Sunday, 19 April 2015

North African Style Breakfast Hash

All good things come to an end at some point, try as we might to hold on to them. I have thoroughly enjoyed my break from work (it was 17 whole days, guys), but sadly I must return to the grind from tomorrow. I know that some people in the working world grumble about the seemingly long holidays teachers get, but a quick glance at any teacher at the end of an academic term would explain it all (frazzled, sleep deprived and up to the ears in deadlines). I now feel refreshed and ready to tackle any challenges in the new term. We shall just have to wait and see how long that lasts for...

But before the Monday blues kick in, why not make the most of your Sunday by enjoying this North African influenced dish for brunch? This dish is inspired by Shakshouka, a spicy tomato and eggs dish that is popular in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco. I'd call it an interpretation because it does not have quite as much liquid as more traditional versions, and also uses sweet potato. I guess you could say it's somewhere between Shakshuka and a breakfast hash, so the best of both worlds.

Spiced with cumin and smoked paprika, it's packed with flavour. The sweet potato provides, as the name states, a sweet contrast to the heat and a lift of freshness comes from spoonfuls of yoghurt and corriander. I also added some Merguez sausages, having been inspired to try them out by an instagram post from Umm Hamza of Halal Home Cooking. They're not always the easiest thing to find, but I was out one day and spotted a North African butchers who made and sold their own. I bought chicken as they were sold out of the lamb. I was actually surprised by how spicy there were, not overpoweringly so, but there was a definite kick from the addition of harissa and garlic. If you can't get your hands on Merguez, any other sausage is fine, or you can just omit it for a vegetarian (vegan without the yoghurt) friendly version. 

If you serve this with some nice, crusty bread, it should be enough to serve 2-3 people. If you're watching the carbs and omitting the bread, it will serve 1-2. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Ayr maas di aloo ar khomlar bakhol (Bengali Fish Curry with Potato and Orange)

Happy Monday, readers! I don't know about you, but last week flew by for me. I fully intended on posting a few more times last week, but somehow time eluded me. And it was a bit of a strange, up and down week, to be honest. 

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, I was awoken by a mosquito buzzing around my ear. I know what you're thinking, are you vacationing in some exotic resort, Abida? The answer is no, dear reader,  I'm still in the concrete jungle of London, and the temperature has hardly been sweltering. It was only when I got out of bed and looked in the mirror that I realised that I had been bit on my eyelid, and my whole left eye had swollen up as a result. I looked like something between Quasimodo and a heavyweight boxer. Not an attractive sight at all. 

I still had to go out though, much to my own trepidation, and so I tried to think of the best way to look less creepy. I tried curling the eyelashes on my swollen eye to make it look a little bigger, but when I curled my good eye, they just looked uneven again. Then I tried squinting my good eye, so at least the two matched a little, but it's surprisingly difficult to walk around in a busy city with squinted eyes. In the end, I just tried to keep my head down and minimise eye contact with other people as much as possible. Thankfully, my eye has gone back to normal now. 

Then after the Quasimodo-Eye Episode, my beloved mother accidentally threw an item that I needed into the bin. As we live in an apartment block, we have a communal rubbish storage system and so we ended up rifling through a giant metal bin trying to find said item. However, we managed to find said item in the end, so not all was lost. I'd like to say that's the only time I've ever accidentally thrown something in the bin and have had to fish it out, but it's actually happened a few more times than I care to admit. Forget misadventures in the kitchen, I think I should rename my blog to misadventures in life....

But anywho, on to the actual recipe, which I'm sure is the real reason you're here. I bring you today another traditional Bengali fish recipe. I do like my fish, and this curry makes a great meatless Monday meal. This dish uses Ayr fish, another freshwater Bengali fish which is great for the fish-phobic as it does not contain too many bones and has no scales to remove, yay! As when preparing any Bengali fish, the fish is cut into small pieces and then washed and left to soak in salted water before adding to the curry.

 The fish is paired with potato and orange peel, which although might sound a little strange, is quite a traditional combination in Bangladeshi, and especially Sylheti, home cooking.

Rather than adding only the zest, cut up pieces of orange peel are used. This adds a great citrus scent to the whole curry and the cooking process softens the orange peel and takes away any bitterness. It's a great way to jazz up a boring fish and potato dish and complements the spices in the sauce well. Even if you cannot get a hold of ayr fish, I would definitely recommend trying the potato and orange combination with another fish.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Bhaingan Bhorta (Aubergine Chutney)

I can often have a glut of things in the fridge or food cupboard. At the moment, it's spinach, which I accidentally bought an extra bag of (ideas for a recipe, anyone?). As the title implies, on this particular occasion, I had a few extra baby aubergines lurking around in the fridge. In the end, I decided to use them to make a quick and simple bhorta (or Satni as we call it in the area of Bangladeshi my family are from), which would loosely translate to chutney in English. In simple terms, it is just a process of mashed aubergines/eggplant along with some onion, chilli and coriander. I decided to leave the aubergines slightly chunky for a bit of texture rather than completely puree them. A subtle smokey taste is added to the dish by pan roasting the aubergine and onion.

Though a simple and economical dish, bhortas are a great alternative to curries as they are light and fresh tasting. As you can eat them cold, they are great for warmer days when you might not fancy eating something hot. There is just a hint of spice from the fresh green chillis and the few drops of mustard oil, however it is subtle and complements the overall fresh notes of the bhorta.

Traditionally, Bengalis will eat various types of vegetable bhortas with plain rice, however, as this aubergine bhorta is quite similar to aubergine dips, I think it could also taste pretty good with wedges of pita bread as a dip.

Monday, 6 April 2015


Good morning, readers! This post comes to you from one bright eyed and bushy tailed blogger on a Monday morning, no less. I all but skipped home on Thursday afternoon, delighting in the prospect of the upcoming Easter break. So far, I haven't really been doing too much aside from catching up with some reading, but man, it felt good to luxuriate in a little bit of leisure time.

After my last Lebanese inspired post, I come to you today with a Moroccan flatbread recipe. Meloui, is a derivative of rghaif, but unlike msemen is round rather than square. It is a layered flat bread made from semolina and generous amounts of butter. The end result is a buttery and soft bread that is pretty similar to the Indian lacha paratha, but made with semonlina instead of wheat.

I'd never tried meloui before I made them, so as you can imagine there was lots of googling and youtubing beforehand. It didn't seem too difficult, but as I realised shortly thereafter, not having a mixer with a dough hook made a bit of a difference. I am not really one for kneading (my upper body strength really isn't anything to brag about), so I was on the floor with my bowl trying to knead with as much vigour as I could muster. I probably should have kneaded on a flourerd surface to make it easier for myself, but the thought only occured to me after.

 The recipe I followed used yeast but I am unsure how authentic of an ingredient yeast is.  I did find the mix slightly more resilient than the usual dough used to make roti, which I again wondered if it was down to the yeast. Perhaps I could have added more water, but I didn't want to make it too runny. It's all good and well to watch videos and read recipes but finding the right consistency is something that will probably come with more experience of making meloui.

However, despite all these setbacks, I was pretty pleased with the final result as they tasted pretty good. There is something also quite timeless about making your own bread. When you're in that arduous process of kneading with your own hands, you do kind of get a sense of the generations of cultures and women before you who had been in the exact same position. So even though it took a little work, I will definitely be making these again!