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This office lunch bento no. 208 is in African-Eastern style. I used leftovers from dinner I made following recipes from the Cookbook Challenge #1. Remember I said there were a few more recipes I wanted to try from the Modern Moroccan cookbook? Well, this box contains creamy couscous, agave-roasted courgette and home-made harissa. All delicious. :) Especially the couscous was surprisingly good.
The other tier is more… fusion. It holds some gherkin and pickled onions, mixed green salad with lemon olives, grapes, pecans, garden cress, fennel and spring onion. There’s onion bhajee with tamarind sauce in the paper cup (Indian takeaway) and a small piece of veggie dog with tomato ketchup.
Some more seedless grapes on the side.
I haven’t gotten around to blogging much (I’m spending more time away from the computer these days), and I actually had this lunch on the 28th of March. So far, the first bento of April has still to come. :(
We’re eagerly awaiting spring here so we can celebrate o-hanami in the Japanese cherry blossom garden with our traditional picnic — that should make up for a lot of bentos in one go! ;)
Have you made any bentos lately?
After keeping myself on a leash for a while I finally joined Swap-bot late last year. I already told you about some food-related swaps in my previous Weekend Cooking post. Today I want to talk about another one: the Cookbook Challenge #1, hosted by Carmen of the Gastronomery Group. Like many of us she has several under-used cookbooks and she wants to tackle them with the help of fellow swappers. She made the challenge vegan-friendly so of course I had to join — never mind that I have a pile of books of my own… ;)
For this first ‘cookalong’ Carmen chose some recipes out of Modern Moroccan by Ghillie Basan and posted them on the group blog. The idea was for us to choose one recipe, test it, document it and send the (virtual) results to our swap partners; in my case our hostess herself. So Carmen, here’s my pick!
Cinnamon-scented chickpea and lentil soup
Don’t let the long list scare you: it’s not as much as it seems and most of these ingredients are fairly common in a foodie household. If you look at the preparations you’ll see this recipe is a breeze!
- 1.5-2 tbsp olive oil (see my tweak among the modifications below)
- 1 onion, halved and sliced
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger (djahé)
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric (kunjit)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch of saffron threads
- 400 gr can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tsp sugar (I used raw cane sugar)
- 80 gr brown or green lentils, washed (I used Puy lentils)
- 950 ml vegetable stock or boiling water & 2 bouillon cubes
- 400 gr can cooked chickpeas (265 gr drained)
- 150 gr cooked broad beans (I used 175 gr frozen peas)
- small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
- small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- salt ‘n pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until soft.
- Stir in the spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron), tomatoes and sugar.
- Add the lentils and pour in the vegetable stock or water and stock cubes.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender (check the instructions on the package).
- Stir in the cooked chickpeas and beans and bring back to boil, cover again and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
- Mix in the fresh herbs and season to taste.
Mr Gnoe and me enjoyed this soup on a cold February night accompanied by (store-bought) bake-off buns and couscous salad.
I only made half of the original recipe on the Gastronomery Cookbook Challenge #1 page and that was amply sufficient for four diners. Especially served with accompaniments like ours. This soup is already plant-based (and chock-full of proteins!) so no veganizing was needed, but still the recipe got slightly tweaked.
- I took the easy route and used a 400 grams can of chickpeas (= 265 grams drained) instead of dried beans that would have needed to be soaked overnight.
- Dried broad beans are not commonly available over here (although it’s not impossible to get them in a city like Utrecht) so I had wanted to use frozen but forgot to add them to my grocery list. So I took 175 grams garden peas from my freezer stash instead. Together with the chickpeas that roughly summed up the 400 grams of cooked beans I needed.
- I made vegetable stock with one bouillon cube instead of two and spiced it up with salt and pepper at the end. I’m still not sure whether I’d use two cubes anyway next time… (if there is a next time?)
- I didn’t use olive oil for frying the onions but used leftover sunflower oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes in oil.
- The original recipe said to fry the onions for about 15 minutes… It took me 2-3 to get them soft. ;) If you’re supposed to caramelize the onions then 10-15 minutes would be right but it just says “until soft” so I believe the time publicized to be an errata.
- I added one celery stalk, just because it was lying around in the fridge. Not necessary at all.
Has the Jury reached its verdict?
This chickpea-lentil soup is certainly a hearty dish, but it didn’t tickle my taste buds. I’ve had bean and lentil soups before, some of which were much more special.
I couldn’t discern a specific Moroccan flavour and I don’t think using broad beans would’ve changed that. Do you? Maybe adding a spice blend like ras el hanout would be a good idea; there’s a recipe for that in the book -and on the Gastronomery blog- as well. But I also just can’t appreciate the combination of multiple legumes: lentils and chickpeas and peas. I do like vegan harira (Moroccan/Algerian chickpea-lentil soup), but this modern version is too much of a
mismatch mishmash for me.
So. If you’ve had these kinds of soups before, this recipe is not very exciting. But if you haven’t – this is a good place to start! Common ingredients and little work bring a filling winter stew to the table.
Blogging pal Uniflame also participated in Cookbook Challenge #1 and got me for a swap partner. She tried the Casablancan couscous with roasted summer veggies and shared her version of the recipe on She Likes Bento. In winter I regularly make oven-roasted root vegetables but I always forget to do something alike in summer. Gotta remember!
February has been a super busy month so I didn’t get around to cooking two other recipes from Modern Moroccan that I like. So there are still a vegan version of grilled sweet zucchini with spices and harissa on the menu.
Now if you feel like trying another Moroccan soup, how about this sesame soup recipe I posted before?
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Join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post!
Last night I went to a party buffet and as the birthday grrl wasn’t sure whether there’d be anything vegan among the Moroccan caterer’s food, I offered to bring something myself.
On a party you’re supposed to have something sweet as well, so I pulled a cranberry muffin from my freezer, made a pink glazing of powdered sugar and cherry syrup and topped it off with some cherries. Perfect, as there was pie for dessert.
Now can you guess what’s in the present? ;)
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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!
I often come across people with an ooooold jar of tahini in their cupboards. Do you know tahini? It’s a paste of ground sesame seeds, used in Mediterranean, North African and Middle Eastern cooking. It is most widely known as a component of hummus. You’re familiar with hummus, right? A versatile chickpea spread that’s great on bread or as a dip? Now that’s how most of these nearly full containers of tahini end up in many Western kitchens: there are only one or two tablespoons needed for a batch of homemade spread — and what to do with the rest???
Well, the Dutch foodie blogging quartet is here to help!
And on Graasland we’re having roasted eggplant & tahini soup.
Roasted eggplant and tahini soup
- 3 medium tomatoes, halved
- 2 medium eggplants (about 550 grams together), halved lengthwise
- 2 medium onions (I used a red and white one), halved
- half a head of garlic
- olive oil
- 1 litre of vegetable broth (4 cups)
- 2-3 teaspoons ras al hanout spice blend (store-bought or mixed yourself)
- 4 tbsp = 60 ml tahini (1/4 cup)
- juice from half a lemon (2-3 tbsp or more to taste)
- chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Place tomatoes, eggplants and onions on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle or brush with a little oil (we don’t have cooking spray over here), and season with salt and pepper.
- Slice a small part of the bottom of the garlic and fold it in a piece of aluminium foil. Wrap up tightly and put it on the baking sheet with the vegetables.
- Roast the veggies for 30-45 minutes, until they are tender and brown in some places.
- Remove from the oven and wait until the vegetables are cooled enough to handle.
- Scoop the eggplant out of its skin and into a large saucepan.
- Squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic out of their skin and add to the eggplant.
- Remove the skin and green centre from the tomatoes and add to the pan as well, along with the onions.
- Add the broth and ras al hanout. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the onions are very tender.
- Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a food processor.
- Add the tahini and simmer for about 5 more minutes.
- Finish the soup by adding lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish each bowl of soup with a generous sprinkle of cilantro.
For this soup I heavily relied on the recipe from Cara’s cravings; there are also instructions for homemade ras el hanout on her page. I already had a mix that I made a long time ago and desperately need to finish…
The spices determine the flavour of the soup, so keep that in mind when you decide to substitute. If you’d like an even creamier soup you could also add a dash of soy cream to the bowls. But whatever you do, do not skip the lemon juice, nor cilantro. They’re absolutely essential!
Okay, you all need to confess now… Have you got a pot of tahini stashed away somewhere? It’s time to get it out and start cooking!
Also check out our previous blog hops:
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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!
I had a nice crunchy summer salad for lunch today!
Bento #58 contained:
- summer fruit (cherries & raspberries)
- scrambled eggs with tomato and shallot (this sweet type of onion fits the egg dish really well)
- homemade tzatziki
- whole-wheat croutons and chermoula dressing both for the summer salad
- Romaine leaves
- homegrown bean sprouts
A perfect bento to start the week with! And to end the month, since I’ll be working at home tomorrow.
The tzatziki came out really well so fortunately there was no need for Gnoe’s tips against garlic breath ;)
The chermoula dressing was a diluted version of our freshly made coriander chermoula for the Moroccan carrot soup we ate this weekend. I promise to post all recipes some other day :)