Vegetarian Mezze

 Can’t go to the Mediterranean…bring the Mediterranean to you…

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 A wise man once said “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”. Travel definitely makes you worldly in more than one way. Through travel one creates timeless memories and also learns about great histories, rich cultures, beautiful art and my most favourite, local cuisine. If I could I would be on a perennial holiday.

Unfortunately life isn’t a bed of roses, most of us have something called ‘a job’ and ‘a boss’ waiting for us Monday to Friday – day in day out! The dreary grind of everyday life makes travels and holidays seem like a dream.  

While a holiday may not be on the horizon for you, your kitchen is right where you left it last night! Why am I telling you this? Well go back and read the tag line, it’s true – Can’t go to the Mediterranean…bring the Mediterranean to you… Lets take a culinary cruise to the Mediterranean.  Today I will be showcasing three vegetarian mezze. Each of them unique in texture and flavour, but what’s common in them – they are a taste of the Mediterranean and so easy to make. Time for a drum roll – Potato and Cream Corn Fritters, Caper Lemon Brussel Sprouts and Paprika Beans with Goats Cheese.

‘Mezze’ or ‘Tapas’, depending on the country of origin is one of the most popular variety of appetizers or snacks in the Mediterranean. They can be served both hot and cold and overtime have evolved into an entire meal. The whole idea behind serving these appetizers is to encourage conversation among the crowd, giving people an opportunity to eat, drink and chat.      

So without further ado, fasten your aprons we are off to the Mediterranean tonight!

Potato and Cream Corn Fritters

Ingredients:  8  Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves:   4           

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  • Five medium-sized potatoes, peeled and boiled
  • 200 gms of cream corn
  • 1/2 cup of coriander
  • one egg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • salt to season
  • Olive oil to pan fry

Start by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl. The cream corn has a lot of moisture and will easily bind the ingredients. However you can add an egg if you think the mixture is dry.

Make round patties by rolling the mixture in the palm of hands, you should roughly have about eight to ten patties.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Add the patties and cook them until crispy on both sides.

You can serve this dish with tomato sauce or tzaziki.

Lemon Caper Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients: 6     Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4 

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  • 300 gms of brussel sprouts, halved
  • Three tablespoons of salted butter
  • Two tablespoons of chopped continental parsley stems, finely chopped
  • Two teaspoons of capers
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt to season

 Begin by steaming the brussel sprouts for about seven to ten minutes until they are soft and keep aside.

Melt butter in a pan, add parsley stems and capers, followed by the steamed brussel sprouts.

Toss the brussel sprouts, making sure the butter coats each of them. Once they are slightly charred season with salt and toss again.

Finally drizzle with lemon juice, give it a final toss and they are ready to serve.

Note for my vegan readers, to make this dish vegan simply replace butter with almond butter or extra virgin olive oil.

Paprika Beans with Goats Cheese

Ingredients: 11     Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

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  • 400 gms of canned red kidney beans
  • 400 gms of diced canned tomatoes
  • One medium-sized onion, finely sliced
  • Two to three garlic pods, coarsely chopped
  • Two tablespoons of goats cheese
  • Two teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • One teaspoon of ground cumin powder
  • One teaspoon of sugar
  • Salt to season
  • Four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley to garnish

Heat olive oil in a pan, add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.

Now add the diced tomatoes followed by smoked paprika, cumin and sugar. Cook this sauce base for five to seven minutes on a medium heat.

Time for the beans, one tip – always rinse canned beans before cooking with them to get rid of all the salt and grime. Add the beans, half a cup of water, cover the pan and cook the beans for seven to ten minutes on a medium heat.

The beans are now ready to serve. Garnish with crumbled goats cheese and fresh parsley. To make this dish vegan simply avoid the goats cheese.

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Next time you have a dinner party and don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen, try out these three lip smackingly delicious under 60 minutes recipes.

For now think of the Mediterranean and get cooking!!!

 

Zucchini blossom Potato Gnocchi

Summer nights with summer delights…

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The beauty of summer is not just the clear blue, sun-kissed skies, but also the availability of fresh produce. I am so excited to see my local grocer stocked up with beautiful fruits and vegetables, one of my favourite summer vegetable is zucchini and its beautiful blossoms. Usually I stuff zucchini flowers with goats cheese (you can find the recipe here), but this time I round I decide to do something different with them – cook them in a pasta.

While my most favourite pasta is spaghetti, for this dish I decided to use potato gnocchi.  One day I will endeavour to make my own gnocchi, but during the week where the need for quick meals is paramount packaged gnocchi will do just fine. The best part about using gnocchi is that it takes only 3 – 4 minutes to cook and as a working woman you will know time is of the essence during mid-week cooking.

Ingredients:   11      Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2

  • One packet of potato gnocchi
  • Eight to ten baby zucchini
  • Eight to ten zucchini flowers
  • One teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes
  • Handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • One red onion, finely sliced
  • Four to five pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One dozen cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled goats cheese
  • Three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to season

Begin by separating the zucchini flowers from the zucchini stem and remove the pistil in the middle of the flower by carefully parting the petals and keep aside.

Heat three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Now add the sliced onion, chopped garlic and mint, cook until the onion mix is caramelised.

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Add sliced zucchini, along with the chilli flakes and cook until the zucchini is tender. While the zucchini is cooking bring water to a boil and add the gnocchi, cook it as per packet instructions.

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Once the gnocchi is cooked add it to the zucchini mix and give all the ingredients a good toss, coating the gnocchi with all those delicious flavours.

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Now add the sliced tomatoes and toss the ingredients, cook until the tomatoes are soft. Season with salt as per taste, but remember not to over salt as we will be adding the goats cheese later.

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Lastly add the zucchini blossoms and crumbled goats cheese, give the gnocchi a good stir and serve hot!

There you have it! A lip smackingly delicious mid-week meal all in 15 minutes.

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Pea, Mint and Goats Cheese Salad

Summer beckons and the salads are calling…

With daylight savings kicking in, Australia is truly on its path to embracing summer and what better than fresh salads to beat the heat. Being a true Indian foodie I don’t consider salads as a meal, but definitely think salads make a great side dish. Particularly when you are indulge in some rather heavy meals. Salads are the source of all things good, fresh and healthy.

You remember the last spaghetti recipe I posted. Well to make myself feel less guilty about indulging in those carbs, I served the spaghetti with a side of this delicious pea, mint and goats cheese salad. To make it more nutrient rich and slightly sexy I added toasted crushed almonds, sesame seeds and crispy shallots too.This salad would be a perfect accompaniment to a weeknight meal or a lazy weekend lunch because it is so light, refreshing and quick to make. Try it for your next party and take my word, it will be a hit.

Ingredients: 7   Preparation time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Three cups of fresh/frozen baby peas
  • One tablespoon of finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1.5 tablespoons of toasted crushed almonds
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds
  • Three tablespoons of goats cheese (you can add more if you like your salad saltier)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons of crispy shallots

Whether you are using fresh or frozen peas, we need to blanch them. So add three cups of water in a saucepan and let it come to a boil. Now add the peas for about two-three minutes and once they are slightly soft, strain the peas and run them under cold water to prevent them from cooking further.

To assemble the salad, put the peas in a bowl and add the chopped mint and mix them well. Crumble the goats cheese, add it to the peas and mix it well. Now add the olive oil and mix again. Your salad is ready!

For the garnish add the toasted, crushed almonds, sesame seeds and crispy shallots. Enjoy this light and healthy salad and make it an accompaniment with your mail meals. I served this LSD salad with my Spaghetti con Pomodoro e Basilico and it was finito in a matter of minutes