Chana dal and ras el hanout

I’ve been trying to stop being lazy about dal and try different bases from my over-used red split lentils. All the books say that you must soak these first, preferably overnight. I just cooked them straight from the packet, I think long cooking times of these sorts of dishes have the best outcomes, so I don’t want to skim on that anyway.


  • 1 cup/half a packet of chana dal, washed and picked over for foreign bits
  • perhaps 2 dessertspoons of ras el hanout, which I discuss here.
  • a couple of onions, fairly finely chopped
  • garlic, chopped
  • ginger, chopped finely
  • some chopped vegetables: I used two zucchinis, two med-large potatoes and two carrots


  • Fry the onion in the ghee until softened, add the garlic and ginger and a minute or so later, the spice mix for another minute. Keep stirring throughout.
  • Add the washed dal and four cups of water. Bring to the boil.
  • Cover and simmer vigorously for an hour or two. Check to make sure you don’t need to add more water, and to see how the softening process is going.
  • Once the dal is fairly soft, add the chopped vegetables, bring to the boil again and then lower to a simmer, covered, until vegetables are cooked to your liking.

You may wish to do as I did, which was to partially mash the dal with a potato masher before adding the vegetables. I don’t really know if that was a good idea.

Best served day two, but we enjoyed it tonight with a hot mango chutney, plain yoghurt and a simple basmati rice dish.

Eggs and yoghurt in Peter Gordon’s style

We used to regularly eat at the Providores and Tapa Room when in London, but at some point we realised that the only dish we really REALLY wanted was the ‘Turkish Eggs‘. And that being the case, why couldn’t we make such a simple dish ourselves?

Fast forward some years and finally we’ve done it, more or less as per the link above.

Ingredients for two

  • four pieces of toast
  • 4 eggs
  • about half a cup of strained yoghurt, room temperature
  • finely chopped or crushed garlic
  • a teensy amount of chilli
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • parsley or chives


  • mix the yoghurt with a little olive oil and the garlic in a serving bowl
  • bring water to a gentle simmer in a wide pan and gently slide in eggs from a saucer
  • make the toast
  • on a low heat melt the butter and swish in the chilli when melted. Turn off the heat, but you can leave the butter there to stay warm


On the toast place the eggs, which you removed with a slotted spoon. Drizzle with the butter. The yoghurt can be placed on top or on the side. A little finely chopped parsley or chives can be strewn across the eggs and butter if desired. We didn’t today.

This is somewhat different to how it is done in Providores where the eggs and yoghurt concoction is served in a bowl with toast on the side. As you please.

Thoughts on poaching eggs

This was my first time trying the wide pan and gentle poaching. Usually I do the ferociously boiling deep pan with the vortex and all that. But I find it really stressful, timing has to be perfect, it’s hard to see what’s going on, and after removal the egg still cooks fairly quickly, not surprising given what it’s been subjected to.

I thought I hadn’t put enough water in the wide pan today – the tips of the yolks were slightly exposed. But in the end I simply ladled water gently over the yolks and that worked a treat. At the end it was easy to see that the eggs were ready and they didn’t firm up as they were being eaten, which I attribute to the more gentle cooking.

Word of the day: GENTLE. This is a recipe that needs things to be done gently! But also quickly, if not frantically. You want everything to be hot when you are serving.

I didn’t add any of those things that are supposed to help the eggs during the poaching and mine behaved well.

Don’t forget

You have to make the tea whilst all this is going on…what would such a meal be like without tea?




Baharat spice mix

I realised the other day that I hadn’t made baharat for the longest time – never in Geneva and I’ve been here eight years. In Melbourne long ago I often used to put it on pork chops which were then put on a wood BBQ. The BBQ is not an option now, but pork abounds. Mix the baharat with olive oil and vinegar to make a paste. Rub all over the meat before baking in the oven until done. I cooked it fairly high, about 210C.

We had it hot on day one, but this is much better left and eaten cold, which is how we had it last night on a platter with stuffed eggs, falafels, cheese and so on. It is a good alternative to chicken in these summer rolls.

Like all these spice mixes, it is not written in stone. Like all good Australians, I’ve always used Tess Mallos’ version:

In a spice grinder:

70g black peppercorns
25g coriander seeds
10g cassia bark
20g cloves
35g cumin seeds
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
4 whole nutmegs, smashed with a mallet
50g paprika

I make half this at a time, though if you use it a lot it is definitely worth doing the full quantity.

Salad with falafel and eggs


  • mixed salad leafs, or baby spinach washed and dried
  • eggs boiled until soft-hard, one per person
  • cooked falafels, a few, broken into small pieces
  • yogurt
  • tahini
  • lemon juice
  • finely chopped/crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • roasted ground cumin


Put the salad leaves in a serving bowl, mix in the falafels – I took them from the fridge, left over from yesterday, and broke them up by gently crushing them.

For the dressing: mix the rest of the ingredients, I used several tablespoons of yoghurt and 2 teasps of tahini. It’s all to taste.

Mix the dressing into the salad.

Cut the tops of the eggs and scoop the egg into the salad, gently mix again.

That’s it. The toast addict had it on top of toast. I had it on its own.

Roden’s spinach and chickpea soup revisited

When I went to make this much loved recipe, I discovered that I had a couple of issues. Firstly, the only vinegar I had was so woosy that one could scarcely tell it was vinegar at all. It was a Coriole sweet aged red wine vinegar, to be precise. Secondly, I had no stock, either chicken or vegetable, so water had to do.

I thought I had free rein at this point to vary it as I pleased, and instead of cumin and paprika, I added ras el hahout.

Worked a treat!

Baba Ghanouj

We took a picnic lunch on a boat cruise recently, including various carefully-made-by-my-own-hands dishes. The Baba Ghanouj, however, was not one of them. The difference between making it yourself and not, really is worth the trouble. This is my preferred method.

Ingredients from Greg Malouf, part of the incredible dynasty in Melbourne that has taken Lebanese cuisine to fanciful heights while never forgetting its roots.

2 large eggplants
1/2 clove garlic
3 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon – to taste, at any rate
200g yoghurt

I try to pick eggplants that aren’t too fat as you want to cook them right through. There is no point even thinking about making this dish unless you have gas hotplates – and gas hotplates you are willing to ruin. You may wish to try putting alfoil around the rings. I’ve never found that helps. A charcoal or wood bbq would also do. NOT one of those oven-outdoors-bbqs.

Get a long metal kebab skewer, one for each eggplant and, well, skewer the buggers. Adjust heat on the gas hotplates so that the flames are the right size for the eggplants. You are going to stand and guard these…turn and turn and turn. You want the flesh to collapse, so that the eggplants are all but falling off the skewers, the skin will be blistered and burnt.

Remove, put on a cake cooling wire and then in a plastic bag. You want to collect juices as it sweats which you will discard.

Take the eggplant out of the bag and take off the skin with a knife or fingers. A recipe might urge you that the least bit of charred skin will ruin the end dish, but I don’t think that is true.

Chop the eggplant rather than puree it, you want it to be a little ‘chunky’, not machine made smooth.

Now you can do one of two things:

(1) Add the other ingredients. Put in fridge until you are eating…

(2) Divide into portions. I like to use some of the eggplant for b.g. and use some for other things. Eg kheema – a fantastic way to flavour kheema. And I make it part of a spaghetti sauce. I imagine there are innumerable great things you could do with it.

On flavouring with garlic and lemon. The usual holds: you can add these things but you can’t subtract, so do it slowly, tasting along the way. You know that thing computer scientists do? They look like they are just having fun but they have their excuse all ready ‘compiling’. Well, you get to do that in the kitchen? Eating? Pigging out? No way. Just testing. I noticed a really lovely way of describing what garlic and lemon are to this dish at The Food Blog… as part of the ‘perfect’ baba ghanouj recipe, different from this one, by the way.

And the juice of half a lemon to give some fire
But remember that lemon juice is only there
To compliment the creaminess of the tahini affair
The taste of lemon juice should not be intrusive
Its existence must remain elusive
Crush a bit of garlic with a teaspoon of salt
Before you use too much, you really must halt
In the same way the lemon’s used discretely
The garlic’s existence should almost completely
Be hidden, it’s there just to balance the fruit
A heavy hand and garlic turns into a brute

Middle Eastern Meatballs hot or cold

These can be served hot, eg with toothpicks, as a starter. They are also great cold, so another picnic food.

Middle Eastern meatballs


500g finely minced lamb
pinch of salt
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teasp cumin
1 teasp allspice
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup of coarsely chopped coriander leaves
olive oil


Mix everything every well except the oil. You can wet your hands before rolling the mixture into little balls – no more than one mouthful at a time – or roll in flour. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry meatballs until cooked.

Recipe from Stephanie Alexander The Cook’s Companion

Chickpea stew with Ras el hanout

I made this a couple of times a while ago and am only just writing it down, so chance plays a part in its accuracy. The first time I made it I added quinoa, the second time I didn’t. To be honest, the quinoa looked like little worms to us once cooked, but I dare say it makes a nutritionally superior dish. Worms would.


Two tins of chickpeas rinsed
Two tins of tomatoes chopped or equivalent fresh
Lots of finely chopped garlic and ginger – at least a couple of tblespns of each
Several onions finely diced
Ras el hanout: 2 heaped tblsp
ghee or oil for frying


Gently fry the onion in a generous amount of ghee until softened, add the garlic and ginger, stir and fry for a few minutes and add the ras el hanout. Mix that in well, add the tomatoes, thoroughly mix and then the chickpeas. Bring to a simmer and reduce to very low heat. Cook for at least an hour. It will not surprise you to hear it is better the day after.

Serve with rice. Add coriander, lemon, chilli to taste. It would be fine as part of an Indian meal. I’m sure it would be lovely as a meat dish too if one were so inclined.

As you can see, this is easy-peasy, only making the ras el hanout takes any effort. If you look online you will see a gadzillion ways of making this, it’s almost like a kitchen sink mix. I guess prosperity and geography play their part, as well as personal taste. I took one of the longer lines of ingredients, figuring I’d stick to what was in the cupboard out of the list. It comes from An Edible Mosaic

Ras el hanout

1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground chili powder
2 teaspoons ground paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground mace
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
3/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons ground orris root
2 dried bay leaves, ground in a spice mill and strained through a fine mesh sieve (about 1/8 + 1/16 teaspoon ground)
1 teaspoon organic, culinary-grade dried lavender buds, ground in a spice mill and strained through a fine mesh sieve (about 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 tablespoon organic, culinary-grade dried rose petals, ground in a spice mill and strained through a fine mesh sieve (about 1 1/4 teaspoon ground)

Thoroughly mix and store in an airtight container.
I used all but the last four and ground them all fresh but for the ginger, allspice and tumeric.
As usual, instead of cayenne I added my own chilli powder from dried chillies.

Spinach, chicken liver and pomegranate salad

Chicken liver and pomegranate salad
Chicken liver and pomegranate salad

For 2

8 Chicken livers chopped into halves or so
Leaves – spinach
Olive oil
White wine
pomegranate molasses
apple juice
sherry vinegar

Stem leaves, lie on plate.
Chop hazelnuts in half, toast in frying pan, then skin – they just need a bit of rubbing, this is not arduous.

Heat olive oil in frying pan, add white wine let bubble a bit, reduce heat and then put in chicken livers. Cook gently, turning. Take out and leave on a plate as each is cooked, I really think you have to do this one by one, they will all take different times to be cooked without going hard. Keep in mind they will keep cooking a little when out of the pan.

Add awful sherry vinegar to the liquid contents of the pan – I assume nice sherry vinegar will do, but I only have quite the worst sherry vinegar in the world. Its only redeeming feature is that it was so expensive it can’t be as bad as it tastes. Salt and pepper, pomegranate molasses, a couple of splashes of apple juice.

Cherries….a tempting thought, maybe next time.

Chicken liver pilaf with nuts and herbs

I’m stuck on Turkish at the moment, this is for two.


About 2/3 cup of long-grained rice
double the amount of rice in water or stock (I use chicken stock)
250g chicken livers, cleaned up if necessary and chop each into 3 or so.
one onion finely chopped
olive oil or ghee
2 tblsp pine nuts
2 tblsp slivered/flaked almonds
2 tblsp currents soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and then drained
1 teasp ground cinammon
1 teasp ground allspice
lemon in wedges to serve


In a saucepan:

Over medium heat, fry the onion in oil until soft/translucent, add the nuts and stir to colour. Toss in the rice, currants and dry spices, gently fry to coat the rice with everything. Add stock, bring to the boil and then turn heat low to the gentlest simmer for 15-20 minutes – this really depends on exactly how much water and what temperature. Turn off and let sit while you cook the livers.

Add more olive oil to a frying pan, when hot fry the livers until a little underdone. Overcooked chicken liver sucks, but you didn’t read that here, because if you die from undercooked chicken livers, I don’t want you running to me afterwards. It is a risk I prefer to take and I am always willing to spend a little time sweet talking Italian chefs into making chicken liver spaghetti sauce on the very pink side, as the Chinese would have it. Not that the Chinese would eat such barbarian food as spaghetti.

Mix the herbs and the chicken livers into the rice and let sit for a few minutes – the livers will keep cooking, of course.

Serve with extra toasted pine nuts on top if you like, a scattering of dill fronds to pretty it up, and a wedge of lemon that can be added to taste during the eating.

Chicken liver pilaff

This is SO good!! Surely it would be easy to make it vegetarian, take that into account when choosing the stock, add perhaps aubergine instead of the liver. I am sure without anything added at all, it would stand on its own as a plainer pilaf.