste and fry until fragrant, then add the tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Add the red lentils and cook for about 10 minutes testing regularly – there should be still a little bite in them.

Masala paste

2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted & ground
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted & ground
3 cm ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
3 tablespoons tomato puree
salt & pepper
one handful of fresh coriander

Blend all ingredients in a food processor to a fragrant & spicy paste. Keep the rest in a jar in the fridge for further use, ours was fine for about 1 or 2 weeks.