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.

Shallot tarte tatin

Oh là là ! Don’t you just love a good tarte tatin. The famous tarte tatin is definitely and indisputably one of France’s most beloved and cherished tarts. There are two things I always eat when visiting France: crêpes with sugar and lemon and tarte tatin. Especially the latter as it’s both one of my favourite desserts (with apples) and one of my favourite side dishes (with shallots).

Le Château de Varambon     Le Château de Varambon

We were in France 2 weeks ago where we spent a week in ‘Le Château de Varambon’. My husband booked the accommodation and I had no idea what it was until we pulled up onto a grand driveway to the château. It’s built on top of a hill at the edge of a small town called Varambon so the view from the château was spectacular. We were greeted very warmly by the count Henri de Boissieu and the countess Monique Gabrielle de Boissieu. They gave us a double room in the lefttower on the top floor. I could not believe my eyes as we walked through the château on our way to our bedrooms. It was like I was walking through a museum, but this time I was allowed to touch everything, to sit in every chair and even sleep in the beds. Henri and Monique Gabrielle told us that they had opened the château to the public in the summer of 2017. It was built by the ancestors of Henri and maintained its original charm over many generations. The bedrooms were incredible; they looked like we were transported in time to the era were Napoleon was still ruling over France. Don’t worry, the toilets and bathrooms were up to the standards of the 20th century 🙂 .

On the fifth day we were there, Henri and Monique Gabrielle invited us for dinner. We started in the library with drinks and hors d’oeuvres and Henri was telling us about the château and how his family had built it and lived there. I loved how he was telling us stories like we were old friends. It’s a rare thing meeting such kind and genuine people. After the drinks we moved to the dining room where Monique Gabrielle herself had cooked us a fabulous dinner. These people were absolutely wonderful, very welcoming and nothing was too much trouble when asked. We had a great time in the château and in France. We had never been to that region and we were pleasantly surprised by the people, the nature, well basically everything there. The only negative thing I can think of during that holiday was the fact that this was my first time I did not eat a tarte tatin during my stay in France 😉 . I’m sure if I had asked Monique Gabrielle to make me one she would have, but she had already been so nice to us that I just couldn’t.

Shallot Tarte Tatin

To satisfy my tarte tatin craving I started thinking about making one when I got home. While driving home I dreamed about a savoury version with shallots, a sprinkling of fresh thyme and salty feta to brighten everything up. Just thinking of it made my frown turn upside down, just like the tarte tatin. So that’s how I came to make and now share below recipe.

Shallot tarte tatin
It’s a very simple recipe, but guests will think you spent hours on this gorgeous tarte tatin. I won’t tell if you don’t! You can make it even easier by using shop bought puff pastry if you want. I served it with a rack of lamb with a coriander and honey marinade.

Shallot tarte tatin     Shallot Tarte Tatin

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!

I submitted this recipe to the May Foodblog Event of the Facebookgroup ‘Foodbloggers Benelux’. Check all the recipes for the event on the Pinterest Board of the group.

Shallot tarte tatin
Servings: 3 people
  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 160 g unsalted butter, cut into 1cm dice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 70 g ice-cold water
  • 400 g shallots
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 g butter
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 16 thyme sprigs
  • 100 g feta cheese
  1. Make the pastry by sifting together the flour and salt into a large bowl. Take the butter from the fridge and cut it into small cubes. Add to the flour mix. Using your fingertips and thumbs, rub the butter into the flour until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Add the ice-cold water and stir into the pastry mix with a fork until it starts to resemble a soft dough. Tip on to a clean surface and bring the pastry together with your hands until you have a smooth ball. Wrap this in cling film and chill it in a fridge for at least 1 hour (I usually do this the night before).

  2. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan.

  3. Peel the shallots and slice them in half lengthwise. Heat the butter in a frying pan large enough to fit the shallots in an even layer. Add the shallots and cook over a medium/low heat until they start to brown and are cooked through (about 10 mintues). Add the balsamic and sugar and keep cooking, adding some water if you need to until the balsamic and sugar has become sticky and caramelised around them (about 1 or 2 minutes). Take off the heat, mix in leaves from 8 thyme sprigs and season.

  4. Cover the base of a 24cm ovenproof shallow pan, cake or tart tin without a loose base with baking paper (cut out a round shape). Tip in the shallots with all their sticky juices and turn them cutside down. Tear 4 thyme sprigs into pieces and scatter over the shallots. Crumble the feta over the shallots, leaving a little bit to decorate when it comes out of the oven.

  5. Dust a clean surface with flour and place the pastry from the fridge on to it. Roll out the chilled pastry until it’s big enough to cover a pan of 24cm. Be sure to add extra flour to the surface if it sticks. This pastry is incredibly forgiving and any cracks or tears can be easily repaired by using a piece of dough you tear of a spot where you don’t need it to fix the gap. Lift the pastry circle onto the shallots, then tuck the edges down the inside of the pan. Bake for 25-30 mins until pastry is golden.

  6. Leave tart for 5 mins to settle, then turn out of the tin. Sprinkle with the leftover feta and the 4 remaining sprigs of thyme and slice into wedges. Enjoy immediately.

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.


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.

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.

Aubergine with black garlic

The mighty aubergine is not a vegetable that everyone can appreciate. I know lots and lots of people who don’t like this vegetable and refuse to give it (another) try. Aubergines come in many varieties. They can be white, yellow or purple, or even striped. It’s spongy texture and subtle taste make it very versatile in cooking. That is if you know what to do with them. When they are white and small they look exactly like eggs, which is why they are also called ‘eggplant’ in some countries.

Good to know about aubergines: whatever you do, don’t use the aubergine emoji to send a text to your parents to let them know that you are having aubergine for dinner  🙂 

Most aubergines don’t need peeling, just a quick rinse. Raw, aubergine is flavourless and bland, but upon cooking, it’s spongy texture absorbs all the flavours of its accompanying ingredients and has a melty, meaty texture which is to die for. That’s why aubergines are often used by vegetarians as a substitute for meat. Aubergines can be roasted, grilled, braised, stuffed, fried, boiled, steamed or sautéed, but my go to method is definitely roasting.

Confession…………. up until about 2012 I was one of those people who didn’t like aubergine. The thought of biting into their spongy texture and bland taste………..blehhh. But over the years, I have come to appreciate them more thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. They have so many great recipes where they roasts them in the oven and then cover them in all kind of yummy ingredients. This is one of those recipes with roasted aubergine which is covered with crunchy fried (regular) garlic, red pepper, fresh herbs and black garlic yoghurt.

I can hear you think ‘black garlic’??? What is that?
Ok, let’s talk black garlic….………you probably are not the only one who never heard of it. Black garlic is made when heads of regular garlic are aged under specialized conditions until the cloves turn a dark black and develop a sticky date-like texture so it’s ideal for spreading. And the taste? Oh my gosh……..the taste is out of this world. Sweet, earthy, minus the invasive smell of regular garlic. Think of it as a umami version of regular garlic. Some people even like to eat the cloves straight from the bulb and say it’s a perfect “sweet meets savoury” mix of molasses-like richness with slight tangy garlic undertones and a melt-in-your mouth consistency similar to soft, dried fruit. It’s said that it’s an acquired taste, but I absolutely love it.

I didn’t have any trouble finding black garlic, it was readily available at my farmers market in my town, and I noticed it’s becoming more and more available everywhere. I even see it in the big supermarkets nowadays. It’s worth sourcing out! If your local stores don’t carry black garlic you can always order it online.

One warning: don’t substitute the black garlic with regular garlic or smoked garlic or any other garlic in this recipe, because they are completely different ingredients. Look for the actual black garlic and try this gorgeous recipe. It’s also the perfect salad for the summertime when the BBQ is smoking and it’s screaming hot outside.

‘It’s getting hot in here so take off all you cloves’.

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!

Aubergine with black garlic
Source: 'Plenty More' - Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Servings: 4
  • 3 medium aubergines (900g)
  • olive oil
  • 8 large black garlic cloves (35g)
  • 150 g Greek yogurt
  • tsp lemon juice
  • 7 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (30g)
  • 3 red chillies, sliced on the diagonal into 3mm rounds
  • 5 g dill leaves
  • 5 g basil leaves
  • 5 g tarragon leaves
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 230C.

  2. Cover 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

  3. Cut the aubergine in 1,5 cm rounds and brush them with olive oil (you will need approx. 4 tbs) and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place on the prepared sheets and put it in the oven.

  4. Roast in the oven until golden-brown – about 30 minutes. You might need to turn the baking sheet half way so they brown evenly. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

  5. Place the black garlic cloves in the small bowl of a food processor with a quarter of a teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of yogurt and the lemon juice. Blitz for a minute, to form a rough paste, and then transfer to a medium bowl. Mix through the rest of the yogurt and keep in the fridge until needed.

  6. Heat up about 3 tbs of oil in a small saucepan on a high heat. Add the slices of regular garlic and chilli slices, reduce the heat to medium and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the garlic is golden-brown and the chilli is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic and chilli on to a kitchen paper-lined plate. Be careful not to fry the garlic to long as it will get a bitter taste. The roasted garlic and chilli slices give this dish a little “kick”. You can adjust the quantities of either or both of these ingredients to suit your taste.

  7. Arrange the aubergine slices, overlapping, on a platter. Spoon the yoghurt sauce on top, sprinkle over the chilli and garlic and finish with the herbs.

Very Full Roasted Vegetable Tart

I just love a good quiche: it is a good way of eating your veggies or using up whatever leftover veggies you have in the fridge. This recipe is very forgiving and easily adaptable to any budget or preferences in veggies (mushrooms, leeks, broccoli, carrots). The only thing I would not change are the caramelized onions, they are a must in my opinion, but feel free to challenge me and try without. I would love to hear what you think about omitting the onions. I reduced the amount of feta from the original recipe because I think my version is salty enough. I also added an egg to the custard because on some occasions the middle did not set enough to my taste.


Although there is no meat in this quiche I have served it to hard-core carnivores and they loved it.  I have to be honest with you, making this tart will take some time and effort but I promise you it’s absolutely worth it. You can prepare a lot of the components in advance and assemble it just before you want to bake it. Use store bought shortcrust pastry if you can’t be bothered to make your own. I always make my own, but I don’t have that recipe on my blog yet. I will add a link to it when I do.

It’s the perfect dish to take to a potluck, because it’s portable and everyone will love it. I made this to take to friends house for dinner. Everyone brought a dish and we enjoyed everything together while discussing the kids, work and many other things in life. They all loved it so much I did not only share the recipe with them. I had to promise them so teach them how to make it.

I know what you’re thinking……..with the cheeses, cream and eggs it’s not a low calorie recipe, but believe me when I tell you it’s totally worth it. By the way we all know calories don’t count on holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends, after midnight, road trips and dealing with breakups.

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!

Very Full Roasted Vegetable Tart
Source: “Plenty" -  Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Servings: 8 people
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 small courgette
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 120 g ricotta
  • 100 g feta
  • shortcrust pastry to cover a 20-24 cm pastry case (about 300gr)
  • 7 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 medium free-range eggs
  • 150 ml double cream
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 230˚C.

    Cover 2 large baking sheets with foil.

  2. Cut the sweet potatoes and the courgette in 1cm slices. Put them on one of  the prepared baking sheets. Put the baking sheet in the oven.

  3. Cut peppers in half and discard seeds and stem. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and place on the other prepared sheet pan skin side up.

  4. Cut the aubergine in 2cm slices and brush it with olive oil (you will need approx. 4 tbs) and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place on the prepared sheet pan next to the bell peppers. Put the baking sheet on the top shelf of the oven.

  5. Take out the sweet potato and courgette after 25 minutes and let it cool.

  6. Roast the aubergine and bell peppers for an extra 15 minutes. By then the bell peppers should be charred. Remove from oven and immediately cover the bell peppers with cling foil. Once the bell peppers are cool, the skin will easily come off. Remove the skins and cut into 1cm strips. The aubergine should be golden brown and it might be necessary to turn the baking sheet half way so they brown evenly. Leave the aubergine to cool.

  7. While the veggies are roasting, slice the onions in rings and heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions with the bay leaves and a half teaspoon of salt for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, soft and caramelized. Discard the bay leaves and set aside.

  8. Reduce oven temperature to 160˚C. Line a 24 shallow tart pan (or a 20cm  deep tart pan) with pastry crust. Blind-bake* the crust by lining it with parchment paper, then fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes, lift out the paper and baking beans, and bake for another 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  9. Spread the onions over the bottom of baked tart crust, then top with roasted vegetables. You can cut the vegetables in small cubes or just layer the slices on top of each other. Scatter with half the thyme and dot with small chunks of both cheeses, then the tomato halves, cut-side up.

  10. Whisk the eggs and cream with a half teaspoon salt and a few grinds of  pepper, and pour into the tart; the tomatoes and cheese should remain exposed. Scatter the remaining thyme on top. Bake for 35–45 minutes, until the filling sets and turns golden. Rest for at least 10 minutes, then remove the tart from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Optional: garnish with a little bit of fresh thyme.

  11. * ~ Blind baking prevents a soggy crust in the finished tart.