This is a recipe inspired by Jack Monroe over at www.cookingonabootstrap.com. Jack is one of my foodie inspirations. I bought their book for my sister when she started at university because I reckon it’s as good as any student cookbook out there. Jack is also a massive campaigner against poverty and LGBT rights and all round good egg. Check them out.
When I started this blog I promised myself I wouldn’t turn into those foodie bloggers that uses loads of ridiculous ingredients that you can only buy if you live in North London. Yotam Ottolenghi’s food is beautiful to look at, but a little tricky to actually make, or that’s what I think anyway (that being said, if anyone wants to take me out to Nopi or Ottolenghi I will not stand in your way!) I love him, but I don’t want to be him. So I was a little reticent about this post because it uses something you have to buy in the World Food aisle. But I really don’t think this goes too far. It’s not Za’atar. It’s not Dukkah.
Farinata is a pancake made from gram flour (also known as Besan) which is made from ground chickpeas. I’m fairly confident you can find it in most average sized supermarkets and a bag costs about £1.50. I’ve used the pancake as a base for a pizza-type thing, topped with my imaginatively named Red Sauce and a little cream cheese.
The nice thing about this recipe is that because it’s made from ground chickpeas, it’s full of protein and really filling. I packed mine out with spinach and carrot which increases the flavour and the veg content. It can be knocked up in no time, and I actually think it might be fairly healthy. It’s perfect for a midweek supper.
Farinata Pizza: no it’s not perfectly round. But it’s real life. And real life is full of wobbliness and wonky corners.
Serves 1 (easily doubled if you’re cooking for more than one).
- 50g gram flour
- 100mls milk (or water, or a mixture of the two)
- A good pinch of salt
- A shake of cumin
- A shake of cayenne pepper
- Half a carrot, finely grated
- 2-3 handfuls spinach (or whatever you have spare)
- Oil for frying
Red Sauce bit:
- An onion, red or white, chopped as finely as you can.
- 2 cloves garlic
- A splash of vinegar, (red wine, apple cider, balsamic)
- A tin of chopped tomatoes (I generally find that Basics/Value tinned toms are too watery, but they will still work if that’s all you have to hand)
- A good pinch of salt
- A good pinch of sugar
- A good dollop of cream cheese, or if you’re feeling fancy you could try goat’s cheese.
- Anything you fancy – grilled peppers, sauteed mushrooms, steamed courgette ribbons.
- Ideally the batter for the pancake needs to sit for 30mins before you cook it, so start by making this. (If you don’t have 30 mins, leave it for as long as you can and then cook according to the instructions. It will be ok. Jack Monroe says so.)
- Pop your spinach in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of water. Over a medium high heat, cook until the spinach is completely wilted. Remove from the pan and put on a chopping. Chop up the wilted spinach, ready to add to the batter.
- Mix the gram flour with a little milk/water to make a paste.
- Add the rest of the liquid.
- Add the cumin, cayenne and salt and give it all a good beat with a fork.
- Leave to stand for 30 mins and then stir in your chopped, wilted spinach and finely grated carrot.
- Meanwhile, make your Red Sauce:
- Heat a glug of oil over a medium heat in a medium sized saucepan.
- Put your finely sliced onion and garlic in the pan and turn the heat down to allow them to soften. Do not rush your onions.
- After about 6-7 mins they should be soft. Add your vinegar and give a little stir.
- Add your tomatoes, salt and sugar.
- Turn the heat up so it comes to the boil, then turn down to simmer for about 15-20 mins.
- Back to the pancake base:
- After 30 mins of standing, heat a glug of oil in a frying pan to a medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, pour your batter into the frying pan and squiggle it around the pan so it covers the base evenly.
- After about 4-5 minutes, the underneath should be cooked. Use a fish-slice or spatula to slide all the way underneath the pancake and deftly flip it over. It should be a gorgeous golden brown.
- After flipping, it should take a further 3 mins or so to cook the bottom.
- Turn out onto a nice big plate.
- Spoon as much tomato sauce onto the base as you’d like (I generally use about half the sauce for one person)
- Spoon your other toppings (cream cheese, veg etc) on to look as artful or messy as you wish. This is your meal. Own it.
- Photograph and upload to Instagram. Or not.
When I’m feeling a bit rubbishy I want a bowl full of something bright to look at, fragrant to smell and bursting with bold flavours to taste. And if it’s chock full of veg and low fat protein then that’s a bonus. There is one meal that ticks all those boxes: A Bowlful of Dreams.
And it can be in a bowl and in your belly in about 25 minutes.
So if you’re feeling a little below par and need something to lift you up then maybe try this.
Serves 2, easily doubled. Reheats nicely if stored in the fridge for 3 days.
- A glug of oil
- One onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 -1 red chilli (start small! You can always add more later!)
- 1tsp turmeric
- 2tsp garam masala
- 1 large sweet potato
- 100g red lentils
- 500mls hot stock (veg is fine, but if you have some chicken stock that needs using, you could do so here)
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- As much handfuls of spinach as you can spare (about half a bag)
Nice bonus ingredients (the recipe will totally work without these, but they sort of elevate it if you have them to hand):
- 2 tsp butter
- juice of half a lime
- a handful of coriander leaves.
- Heat a glug of oil in a medium sized pan.
- Finely chop your onion, garlic and chilli and add to the pan, turning the heat down nice and low. Allow the onions to soften for about 5 minutes.
- Chop your sweet potato. (I rarely bother to peel mine, but you can if you choose. If there are any ‘hairy bits’ on the sweet potato then do chop these off as they are touch to eat.)
- Add your spices, stirring through the onion/garlic/chilli.
- Add your lentils and chopped sweet potatoes. Stir it all together so the spices and oil coats the lentils and sweet potatoes.
- Pour the hot stock in and add the tbsp tomato puree, giving it all a good stir.
- Bring to the boil, then pop a lid on the pan and turn the heat right down again.
- Leave covered, stirring periodically (as lentils can catch really easily on the bottom of the pan), for about 15 minutes.
- Check that the lentils and sweet potato are soft and ready to eat.
- Throw in your spinach and stir through until it’s wilted.
- Now you can add your bonus bits, if you want to.
- Check for consistency and flavour. If it’s too watery you can simply leave the dhal to bubble very gently on the hob with the lid off to reduce down a bit. Depending on whether you’ve used stock cubes or homemade stock, you might want to add a little salt to really make the flavours sing. Not spicy enough? Add a little more chilli, cayenne pepper or even a bit of Tabasco to give it some kick.
- Serve in deep bowls with a dollop of yoghurt, mango chutney and rice or naan (or both! I won’t tell anyone!). I generally find this is a meal best eaten on the sofa, in your PJ’s, whilst watching something questionable on telly. But that’s just me…
The humble onion. Sitting in the background. Starting off every recipe but never given any credit. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Well, NO MORE. This is a recipe that makes the humble onion a star. A gorgeous, sticky, sweet star, nestled next to its supporting cast: a soft, salty Stilton and crumbly, buttery puff pastry.
This is not a quick recipe, but nor is it especially involved. One could quite easily set the onions going and then set about doing other things nearby – the washing up, folding laundry, a small dance, perhaps – returning periodically to give the onions a spuddle before returning to the dance.
It is, however, not a recipe one can rush. Caramelising onions takes time. Do not rush your onions.
For this reason, this meal tends to be one reserved for days off where the pace is a little slower and you want to savour the day. Days when you don’t want to rush anything.
(Unlike this photo, which was a little rushed because we just wanted to eat…#foodbloggerproblems)
You can, of course, make your own pastry. And if you do, not only will I admire you, but you can also run around saying you’ve made ‘A Rough Puff’, which is fun to do. If you are so inclined, I would direct you to this video. For now though, I’m sticking to shop bought.
Serves 2 hungry (greedy?) adults, or 3 less hungry
- 4 large red onions, or 6 small ones
- a good glug of oil
- a tablespoon of butter
- a garlic clove
- a small glass of red wine
- a tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 200g ready made, ready rolled puff pastry (or buy a block and roll it out yourself – it’s more economical that way)
- 60g stilton or other blue cheese
- salt and pepper
- to garnish: a few basil or parsley leaves, fresh rosemary or walnuts (entirely optional, but nice if you have them in)
- Peel your onions, chop off the root and top, then slice them through the middle. Slice them as finely as you can, so that when the layers are separated they look like little crescents. (Don’t worry if you cry, you’ll be adding salt anyway.)
- Heat a good glug (3tbsps) of olive oil and the butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat.
- Add the onions to the pan, coat them in the oil and butter. Add a pinch of salt.
- Turn the heat right down and cook the onions ever so gently, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. Do not rush your onions (this is when you can do the washing up or a little dance. Don’t go too far away though because you need to make sure they don’t catch or burn)
- After 30 mins they should have shrunk and they should be glossy and a little sticky.
- Finely slice or press a clove of garlic and add this to the pan, giving a little stir. Continue to cook on this low heat for a further 5 mins.
- Now for the fun bit: turn up the heat to a medium heat. Throw in your small glass of red wine and balsamic vinegar. Give it a good stir and watch while the onions drink it all up. (You’ve just deglazed a pan. Get you!)
- Once it’s all drunk up, turn the heat off entirely.
- Preheat your oven to 180’C.
- Prepare a baking tray by lining it with foil and lightly brushing the foil with oil.
- If you are using a block of pastry, roll it out now into the shape you want your tart to be. I make mine a rectangle, if only because my baking tray is a rectangle and ready-rolled pastry is too. But you can do it in a circle. Or a triangle. Or go off-piste entirely. There are no rules.
- We’re going to make the tart upside-down. So arrange your onions on the prepared baking tray, remembering to leave a border that will form your crust.
- Crumble and evenly distribute about two thirds of your cheese over your onions.
- Now lie your pastry over your onions and cheese so that it covers them and leaves a little border for a crust. You might want to tuck your edges in a little bit.
- Pop it in the oven, with the pastry on the top for about 35 minutes, until the pastry is golden and beautiful.
- When cooked, remove the tart from the oven. Carefully (use an oven glove or a teatowel) lightly put a chopping board on top of the pastry and then turn it all over (so the board is underneath and the baking tray on top).
- Lie the board on a flat surface and carefully remove the baking tray.
- Some of the onions might be stuck on the foil – that’s no big deal, just gently scrape them off and put them back on the tart.
- Top with the remaining cheese and garnishes of your choice!