Thursday, December 3, 2009

A simple dinner of carrot salad (ommok houria)

I had a half a bag of carrots that has been sitting in my fridge for a few weeks.  Instead of letting them go to waste, I decided to make Ommok Houria, or Mother Houria's carrot salad.  This is a Tunisian recipe which, according to the North Africa cookbook,  can be topped with sardines or tuna.  I didn't have all the ingredients so made do with substitutions (in brackets) which IMO taste just as good.

1 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (I used 5 carrots)
12 flat-leaf parsley sprigs (1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes)
1 teaspoon ground caraway (1 teaspoon of caraway seeds)
2 tablespoons olive oil (3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil)
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (1 tablespoon of raspberry vinegar, which is quite sour hence only 1 tablespoon)
2 garlic cloves, minced (1/2 teaspoon of bottled garlic, because I was aiming for subtlety)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (Unnecessary IMO because of the harissa and the olives)
Harissa to taste (1 teaspoon of harissa paste)
12 kalamata olives
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Boil carrots for 10-15 minutes, or until fully cooked. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl.  Add the other ingredients and mix together.  Serve at room temperature.

Too easy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aubergines Farcies (Stuffed Eggplants)

Another yummy vegetarian recipe from the North African cookbook. I like this even more than the mint quiche.

I love black tomatoes and when I saw them in the shops today I decided to use them in this dish.  Black tomatoes are actually a dark greenish-purple colour and have a strong smokey, slightly sweet taste that goes well with baking.

2 large globe eggplants (or 1 humungous one - for this recipe I used 1 cut into quarters)
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil spray
1 onion, chopped
4 tomatoes
2 garlic cloves minced (or 1 teaspoon of bottled garlic)
1/3 cup wheatgerm
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, minced
8 fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon of harissa (if you can't find harissa, use sambal olek which is available in Asian grocery stores)

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius. Trim stems from the eggplants and cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.
Using a sharp knife (I recommend a paring knife), remove the flesh leaving a 2 cm thick shell.  Chop up the flesh and set aside. The cookbook doesn't mention this but I recommend putting it in a bowl of salted cold water to prevent the flesh from turning grey, which is what happens to sliced eggplants when left out for a while.

Spray the shells with olive oil spray. Also spray the skin as this helps the eggplant keep its purple colour.  Place the shells in an ovenproof dish lined with baking paper and bake for 4-5 minutes until light brown.

Put olive oil in a frypan and fry the onion until light brown.  Chop 2 of the tomatoes and add them to the onion.

Remove the chopped eggplant from the water and pat dry with a paper towel. Add it to the frypan and reduce the heat to medium.  Cover the frypan and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender.

Transfer the eggplant mixture into a bowl.  Mix it with the garlic, wheatgerm, cheese, parsley, basil, and harissa.  Fill the shells with this mixture.  Slice the remaining tomatoes and place on top of the stuffed eggplant.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Serve immediately.


Harissa is a chilli paste used in North African cooking and basically consists of ground chilli and garlic.
According to the North African cookbook, before you can make harissa you need to make tabil.  Since I hate recipes where you have to make Dish A, B and C before you can actually bloody well start cooking dinner (which is why I don't normally do Japanese cooking), I just buy harissa off the shelf from the local deli.  If you don't have harissa, a good substitute is sambal olek - a Malaysian chilli sauce which tastes similar to harissa.  Sambal olek is sold in the Asian section of supermarkets as well as in Asian grocery stores. 

Here are directions for making your own harissa.

1/2 cup ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground caraway seeds
11/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chilli powder

Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container.  Use within 2 months.

6-8 dried red chillies
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon of tabil
1/2 extra-virgin olive oil

Chop up the chillies with scissors and soak in hot water until soft.  Drain them and use a paper towel to remove excess water.  Put the chillies and other ingredients into a blender and mix into a paste.  Place in a glass jar, cover with a thin layer of olive oiil and seal tightly.  Refrigerate for up to 3-4 weeks.

Makhouda Nahna (Tunisian mint quiche)

This delicious and nutritious dish is from The Vegetarian Table: North Africa by Kitty Morse, which a coworker lent to me.  Makhoudas are more like a frittata than a quiche and can be served at either room temperature or hot.  It can also be used as a filling for foccacias.

This recipe was quite easy although there's some pre-preparation involved with the bharat (Tunisian rose petal seasoning) and the parsley. It's essential though as the combination is what gives this dish its distinctive flavour.  

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
8 eggs
1 can of navy beans, drained and mashed with a fork (if you can't find navy beans, butter beans or rinsed and drained baked beans are good substitutes)
20 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, minced
210g of Swiss or Gruyere cheese (I used a small packet of Mainland Swiss cheese slices)
3 tablespoons dried bread crumbs (use wheatgerm for a healthier alternative)
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon bharat*
1/2 teaspoon salt (really not necessary given the amount of cheese involved)

Lemon wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Brown onion in a frypan and set aside. 
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and add the onion, mashed beans, parley, mint, cheese, wheatgerm, paprika, bharat and salt.

Grease a 20cm baking tin (or line the tin with a baking sheet and spray with olive oil). Pour egg mixture into the dish and bake on the middle rack until golden brown and firm - 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes before placing onto a serving platter. 

Cut into slices and serve a room temperature with lemon wedges and green salad.

* How to make bharat
Bharat is a seasoning made from rose petals and is used to add flavour to meat and egg dishes.


2 tablespoons dried rosebuds (I used the rosebud tea from T2), stem and calyx removed
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnanom.


Grind all ingredients together using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pesto rice with tuna & broccoli

Very easy to make. Bacon and tuna sounds like another strange combo but actually tastes good.

2 cups of rice
2 cups of broccoli florets (frozen or fresh)
1 yellow capsicum
4 slices rindless bacon
1 250g tinned tuna in brine, drained
1/4 cup of basil pesto
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix pesto and lemon juice together.  Boil rice until cooked; boil broccoli florets until cooked (take care not to overcook them).  Remove seeds and stalk from capsicum and cut into squares. Cut bacon into small pieces and fry until cooked.

When rice has cooled, add the pesto and lemon juice mixture.  Add the capsicum, bacon and tuna and stir through, ensuring that the ingredients are evenly spread through the rice.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Linen skirt

I actually finished this skirt ages ago - in January.  I saw this linen fabric on sale and thought it would be perfect for the Michelle pattern from  It was easy to make although ensuring that the contrast bands around the waist were sewn on straight was time consuming.  The bands were made from the underside of the fabric.

The original pattern has box pleats but I didn't like them so I changed them to knife pleats that point inwards. I also omitted the contrast hem because I wanted to keep the design simple.

The linen was scratchy to wear so I used cotton voile for lining and bias tape for the waistband facing.  The triple stitching around the waist is for decorative purposes (not that anyone will notice) and also helps to stitch down the bias tape.  The zipper is on the right-hand side of the skirt.

Total cost: about $55

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Baked Pork Chops with Pears and Potatoes

Here's another dish I made for dinner recently. Pears and potatoes with mustard and pork sounds like a weird combination but they actually go well together.

The recipe is from "Simple", released by Australian Gourmet Traveller. It's a good recipe if you want to try something different but it's also time consuming because the chops need to be marinated and the pears and potatoes have to be baked separately.

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons of dijon mustard
3 cloves of garlic, crushed (I used 2 teaspoons of crushed garlic in the jar)
2 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Olive oil
Olive oil spray
4 pork loin chops
4 beurre bosc pears (I recommend 6 if you like baked pears)
500g chat potatoes
grated parmesan cheese

Optional: cinnamon


Mix lemon juice, mustard, garlic, parsley and olive oil in a glass or ceramic dish.
Marinate pork chops in mixture for a least an hour

Put pears and potatoes in a baking dish and spray with olive oil. Sprinkle cinnamon onto pears - this brings out the flavour. Bake until cooked.

Brown pork chops in a fry pan for 1-2 minutes on each side. Place chops in the baking dish on top of the pears and potatoes. Bake at 180c for 10 minutes or until pork is fully cooked.

Remove pork and rest for 5 minutes before serving with the pears and potatoes, sprinkled with parmesan. Serve with dijon mustard.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pumpkin and Fetta Pie

Here's my first recipe since I last updated my blog. This pie is easy to make and I had some for dinner tonight.


3 sheets of puff pastry
500 pumpkin, chopped into small pieces
150 grams fetta cheese
1 cup of spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil spray


21 cm springform cake tin
Food processor

Boil pumpkin until soft. While it's cooking, crumble fetta cheese by mashing it with a fork and grind up spinach leaves in a food processor. Combine pumpkin, cheese and spinach in a bowl, and add salt and pepper if desired.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Spray the inside of the cake tin with olive oil (the spray is a healthier alternative to butter). Line the bottom and sides of the tin with a sheet of puff pastry. Pour the pumpkin, cheese and spinach mixture into the tin. Cover with the third sheet of pastry (fold the sides over the top). Lightly spray the top with olive oil.

Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

It's been a while

Well it's been a while since I last updated this journal. I've been quite pre-occupied with work and various RL activities - in fact nearly a year's gone by since my last post, which I can't believe.

I'm still sewing and trying out new recipes and will post photos when I have time.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Body Shape Bible

My latest read is The Body Shape Bible by Trinny and Susannah (from the TV show What Not To Wear). Women's bodies vary a lot more than the standard 4 body types (hourglass, top heavy triangle, bottom heavy triangle, and rectangle) so Trinny and Susannah have extended these categories into 12 types which factor in other issues like leg length and build.

What I really liked about this guide was that it explained why some clothing styles work and others don't, complete with photos. Being a Vase, I should avoid smock tops, sleeveless tops and chunky shoes. The good thing is that Vases can wear glamourous styles like fitted blouses, pencil skirts and big hair for everyday wear and not look over the top. It just so happens I'm making the Kasia skirt which is so appropriate.

The Daily Mail has a summary of the 12 body types and the sorts of clothes and accessories that look best on each type.