Chicken and split-pea tray bake

Last few months I was all over Ottolenghi’s new book ‘Simple’. Have you seen it? Maybe you have even cooked from it too? It’s such a great book with lots of simple recipes that I can cook during the week. Who would have thought that it was possible to cook Ottolenghi’s recipes on working days? I promise I will post a ‘Simple’ recipe soon, but today I wanted to share this spicy chicken and split-pea tray bake from his weekly Guardian column.

We love chicken in tray bakes……..heck we love chicken! Period! I realize that the punctuation in that last sentence is very important because one might think we love ‘chicken period’. Honestly, I don’t even want to know what that is. I love chicken so much that one of the members in our Facebook group once said: ‘every time I cook chicken I think of Zahra’. There are so many chicken recipes we like that I hardly ever make the same one twice a year. Bonkers, right?

Chicken and split-pea tray bake

Why you should make this oven-roasted spicy chicken and split-pea tray bake? For one it’s easy to prep and cook for a quick but yummy supper. I have two very active kids who are always hungry the minute they come home. Especially when they go through a growth spurt and grow several centimetres in only a month or two. At these times they are likely to need a lot of energy, hence fooooooooooood.

Often my son is more affected by this than my daughter. He sometimes has seconds and maybe even thirds and still feels hungry. I just let them because I know children are very energetic and can burn off calories faster than most adults. Sometimes I can be very envious of their metabolism. I remember those times in my childhood when I could eat as much as they do and never gain any weight.Chicken and split-pea tray bake

Another reason why you should make this spicy chicken and split-pea tray bake is that you can make the whole dish in one pan. I have a big deep roasting tray I use for my tray bakes that I can use on the stove for a quick sear before I put it in the oven. One pan cooking has some great advantages. The obvious one being: there is only one pan to wash up after dinner. In addition, you can pop it in the oven and go and do other things while the oven does the hard work.Chicken and split-pea tray bake

The original recipe doesn’t use bell peppers, but I wanted to add some extra veggies and colour to the dish. I also used chicken thighs for extra flavour. You might want to use other parts of the chicken if you are watching your diet. Omit the jalapeño and substitute smoked paprika for the chipotle if you can’t find it or want to make this more child-friendly.

Chicken and split-pea tray bake

Don’t be tempted to use less liquid as the split-peas will soak up all the sticky pan juices until they are al dente. Don’t worry if they turn mushy. The dish will still taste amazing. I also used more split peas because I wanted to finish the package I bought. Besides the famous Dutch split pea soup I don’t use split peas very often in recipes. That’s why I added that little bit extra. Please, don’t skip the split peas, they are really scrumptious in this dish. All I’m saying is: give peas a chance…………..

Chicken and split-pea tray bake

If only all recipes were as simple as this one, right? Mister Ottolenghi should definitely include this recipe in his sequel ‘More Simple’ or is it going to be ‘Simple More’?

Chicken and split-pea tray bake

I hope you enjoy this chicken and split-pea tray bake recipe as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 6 votes
Chicken and split-pea tray bake

Source: 'The Guardian' - Yotam Ottolenghi

  • 6 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs (1.1kg)
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 2 jalapeño chilli, cut in half lengthways
  • 1 garlic bulb, cut in half widthways
  • 6 (banana) shallots, peeled and quartered lengthways
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes (or smoked paprika)
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 30 ml maple syrup
  • Salt
  • 150 ml water
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 300 g dried green split peas, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1-2 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  1. Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan). Put the first nine ingredients in a large bowl with 50ml of the oil, 20ml of the maple syrup and a teaspoon and a half of salt, then toss with your hands until the chicken is well coated.


  2. Take only the chicken out of the bowl and give it a quick sear skin side down in a baking dish that you can use on the stove for a few minutes, just until the skin browns. Then take the chicken out of the baking dish and set aside.


  3. In a separate bowl, combine the stock, 150ml water, the split peas and half a teaspoon of salt (omit the salt if your stock is salted).


  4. Pour the peas and stock into the baking dish, then top with the chicken and its marinade, arranging the thighs so they are skin side up and spaced apart. I started out with a smaller baking dish and changed to a bigger one later because I was afraid the chicken wouldn’t brown in the small one (too much liquid).


  5. Bake it for 50 min, then take it out of the oven. Turn the oven up to 220C, brush the chicken with the remaining oil and maple syrup, and sprinkle with an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Return to the oven for an extra 10 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and crisp and the peas are cooked through but still retain a little bite. Don’t worry though if they turn mushy, they will still be delicious. Take the baking dish out of the oven. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their papery skins and stir into the peas.


  6. Pour the lime juice evenly over the top and finish the dish with a scattering of coriander.


My internship at Ottolenghi in London

My internship at Ottolenghi in London? Yes! I really did it. You guys know I love the Ottolenghi cuisine and I cook a lot of his dishes at home. I also love to go to London and eat at his restaurants with friends. I think it was about one year ago I started thinking about applying for an internship in one of his restaurants in London. Because I don’t have any experience in a commercial kitchen I thought I would never get accepted so I didn’t do anything with it at that time. Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it would be like to work in a professional kitchen.

In April of this year, I decided to pull the trigger and send an email to NOPI and ask them for an internship. I wrote them an email about how I love to cook and included my Instagram to show them what I’m capable of. It took one week to get an answer from the head chef who told me that I could come to NOPI for an internship. I was so happy, but at the same time really nervous as to how it would be like. Me, Zahra, who has only been cooking for my husband and children is now going to be working in a professional kitchen. OMG!!!

application NOPI

I talked to my husband what time would be the best for him to be home alone with the kids and decided on the third week of October. I booked my train and hotel and started working on my knife skills and cooked as many dishes as I could to prepare myself for that week.

suitcase London

So finally the day came to leave my family and to go to London, to NOPI, to work in a professional kitchen for the first time in my life. I had a hotel close to Liverpool street which meant I had to commute to work for about 20 minutes to Oxford Circus and then walk to NOPI (stands for North Of Piccadilly). NOPI looks unassuming from the street. It’s tucked away on Warwick Street, which is a side street in Soho and all you see is four simple letters on the wall outside above the entry. If you’re not looking for it you could easily miss it (which happened to me the first time I visited it). Warwick Street is a small street running parallel to Regent Street, just a short walk away from the busy Piccadilly Circus and the shopping Walhalla of Carnaby Street.

NOPI restaurant

I worked at NOPI for 6 days straight and I learned many things while working there. For example, I learned how to make zhoug, cut squash and aubergine the right way and make scrambled eggs for 15-20 people. There were 8 bigger lessons though that are worth passing on to everyone who is considering spending some time in a commercial kitchen. Even if you are not considering working in a restaurant you may get inspired to do so after reading my lessons and my diary. I can highly recommend it, just take the plunge and try it out once in your life.

Keep your working area clean

When I cook at home I rarely clean my kitchen counter until I’m finished cooking. In a professional kitchen space is scarce. You have like a half a square meter to work on and the space next to you will be occupied by someone else. If there’s one thing every chef will tell you is an essential part of cooking it’s the necessity of working clean. On my first day I learned to clean up as you go along. It’s very important to always keep your station clean and organized, and be sure to put everything in its proper place before moving onto another task. Also, keep all your product organized around your workstation, and try to keep your chef’s whites and apron as clean as possible.

Good tools are half the work

I did not bring my own knives to NOPI because I assumed they would have enough knives to work with. Even though they did have enough knives one of the first things I noticed when I started there was that everybody brings their own knives. Why? You are used to a certain type of knife and you make sure your knife is always clean and sharp and ready to go. You know this because if you are a devoted chef you make sure your baby is well taken care off.

Other tools that I used there that make life a lot easier are the Thermomix which is a high-quality blender, a spice grinder (I use a pestle and mortar at home) and good quality piping bags. I don’t think I will be able to convince my hubby to buy me a Thermomix, but I’m seriously considering buying some of the other handy tools I used there. They make life so much easier.

Take initiative

Be prepared to feel inadequate. This may sound weird, but you will be working with people who do this for a living every day. People who do everything that you are doing in the kitchen 4 times as quick as you are. Try to make the best of your internship by working as hard as you can. If you don’t have any particular task assigned to you in the moment, find ways to keep busy. Clean, refill, peel, grate or ask someone higher up the chain for a task. But whatever you do don’t just stand around because you don’t know what you ought to be doing, that’s just not done. And when you have finished a job, ask what you can do next.

It’s all about communication

One of the first things I learned in the kitchen is that communication with the other chefs while you are working in the kitchen is crucial. Say ‘back’ when you pass between someone and a counter, say ‘knife’ when you need to go from one place to another with a knife, say ‘hot, hot, hot’ when you need to pass with something really hot. When someone asks you a question answer with a clear “yes” or “no”, anything else is too ambiguous.

Don’t be shy to ask questions, because it’s better to feel dumb about asking questions than to screw up something because you didn’t want/dare to ask. Remember that like many things in life if one person in the kitchen doesn’t work as well as they should, the whole operation suffers.

Stay hydrated

No explanation needed here. It’s hot in the kitchen, keep a bottle of water nearby at all times or walk to the sink every hour to have a glass of water. Also, don’t forget to eat. I had so much adrenaline in my body the first day of working that I did not drink or eat the whole day and did not realize this until my shift was over.

Be Flexible

If it’s anything like my internship you will be assisting one of the chefs, but that doesn’t mean you only do what this chef is doing. Don’t be afraid to lend a hand and help out another chef, even if that means you have to work a little bit harder. If your shift ends at 15:00 and your work is not done yet, finish it and clean your work area before you leave.

Another lesson I learned in flexibility is that Every Chef In The Kitchen Has Their Own Way Of Doing Things. Just because things are one way today, doesn’t mean they’re going to be the same way tomorrow. One day your chef is telling you to bash the pits out of a pomegranate, the other day another chef tells you that bashing is out of the question and you need to peel the pomegranate by hand. That taught me to always ask how to do stuff by starting and then asking if that’s the way they want it done. A simple “is this the right cut?” will save you a lot of headaches. Don’t wait for asking until you are done, you might be too late by then.

Ask, Learn and Write

Keep your ears and eyes open and watch what the other chefs around you are doing. Ask questions if you don’t understand what you need to do, even if you have to ask ten times. ALWAYS ask questions but know WHEN and HOW and WHO to direct those questions too. Have another chef or whoever is close check your work before you do the whole bag of aubergines wrong. If you ask someone to check your work in an early stage they can tell you what to do better or differently.

Be aware that your learning curve will be steep as you need to learn so many things when you just start out. There is no shame in taking notes so be sure to bring a notebook. Take notes of recipes, cooking tips, really anything that you want to remember but know you wouldn’t if you didn’t make a note of it somewhere. Keeping a little notebook can help you make order of chaos and help you become more efficient and knowledgeable in the kitchen in the long run.

Try to have fun

Of course you are here to work, but try to have fun while you work. If you have the chance have a chat with the chefs and ask them questions to get to know them a little bit. That’s how I learned about the nickname ‘Spicy Dennis’ and about Chef Andrea’s ambition to open up a food stand near the beach. Remember you most likely share a passion for food, so you will probably have lots to talk about. I truly think in order to work at a restaurant a passion for food is a must. As I was told by a few chefs at NOPI, working in a restaurant is not just a job, it is a lifestyle.

The last lesson I want to share is when you finished your internship always remember that last impressions are just as important as the first ones. Be sure to thank the head chef for the opportunity and to thank all the other chefs for their time and lessons. If you follow these lessons I’m sure you will have a fun and successful internship. Always remember that if there’s a recipe for success, it starts with picking the right ingredients.

When I was at Nopi I decided to keep a daily diary so I could share the experience with my Ottolenghi Facebook group and of course to remember every moment for myself. So if you want to read more about my days at NOPI please check below links for my diary:


Ottolenghi salad
Day 1

Day 2

internship at NOPI
Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Ottolenghi Simple
Day 6


Zahra aka Culyzaar


Green Gazpacho

It is unbelievably hot this summer in the Netherlands and I wouldn’t be surprised if these scorching temperatures reach record-breaking heights. However, considering the summer can be quite rubbish in The Netherlands I’m glad that it’s finally hot enough to complain about how hot it is :-). These kinds of temperatures certainly can take a toll on our bodies and when the mercury rises this high, there are few people who are willing to get in the kitchen and cook dinner over a hot stove. So we tend to go for dishes that don’t need cooking at all like fresh cold salads.

Green gazpacho - Ottolenghi

But………………If you read my blog post about ‘garlic soup with harissa’ you know that I’m a big soup fan. I’m that crazy girl that can eat hot soup even in summer for the reason that hot food actually cools me down on a warm day. This heat however, is even too much for me. This is no reason though to ditch soup as a whole. I just turn to cold soups instead and gazpacho is probably what first comes to mind when you think of chilled soup. There is nothing quite like a delicious gazpacho on a warm summer day.

So, what is this green gazpacho that looks too healthy to be any good? Are you sure this is gazpacho? Isn’t gazpacho supposed to be red? That’s the typical reaction I get from people to whom I served this dish. Why? Because the main ingredient in traditional gazpacho is tomatoes. One could think I made this gazpacho with green tomatoes, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Ottolenghi manages to make a gazpacho with zero tomatoes in it, but I can promise you that you won’t miss them eating this green gold. Its full of green veggies blended into a silky creamy chilled soup with Greek yoghurt, basil, walnuts and parsley.

Green gazpacho - Ottolenghi

This gazpacho is the perfect dish to take to a picnic or maybe to take to work and eat at your desk. Although, why would you eat at your desk if you can eat outside in the sun? I prefer going into the scorching heat to eat my gazpacho lunch to avoid frostbite from our office air conditioning. There is a chance that this portion of blended veggies is not hearty enough for you and that’s where the croutons come in. If you don’t like croutons (who doesn’t like croutons??) you can always serve the gazpacho with a large chunk of fresh bread or add garnishes like spring onions or walnuts or…..……….anything you fancy.

If you want a more posh way to serve it during a dinner party, pour it into cute tall shot glasses and serve it as a refreshing little appetizer. This flavourful soup requires no cooking and can easily be made the day before and stored in the fridge until ready to serve.

Green gazpacho - Ottolenghi

The temperature is 37C as I’m writing this blog post. I think I will go and sip some more gazpacho…………….try to stay cool in this weather and promise me you will try this soon.

I hope you enjoy this green gazpacho as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 3 votes
Green Gazpacho
Prep Time
20 mins
Total Time
20 mins

Source: 'Plenty' - Yotam Ottolenghi 

Servings: 6 people
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 small green bell peppers, deseeded
  • 1 cucumber (350g in total)
  • 3 slices stale bread (120g in total)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150 g walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 200 g spinach
  • 45 g basil leaves (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 10 g parsley
  • 4 tbs sherry vinegar
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 40 g Greek yoghurt
  • about 450ml water
  • 250 g ice cubes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • white pepper
  • 2 thick slices sourdough bread (150g in total)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  1. This recipe is so easy that it’s the croutons will take the most time, so start with the croutons.

  2. Preheat the oven to 190C. Cut the bread into 1cm cubes and toss them with the oil and a bit of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the croutons turn golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down.

  3. Roughly chop up the celery, peppers, cucumbers, bread, chilli, and garlic. Place in a blender and add half the water, cover and puree until smooth. You should now have room to add the rest of the ingredients to your blender. Add the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yoghurt, the other half of the water, half the ice cubes, the salt and some white pepper. Make sure it can fit in your blender, otherwise do this in batches. If you don’t have a standing blender you can always use an immersion blender.

  4. Blitz the soup until smooth. Add more water when needed to get your preferred consistency. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Put it in the fridge to chill it. I like to make it the day before so it’s really cold when we eat it.

  5. Just before serving the gazpacho you add the remaining ice and pulse a few times, just to crush it a little.

  6. Serve the gazpacho at once, with the croutons and a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. I like to add a few leaves of basil on top.

Recipe Notes

Over time I changed a few little things in this recipe. I use a normal (unpeeled) cucumber instead of mini cucumbers because the mini ones are not always easily available. I throw in the whole bread, including the crust. I only use 2 garlic cloves (instead of 4) because I don’t like a lot of raw garlic. I know I’m crazy like that. I use regular spinach instead of baby spinach and I use more basil than the original recipe calls for. Furthermore, I only add 50ml of olive oil instead of the 225ml to the gazpacho and use 2 (instead of 4) tbs of olive oil to coat the croutons. It’s a lot of small changes, but I adjusted the gazpacho to my taste.

Ottolenghi’s Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

These cod cakes in tomato sauce from the Ottolenghi cookbook ‘Jerusalem’are one of the many recipes I cooked to convince some of my hardcore carnivore friends that a meal with fish can be as delicious and sometimes even more delicious than the red meat option. I have some friends who believe that a dinner is not complete without a piece of red meat. I’m not a vegetarian but I don’t like to eat meat every day. My husband is a meat lover too, but I like to think I convinced him with my cooking that it’s not necessarily the meat that makes a meal complete. Nowadays I can even get away with serving him a vegetarian meal twice a week. Getting away sounds like he doesn’t like it, but he assured me that he loves the vegetarian dishes I cook for our family. He sometimes even makes vegetarian requests now.

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

I have made these cod cakes in tomato sauce many times for dinner and they surely are a huge hit with everyone who eats them. People always ask me for the recipe afterwards. Calling these gems cakes though doesn’t do them justice in my opinion. Fishcakes are defined in the Oxford Dictionary of Food and Nutrition by chopped or minced fish. The fish is then mixed with potato, egg, and flour. The seasonings consist of onions, peppers and sometimes herbs and spices. The potato and flour are the main reason why I’m not really fond of the traditional fishcakes. They tend to make them dense and dry, while these cod cakes in tomato sauce are moist and succulent.

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

For this recipe, you can pretty much use any fish you like, but I would recommend a nice flaky white fish. I have made it with fresh cod or tilapia but I have also made it with cod from the frozen section. Though the fresh fish is better the frozen option is pretty decent if you need to watch your budget and can’t afford to buy fresh fish. Another great tip I learned from someone is before you shape and refrigerate the cakes, fry off a small piece of the mixture. Taste it, add seasoning if needed and add a little bit of panko/ breadcrumbs when it’s too sloppy.

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

By the way, these cod cakes in tomato sauce are perfect for freezing to save for a rainy day. When freezing them separately (without the sauce) be sure to put some greaseproof paper separating the patties. When freezing them with the tomato sauce make sure you defrost overnight and heat them up very gently. Be careful as this is one of those dishes that you will eat too much of and regret it later…………and then end up having one more…………

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

I always serve them with a simple couscous seasoned with salt, pepper, some extra virgin olive oil, some parsley (or coriander) and some slivered almonds for the crunch. The children always ask me to make broccoli to go with this dish. It’s their favourite combination.

Do you want to hear a lame joke about fishcakes?
A man walks into a fish shop with a fish under his arm and says “Do you have fish cakes?”.
The fishmonger says, sorry, we have no fish cakes today!
The man says: that’s a pity, ……… it’s his birthday today!

Thank cod 🙂 I’m better at cooking than at telling jokes, right?

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

4.75 from 4 votes
Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 20 mins
Total Time
1 hr 40 mins

Source: ‘Jerusalem’ – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 4 people
Cod cakes
  • 600 g cod (or any other white flaky white fish) skinless and boneless
  • 60 g Japanese panko crumbs (or 3 slices white bread, crusts removed)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 150g in total)
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 30 g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 30 g coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • tsp salt
  • 2 large free-range eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp olive oil for frying
Tomato sauce
  • tbsp olive oil
  • tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 125 ml water
  • 700 g the best passata you can get
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Start with the fish cakes so they can firm up prior to frying. Chop up the fish very finely and place in a bowl with all the other ingredients except for the olive oil. When using bread instead of panko you need to blitz the bread in a food processor to form breadcrumbs. Mix well and then, using your hands, shape the mixture into compact cakes, about 2cm thick and 8cm wide. The mixture should make 8-12 cakes, depending on how big you want them. I always refrigerate the cakes for at least 30 minutes to firm up, but when you have time one hour is even better.


  2. While the cakes are firming up in the refrigerator you can start on the tomato sauce. Heat up the olive oil in a very large frying pan for which you have a lid. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5-8 minutes until soft and translucent on medium heat. Make sure not to burn the garlic. Then add the spices and fry for another minute. Add the water and keep simmering for another 3 minutes. Add the passata, chili, garlic, sugar, ¾ tsp of salt and some black pepper. Simmer on low heat for about one hour and taste to adjust the seasoning when needed.


  3. While the sauce is cooking add the remaining oil to a frying pan and fry the cakes for about 3 minutes on each side until nicely browned. Place the seared cakes gently, side by side, in the tomato sauce. Carefully add enough water to partially cover the cakes, about 200ml. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer on a very low heat for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the cakes to settle, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with mint.


Spring Salad

There are people that love winter, but I’m not one of them. I tend to be a bit grumpier during the winter and I hate how it gets cold and dark really early. I leave the house to go to work and it’s still dark. When I come back from work to pick up the kids from day care it usually is dark again. The only things I like about winter is Christmas with my family, building a snowman with my children, having a snowball fight or just enjoying the winter scenery. In the Netherlands it can be really cold in winter, but we don’t often have enough and good quality snow to enjoy these kind of things. It’s more like a slushy kind of snow which causes traffic jams and accidents and ruins your new shoes when you get out of the car. So that leaves Christmas as the only perk in winter. If we would move Christmas to Spring we can cancel Winter alltogether, what do you think? Are you with me on that?

Ok, ok, ok…………..hold your horses. I know that’s not a good idea. I know we need winter, nature needs winter, some people need winter to shake off the heat of Summer. We need Winter as much as we need Summer and Fall and Spring. So every year I patiently sit and wait for the cold to disappear so Spring can start, because Spring is my favourite season…………….my solace. I love it when the grass in the garden gets a bright green and all leaves start growing on the plants and trees. The fruit trees start to blossom and the flowers pop up from the ground and last but not least the weather finally turns warmer. It’s so nice to feel the sun on your skin while sitting outside, but it’s not too hot yet, like in summer. Spring just makes everything prettier, happier and more alive. Every year I get so excited I nearly wet my plants…….……..but the garden is my husband’s territory. He does the watering of the plants, weeding, mowing the grass and pruning the trees and he does a great job doing it (see below).

0ur garden

Another great thing about Spring is the amazing vegetables and fruit that grow in this season. Of course you can get things like artichokes, peas or fennel all year round nowadays, but nothing beats the taste of so many spring produce when you actually buy it in springtime. I like to eat a lot of fresh salads in Spring; from fresh asparagus to radishes to green beans and all kinds of fruit. A lot of people find it difficult to incorporate salads into their meals. These are the same people who think salads are boring, because they think salads are just some green leaves, cucumber and tomato’s. Well, think again……….……..try to use other ingredients. You will be amazed by how many ingredients you can toss into a salad. By including a variety of ingredients, salads can often turn into a nutritional power bomb chucked full of vital vitamins and minerals.

That’s why I just love a big bowl of this Spring Salad recipe. This salad puts green veggies like spinach, asparagus, haricot vert beans and broad beans together. Then you add a dressing of shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, sesame oil and chili. You make it nice and pretty with some nigella seeds and white and black sesame seeds. It made a fabulous side dish to the chicken curry we had tonight. The kids had a version without the asparagus, chili and shallots.

I like to leave the podding of the broad beans to my ‘sous chef’, because it’s a tedious job and he still thinks of it as a challenge. I tell him that I need small hands for the job and that his hands are perfect for it. He likes the fact that he can do something I can’t (hihihihihi). My other sous chef used to do it for me, but she is no longer fooled by my words 🙂 . She still helps a lot in the kitchen, just not with the beans anymore. There will be a time that I have to do the podding myself again, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

As much as I love this season, there is one thing I don’t like about Spring; I’m not really into Spring cleaning. But come to think of it, I’m not into Summer, Fall or Winter cleaning either. If you are one of those people who can’t wait to start your Spring cleaning, going through the whole house all excited while listening to music, I have one solid advise: whatever you do, your toilet brush is never the microphone!!!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!


Spring Salad
Source: ‘Plenty’ – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Servings: 4 people
  • 300 g asparagus
  • 200 g French beans (haricot verts)
  • 200 g broad beans after podding (fresh or frozen)
  • 50 g baby spinach leaves
  • 1 shallot, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white and black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • Salt
  1. Trim the asparagus and slice them in an angle into 3-4 pieces. Fill a large pot of water with water and bring that to a boil. Blanch the asparagus for two to four minutes, depending on thickness. You don't want them cooked too soft. I added the tips of the asparagus only in the last minute so they don’t turn into mush. With a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice-cold water. Then you add the French beans to the boiling water, blanch for five minutes and transfer to the asparagus bowl. Drain both well, then dry on a clean kitchen towel.

  2. Take the pan of the heat and add the broad beans in the same water. Leave them in there for 2 minutes and then drain them. Transfer to a bowl of water and remove the outer tough skin by making a incision with the nail of your thumb on the top and then pressing them between finger and thumb so the beans come out gently. Don’t press to hard or they will turn into a mush.

  3. Mix the sliced shallots, the red chili, the sesame oil, the olive oil, the lemon juice and half a teaspoon of salt in a jar and shake thoroughly. Put all the greens in a large bowl and add the dressing, stir gently, taste, add more salt if you like. Put everything on a serving dish and sprinkle the salad with the black and white sesame seeds, the nigella seeds and serve at once.

  4. If you want to keep some of the ingredients separately like I did with my children, then you mix half of the remaining ingredients in a jar and leave out the ingredients you don’t want to add. You use this dressing on the kids version and you make a separate dressing for the adults.


Parmesan Cookies

Who says cookies have to be sweet? I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I prefer nibbling on a savoury snack over drinks. As I wrote in another post, I have a lot of siblings. When we were little, we had a rotation schedule for chores like doing the dishes or setting the table. Like any kid I hated doing my chores, but I knew my mum would be mad if I didn’t do them. So I thought of an inventive way to do as little chores as possible. How? When my mother gave us candy I would not eat it, but store it in a container in my closet instead. Whenever it was my turn to do a chore I would take out my container and bribe one of my sisters or brothers to do it for me in exchange for a sweet (or two). One of my sisters, let’s call her K, who had the biggest sweet tooth of all of us would always be willing to do my chore for a sweet. There was one time I managed to go all summer without doing the dishes, setting the table or doing any chore whatsoever. Am I genius or what…….?

So let’s go back to my original question…….….. Who says cookies have to be sweet? I don’t! These tender, crumbly, buttery Parmesan Cookies from Ottolenghi ‘The Cookbook’ are a delicious savoury snack. They are a twist on the traditional sweet slice-and-bake shortbread cookies. The savoury twist on this cookies is the use of lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and some spices. Because they are sliced with a knife before baking you don’t even need cookie cutter. They are great for entertaining as most the dough can be made in advance, rolled into logs and left in the freezer until needed. When frozen take the log out of the freezer a couple of hours before you want to bake them and just slice and bake when your guests arrive. They are the perfect companion to your favourite appetizer bites and a refreshing drink.

Parmesan Cookies Ottolenghi

Parmesan Cookies Ottolenghi

By the way, there is one exception to my ‘not-so-sweet-tooth’ and that is homemade cakes or pies. You can safely leave a bag of candy or chocolates in front of me and find it untouched when you come back. However, leave a deliciously smelling homemade cake or pie with me and there won’t be a crumb left when you come back. Forced to choose though I will always go for the savoury option. I once read that people who prefer savoury snacks over chocolate and other sweets are called ‘supertasters’  This means that the flavours they taste are stronger than how most people perceive them. I have no idea what the pros and cons are of being a ‘supertaster, but I just love the thought of being a super anything…… 😉

I did not try it yet, but I can image you can get creative and customize your own savoury cookies with different spices and cheeses. Maybe add a pinch of smoked paprika or some fresh chopped rosemary. How about using some spicy cheddar or aged Gouda?

The amount of Parmesan in the recipe is perfect. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re putting too much Parmesan in your cookies. If that ever happens: stop talking to them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. I don’t always make jokes, but when I do they are pretty cheesy.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me if you liked it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Parmesan Cookies Ottolenghi

Parmesan Cookies Ottolenghi

Parmesan Cookies

Source: “The Cookbook” – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 35 cookies
  • 210 gr plain flour plus plenty extra for dusting
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 165 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 165 g Parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • 80 g poppy seeds
  • 1 free-range egg beaten
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, paprika and cayenne into a bowl and add the salt and pepper.

  2. Mix the softened butter with the freshly grated Parmesan until they are well combined (by the way, don’t even consider using the so-called Parmesan cheese you find in the pasta aisle of your supermarket) . You can do this either by hand, using a spatula, or in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the dry ingredients and continue mixing until a soft dough is formed.

  3. Put the dough on a well-floured work surface and divide it in two equal parts.

  4. Use plenty of flour, both on your hands and on the work surface, to roll each piece into a long log, 3–4cm in diameter. Wrap each log in cling film and place in the fridge for about 1 hour to firm up.

  5. Scatter the poppy seeds over a flat plate or tray. Brush the logs with the beaten egg and then roll them in the poppy seeds until covered.

  6. Refrigerate again for 1 hour (at this stage you can also wrap the logs and freeze them).

  7. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Cut the logs into slices 5–8mm thick and arrange them on the tray, spaced 3cm apart. Bake for 12 minutes. The biscuits should be dark golden and smell amazing!

  8. To ensure their crunchiness, leave to cool completely before serving, or store in a tightly sealed container.

Soba noodles with aubergine and mango

I love to cook and eat and what better person to share this passion with then the love of my life. Not that he’s much into cooking new recipes, but he definitely loves to eat. The best part is that he shares my enthusiasm for exciting food, textures and flavours. It’s such a joy to cook for someone who loves to eat as much as I do. He is always willing to try new things and is not fussy about certain ingredients. I don’t know if I would love cooking as much as I do if I had to adjust all recipes to fit his preferences.

I’m also lucky that my kids eat a lot of the dishes I cook, but kids will be kids and of course my kids are fussy sometimes. I do teach them that they are not allowed to say that they don’t like something when they have never tasted it before. That means they always have to taste everything I make. I have surprised them on a few occasions where they did not expect to like what I had put in front of them, and then they ended up having seconds. The first time that happened was when I made the green couscous from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. Of course, what kid likes green fuzzy stuff on first sight, right? It’s now their favorite couscous recipe. I will share that recipe on another occasion.

There is one exception to the ‘tasting’ rule. If I use chilies in a dish then they don’t have to taste it if they don’t want to. They are not accustomed to spicy food (yet). So, the first time I made the soba noodles with aubergine and mango I also made a separate dish for them because the recipe called for red chili in the dressing. However……..when the kids heard our mumbles of joy at the dinner table they both asked for a bite despite the chilies. Which was ok because the vinegar in the dressing had made the chilies less spicy. After one bite of our salad they shoved their plate of pasta away and asked for a bowl of this salad. Go figure……….. They said the salad tastes like sushi 😆 and they love sushi.

This salad is very simple and nutritious; it has the perfect balance of flavours and a great mix of textures. It’s a salad that keeps you going back for more and more and more………………

After I made it the first time it quickly turned into one of my favourite summer salads which you can also easily take to potlucks or BBQ parties. If you want to keep it all to yourself (which totally makes sense to me) just store it in the fridge for a perfect easy lunch during the week. It’s so refreshing, especially when the temperatures are warm and the sky is sunny. The mango might seem weird in this recipe, but it’s an absolute must. Just make sure your mangoes are of the juicy and delicious variety.

The original recipe has you frying the aubergine in 220ml sunflower oil, but besides the fact that all that oil is not that healthy I don’t like it when the aubergine soak up a lot of oil. I only use just enough oil to ‘bake’ the aubergine in a skillet on the stove. I think I don’t use more than 2 tbs per batch (2 batches).


I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me if you liked it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with aubergine and mango

Ottolenghi’s soba noodles with aubergine and mango

5 from 1 vote
Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango

Source: “Plenty” – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 4 people
  • 120 ml rice vinegar
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 4 tbs sunflower oil
  • 2 aubergines, cut into 2cm dice
  • 250 g soba noodles
  • 1 large ripe mango, cut into 1cm dice
  • 40 g basil leaves, chopped
  • 40 g coriander leaves, chopped
  • ½ red onion, very thinly sliced
  1. First make the dressing. In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chilli and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice. 

  2. Heat up 2 tbs of sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry/bake the aubergine in 2 batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain. Repeat with the remaining aubergine. I have to say that when I do this it never releases any fluids so I don’t do this anymore. Maybe because I don’t use a lot of oil.

  3. Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 4–5 minutes to become tender but still retaining a bite (check your package for instructions). Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a tea towel.

  4. In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, aubergine, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1–2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Ssssssstttttt………..don’t tell anyone, but I’ve had a love affair with Middle Eastern food ever since I took my first bite. Middle Eastern cuisine comes from various countries and cultures ranging from North Africa through Asia. It includes Arab, Iranian/Persian, Israeli, Assyrian, Armenian, Kurdish, Cypriot, Azerbaijani and Turkish cuisines (sorry if I forgot some countries). It’s so broad you will always find something you like in this cuisine. I’m so fond of this type of food that I’m yet to cook something from it I don’t like.

Today I made Ottolenghi’s kofta b’siniyah from his cookbook Jerusalem. Kofta is essentially a meatball often seasoned with onion, herbs, and spices that can trace it’s origin across the Middle East. It comes in many varieties, each with its own unique heritage and specific preparation technique. Depending on the region, kofta can be made with any kind of ground meats. This version of kofta is made with half & half mixture of ground beef and ground lamb and served on a creamy tahini sauce.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Some recipes will tell you to use olive oil to cook the meatballs. I would advise against this because all the flavour of olive oil will disappear while cooking at high heat and the kofta is more likely to burn. Vegetable oil (like sunflower oil) has a higher smoking point and is better suited for the job.

Make sure to rest the shaped meatballs in the fridge for about 30 minutes or more before cooking, that helps the meatballs to firm up and the flavours to settle.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Before you start rolling the meatballs check the seasoning of your mixture by cooking a piece of it in the pan. Taste it and if it needs more salt or pepper, add some to the rest of the meatball mixture. Good seasoning is very important and is hard to correct once cooked.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

This recipe uses tahini, but many people don’t like this paste, because they never had good tahini. I don’t buy the Turkish brands, because I find them too bitter and difficult to use (to thick). Buy a good brand tahini and don’t skip on the tahini-lemon sauce. It provides a smooth and creamy contrast to the fragrant meat. A good brand for example is ‘Al Yaman’ which I bought in ‘Tanger’, a Moroccan supermarket in Amsterdam. Two other brands I can recommend are ‘Al Nakhil’ and ‘Al Arz’. Surely you will find one of the three, either in a store or online.

I usually serve this with pita bread and a cucumber and tomato salad. Unfortunately I did not have time to make pita today so I served them with some corn on the cob.

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

So if you have the (meat)balls to try a variation on your standard meatball, it’s time to consider kofta. Trust me it will make you fall in love with middle eastern food in no time.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. Tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Ottolenghi’s Kofta b’siniyah

Source: “Jerusalem” – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 5 people
  • 400 g minced lamb
  • 400 g minced beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50 g toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped, plus extra whole ones to garnish
  • 30 g finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
  • 1 large medium-hot red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1½   tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1½   tsp ground allspice
  • ¾     tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1½   tsp ground black pepper
  • 1½   tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil for baking the Kofta
Tahini sauce
  • 75 g light tahini paste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • enough water to make the sauce runny
  • 1 medium garlic clove, crushed
  • salt
  • sweet paprika, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

  2. Put all the kofta ingredients (exept for the sunflower oil) in a bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Now shape into long, cigar-shaped cylinders, roughly 7cm long (about 50g each). Press the mix to compress it and ensure the kofta is tight and keeps its shape. Arrange on a plate and chill (at least 30 min) until you are ready to cook them.

  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, water and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. The sauce should be a bit runnier than honey; add more water if needed one tbs at the time.

  4. Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying-pan and sear the kofta over a high heat; do this in batches so they are not cramped together. Sear them on all sides until golden brown, about six minutes for each batch. At this point they should be medium-rare. Lift out of the pan and arrange on an oven tray. Put the tray in the oven for two (medium) to four (well done) minutes.

  5. Spoon the tahini sauce on a serving plate so it covers the base of the tray and place the kofta on the sauce. Scatter with pine nuts and parsley and finally sprinkle some paprika on top. 

  6. Serve at once.


‘Fried’ Buttermilk Chicken Thighs

I was in the mood for good comfort food and this recipe for oven ‘fried’ chicken fitted the bill perfectly. In this recipe Ottolenghi gives the traditional fried chicken a skinny makeover by ‘frying’ the chicken in the oven. Fried-chicken-purists will be horrified reading this recipe until they try it. Then they will find out that this skinnier little sister of the fried chicken is not so bad after all. Yes, it’s skinnier, easier and also very important…………there’s no greasy mess to clean up afterwards and you don’t run the risk of losing an eye to hot oil.

With this recipe Ottolenghi managed to achieve a crispy golden exterior but at the same time the meat is tender and juicy because you soak the chicken overnight (maybe even two nights) in a buttermilk bath. The chicken is so moist and juicy that it falls off the bone. So, succulent and moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. What more do you want? Before I encountered this recipe I didn’t make fried chicken often, because it’s not the healthiest thing to eat. The first time I made this ‘skinny’ version for my family they asked me to make it again the next day and because it’s much healthier than the regular fried chicken I did.

If you read this and I convinced you to try it then you will be disappointed once you read it needs to marinate for quite some time. I can already see the question coming if you can skip the marinating or marinade it for a shorter time. I recommend you marinade the chicken for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight (or two). Patience is a big virtue here. Not only does the buttermilk marinade keep the chicken super juicy once it gets fried, the long marinade also allows the chicken to really get infused with flavour. My advice would be not to skimp on the marinating time.


Remember you can always increase or diminish the amount of spices if the taste of the crust doesn’t suit you. I like to add 1/2 tbs paprika extra in the marinade and sprinkle another half on the chicken right before it goes into the oven. Do the sprinkling with your fingers so you can evenly distribute the paprika over the skin.

The original recipe uses 3 tbs of panko crumbs. I use more panko and just go by eye and stop when I think it’s enough.  The panko makes for the crusty exterior, but in order to get a good crunch you need to set your oven higher for the last 10-15 minutes. If the skin is not brown after 10-15 min you can always use your broiler to help with this last step. When under the broiler you have to watch your chicken closely so it doesn’t burn.

So if you like your fried chicken but don’t want the calories that go with it: this should be your go to recipe. You know calories right? Calories are tiny little creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night when you go to sleep.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

‘Fried’ Buttermilk Chicken Thighs

Source: ‘Guardian website’ – Yotam Ottolenghi

Servings: 5 people
  • 2 ½   tsp smoked paprika for the marinade
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika for sprinkling
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 200 g buttermilk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in (about 1kg in total)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • enough panko breadcrumbs to coat the chicken
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the paprika for the marinade, garlic and buttermilk with three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Add the chicken thighs, toss well to coat, then set aside in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight (or two).

  2. Heat the oven to 180C. Spread out the chicken skin side up on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle them with a tiny bit of extra smoked paprika so the smokey taste comes out even more in the finished dish. Roast them for 40 minutes, basting once or twice. I did this with a silicone brush.

  3. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and increase the oven temperature to 220C. Take another silicone brush and brush the oil over the chicken. Then sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs evenly on top and bake the chicken for 10-15 minutes more, until dark golden brown, leave to rest for a few minutes and serve warm.

Paneer-stuffed aubergine in red lentil and coconut sauce

This recipe is sooooooooo good that when I discovered it,  I made it 6 times in two weeks and heard nobody complaining. I know you now think I’m nuts, but I dare you to try it. I’m part of a Facebook group who is filled with fabulous home cooks who conjure up the most spectacular dishes. When this dish was posted there it featured for many weeks and everyone wanted to make it. Every time someone posted this dish again there where even more people wanting to make it because of all the raving reviews everyone wrote after making this.

What makes it so special? The red lentil and coconut sauce is creamy and spicy at the same time and the aubergine make this dish substantial enough to make it a complete meal. It’s both filling and healthy, meaning that you can feel indulgent with none of the guilt. The paneer stuffed aubergine surely elevates this curry to something completely irresistible.

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, it can be a healthy choice to go meatless every now and then. This vegetarian recipe makes a perfect meatless Monday dinner dish. I’m not vegan, but I’ve been told that you can even make it vegan by subbing the paneer for marinated tofu or avocado (thank you Deborah for the suggestion). Did you know that aubergine is known for its dietary fibres, vitamins B1, B3 and B6, copper, manganese, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K?

It takes some time to make the stuffed aubergine but you will not regret it as it is packed full of delicious Indian flavors. Make a double portion and you’ll have giant smiles at the dinner table the next day. If you don’t want to eat the same two days in a row you can always freeze some so you have it quick and easily available for a rainy day. That’s my strategy nowadays anyway…………….

The aubergine slices in this dish are stuffed with paneer which is a cheese that is made with just two ingredients: cow milk and lemon juice. If you can’t find it in stores near you, you can always make it yourself. It’s as easy as pie. I will try to upload the recipe for paneer asap so you will see it’s really not that difficult to make. If you want you can spice up your paneer with salt and spices. I sometimes use za’atar or cumin or just use it plain, but I always add salt to my paneer.


What’s also fabulous about this dish is that it’s perfect for feeding a large crowd of friends and/or family. You can assemble the dish in advance, refrigerate and just bake off at the last minute. This is perfect if you’re entertaining and you don’t want to be in the kitchen while your guests arrive.

Serve these stuffed aubergines alongside a nice green salad, with a wedge of lemon for squeezing, and you’re all sorted. If you don’t think it’s enough or you want to make it extra special you can always whip up some of my naan. Check the recipe here.

Paneer-stuffed aubergine in red lentil and coconut sauce

I think the original recipe does not make for enough sauce, so I always use more lentils and add some water and seasoning in my version. I also cut up all the aubergine parts that I don’t use for stuffing and add them to the sauce because I hate to waste food. The fresh curry leaves are an essential part of this dish, but I know how difficult they can be to source. I’ve made the dish with and without the fresh curry leaves and though I like it better with it’s also very nice without. I always leave out the curry leaves that are fried at the end and spooned over the dish because I don’t think they add anything to the taste. I don’t bother with dried curry leaves. The ones I can buy here don’t have any taste or smell whatsoever.

Paneer-stuffed aubergine in red lentil and coconut sauce        Paneer-stuffed aubergine in red lentil and coconut sauce

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 1 vote
Paneer-stuffed aubergine in red lentil and coconut sauce
Source: ‘The Guardian website’ – Yotam Ottolenghi
Servings: 6 people
  • 3 large aubergines cut lengthways into 0.5cm-thick slices
  • 100 ml groundnut oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 6 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • 40 fresh curry leaves (frozen from fresh is fine too)
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp medium curry powder
  • 3 tsp tomato paste
  • strips lime peel from 1 lime, plus the juice of 1 lime
  • 200 g red lentils
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 100 g large spinach leaves
  • 220 g paneer, broken into 2cm chunks
  • 10 g coriander for cooking
  • 5 g coriander, roughly chopped, to serve
  1. Heat the oven to 220C. Lay out the aubergine slices on two large oven trays lined with baking paper. Brush with two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle it generously with salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn over the aubergine slices and repeat, then roast for 30 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown. Leave to cool.

  2. Put two tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots and fry for eight minutes, until golden brown. Add the leftover aubergine, the ginger, the chilli and half the curry leaves, cook for two minutes, then add the spices, tomato paste, strips of lime peel and lentils.

  3. Stir for a minute, then add the coconut milk, 800ml water and a teaspoon of salt. Turn down the heat to medium and leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the lentils are soft and the sauce is thick. Pour into a large enough baking dish to accommodate the stuffed aubergine later and set aside.

  4. Take a aubergine slice and put a few spinach leafs (or just one if there are really big) on top. Put a piece of paneer in the middle, then roll up the aubergine, from the thinner end at the top down to the thicker bottom end, so the paneer is encased.

  5. Put the aubergine rolls seam-side down in the lentil sauce, and repeat with the remaining aubergine, spinach and paneer. You should end up with about 16-20 rolls, all sat snugly in the sauce. Press the rolls gently into the sauce, but not so far that they are submerged.

  6. Bake the aubergine for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes. Drizzle the aubergine rolls with the lime juice and serve with coriander sprinkled on top.