Saturday, 27 March 2010

Falafel with canellini bean humous

I seem to have had a box of Al Fez falafel mix sitting in my cupboard for the past year or so now. And as spring finally seems to have arrived I thought I'd try move on from hearty winter fare to something (a little) lighter. So falafel and humous with salad it was. The mix just needed cold water adding to it, and shaping into around six small-ish balls before frying (the instructions said to deep fry but I defied them and shallow fried the falafel). This is definitely a quick and easy way to make falafel and is not bad on the taste front either, with a good hit of cumin against an otherwise mild background. I did find the texture a little dense and stodgy though- but this may have been down to my frying choices. I think I'd like to try making my own falafel from scratch to really compare flavours but until then this Al Fez mix is not a bad shortcut.

I was fully intending to make a regular chickpea humous to go with the falafel but due to a previous shopping error found I only had a tin of canellini beans available. This seemed to be an acceptable substitute though, so I tipped the contents of the tin into my trusty Kenwood mini-chopper along with a fat clove of garlic, a heaped teaspoon of tahini, salt and pepper to taste, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The texture of this humous was a lot smoother than one made with chickpeas (and didn't need any olive oil adding to it). And although it lacked the slight nutty taste of regular humous it was still pretty good. A red onion, tomato, and cucumber salad and some warmed pitta bread completed my meal- and it did feel like I had taken a small step towards summer (of course it poured down with rain the next day).

Al Fez Falafel Mix
I rate it 7/10
Cost: Around £1.00

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Paneer tikka (skewers optional)

I do like paneer. However it wasn't until I went to a couple of weddings in India a few years ago that I first ate paneer tikka. These are basically pieces of marinated paneer threaded onto skewers with some other vegetables, and grilled over charcoal. The combination of spicy heat and a light singeing from the hot coals was hard to beat, and I remember scoffing a lot of these with my cousins while trying not to trip over my sari and avoiding various groups of gossiping aunties.
However wasn't until the other day when I stumbled across this post on the Foodlyrics blog that it occurred to me that I could try making paneer tikka at home. I had to adapt the recipe (enough for two greedy people as a main course) a little bit due to a lack of ingredients so my tikka didn't feature any tomatoes. I also boosted the spicing and used about two fat cloves of garlic and a half inch wodge of ginger to go with my 272g block of ready-made paneer (see previous post for brand information). For 'plain curds' I used natural yoghurt, and though I was a bit concerned about it splitting it was all fine.
I left the paneer and vegetables to sit in the marinade for a couple of hours and then fried it all off as described in the recipe. I think this is the genius bit of it all as it ensures the vegetables are nicely cooked through before the grilling part, and I think I'd do this even if I was cooking this dish on a barbeque. I was then ready to commence skewering- at which point I realised I didn't have any skewers. Damn. But on the basis that skewers don't actually add any flavour and the food is removed from them before eating anyway, I just lined everything up on a foil covered baking try and placed under a hot grill for around 8-10mins until a nice bit of blistering developed on the peppers and the paneer and onions charred a little.

I'm not normally a massive fan of green peppers and find them a bit acrid tasting but here they perfectly offset the sweetness of the onion, and the spicing peps up the otherwise bland paneer.
The tikkas were carefully dished up with some vegetable pilau rice and salad, and rapidly eaten.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Cannellini bean mash

I think I have come across the non-potato mash rather late in life, (but am now in the process of catching up) and am definitely a fan. For a very quick and simple mash, which involves no peeling, chopping or boiling, tinned cannellini beans are absolutely brilliant. You can add any of the flavours that you normally would to mashed potato such as garlic or herbs, or just keep it simple with butter and salt and pepper.
I like to gently sweat a clove or two of crushed garlic in a couple of table spoons of olive oil and once softened add in two tins of cannellini beans (makes enough for two hungry people). These will also start to soften as they warm through, and you can then fully squish them with a regular potato masher or stick blender. When smooth, return to a gentle heat to make sure they're piping hot and then add lots of salt and pepper and maybe a knob of butter. And that's it- a lovely, creamy mash that happily fills the place of mashed potato when you feel like a bit of a change or if time is of the essence.
NB The picture below does not really do it justice.

Tesco cannellini beans (410g)
I rate them 9/10
Cost: Around £0.45 depending on your supermarket