Sunday Feast Day – celebrating our Bans
A couple of Sundays ago we had both his and my family over, because our wedding is happening in a church – so we needed to have our bans read. It seems the church haven’t heard of Google, and still rely on church communities to work out if people getting married are related, or married to six other people, or whatever. Retro.
Anyway, instead of going out we decided to have everyone back to ours for a Sunday feast day. And since it was sunny a few weeks ago (nice one England, we did have a summer but it finished in late June apparently) the sweat required of a roast for over ten people was just beyond me. So I decided to channel my Middle Eastern tastebuds and summon up a feast for people to help themselves to.
So I made falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, roasted veg, a spicy herby salad and a salsa. And it miraculously went round everyone, with a little bit of help from focaccia (thanks to my dad for his budding superstar focaccia-master status…)
Sometimes, a massive cook seems terrifying. But my main priority when people are coming over to eat with us, is that I don’t have to do much at the time. Preparation is key!
1 – Get your falafel mix all ready to roll, sat in its small rounds on a shelf in the fridge. Hell, you can even fry them beforehand, then get them on a baking tray ready to warm through in the oven (I really don’t think this affects the flavour).
2 – The salsa is great made a few hours in advance and sat in a bowl in the fridge.
3 – Get the baba ganoush and hummus made hours before, or even the night before (but lay clingfilm on their surfaces, to prevent that slight discolouration that happens).
4 – Chop your veg to size, then sit it on a baking tray in the oven, ready to drizzle with oil and get roasting.
See? Really all you need to do now is get the oven on and concoct a salad. Suddenly you can enjoy your Sunday too.
I added a little sprinkle of sumac to the hummus for citrus freshness, the baba ganoush was well-charred, smokey aubergine and the salad had lots of spicy, handpicked leaves through it (thanks to my dad, again, for being green-fingered)!
The salsa was fresh and coriander-y, and the focaccia oily and rosemary salted.
Overall, a big success, and a new way to cook for all the family on a Sunday!
Hummus is so easy, and also cheap to make, that I really do wonder why would you buy it. You can make those small taste variations that suit your palette, too. Ideally you should use dried chickpeas and soak them overnight, but this level of foresight is usually beyond me. This is when I begin to understand why a person might buy it. Ha. So, this is a recipe using tinned chickpeas. For a pre-soak, look up Yotam Ottolenghi’s basic hummus for a great starting point.
1 can chickpeas
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic
Slug olive oil
(if you want a different flavour, add 1 tsp gently toasted then ground cumin seeds, or a 1/2 tsp of paprika, to taste)
salt and pepper
sumac, for sprinkling
Rinse your chickpeas well (they always smell hideously like cat food. This is a natural enigma of which I am highly suspicious). Whizz your chickpeas and garlic in the food processor until they begin to really become fine – add your liquids slowly to keep the mixture thick enough to blend properly. You may not need all the lemon juice, and you may want to slug in 3 or more tbsp of olive oil – hummus really is a personal thing. I use a heaped tbsp of tahini, but again you can use a little more or less to taste.
Add all the fluids you want once the mix is fine enough – some want a chunky, lumpy, thick hummus and some want hummus the texture of a fine paste. It’s up to you how much you blend, and how much liquid you use, but obviously the longer you whizz and the more fluid, the finer and softer and wetter your hummus. Season to taste – I usually use a sprinkle of salt and a good few grinds of pepper, but it’s up to you.
Serve with a sprinkle of sumac, if you have some and appreciate the citrusy taste. If not, sprinkle over a little cumin, or reserve a couple of chickpeas from the whizzing to blob on top. Drizzle over a little pool of olive oil.
Baba Ganoush recipe:
Admittedly, I have no idea if this is an authentic baba ganoush recipe. Sometimes I just use garlic, aubergine, seasoning and spices – if you want to omit tahini, it will be a different dip but one I like just as much.
1 large aubergine
1 large clove garlic
1/2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
toasted cumin, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, mint leaves or pomegranate seeds for sprinkling atop, if the desire takes you
You need the aubergine to be completely charred and squishily soft, collapsing on itself, to have achieved that beautiful smokiness. The best bethod for this is to grab your aubergine by its stalk, preferably with a pair of tongs, and hold it centimetres over your gas ring. I, alas alack, use an electric hob, so I have to char them on the electric surface, and then grill them at a high temp. I can assure you that this is NOT as good – they bloat up inside their blackened skins, but the flesh is never as soft and smoky as if you commit to searing the life out of them over an open flame. The rule is, if you think they’re done, they aren’t. You need to hold that sucker over the gas until it has crumpled in on itself and is charred all over.
Once you’ve done this, muttered to yourself about your now slightly sticky hob and put your aubergines on the side to cool, you need to peel off this blackened skin. over a bowl, slowly peel off the skin. It should come off easily. Press the excess fluid out of your aubergines (I whack them in a sieve and press, but Ottolenghi, who has the patience of a saint, lets them drip in a colander for at least an hour, so whatever suits your timeplan)…
Fork up your aubergine until it’s a lumpy sort of paste. Season. If you want a fine dip, by all means blend it, but I personally think lumpy is definitely the way to go for baba ganoush. Add finely chopped garlic to taste. I’d say 1 clove to one large aubergine, but go less or perhaps more as you fancy. Add your juice of half a lemon (too much can ruin the smoky greatness, but you need that little citrus edge) and your tahini (some would add more, but I don’t want too much sour sesame to my sweet and smokey aubergine). Mix this through until combined.
Now go wild on your toppings. My favourite is a little swizz of olive oil, then a good drizzle of pomegranate molasses, followed by a sprinkle of chopped mint and a handful of pomegranate seeds. Massively yum.
Some people put broad beans in. Go for it, if you want. You can’t deny – falafel really are just so bloody good.
(for about a dozen falafel)
1 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2tsp ground cumin
1/2tsp ground coriander
1/2tsp Lebanese seven spice (see recipe here)
1/2 tsp salt
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
bunch of coriander, chopped
smaller bunch of parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp baking powder
frying oil – sunflower/vegetable
If using dried chickpeas, soak them in plenty of cold water overnight. Drain and tip out onto to a clean tea towel to dry. If you’re lazy, though, like me, just open your can and give your chickpeas a really good rinse, then again tip them onto a clean tea towel to dry.
Put half the chickpeas into a food processor and pulse until they begin to break down evenly. Then add the spices, salt, onion and garlic and whizz again, until it’s more broken down and well-combined. Then whazz in the last half of your chickpeas and the fresh herbs and pulse until well combined, but try to avoid making a pastey mush – it’s nice to still have a certain lumpy bite to your mixture. Season, and stir in the baking powder, well. Chill the mix in the fridge until use, but for at least 30 mins.
Roll your falafel into small, squashed balls and get your oil heating up – about 3 cm deep should be okay for a deep-shallow fry, as it were. To deep fry, add around 5cm depth of oil.
Test your heat by dropping a little blob of mix in. It should begin to roil around in the oil, but shouldn’t cook too quickly, or burn. It should be okay for 30 secs plus. If your oil is hot enough and not too hot (the actual temp you’re going for is around 180c) begin frying your falafel, in batches – don’t overcrowd your pan. They should take a couple of minutes per side (if you’re deep frying there’s no need to turn them). Keep turning them every couple of minutes until the outside is evenly golden brown.
Roasted veggies recipe:
For a shorter cooking time go for small chipped veg, as I have done in the pictures above – if you have an hour and a hald, go for big, finger-sized chunks.
1 small butternut squash, de-skinned and seeds scooped out
Chop up into the portion size you want. Italian-style small chop, which I’ve used, will cook in 40 mins or so. Larger, finger-sized chunks will take 1.5 hours or so.
Warm your oven. Put a baking tray large enough to comfortably hold all this veg in the oven, its surface coated with olive oil – 2 tbsp should be about right. Warm for 5 mins.
Do you want any flavour on your veg? They are great tossed with a tsp paprika, or a tsp oregano and salt. Do this before you put them onto the tray, and the now hot oil.
Keep an eye out, and roast according to size of chunks, Turning over with a spatula half way through.
This is a great salsa to have in the fridge – it makes for a happy salad.
1 Red onion / two spring onions
1 red pepper (or yellow)
2 large tomatoes
bunch of coriander
handful of mint
slug of olive oil
smaller slug of white wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
Chop all of your vegetables into similar sized pieces. Mix well, and add your chopped herbs. Then pour over your oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Be cautious with the oil and vinegar, then add more to get the right balance. Season to taste with salt and pepper, mix through again and leave to sit (if you can wait! After 30 mins there will be a lovely lemon dressing through your salsa from the vegetables mixing with the oil and vinegar and lemon juice).
Why not add more unusual herbs and leaves to your salad? Instead of straight rocket, lettuce or spinach, add a handful of wild garlic and some jack by the hedge in May for garlicky and mustardy flavours. If you grow herbs in the garden, add some oregano, or some de-sprigged thyme leaves. Do you grow big herbs? Add through some sprigs of fennel, or my absolute absolute favourite, lovage.
And on the side, why not a homemade chutney or two?