Turkish-style bread topped with lamb, spices and pine nuts

Serves: 4 – 6

This is really special, really easy street-food, perfect for a Saturday afternoon when friends come round.

The lamb mince can be prepared ahead of time meaning you only have the dough to do as people start walking through the door. Of course, when they see that you have made your own dough, they’ll know something clever is coming.

They’ll also think you’re a genius.

The taste – and the heat – is classic Middle Eastern.

And goes to show that the simplest things really can be the best.

Ingredients

175gm Greek feta, coarsely grated
250gm minced lamb
3 long red chillies, chilli and seeds coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed, dry-roasted and and finely ground in a mortar and pestle

Flatbreads

1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 1/2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting

To serve

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Toasted pine nuts
Thinly sliced mint
Pickled long green chillies

Method

  1. For the flatbreads, dissolve the yeast in 300ml of lukewarm water.
  2. Combine flour and a large pinch of salt in an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast mixture and knead until a soft dough forms. Around 6 – 8 minutes.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 balls. Place balls on a floured tray, leaving 10cm between each and set aside for 1 hour to prove.
  4. Preheat the oven to 250c. Combine the lamb, chilli, garlic and cumin in a bowl. Roll out dough to 5mm-thick rounds on a lightly floured surface, then even top with the lamb mixture, leaving a small border. Transfer to oven trays lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and bake (in batches if necessary) until crisp at the edges but soft in the center. Around 15 minutes.
  5. Serve scattered with pine nuts, mint and pickled chillies at the side.

Prawn Börek

Makes: 8

Lordy.

These little numbers are absolutely incredible; like two-hat Middle Eastern incredible.

The egg, the melted cheeses, the prawns and especially the heat from the chilli. And then the nigella seeds.

I cannot overstate the importance of trying these at home as part of a bigger Middle Eastern feast.

You’ll smirk as you present them, comfortable that all remaining courses will be in your shadow with another family cook-off comfortably won by you.

Amazing.

(The original recipe from the wonderful Gourmet Traveller with only a few minor changes from me.)

Ingredients

6 large uncooked king prawns, peeled, deveined and finely chopped
100gm haloumi, finely grated
100gm Greek sheep’s feta, finely grated
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp isot pepper*
2 egg yolks
8 filo pastry sheets
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
Melted butter
1 tsp nigella seeds**

Method

  1. Combine prawns with cheeses, parsley and isot pepper, then fold through the egg yolks.
  2. Take a sheet of filo pastry, brush butter on one half lengthways and then fold the filo in half lengthways. Place 2 tbsp of filling at one end, then fold o corner of pastry over filling to form a triangle. Repeat folding from side-to-side in a triangle shape until there is one fold left. Brush with butter and make the last fold, pressing to seal the triangle. Trim any excess overhanging pastry.
  3. Repeat for the remaining pastries and refrigerate for 1 hour uncovered to dry.
  4. Heat oil in a large deep saucepan to 180c. Deep fry the börek in batches, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through: 3 – 4 minutes.
  5. Drain on paper towels, spring with nigella seeds and serve.

* Substitute chilli flakes.
** Substitute cumin seeds.

Nigella’s Beef and Eggplant Fatteh

Serves: 4

Hats off Nigella, as simple – and predictable – as this recipe seems, when everything comes together; especially cooking everything as slow as you can, it is a wonderful weekend meal.

And it is quite literally is about it al coming together: the toasted pita chips, the mince and dollops of the warm yoghurt/tahini mixture.

Throw on top toasted pine nuts, shredded mint and pomegranate seeds* and you really couldn’t ask for more except for a second glass of wine as you watch Masterchef** on Monday night.

Hats off again. A cracker.

Ingredients

Base

4 pita breads, slit open and cut into nacho-sized triangles.

Topping

500gm Greek yoghurt
75gm tahini
45ml lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 – 2 tsp salt, to taste

Eggplant-beef layer

3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground paprika
1 – 2 tsp salt, to taste
500gm minced beef

Garnish

125g pomegranate seeds
50gm pine nuts, toasted
1 – 2 tbsp finely shredded mint leaves

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180c.
  2. Spread the pita triangles on a large baking tray and toast in the oven until toasted, moving them around regularly to ensure even toasting. Set aside until needed.
  3. Bat the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice and 1 tsp of salt together in a heat proof bowl which will later be used to sit over a saucepan. Check the salt levels and adjust as needed.
  4. Warm the oil over a low heat in a wide, heavy frypan. Add the onion and sauté for 10 – 15 minutes until softened and caramel.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium, add the eggplant cubes and stir well to mix with the onion. Cook for 10 minutes or until the eggplant is golden, stirring frequently.
  6. Stir in the cumin, coriander and teaspoon of the paprika and a teaspoon of salt. Increase the heat to high and add the beef mince, breaking it up. Cook until browned. Reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the seasoning.
  7. Heat a saucepan of water and bring to a slow simmer. Place the bowl of tahini-yoghurt mixture on top, ensuring the bowl does not touch the water. Beat until the yoghurt is slightly above water temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream.
  8. To assemble, arrange the crisp pita triangle on a large plate. Top with the eggplant-beef mixture, followed by the tahini-yoghurt sauce. Sprinkle with paprika to give a light dusting. Scatter over pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and then finish with the shredded mint leaves.

* In a rush, I grabbed a Fuji fruit rather than a pomegranate. Laughs all round.

** Where we saw this recipe.

Turkish-style eggs with Tomato, Green Chilli and Mince

Serves: 4

Every special occasion in our house calls for a special breakfast.

And that generally means something like this number: a spiced mince cooked with eggs.

This past Mother’s Day, Nat – sensibly – opted to run to the gym before an afternoon of champagne, great food and celebration.

Breakfast was spared.

I proceeded nonetheless.

It wasn’t until Monday that Nat handed in her verdict and it was a 10/10. The breakfast we should have had on Sunday: except that you take every opportunity to get out when you have three boys and limited time on your hands and why wouldn’t you?

It’s Mother’s Day.

Well done Nat. You are the best Mum in the world.

Oh, and enjoy this amazing mince breakfast.

It is awesome.

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter
1 onion finely chopped
6 green peppers, deseeded, finely chopped
250gm lamb mince
3 tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 eggs
Sea salt
Toasted, buttered, Turkish Bread to serve

Method

  1. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Stir in the peppers and lamb mince, increasing the temperature, stirring, until the lamb is browned.
  2. Tip in the tomatoes, half a cup of water chilli flakes, pepper and a good pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly and simmer on a low heat for 30 – 60 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down.
  3. Push the back of a spoon into the mixture to make 4 wells and crack the eggs into the wells. Cover the pan and cook for until the eggs are just set.
  4. Serve with the Turkish Bread and ideally Champagne if you have it!

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Serves: 6 – 8

I originally found this recipe in the New York Times and dialled it up over the weekend as a meal for the three boys: doubled the quantity of meatballs, added fresh tomato to the sauce as well as a cup of red wine and a handful of oregano.

It smashed it out of the park.

The sort of dinner kids – and adults – die for on a Saturday night before a movie, popcorn and ice cream.

The meatballs are the cracker here, with handfuls of Parmesan, extra breadcrumbs, eggs and parsley, additions I added and have reflected below.

Slow cook the tomato sauce, throw in the browned meatballs and boom.

This is definitely worth coming home to.

Ingredients

Salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
1 kg beef mince
3 cups, grated Parmesan
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 breadcrumbs
3 eggs
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
3 cans crushed tomatoes
2 tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
Handful of fresh oregano leaves
500gm spaghetti

Method

  1. Heat the 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Sauté the onions for 10 minutes until starting to golden; mince the garlic and add, cooking for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and the cup of red wine. Bring to the boil and then slowly simmer until the sauce is thickened; an hour or so.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the mince, 2 cups of the Parmesan (setting aside the remaining cup), the parsley, breadcrumbs, eggs and a good pinch or two of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Gently mix until it is combined.
  4. Shape the meatballs so that they are golfball in size.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet over a medium heat. Add the meatballs, cooking them on all sides until browned.
  6. Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and add the oregano leaves. Season well with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the meatballs, ensuring that they do not break up. Simmer on a low heat.
  8. Heat water in large sauce pan until boiling and cook the spaghetti until cooked through.
  9. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and meatballs, combining gently.
  10. Serve with plenty of Parmesan cheese on top.

Coffee Ice Cream

Makes: 5 cups

We had an Italian-themed dinner last weekend with some of Nat’s friends.

And how can it not end well with homemade coffee ice cream and a shot of Lemoncello?

Answer is, it can’t.

Like most ice creams, it starts with a great custard with the addition of coffee: instant coffee.

Trust me, instant is the way to go.

Into the ice cream machine, a few more glasses of red among friends, various promises that we should all go on holiday to Mexico and boom… you’re serving up cream, coffee ice cream.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups caster sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
6 egg yolks
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. In a medium saucepan over a medium heat, combine the milk, sugar, salt and coffee granules, stirring occasionally until steaming. Reduce the heat to low.
  2. Lightly beat the egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly pour half the hot milk into the eggs whilst whisking continuously. Return mixture to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing it to touch the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate until cold.
  4. When ready, whisk the cream and vanilla into the custard until smooth. Churn in your ice cream maker.
  5. Enjoy. With a Lemoncello.

Greek Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Serves: 6 – 8

My mother used to serve us this leg of lamb – at least three times a year – BBQed by my father. The smell of it cooking is a smell I’ve never gotten over.

I’ve cooked it plenty of time too.

Nat loves it and the boys love it.

Max turns one this weekend and we’re having a picnic to celebrate.

A picnic with crusty, buttered rolls, plenty of rocket and egg mayo… and a slices of warm, slow-rotisseried leg of lamb.

Good Lord.

Happy first birthday or whatever you cook this super simple, always amazing lamb for.

Ingredients

Leg of lamb, butterflied
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp salt
Pepper
1 tsp oregano

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the lamb and pour into a large ziplock bag.
  2. Add the lamb and marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
  3. BBQ, basting liberally with the marinade until cooked medium.