Ful Mudammas

Whoop! Whoop! I have wanted to make this simple dish for some time now and finally managed to find dried fava beans otherwise known as broad beans or 'ful'. They are the oldest domesticated legumes and have been eaten throughout the middle east and ancient world for hundreds if not thousands of years. This dish is traditionally eaten for breakfast with boiled eggs and is also often combined with chickpeas. There are many ways of preparing it and the beans can be mashed or left whole but the main additions are always garlic, lemon and olive oil. I made mine to go with a vegetable curry and decided to mash half the beans and leave the rest whole. I also added chilli and used fresh coriander as a topping instead of the more traditional flat leaf parsley. Soaking and boiling the beans (which I did) is a seemingly endless process and getting the beans just tender is quite difficult so if you can find tinned beans I would probably suggest using them instead. Oh how I love a bean!


1 cup dried fava beans or 400g tinned beans
1 tomato, finely chopped
small handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 lemon
2-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes 
Salt and black pepper

If using dried beans, soak in plenty of water overnight. Drain and bring them to boil in a large pot of water, turn down the heat and simmer for about two hours until tender. Keep a quarter of a cup of the cooking liquid aside then drain the beans and allow to cool. Remove the tough skins from the beans by cutting them gently along the edge and popping the flesh out. If using tinned beans, keep a little of the liquid back, drain and rinse. No need to remove the skins. 
Place beans and the liquid in a pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes. The mixture should be slightly creamy. Remove from the heat and put half the beans into a bowl. Mash with a fork or pestle until semi smooth. Add the rest of the whole beans, juice of the lemon, crushed garlic, chilli flakes and mix together. Add olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, mix again. Spread onto a plate and top with chopped tomatoes and coriander. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Serve with warm pita or flatbreads.


Genoese Sponge

January's grey skies were just asking for something vibrant to lift our spirits. I found a recipe for a Genoese sponge with fresh fruit. I had never made one of these cakes before, it is quite stunning experience. The eggs and sugar are beaten for 10 minutes over a pot of boiling water (bain-marie) until thick and tripled in volume. Beautiful, airy and light.  A Genoese is a firm sponge, it relies completely on the air provided through mixing to give the cake rise as there are no other raising agents used. Slightly drier than a regular sponge it is traditionally used in tiramisu and can be soaked with syrups or alcohol. It can be topped with fruit and whipped cream, sandwiched together with buttercream or baked in a swiss roll tin to make sponge fingers for a trifle. Easy, extremely satisfying to make and it gives a pop of colour and delight to the coldest days of winter.

Recipe (by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)

60g unsalted butter
125g plain flour
4 medium eggs
125g castor sugar
Pinch of sea salt

200ml whipping cream
250-300g strawberries or raspberries

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease two 18cm or one 22cm cake tins with butter and dust generously with flour. Line the bases with baking paper. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Sift flour and salt together and set aside. Put eggs and sugar in a large heatproof bowl that will sit snugly over a saucepan of boiling water. The water must not touch the bowl, the steam will warm and help thicken the mixture. Beat the eggs and sugar for about 10 minutes until very pale and at least tripled in volume. The mixture should form thick ribbons on the surface. Sift half the flour and salt into the egg mixture and fold in very gently with a metal spoon, repeat with the remaining flour. Carefully pour in the butter and fold in until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the tin or divide between the two tins and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin until the cake pulls away from the sides, you may need to run a knife around the edges to help it along. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.


Melanzane Parmigiana

It's a new year to be filled with many mouthwatering tastes and flavours. Woohoo!! Top of the ultimates is aubergine. I have a serious love affair with them, a vegetable that sadly never made it onto the table in our family due to its apparently awful texture. The only acceptable form allowed were rather deliciously pickled with chilli and garlic. One of my absolutely favourite and scrummy dishes of heaven is melanzane parmigiana. The name is slightly deceptive and there is no definitive answer as too whether it's derived from being made in Parma or made with parmesan cheese. It did originate in Sicily but is cooked all over Italy. There are many different recipes and you can substitute the aubergine with courgettes if you prefer. My version contains no parmesan, is slightly less calorific and has clean distinctive flavours. Layers of char grilled aubergine with roast tomato sauce and melted mozzarella, baked to golden perfection and eaten with crusty bread. We eat this as a main course on its own but is also delicious eaten with meat or fish.

There is much debate about whether it is necessary to salt aubergine once it has been sliced. I generally don't salt it when roasting or frying, but I do salt them for this recipe to remove some of their excess moisture. Aubergines are like sponges and will absorb as much oil as you give them. The trick is to grill them in a dry pan over a medium to high heat and just add a drop of oil to the pan when they begin to colour. This method ensures they cook quickly, lose most of their water and become wonderfully smokey in flavour.

Recipe (serves 2 as a main, 4 as a starter or side)

2-3 large aubergines
Variety of ripe tomatoes (I used a handful of cherry and 4/5 vine tomatoes)
2 or 3 shallots
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
Few sprigs fresh oregano
Mozzarella for cooking, coarsely grated
2 tbsp double cream (optional)
Half a cup of water
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper

To begin with, remove tops and slice the aubergines length ways about half an inch in thickness. Discard the first and last slices of peel. Layer the slices in a colander with a little bit of salt between each layer and leave for about 15 minutes. In the meantime preheat the oven to 200C. Cut vine tomatoes in half and keep cherries whole, place in a roasting dish with peeled and quartered shallots, 3 or 4 garlic cloves with skin still on and a few sprigs or oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes until soft, caramelized and the garlic is soft. While the veg is roasting, heat a large pan over a medium to high heat, the pan should not be smoking. Remove aubergine slices from the colander, brush off salt or squeeze them gently to remove some of the water and salt. Char grill the slices in batches by placing three or four in the pan at a time. Allow them to develop lots of colour turning them a couple of times to ensure evenness. Add a tsp of oil to the pan just before removing the aubergine to encourage more colour. Remove and set aside. Repeat. 
When the tomatoes are ready, place them in a small saucepan along with the shallots and garlic flesh. Add some fresh oregano leaves and half a cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft and falling apart. Blitz into a rough sauce. Add cream and a freshly crushed clove of garlic. Season to taste.

To construct the dish: Lightly oil a 20cm casserole dish. Begin by putting 2 or 3 tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of the dish, then arrange a layer of aubergine, placing them as close together as possible. Cover with another layer of sauce and then sprinkle with mozzarella. Repeat until you have used all the ingredients. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the top and add a few oregano leaves along with some freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.