Carrot Sultana Salad

Lovely carrot sultana salad, based on one from my Lebanese book. Works well with middle eastern dishes and Indian. For me it’s actually got a Chinese sort of flavour, I think because of the toasted sesame seeds, ginger and spring onions.
Quite simply, it works with everything. Great with barbecues where you want a range of salad types and textures, with grilled meat or fish.
The modern plump “ready to eat” sultanas/raisins that are not fully dehydrated work well.
Quantities are approximate as with all salads you will want to vary to taste and preference.
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 100g of nice sultanas, you could use raisins
  • Chopped coriander to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons of grated ginger
  • 3 spring onions
  • Drizzle of balsamic vinegar to taste
  • Teaspoon of runny honey
  • A Generous tablespoon of sesame seeds, which you have toasted in a dry frying pan.
  1. If you have one, use a mandolin to julienne half of the peeled carrots, then grate the rest coarsely. You could just grate all of them, it depends what sort of texture you want. I like the crunchiness of the little carrot julienne in my salad. Texture is important.
  2. Add all the other ingredients and mix
  3. The finished salad needs to stand for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to get to know one another, don’t rush it.
For your carrot sultana salad to work you really just need to adjust the ingredients to taste. I think it needs a bit of vinegar and a bit of sweetness. If it’s too sweet add a teaspoon of white wine vinegar, too sour add a bit more honey.
Some toasted peanut, cashew, or pistachio might be a welcome addition.

Spanakopita – A Classic Greek Dish

My brother put me on to this and it’s a tasty lunch or dinner, best veggie I think. It is an easy Greek filo pastry based pie and can be prepared a bit in advance. Serve at room temperature, or just lukewarm.
It’s really a traditional spinach and feta Greek “pie”, but can be varied in many directions. The dish is traditionally veggie but I suppose you could put some minced lamb in it and some Middle East type spices? Probably a hanging offence in Greece.
I use my loose bottomed flan dish that I also use for quiche. It works well and makes removing the finished pie much easier.
I find I have more filo than I need for one. You could get two spanakopita from a pack. Don’t think it would freeze well from a cheese/egg perspective so you’d need to eat them both from the fridge over a couple of days.
Lovely served with a nice salad.
  • A pack of filo pastry
  • Small butternut squash
  • 120g of young spinach, wilted and drained. Use a sieve or muslin/tea towel.
  • 200g Feta chopped up, there need to be cubes of cheese, probably about 1.5cm square
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 50-75g melted butter to coat the filo
  • Mint leaves chopped (careful not to overdo as it can be a bit too minty), some basil wouldn’t go amiss
  • Optional – some small chopped courgettes.
  • Courgette flowers for decoration or you can put some in the pie if you have enough.
  1. Peel the butternut squash and cut into 2cm chunks. Coat in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast it at 180C fan for about 30-40 minutes till cooked. A bit of colour is no bad thing.
  2. Mix the cooled butternut squash with the eggs, cheese, spinach, herbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the bottom of the flan dish with a sheet of filo then brush it with butter. Put on two more, coating them with butter and rotating them a bit so that all the sides of the dish are covered.
  4. Tip the filling into the dish and level out.
  5. Fold the edges of the filo base back over towards the middle
  6. Now cover with about another 3 layers and any loose scraps of filo, buttering each piece.
  7. Decorate with some courgette flowers, coating them in butter, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  8. Cook at 180C fan for about 20 minutes, more or less depending on how golden it goes
Best served lukewarm or at room temperature, probably with a Greek salad. The Spanakopita can be kept chilled overnight in a fridge. It also reheats to crisp up the soggy pastry.
The filling is easily varied:
  • Leaves could be rocket, horseradish, chard, kale
  • Cheese could be gorgonzola or any other cheese but not sure how well some would work. Experimentation carries a risk.
  • Herb could be mint, basil, thyme, tarragon, fennel, oregano, dill, parsley
  • Squash could be carrot, could add some finely chopped onion, probably cooked off slightly for best results.
  • Mix and match veg as you wish just be careful not to add something too wet, or that needs a lot more cooking. In which case, pre-cook and/or drain.

Green Onion Chutney – The Ultimate Indian Side Dish

A very good Green Onion Chutney. It has a zingy flavour with a mixture of sweet and sour from the lime and sugar, and fresh herbs from the coriander and mint, the chillies add the final kick. Best eaten fresh. I’d say within an hour or two. But may keep for a few hours longer in the fridge. It is great as part of a small set of raitas, pickles, salads, and chutneys when serving Indian nibbles like pakora.
It’s particularly easy to make. I have a small food processor and find it essential for this. Just put everything in the processor and blitz, I use the Pulse feature. If you have the patience then you could chop it all finely by hand, but for me, life’s too short.
This chutney works with almost any curry, pakora, poppadoms etc. It’s particularly nice with Kheema.
  • Large handful mint leaves
  • Large handful coriander leaves
  • 2 fresh green chillies roughly chopped (I leave the seeds in)
  • 1 small (about 75g) onion roughly chopped
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  1. Tip it all into a food processor and blitz on pulse; you might need to scrape it off the sides a couple of times. Doesn’t want to be too smooth in my opinion. Some texture is required otherwise you will just make a paste.

Red Cabbage – An Easy Autumn Classic

Red Cabbage is another autumn/winter favourite.

It’s a very useful side dish which has many virtues:
  • it can be made a few hours in advance
  • it can be spiced up and made as “festive” as you like. A thin slice of orange peel might make a festive flavour.
  • it is easy to do and hard to go wrong
  • it’s quick and simple to cook.
You must use eating apples as they will keep their shape when cooked. Cooking apples, like Bramleys, will just go to mush so should be avoided.
  • knob of butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced or chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 x 600g red cabbage, shredded finely using a food processor (white core discarded)
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 100ml red wine vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large lidded saucepan.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the onion and fry gently until softened.
  3. Then stir in the spices. Add the cabbage and fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until glossy.
  4. Stir in the sugar, apples and red wine vinegar. Cover with a lid and let it cook gently for 30 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust salt/sugar/vinegar, and cook longer if needed, as you prefer.

Pakora – The Best Indian Streetfood

This Pakora is lovely, and can easily be made in advance and reheated. Made by deep frying. If you are reheating then this can be done by heating in a hot oven, or refrying to crisp and heat up. The Pakora freeze well too, and like all of these things, I think this helps the flavour.
  • 250g chickpea (besan) flour
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½-1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (vary this according to how many bits of green chilli you will use and how hot you like it)
  • 250-300ml cold water
  • 300g potatoes, coarsely grated. You need to squeeze the water out of the grated potatoes.
  • 300g onions either all grated or very very finely chopped, or you can leave some in longer pieces to make the finished pakora a bit more gnarly if you like. But you really need to grate at least some of the onion to get the flavour.
  • 100g fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 or more fresh green chilli, with or without the seeds depending on preference.
  1. Mix the flours, salt and spices in a large bowl.
  2. Add water till you get the thickness of double cream
  3. Add everything else and mix it in. (If the mixture is too wet add a bit more chickpea flour and mix it in)
  4. Using a deep fat fryer at about 180C fry the pakora in batches. My fryer is small so I find I can only do 2-3 at a time. It takes 3-4 minutes per cook and I usually try and flip them over halfway.
You can veg this up in lots of different ways. I’ve made with courgette rather than potato and it’s been lovely. You can substitute some of the potatoes with whole frozen peas.
Serve with some salad and dips/sauces/yoghurts/raita/chutney/pickles etc. Let’s be honest, what’s wrong with a bit of tomato ketchup on its own or even mixed with some greek yoghurt. Green onion chutney is a winner too.