Posts Tagged With: Lebanese

Seeking falafel perfection in Lebanon and making the dream falafel wrap

Welcome, to the land of falafel!  This was my favourite wrap, but it’s hard to tell.

I had a falafel recently in Newcastle which was less than incredible.  The falafel was only discernible from the bread by a shift in colour, in fact, it was actually drier than the thick, stale bread.  Both were only slightly more appetising than the rough paper they were wrapped in.  It had no sauce whatsoever.   Bit of iceberg lettuce.  ‘What’s going on!!’

A Turkish man made it for me, which made it even more hard to deal with.  But then the dawning came, there are no falafels in Turkey.  Why should he have known his way around this potential exquisite combination of simple deliciousness.  (I might add, this place does the best veg kofta and mezze’s in the North East.)   It’s like asking a Geordie to make the perfect momo…….  Sometimes, to truly understand something, we’ve got to go back to the source(ish).

Having not long returned from Lebanon, this entire experience was a taste bud trauma.  I decided to go home and look at my travel pictures, remind myself about the real deal, sate my hunger by the sheer tastiness of my memories of wandering around Lebanon, from falafel shop to falafel kiosk.  I got so excited, and into it, I wrote this.

Never short of a pickle in Tripoli. The perfect, salty and crunchy accompaniment to any wrap. I liked the violently pink cauliflower ones.

I had just over a week in Lebanon, it’s not a massive country, but it is well stuffed with chickpeas.  People love them, as do I.  Hummus, Mshbaha (creamy – recipe here), Fattet (stew) or even just a straight up bowl of warm chickpeas in their broth with a pile of flatbread and liberal sprinklings of intense cumin.

What I saw from my little Lebanese window was that no country worships the chickpea like Lebanon.  So mashing it up and deep frying it sounded like a great idea I’m sure.  I stand close to my assertion that anything deep fried, crispy and light, will taste great.  There is something primal when we bite into it and get the CRUNCH.  Even though, most of us now feel it naughty to munch on these deep fried globes of happiness, we still get a kick out of them.  You can bake them for slightly healthier results, but when in Beirut…..

Monster falafels taking over the city (a poster)

Falafels, bar the frying bit, are actually highly nutritious.  Packed with fibre, complex carbs and protein, they even have loads of minerals, high in iron for example and don’t get me started on the manganese content.  Through the roof!!  When you lather them in tahini, veggies, fresh herbs and a wholesome wrap, we doing alright there.  In so many ways.

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF FALAFEL

Are you new to falafels?  Have you been living in very big, deep, dark cave?  If so, welcome.  They’re deep fried dough balls really.  Less exotic and sounding less appetising, but essentially, honest.   It is normally made with chickpea or fava bean (see my recipe for Egyptian falafels here) or sometimes both.  Add to that some herbs and spices and a normally healthy fistful of breadcrumbs and we’re getting there.  The best dishes, the ones we eat and enjoy most often, are always simple.  No falafel is an island, it needs it’s gang of accompaniments to shine (see below for the perfect crew).

Falafel Sayhoun wrap (action shot) – famous throughout Lebanon and it was nice.  Not number 1 though.

Strangely, falafel actually means ‘pepper’ (plural of) which somehow means ‘little balls’.  In Egyptian Arabic it means, ‘a little bit of food’.  It is popular across the Middle East, and now the world.  Originally (possibly) it was the Coptic Christians in Egypt who came up with falafels to keep them sated during Lent.  But this is a highly charged and sometimes political debate.  I’d just like to say that I live in Wales, halfway up a mountain and feel ill-equipped to deal with a full-on falafel debate.  I just know that they’re not from Wales.

I like a bit of this on my wrap, sprinkle of Sumac. Contentious I know, but gives it a nice citrus twang.

It has been said that the Pharoahs enjoyed nibbling falafels, but this is hard to prove, but nice to imagine.  Pyramids, falafel wrap stands……  In fact, you’ll find McFalafels in McDonalds all over Egypt.  Make of that what you will.

Some of the guys working in the falafel wrap joints are like an F1 pit crew.  Your falafel is ordered, with special requirements taken note of (almost everyone has  their own little wrap quirk) and wrapped in such a rush of energy and precision, sprinkle and roll.  It’s exhilarating.  These folk know their moves!  It goes; whack, whack, sprinkle, scatter, squirt, another scatter, roll, wrap, wrap, twist, launch at customer.  A fine art I’d say.  Not just the flavour going on here, its the buzz of watching a master at work.

FALAFEL GEEK CORNER

The current world record falafel wrap was 74.75 kgs, made in Amman, Jordan.  How they fried it, is interesting to think about.  When I checked out ‘world largest falafel ball’, here is what I got (350 lites of vegetable oil and fed 600 people!!):

You can eat falafels for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m not recommending it as a balanced diet, but if you’re in Beirut, it seems like a great idea.   As we can see, not all falafels are created equal, there are a few rules that I gleaned from friendly Lebanese cooks and falafel aficionados, here are their teachings,

The decor in Falafel Sayhoun, a Beirut institution. The falafel were heavy on the black pepper I thought.

THE DREAM FALAFEL WRAP (LEBANESE EDITION)

Is light on bread, a pitta cut in half thickness wise.  Some pickles (pink turnip is nice), some tarator (basic tahini sauce), a few squashed falafels, tomato and lettuce, fresh mint, sometimes parsley, served with some long green pickled chillies.  That’s basically it!  Simple as and normally quite small.  Generally costing around £1.

One of my favourite falafel was eaten beside Baalbek (see this ‘I Ate Lebanon’ post) and served by Ali, the ‘King of Falafels’.  A well named man.  He was a super star.  Baalbek is close to the border with Syria and my journey took a few minibuses, the last one filled with Lebanese army, to get there.  Zero tourists, I had the place to myself, the carvings of Cleopatra and the well preserved temple to Dionysus were real treats.  After walking around in the baking sun, this falafel was well needed.

What makes the perfect falafel wrap?

So a recap, in Lebanon, this is the low down on the perfect falafel wrap:

  • Thin flat bread, most are cut in half.
  • Not massive, 3-4 falafels, 12 inches long.  A snack.
  • Light and crisp falafels
  • Pickles.  Check out those intense pink turnip pickles!!
  • A little tomato and lettuce.
  • A good spoonful of creamy tahini sauce
  • Mint leaves, always fresh mint leaves.
  • Served with pickled green chillies (just a little spicy)

That’s it!  Simply amazing!!

BEST FALAFEL WRAP IN LEBANON….

Ali was pipped by, I’m not sure I should even mention this out loud.  Can you keep a secret?  (Whisper)…..There is a place, just up the road from Falafel Sayhoun, near the souks of Beirut……sorry…I’ve said enough.  Friends in Beirut would never forgive me, if you’re planning a visit, get in touch and I’ll give you the directions.  There is no sign or door, it’s that good! (Whisper over).

Meet Ali, the self-styled ‘King of Falafels’. A fitting name. Balbeek high street.

There is something perfectly balanced about it, a falafel wrap or mezze plate gives a sweep of nutritional boosts and most of all, it’s delicious and ticks all the boxes in and around our palate.

Some things will never get old and maybe just keep getting better!  As the world seems to get increasingly complex, simple pleasures are all the more important.  I felt so lucky to be able to enjoy one of my favourite street feasts with some awesome people in a country that is head over heels for food.

Souks of Tripoli, packed with potential falafel wrap ingredients. Maybe some roasted cauliflower would be nice in there?

Falafel lovers footnote:

Of course, Lebanon is not the only country where you can feast of falalels!  What’s your favourite place for falafels?……

 

Kathmandu’s finest – this was our Christmas lunch last year.  Not traditional, but tasty.  Addition of chips was appreciated.  All wrapped in a fresh naan.

Christmas lunch 2016, Nepal – just out of a ten day silent Vipassana meditation retreat.  What better way to celebrate!  Giant falafels!!

Categories: photography, plant-based, Snacks and Inbetweens, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Ate Lebanon! – My experience of vegan Lebanese cuisine

Loved this lunch in an Armenian Restaurant plus live music/ bohemian-style hang out. Mahummara – think a dip, but much more, walnuts flavoured with pomegranate molasses (there’s a recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips’) and fried courgettes with crisp onions and creamy tahini sauce.  Plus massive pot of rose and mint tea.  If you read a book here, they gave you a free drink!!  I was one of the only people not wearing a Trilby.

I am very lucky to travel so much in my life.  It’s basically called ‘not having kids’ according to many of my friends.  The freedom to jump around the world and feast like a happy herbivore.

I’d always wanted to eat my way around Lebanon and learn more about this incredible country.  I took the opportunity to stop in Beirut, as I headed back West from India earlier in the year.  I had a unique experience, flying to Ethiopia before heading up into the Middle East.  The views of Ethiopia from the plane window left me wanting to see more, and maybe a bit closer.

I was not disappointed by Lebanon in anyway, it’s a small country with a big heart and packs in some incredible sites and flavours for the curious and slightly intrepid traveller sort.  There are fascinating places here which see very little tourism.  But let’s start with the food….

Msabaha – I liked it so much, I did a recipe for it on the BHK.  See here.

MEZZA – LEBANON ON A (LITTLE) PLATE

Mezza (mezze/ tapas in the Middle East) was my main fuel for belly and tastebuds.  Wow!  Mezza in Lebanon made tables groan and filled me with a rainbow of colours and flavours.

Things like Baba Ganoush (Baba Ganouj sometimes), radiant salads, Ful (gorgeous, soft and rich fava beans), loads of pickled veggies, of course, gallons of creamy, sumptuous hummus (I’m not going over the top there), and falafels.  Falafels, then falafels and more falafels.  I ate piles of those delicious crispy lumps.  Mainly in a wrap.  I could have done a falafel recipe, but truth is, there no different to the gazillion that are out there now.  They are light and cripsy and in one of Lebanon’s most famous falafel places, Falafel Sayhoun, they are heavy on the black pepper.  A bit of a surprise.  I’ll write more about falafels soon.

I’m a vegan, falafels make up a large part of my dining out diet.  Therefore, I probably eat as many falafels per year as your average Lebanese person.  I was in good company.

Ful – Tasty breakfast, fava beans flavoured with a little spice and great olive oil. You are never more than a metre away from a pile of flatbread in Lebanon.

EATING LEBANON

My style is cheap.  What to do!  I love to travel which means that expensive restaurants are off the menu.  I’m fine with that.  I seek the best food in the street, down alleys, from little windows and stands, in peoples homes and local restaurants.  Basically, the food everyone is eating. the culinary pulse of a place.  Cutting edge is great, but I like to go straight to the heart first.  I’m very rarely disappointed.   I have no interest in decor if the food is bang on.

What we have here are a selection of vegan Lebanese staples.  There is one vegan/ vegetarian restaurant in Beirut, but really, the Lebanese cuisine is vegan friendly, there’s a falafel joint on every corner and thats just the beginning.  You’ll pick up a fresh juice without any problems, juice bars are all over the place.  Plus, there are loads of shops selling nuts, seeds and Turkish delight (normally vegan).  Ideal travel snacks when you’re wandering around in search of interesting nooks of cities and towns.  Maybe you’re a hiker?  Perfect.

One difficulty about ordering/ writing about Lebanese food is that it’s such a diverse place, with bags of culture/ influences, the names and spellings for many dishes seem quite fluid.  But here goes, many of which are lifted from scribbles in my notebook.

One of the main mosques, Mohammad Al-Amin, in central Beirut.

WHAT I ATE – VEGAN LEBANON

Where to begin?  Stuffed vine leaves.  Mujadara (rice and lentils – recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips‘) normally with a tomato sauce, Manouche (see below – like a massive, thin pancake, stuffed with punchy za’atar and loads of olive oil, although fillings vary).  What else……sumac was there……..

This nice woman made me a Manouche many mornings. Interesting technique, rolled super thin, big flat glove type thing, slapped on a dome shaped hot plate. Leave to bubble and brown.  Enjoye with fresh juice and coffee.

The finished Manouche (Manakish)

I really enjoyed the veggie version of Fasoulya Hammanieh, a really rich bean stew which loved warm flat bread.  The chickpea is a hero in these parts.  I ordered an interesting sounding dish one night and what turned up was just a bowl of chickpeas in their cooking broth with a pinch of cumin on top.  Basic, but was really tasty.  The cumin, wow, potent stuff.

It goes without saying that the hummus is incredible, creamy and rich.  I wrote about hummus recently.  The tahini is also, as expected, next level plant-based creaminess.  You might know by now, and I not shy to say, tahini is probably my favourite thing in the world.  Taking a fried courgette/ aubergine and introducing it to a light tahini sauce is a beautiful act.

I did not manage to find any veggie Kibbeh, which was a shame, but there was enough to keep me occupied.  I enjoyed Makdous, bigger aubergine pickles stuffed with nuts.  Shades a pickled onion.   Batata Harra were a constant source of yum, baked or fried potatoes with a spicy, more-ish coating.  Spoon them in with hummus and pickle and again, we’re going somewhere nice for a while.

If you are Lebanese, or just know, what is the difference between Baba Ganouj and Mutabal?  Smoking?

Classic line up. This was actually my first meal, 1am after a long day and a bit travelling (from Delhi via Addis Ababa). You can eat awesome food late in Lebanon. Shakshuka (which was basically chips with tomato sauce and herbs, surprising), creamy rich hummus and a Lebanese beer.

LEBANON LOVES FOOD (AND DRINK)!

Lebanese people LOVE eating and many Lebanese dishes can be traced back thousands of years.  If it ain’t broke…..  Most restaurants and houses I visited had large groups of people sat around lots of dishes of food, drinking sometimes beer, wine or coffee and taking their time.  Maybe its the Mediterranean that does this to us.  Slows things down, makes us enjoy the good things in life a little more.  It certainly seems like the countries that circle this sparkling sea all know how to eat well and live easy.

Lebanese beer and wine is very good quality, I didn’t know much about it before, but some of the central valleys in Lebanon are making great wines and not too expensive.  Arak is popular, an aniseed alcohol which can also be good quality, but is normally proper rocket fuel.

When you drink, you eat.  I like that.  In the little, bespoke style bars of Beirut, I regularly got a little tray or bowl of something with my drink.  A nice touch, especially when you see the price of the drinks!!

Tabouleh, you probably know. Lots of herbs, chopped. Lebanon does amazing roast, spicy potatoes. Who knew?!  These sesame flatbreads were really quite special.  Fatoush is another delicious Lebanese salad, normally with a nice pomegranate molasses flavour dressing and crispy, flatbread croutons.

LEBANESE COFFEE

Tea and coffee are not such a big deal in Lebanon.  At least in public.  Unlike Egypt and Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited, there are not many tea shops or cafes.  I was told that people tend to drink tea in their homes and Lebanese coffee (Ahweh) is served in the Greek/ Balkan etc style of finely ground (Turkish grind), boiled in a little vessel and served in small, espresso size cups.  It’s robust.  The resulting coffee is strong, sometimes flavoured with things like cardamom, and leaves that tell-tale sludge at the bottom of your cup.  Lebanese people are very sociable and love entertaining guests.  Seems I missed most of the the tea parties!!

Sesame flatbread bakery – Tripoli.  That’s all they do, hundreds, thousands of steaming sesame flatbreads.  You know they’ll be good!!  Come out the oven puffed up like golden balloons.

I loved everything I ate in Tripoli, but this was challenging. Sharab Al-‘Eriq Sous is made by continuously pouring water through a bag filled with a licourice mix producing a potent licourice concoction. Wakes the taste buds up and makes you pull funny faces.

DESSERT

I didn’t actually sample many Lebanese desserts.  Most were dairy based and I was happy with the ubiquitous fruit, I was also normally stuffed from the meals and all that flatbread.  Halva, the nutty types, are normally vegan, but I find them overly sweet.  I like a little nibble though and it is delicious.  Of course, the tahini variety is a favourite.

Pastes, spices and herbs. I love these stalls.  Bought some Za’atar here and some nice dried apricots, to be made into a refreshing drinks.  Amar-el-Deen, sometimes with a little twist of rosewater.  Perfect in the summertime.  I’d never heard of it before and went to a world food store in Newcastle yesterday and found the exact same packet!!

BEIRUT

Is set on the Mediterranean coast and was not long ago,  a cosmopolitan city influenced by the French, attracting tourists from around the world with stunning architecture.  It is one of the oldest cities on earth.  Beirut has had it’s problems, you probably know all about them.  Basically destroyed by the recent civil war it is a city being rebuilt, pockets of nightlife, galleries, museums are springing up amidst the ongoing problems.  In parts of Beirut, you could be in places like soho, tiny bars and lots of well heeled trendy sorts hanging out drinking cocktails.  I stayed in a wonderful hostel in the centre of a well-to-do corner of the city, plush in parts, a place teeming with offices, restaurants and the occasional hummer.

The Saifi Urban Gardens band. Twice a week, everyone dances, but everynight there’s a party.

The hostel has a sprawling, open air restaurants downstairs, serving excellent, inexpensive food, with regular live Arabic bands.  It was a buzzing place, never dull and the staff were incredible.   Saifi Urban Gardens.

Beirut is good for a couple of days looking around and then serves best as a base for travelling around Lebanon, only a few hours on a bus will take you to any corner of the country.  Most people staying at the hostel, which is a real hub, were students of Arabic.  They did not seem to travel around much, citing tensions and security issues, but most local people just said “Go for it, all is cool.”  So I did and was rewarded with many memorable experiences.

One of the only French style buildings left in Beirut, certainly one of the most impressive. Sursock Museum

Of course, there are still challenges and problems in Lebanon. Protests happen often.

Street Art – Beirut

A RANDOM VEGAN POKE

Mar Mikael and Gemmayze are where the richer, trendy sorts hang out and there is a thriving bar and cafe culture in these areas, not to mention a diverse restaurant scene.  Over the road from my hostel, I bumped into a chef who showed me around his new restaurant, the theme is Poke (pronounced with an accent on the ‘e’, like ‘Ole!’).  Have you heard of it?  A concept he picked up in Hawaii, mainly seafood and veggies in a bowl.  Food that looks outrageously beautiful and he made me a special plant-based bowl.  It was dark, no pic.  It was interesting to be eating Hawaiian in Beirut.

Poke, Buddha bowls, whatever you want to call them, a very nice way of presenting a variety of foods and punchy flavours.  Don’t mix things up, keep them separate and appreciate each ingredients qualities.  I think it makes a nice change.   If you’re not familiar with these things, you’re probably not on Pinterest/ Instagram (like me).

One of the coolest people I met. Kid DJ in the old quarter of Byblos. Playing Arabic dance music turned up to 11 for no one in particular.  For the love of it!

Of course, being a vegan traveller you right off the majority of most menus when you move around.  But in Lebanon, what is left is so delicious and generally varied, that you would not dream of feeling left out of the moveable feast.  I lower my expectations and am normally just happy to get fed.  In Lebanon, I revised that, and realised that most Lebanese people love their veggies and pulses.

Lebanese cuisine is well up there with my favourites, being vegan, it’s even a little healthy, all that hummus, tahini, vivid pickles, fresh juices and normally wholemeal flatbread.

Beirut – no beaches, mainly little rock outcrops where people sun bath and chill. This is from the promenade known as ‘Corniche’. Here, you could be anywhere in the Med, as people come out to exercise and stroll with poodles around dawn and sunset.

Lebanon left a big impression more to come soon……The Perfect Falafel and more travel stories On The Road in Lebanon.

 

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Categories: Healthy Eating, photography, plant-based, Travel, Vegan, veganism | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower with Muhammara (Red Pepper & Walnut Dip)

Lebanese Roasted Cauliflower with Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)

Lebanese Roasted Cauliflower with Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip)

There are zillion and one Xmas stylee recipes floating around at the minute, but I would like to take things is a slightly different direction here.  All the way to Lebanon!!!

Here’s a little festive taste of the Southern Mediterranean, with plenty of warming spices and a really rich and luxurious dip.  This Muhammara recipe is one of my all time favourite dips/ purees and it features in our cookbook.  It is an ideal alternative to hummus at this time of year.  I love hummus, but a change is always good!

Everyone is roasting cauliflower at the minute and I’m all for it.  Roasting brings out the sweetness of the cauliflower and transforms it into something spectacular.  Cauliflower is worthy of taking centre stage and in this recipe, with a few adornments, it shines.  The spices and pomegranate molasses here really takes it up a few notches.

I would eat this as light lunch around the festive season, when you have maybe gone overboard the day before, and it is nice and easy to get together yet bursting with vibrant flavours.

As close as Jane got to a swim (the Med's a bit chilly in winter), El Mojon, Spain

As close as Jane got to a swim (the Med’s a bit chilly in winter), El Mojon, Spain

Jane and I are not long back from Spain, where we had a magnificent time by the beaches and mountains of Murcia.  Regular Beach House readers will know that its one of our favourite spots in the world and we return their regularly.  You will also notice, by the beaming sunshine, that this dish was cooked in sunny Espana.  My parents own a little house out there and I’ve lived and worked over there so its just like going home really.  Our Spanish lingo is improving and we seem to do a load more socialising over there than we do in Wales, something to do with the free-flowing tapas and wine no doubt.

Our local watering hole. A well (pozo) near our house. Murica, Spain

Our local watering hole. A well (pozo) near our house. Murica, Spa

WHAT TO DO WITH POMEGRANATE MOLASSES?

I know that Pomegranate Molasses may not be top of your Christmas/shopping list this week, but it is a brilliant addition to your cupboards.  It can be used to jazz up roasted roots and veggies, as it does in this recipe.  It has a lovely sweet and sour flavour (think cranberries) and is high in sugar, meaning it adds to the caramelised effect we all know and love in roasted roots et al.

It can also be a wonderful sub for citrus in dressings and adds richness and depth to stews, dips (see below) and soups.  Have a play with it!   We also like it drizzled on bread or mixed with tahini to make a delicious spread for toast or even stir it into hot or fizzy water for a refreshing drink.

Pomegranate Molasses is something that is used so frequently in countries like Lebanon and Turkey, where Pomegranate trees are as frequent as oak trees are in Wales.  It is an ideal way of preserving gluts of Pomegranates and turning them into something gorgeously versatile.  It is basically pomegrantes juice cooked down, way down, until a sticky syrup is formed.  You can buy it in Turkey in plastic water bottles by the side of the road. PM is tangy and not overly sweet, unless sugar has been added, check the bottle.

I will be looking at posting a few more festive fav recipes on the blog before the big day.  I’ve just roasted a load of chestnuts and they need a home.  Any ideas?

There are loads of our holiday snaps over on our Facebook page and I am always sharing tasty things on Twitter.

Sorting out some stunning veggies and fruit down at the Sunday market. Mazarron, Spain

Sorting out some stunning veggies and fruit down at the Sunday market. Mazarron, Spain

Recipe Notes

When cutting the cauliflower, don’t worry too much about small pieces that break off.  These can be kept and used to thicken/ flavour soups, gravies and stews.  They can also be sprinkled into salads.

Baharat is a spice mix from the Middle East.  You may also like to use garam masala, ras el hanout etc.  Spice mixes which include warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg etc are perfect.

If you do not have pomegranate molasses, use a squeeze of lemon juice and sweetener of your choice; brown rice syrup, maple syrup etc.  This adds that gorgeous sweet and sour finish to the roasted cauliflower.

Fennel seeds are a great addition to many dishes and worth buying.  They add a little explosion of that unmistakeable aniseed/ fennel flavour.  I understand that they are not a regular ingredient and can be omitted, add a few more cumin seeds if you are fennel-less.

I know Christmas is a super busy time of year, you can buy pre-roasted red peppers in most shops.  They are normally jarred and stored in oil.  This will save a little time with the Muhammara.

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower with Muhammara

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower with Muhammara

The Bits – For 4

Roasted Lebanese Cauliflower

1 medium sized cauliflower (cut into 2 inch florets)

2 small onions (cut into 1/8’s)

1 head of garlic (top trimmed off to expose cloves)

 

1 teas fennel seeds

1 teas cumin seeds

2 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 teas baharat (or other spice mix)

2 teas pomegranate molasses

1/2 teas sea salt

 

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip) – Makes 1 small bowlful

2 red peppers

2 tbs olive oil

1 teas chilli flakes

2 slices wholemeal bread (crusts taken off, stale bread works best)

2 big handfuls walnuts

1 1/2 tbs pomegranate molasses (or 1/2 lemon juice)

1 teas unrefined brown sugar or sweetener of choice

1/2 teas smoked paprika

125g firm tofu

1/2 teas sea salt

 

Garnish

1 handful fresh parsley (chopped)

Big glug extra virgin olive oil

Large pinch of bharat and smoked paprika

 

Do It

Preheat an oven on high, 240oC.

Start by roasting the peppers for the Muhammara.  Rub oil over the peppers and place on a baking tray.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning them once, until they are slightly blackened and soft.  Place in a bowl and cover.  Once cooled, cut in half and remove the seeds, peeling off the skin.  It should slip off nice and easy.

In a bowl, gently toss the cauliflower, onion and garlic in the oil, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and salt.  Scatter over a baking tray and place in the hot oven.  Roast for 12 minutes.

Turn all veggies over using a flat spatula (including the head of garlic), there should be some nice caramelised edges forming on the cauli and onions, this is definitely what we want.  Even nice, dark charred edges are great for this recipe.

Now sprinkle over the baharat spice and drizzle over the pomegranate molasses, give the tray a little shake and pop back into the hot oven for 10 more minutes roasting, until dark golden and crispy.

While all the roasting is going on, you can make your Muhammara.  Place the peppers and all other ingredients in a food processor and blitz until creamy.   Check the seasoning and scoop into your most attractive bowl.

Warm a nice big shallow bowl or serving platter and scoop over your cauliflower.  The garlic will be nice and soft, just pop the cloves out of their skins and scatter over the dish.

The aroma of this dish is a delight. Spicy!

The aroma of this dish is a delight. Spicy!

Serve

Sprinkle a little more Bharat over the cauliflower and finished the Muhammara with a drizzle of delicious olive oil, a sprinkle of paprika and a little freshly chopped parsley.

The Roasted Cauliflower and Muhammara will be delicious with a crisp, green salad and a bowl of olives.  In Peace & Parsnips I recommend warm black olives and toasted pitta bread.  Pickles of any variety will be a great addition.  Now this is really starting to sound like a feast fit for the festive season!

Beach House on the road. The many deserted beaches of Murcia. Aguillas, Spain

Beach House on the road. The many deserted beaches of Murcia. Aguillas, Spain

Foodie Fact

Pomegranate certainly brightens up this time of year and I much prefer the flavour to cranberries, our festive staple for tanginess and that lovely festive touch of bright red.    Pomegranate is packed with vitamins C and K and is also high in calcium and potassium.  Pomegranate is also a good source of fibre and will help to keep our heart, digestive and immune system healthy.  Perfect food to get us through the dark, winter days.

Hiking up in the Espuna mountains. Beautiful forests. Murcia, Spain

Hiking up in the Espuna mountains. Beautiful forests. Murcia, Spain

 

Mazarron sunsets demand a G+T - Murcia, Spain.

Mazarron sunsets demand a G+T – Murcia, Spain.

Categories: Dinner, Healthy Eating, Peace and Parsnips, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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