For the second year running, I have made the momentous decision to give up meat and fish for Lent (well, last year I only gave up meat, and I definitely had a guilt-inducing portion of chips I believe were most probably cooked in beef dripping) so I am fully on the hunt for exciting vegetarian food.
Last Lent I decided quorn products were okay, and predominantly cooked the same sorts of dishes I always cook, using quorn as a slightly less tasty mince substitute. Now, I’m not swearing off quorn – it does a great job – but it makes life too easy, and more than a little bland. This year, I intend to cook exciting, vegetable and pulse-based foods which are naturally delicious, and aren’t pretending to be something they aren’t.
So this Lebanese Seven-Spice Pizza idea was inspired by Stevie Parle‘s Dock Kitchen cookbook. He has some great spice mix recipes at the back, and once you’ve got them in your spice rack they can make life very easy. HOWEVER, prepare yourself to sweat a bit in the process (I was literally down to my undies, sweaty forehead, trying to avoid arm cramp from my pestle and mortar action. I highly recommend a sous-chef takes over for a bit – step in, fiancé. This is your time to SHINE). So I’ve given Stevie’s spice mix recipe below (I literally took a zero off his recommended portions, and still ended up with a jam jar full of spice mix! he must’ve been making restaurant amounts), and then followed up with my recipe for a quick, easy and exciting veggie Saturday night tea!
Lebanese Seven-Spice Mix
Stevie Parle suggests using the mix like pepper as a seasoning, and I think it’d be lovely with most Middle Eastern flavours (he also suggests rubbing it into lamb chops, which I certainly cannot try at the moment – let me know how it is if you give it a go)!
15g coriander seeds
13g cumin seeds
12g allspice (I used powder, but berries are preferable for strength of flavour)
15g cinnamon stick
18g black peppercorns
I highly suggest grinding these in small quantities, and tipping into a bowl as you go (even doing this I had a few cumin-and-coriandery escapees over the kitchen floor). Get your guns out – it is time for a good bit of pestle and mortar action! Get the mix as finely ground as you can without sending yourself mad.
Are you done? Phew. make sure you use a clean and completely dry air-tight jar, and the mix should keep for ages (though we all know spice powders lose their potency over time, so don’t leave it in your cupboard untouched for a year).
Lebanese Seven-Spice Pizza
Now for the easy bit! Ideally you can arrive at this stage on a different day from your pestling day, when your arms are recovered – because if you do, this is such a quick and easy supper.
1 tbsp Lebanese Seven-Spice Mix
4 tbsp olive oil
khobez bread, tortilla wrap or any thin flatbread
cheese – ideally 1 ball mozzarella
4 dates, de-stoned
squeeze of lemon
Put your oven on high – 220 C. Take a heaped teaspoon of your spice mix and mix with the olive oil in a bowl. Place your flatbreads on a baking sheet or preferably a cake cooling-type grid.
Spoon your olive oil mix over the breads, smearing around so all the bread is oiled. Place very thinly sliced rounds of aubergine on the base (no need to pre-salt – that old wives’ tale) as well as thin slices of tomato, and don’t overwhelm your bread with too many ingredients – though it is sorely tempting, you’ll end up with a soggy, underwhelming and oddly-cooked pizza. Chop your dates very finely, and tuck them here, there and everywhere too – their sweetness really complements the savoury spice mix and aubergines, and the sharp fruitiness of the pomegranate.
Tear/slice your cheese and scatter over the pizza (erroneously I used ‘fridge cheese’ on this attempt – you know, the hunk in some clingfilm that just looks at you, sulking and sweaty, every time you open the fridge door? I think it was cheddar – so that just proves that any cheese will do the job, though mozzarella will be best). Scatter half of your pomegranate seeds over.
Once you’ve loaded your flatbreads, salt and lightly oil (I have an olive oil spray perfect for this job, but a thin drizzle all over will do the job) and put in your preheated oven.
Keep an eye on your pizza-ish masterpiece – burning happens with very little warning! It should be cooked in around 5 minutes, just watch for the signals of golden hues and oozy cheese. Take out, scatter with the extra mint leaves and the rest of the pomegranate, and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top. We had it with a plain green salad. It was yum, so I hope you give it a go! x