It’s still only January so it’s not too impressive that I’m still on track with my resolution, but here comes recipe numero dos. The reason I chose to make this recipe is that, even though it definitely has more of a Summery than a January feel to it, I’ve been craving a decent vegetable dish after having found it difficult to shake off bad Christmas eating habits, so this fresh recipe seemed perfect for that. Also, I love feta (which you’ll soon notice I’ll recommend you put with almost everything) and aubergine as well, two fresh ingredients quite prominent in Greek and Turkish food. Having tried this recipe, I absolutely love the mix of textures – the perfectly soft and warm texture of the griddled vegetables against the fresh, cooler tabbouleh with it’s mint and cucumber, where the caramelised pistachios provide a lovely crunchy contrast. Even the absolute carnivore I served the leftovers to liked it, so I think this is a vegetarian triumph!
This recipe makes enough for about 4 people, which was perfect for me in this situation as it provided me with one dinner for myself, two for having someone over the next day and a lunch. However, if you just cook for yourself and don’t fancy eating the same thing (however delicious that thing may be) 4 days running, I recommend halving some of the ingredients. The aubergine makes this a bit difficult to do, but fortunately in the time it’s taken between writing up this post I’ve found and tried another recipe which requires just half an aubergine. Perfect eh? Of course you can mix up the veg, for example I think butternut squash would be a lovely addition. But for me, having just professed my love for aubergine, it’s not really an option to substitute it for that. Despite appearances, it’s also worth noting that this meal is actually pretty filling.
Finally, the recipe this was adapted from was designed to be made on a BBQ. Now, it’s a long-standing English tradition not to give up on a BBQ on a rainy summer afternoon and I fully support and embrace that tradition. However, it’s January and no self-respecting Englishman or woman should be struggling away with a BBQ in the pitch black, frosty climate that we come home to after a day at work. So I decided to experiment with a griddle pan instead, with surprisingly good results!
– 1 red onion, cut into wedges*
– 1 aubergine, sliced and cut into chunks
– 1 courgette
– 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes*
– Olive oil
– 50g pistachio kernels
– 2 tbsp honey
– 200g pack of feta
– Balsamic vinegar
– Giant cous cous, about half a cup
– 1 bunch of fresh mint, chopped
– 1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
– 1/2 cucumber
– Juice of 1 lemon
A note on these ingredients:
– Giant cous cous. There’s no real reason it needs to be giant cous cous as opposed to standard cous cous for this recipe, but ever since I tried the giant variety a couple of months ago I’ve never gone back. Somehow, it’s so much more delicious. I really recommend you try it, although standard cous cous definitely would be fine for this recipe too.
– Tomatoes. I usually opt for the pomodorino tomatoes which are the long, oval-shaped ones – absolutely delicious! And a shout out to Kent – both Tesco and Sainsbury’s stock ones from Thanet Earth in summer, which are bursting with flavour and definitely the best variety of pomodorino they offer.
– *Tomatoes again, and onions. When I cooked this for the first time, I decided to slice up the tomatoes and the onions because I wasn’t convinced how well the griddle pan would hold up. However, in hindsight this had a bit of an effect on the presentation, where I missed the bursts of red from the whole tomatoes and where sliced onions in a griddle pan can give your other vegetables a slight brown tinge. Also, you can lose that lovely soft onion effect as well. I’ve tinkered with this recipe and doing onion wedges and I chopped cherry tomatoes is definitely an improvement!
– Fresh herbs. Yes, I know the sinking feeling when you love the look of a recipe but there’s a load of fresh herbs in it. I’ve actually taken to keeping a few herb pots on my windowsill, including some parsley. It’s a new venture but my basil has lasted 3 months now, which isn’t bad for £1.20 in the supermarket. It really can be worth investing. And mint? Delicious with any lamb dish. And what better excuse to have some people over for mojitos?
– Feta. Nice and simple – it is better to slice the feta in half to make a thinner slab, as I learned between my first attempt and when grilling some more up for my leftovers. You’ll see from the final pictures below.
How to do it…
1. Toss all your vegetables around in a large bowl with some olive oil. Take particular care in making sure your aubergine has a nice coating. Slightly coat the base of your griddle pan with olive oil too and put this on the heat to warm it up.
2. Start cooking the cous cous for the tabbouleh according to the instructions. If you’re using giant cous cous, you’ll notice that you’ll need to do this on a hob as opposed to leaving it to stand. When all the water has been absorbed, leave to cool for a few minutes. Then, add the chopped mint, parsley, cucumber and lemon juice.
3. While you’re doing this, you can start grilling your vegetables in the griddle pan. If you’re using the full amount of ingredients, you’ll find that you’ll need to do this in two batches.
4. In a frying pan, lightly toast the pistachio kernels for a few minutes. Then, add honey and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring all the time. After this, pour the mix onto a piece of baking paper and leave to harden. You can now leave this until serving, when you will be able to break it up by bashing it around a little.
5. When all the vegetables have been grilled, cut the feta into as many slices as you are making servings and put these on the griddle pan for a few minutes on each side.
6. To serve, start with the tabbouleh at the bottom, heap the vegetables on top, place the slab of feta cheese in the centre, break the caramelised pistachios up over the dish and finally drizzle over some balsamic vinegar.
And leftovers the next day:
We’re into April now and I’ve found a great way of using up my leftover grilled veg into a delicious lunch dish! While the vegetables are in the microwave (2 mins will do it), get yourself some good quality bread (I used sunflower and honey bread), hummus (I used Morrocan topped hummus) and spinach to make a lovely little bed for your veggies. Perfect for spring as well, when I always crave healthy light meals.
I just want to take this opportunity as well to note that I’ve had a look at some other food blogs, and the consensus generally is that the pictures have to be absolutely amazing. Apparently, it’s all about the lighting. As mentioned before, it’s winter, it’s dark when I get home from work to cook, and I live in an old English house as part of a flatshare with lovely flatmates but a bit of a dingy kitchen. So please don’t be put off by my lack of flashy photos and trust that some of what I make really does look (in real life) and taste better than it looks!