Posts tagged cucumber

Lahmacun Meatballs


ahmacun is like a Turkish meat pizza which I’ve sampled in my many escapades to my favourite middle eastern restaurants and holiday destinations. Pizza you say? In a very loose sense. A thin dough topped with a layer of spiced minced meat and a scattering of tasty salad. However, I’ve been experimenting with textures and I decided to turn mine into meatballs – maintaining the spices and flavours of a traditional Lahmacun serving them on a warm pillowy nigella seed flecked flatbread and topped with a fresh crunchy raw salad.

This would make an excellent dinner party starter in a mini version or a light meal or lunch.

Serves 4 (Makes approx. 16 meatballs)


  • 500g minced beef
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 1 small red chilli, diced
  • 1tsp (heaped) ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked paprika
  • 50g toasted pine nuts (dry fry in a hot pan until beginning to turn golden and release a nutty aroma!)
  • Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Nigella Seed Flatbreads

  • 250g self raising flour
  • 150ml warm water
  • 1 1/2tbsp nigella seeds
  • Salt and pepper


  • 1 bag radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, cubed into 1cm dice
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons
  • Small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 little gem lettuces, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Tahini

You’ll need 3 large bowl, one for each component to get yourself started. A large frying pan and preheat the oven to 180°C.

  1. Start by making the meatballs. Mix all the ingredients in your first large bowl and combine with your hands, squeezing the mixture together to ensure all the flavours are dispersed. Don’t overwork or pound the meat however. Season well. Taking golf ball sized chunks, roll into meatballs and place on a plate. Continue until you’ve used up all the meat and you have around 16 meatballs. Cover the plate and chill in the fridge until needed.
  2. Next, make the flatbread dough. Combine the flours, salt and pepper and seeds in your second bowl. Pour in the water and mix with a fork. As it comes together, get your hands in and combine into a dough. It shouldn’t be dry but nor should it be sticky. Depending on the texture, add a tough more water/flour to enable you to roll into a smooth ball. Knead for 2-3 minutes on a clean floured worktop. Set aside in a floured bowl and cover with cling film and leave to rest for  about 20 minutes or so.
  3. Assemble the salad. Combine all ingredients in your final bowl except the tahini and lemon. Season and then set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Begin the cooking – remove the meatballs from the fridge! Heat a splash of vegetable or light olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat and fry the meatballs on all sides until they are golden and a nice crust has formed on the outside. Line a baking tray with foil and add the meatballs (the rest of the cooking can be done in the oven). Scrunch up the foil around them to keep them sealed ask they cook and stay moist. Place int he oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, fry your flatbreads. Heat a dry frying pan over a high heat (you will likely need your extractor fan on here)  Take your dough, divide into 4 balls. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out into a small saucer size about the thickness of a 10p piece. When the pan is hot, add one flatbread at a time and fry on both sides, turning when beginning to brown and char in places. The dough will ideally bubble up and create air pockets but it doesn’t matter if not.
  6. As you fry and complete each one, wrap them in a pile in a clean tea towel to keep them warm and soft until needed.
  7. Once the flatbreads are toasted and the meatballs are ready, remove them from the oven.
  8. Dress the salad with the lemon juice and toss to combine.
  9. To serve, top each flatbread with 3-4 meatballs. Add a large handful or salad over the top and drizzle with the tahini if you like.

(A lime and mint yoghurt would also go down well here instead of tahini if wanted)



Chilled Iranian Pistachio and Cucumber Soup

Jess - Iranian pistachio soup


ne of my favourite restaurants in London is Dock Kitchen by Stevie Parle. The style, flavours and creations resonate with my own using the best ingredients and sticking a finger up to the gadgets and modern methods that have infiltrated our restaurants recently. With no particular genre as such Stevie’s style seems to be a collaboration of inspiration from various adventures and culinary travels but with a lean towards middle Eastern in places. With a rather eclectic style myself I was delighted to know that it was the venue for our office Summer party last year. With a tempting menu of absolutely mouth watering courses that would sit wholeheartedly at my dinner table on cloud nine I was excited initially to try the much talked about ‘Lamb biryani with black cumin, coriander and almonds which was baked with love and warmth in an earthy clay pot and sealed protectively with a dough lid. With what could have been a miniature chisel, it gets delivered with elegance and flecked with gold leaf to the hungry guests and forcefully cracked open revealing succulent chunks of tender lab, rice and aromats.  Shamefully amongst the starters of fattoush, labneh and chicken livers, this dreamy main and the simple sweets I didn’t even give this pistachio dish a second glance.




t was delivered to the now raucous and wine lubricated guesses as a humble ‘palate’ cleanser pre-main event. I’ll admit, it didn’t ever really stand a chance grabbing our attention as the scent of lamb trickled under our hungry noses but its vibrant colour oozing freshness, greenery and curiosity caught my attention on first sight and even more so on taste.

I’m not your biggest gazpacho eater or one for cucumber in anything but salads and Pimms but after just a vary mouthful of this chilled, textured and complex soup I was dying to know how it was made. It instantly placed itself royally on my to cook list and after searching for a mimic recipe I was delighted to find one and be enlightened into the ingredients. Again, shamefully over half a year later I finally gathered the short list of simple ingredients and concocteed this treat for lunch on a Spring sunny lunch.

Complex, intriguing and all so moreish it is one to try for a taste of Stevie’s culinary brain from your own home. I’m certainly due another visit not only for their chicken livers in seven spice and pomegranate molasses that is still on my ‘To cook’ list slightly below this Iranian soup but for their dynamically changing menu. It is an ideal location on a summers day when you can enjoy their gorgeous roof terrace with a glass of something chilled and ideally effervescent in your favourite sunglasses that have been in hibernation for far too long.

Serves 4

  • 75g fresh green pistachios
  • 75g blanched almonds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cucumber, roughly chopped
  • 100g red grapes
  • Bunch mint, leaves picked
  • Sprig dill
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Rose petals to serve
  1. Place the nuts and garlic in a food processor and blend until a fine powder.
  2. Add a splash of water and blend again
  3. Next, add most of the grapes, saving some for garnish, the cucumber, the mint and the dillJess - Iranian pistachio soup3
  4. Blend well.
  5. Next add a drop of the rose water (its powerful for add a little to begin, taste and add more if needed. It should be a subtle flavour, not there to make this soup taste like soap)
  6. Add the lemon juice and season to taste and blend again.
  7. Now add enough water to dilute the consistency to that of a thick soup.
  8. Serve with sliced grapes and rose petals and any chopped pistachios if you wish.

Jess - Iranian pistachio soup2


Cool as a Wardlaw…

If you’ve ever been on an activity watersports holiday you’ll know that you usually return home needing a rest with an aching body equivalent to a bed bound OAP. A week in sunny Greece wakeboarding by day and re-hydrating on cocktails by night with bowlfuls of Greek salads and hog roasts set me up for some inspiration on my return home. Sadly the limes don’t grow fresh from the trees in London so Waitrose will have to do.

After and intense day on the water followed by an ‘Ab attack’ class this refreshing, healthy and downright delicious drink was the perfect way to cool our angry abs. Post workout it started as this innocent cucumber, mint and crushed ice drink….


But once showered and the clock hit 6pm it even more deliciously turned into this….a gin laced version we got the barman to ‘knock up’. I like to call it the ‘Cool as a Wardlaw’.


Serves 2 (ish)

  • 1 small cucumber
  • Large bunch mint
  • 2 shots (Innocent) apple juice
  • 1-2 shots fresh lime juice
  • Crushed ice
  • Optional – 2 shots gin and cucumber to garnish
  1. Mix in a blender until combined. Add more ice or any other ingredient to taste and balance. I only watched in awe from behind the bar as this was made so measurements were by eye and were to taste. It tasted different each time, more savoury post-workout, sweeter and punchy with lime as an evening tipple. Experiment!

Use Innocent apple juice. Not only as my loving sister happens to work for Innocent but it is delicious and conveniently on tap for me. Plus, the halo seems to reassure you that gin is a good addition, yes a good addition……?!


Glazed Salmon, Asian Greens, Sesame Cucumber



I can’t believe my birthday has come and gone yet again. With another year under my ageing belt it only seemed natural to add another cookbook to my ‘library’. It really is expanding at such a rate that I may have to develop some sort of filing system soon. I currently have them stored in a few tame and humble 6 bottle old wooden wine cases but with each eager book spilling out over the edge, oozing its glossy (some more oil splattered) pictures in front of me it may be time to move out to a magnum case…?

To cut a long story short, my birthday granted me with Bill Granger’s Everyday Asian cookbook. I love this quick and flavourful cooking  but with more of a traditional palate I needed a helping hand and a point in the right direction or orientation should I say. East. And to help me along the way not only did I get this vibrant drool-worthy book that I literally want to cook every recipe of (rare I assure you) I also received a few of Bill’s Asian ‘Pantry staples’ to add to my other collection (again, yet to have its own filing system) and some beautiful serving bowls. After all presentation can be half the battle!

NOTE: for those into this style of food I really recommend Bill’s book. There may be some alien ingredients but nothing a quick trip down the ethnic aisle of Tesco can’t solve. A simply written, helpful book. And you really will want to cook everything…there just aren’t enough mealtimes in the day or days in the week unless I start replacing my morning tea with miso soup? Unlikely.


Glazed Salmon

Serves 4

  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 4tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown soft sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 salmon fillets
  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow bowl with the salmon fillets and pop in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Preheat your grill or BBQ. Grill for about 7minutes or so until charred on the outside but still pink and very most in the middle. Don’t be tempted to cook too long. The residual heat will carry on cooking it once removed from the grill and it is better served a little pink in the middle.
  3. image

Sesame Cucumber

  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp ride vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 cucumber
  1. Use a mandolin/speed peeler to peel thin strips of cucumber into a bowl.
  2. Combine the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the cucumber


  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 red chilli, sliced finely
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced finely
  1. Boil your broccoli for a matter of minutes until still al dente and bright green. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan until hot. Flash fry your chilli and shallots until crispy. Add the garlic slices at the end as they will burn easily and fry until golden and crispy. Scoop out from the oil and drain and allow to crisp.
  3. Serve the broccoli, warm and scattered with the crispy garnish and a little drizzle of the infused oil

imageBeautiful serving dish courtesy of my sister and the Portobello markets

A Spice Feast (Lamb steaks, nigella seed salad, roasted chilli sweet potatoes)



I’ve done it. I’ve finally narrowed down my favourite type of cuisine (well nearly). After a recent dinner time conversation with a friend it remained mutually concluded that choosing your death row dish is too ambitious a commitment. Top contenders include a creamy and decadent risotto or a homely fish pie but its still a hard call. However, cuisine and flavour I can conclude on. While I adore classic french food, on the opposite side is my love of Moroccan and middle Eastern style foods and ingredients. Think Ottelenghi. The use of spice adds so much flavour to satisfy any demanding taste buds. The dishes are filling and hearty but in a way that retains a light, fresh and (importantly for me) healthy style. Exciting spices and fresh ingredients keep my recipes quirky and the mix of hot and cold make it perfect for all seasons.

I still haven’t made it to Morocco however….yet…

Serves 2

Chilli and Coriander Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 giant or 2 normal sweet potatoes
  • ½ hot red chilli (seeds retained if you dare)
  • Bunch of coriander
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds

Lamb Steaks

  • 2 top quality lamb leg steaks
  • 1 tbsp spice mix (see here)
  • Generous pinch smoked paprika
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Lime yoghurt (see here)

Green Nigella seed salad

  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 bag rocket
  • Handful of mangetout
  • 1 avocado
  • ½ lemon, juice
  • 1 tbsp Nigella seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. For the potatoes, par boil until just tender but don’t water log (about 3-4 minutes). Drain and leave to steam a little. Season and drizzle with a little light oil and sprinkle with the mustard seeds. Roast for about 30-35 minutes until crispy.
  2. Marinade the lamb in the spices and oil for as long as possible but remove from the fridge and leave a room temperature at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  3. For the salad, peel the cucumber in thin strips. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave to drain in a colander for about 5-10 minutes. Then rinse lightly under cold water and leave to dry.
  4. Blanch the mange tout in boiling water and refresh in cold water and drain.
  5. Slice the avocado and sprinkle with a little lemon juice.
  6. To make the salad, combine the rocket, avocado, cucumber and mange tout. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds and only when ready to serve, squeeze over the lemon juice.
  7. To cook the steaks, heat a frying pan until hot. Add about 1 tsp olive oil (not extra virgin – the burning temperature is much lower and it will burn!). If a thick layer of fat on your steaks, cook this out with the steak on its side for a few minutes first before cooking the steaks to your liking. I usually do about 2-2 ½ minutes per side for a 2cm thick steak. Leave to rest for about 5 minutes in foil to keep in the juices.
  8. Chop the chilli finely with the fresh coriander. When ready to serve, combine roasted potatoes, chilli, coriander. Serve with the dressed salad.
  9. Slice the steaks in thick finger like strips and pour over the resting juices. Serve alongside the salad and potatoes with some cooling lime yoghurt. Garnish with extra coriander if you like.


Lamb, Mint and Pea Salad



Leftover lamb never tasted better. Freshly cut herbs from the garden, a cucumber from the greenhouse and some leftover local lamb. A sunny evening called for a fresh cleansing salad to start the week on a healthy note. Although washed down with a large glass of Cab Sauv it probably had the opposite effect!

Not sure the picture does this dish justice but it is extremely tasty, particularly also crumbled with feta or goats cheese as well as or instead of the lamb for the veges.

Serves 3 as a main, 4 as a lunch or starter


  • 2 little gems
  • 1 romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped on diagonal
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • Handful pine nuts, toasted
  • Bunch mint, leaves picked and chopped
  • Bunch of chives, chopped
  • Leftover lamb, sliced- mine was rare roast butterflied leg but anything works well, shredded etc
  • 250g frozen peas, blanched

Oregano and Lemon Yoghurt

  • 6 heaped tbsp thick yoghurt
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Bunch oregano, leaves picked
  • ½ lemon juice and zest
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Sun dried Tomato Bread

  • 250g self raising flour
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • Bunch basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Warm water
  1. Make the bread first. Blitz the sun dried tomatoes and basil in a processor until fine. Add the flour and some generous seasoning and blend. Pour in enough warm water until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes before leaving covered to rest.
  2. Mix the yoghurt ingredients and chill.
  3. Keep the stalks on the little gems to hold them together. Half each and cut each half into 3 keeping them together at the base.
  4. Mix with the blanched peas, shredded romaine, cucumber and chopped herbs on a large platter.
  5. Griddle the avocado on a hot oiled griddle pan until warm and charred. Season well and add to the salad. Squeeze over the juice from the lemon, a good splash of extra virgin olive oil and some seasoning and toss gently to combine.
  6. Sprinkle over the toasted pine nuts and finally the lamb.


7.  Heat a large frying pan. Roll the bread out to the thickness of a pound coin and big enough to fit the pan. Fry in the pan for about 5 minutes each side until toasty and beginning to char and crisp. Turn out onto a board and rip up and serve warm with the salad, dunked in the yoghurt or with some salted butter.


Elderflower and Cucumber Collins

So it turns out I do like gin! This recipe will now be a reminder of finishing my finals and the end of uni. Its such an easy cocktail to quaff while relaxing in the sun as its so refreshing!

  • 40ml gin
  • 25ml elderflower cordial (or St. Germian elderflower liqueur if you have it)
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • Handful of diced cucumber
  • A few mint leaves
  • Soda water
  • Coarsely crushed ice
  1. Gently crush some diced cucumber and mint leaves to together to release their flavours.
  2. Add the gin, elderflower and lemon to a tall ‘tumblr’ (see what I did there) and top up with soda water to taste. Add some coarsely crushed ice and enjoy.