Assyrian Dolma (stuffed vine leaves)

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that since the beginning of the year I have been following the Slimming World plan in a bid to shift a few pounds before my 35th birthday in June. I have been absolutely amazed at how much you can eat and still lose weight!  It really isn’t a diet; I’m certainly not missing out on anything, in fact I’m eating more than I was before and getting better results!
At group on Tuesday we had a taster session where members brought in all kinds of delicious food to try and inspire the other members to try new things. The Assyrian in me has been delighted at how easily adaptable a lot of my native dishes are to the Slimming World plan, so I thought I’d rustle up some Dolma (stuffed vine leaves), with Iynee and Gneve (literally translated as eyes and eyelashes! – I know, I don’t get it either.  Basically a spicy tomato salsa and greek yoghurt).

They were a hit, with every last one being devoured.  They are fiddly to make, but well worth the time investment. Here’s the recipe, passed down from my Granny, to my mum, to me. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 packets of preserved vine leaves

1lb minced beef or lamb (less than 5% fat).  Alternatively you can make these vegetarian by leaving out the meat and adding in an extra half cup of rice.

1 mug basmati rice

1 large onion

5 spring onions

5 tomatoes

celery leaves

1 green pepper

large bunch of fresh dill

large bunch of fresh parsley

2 cloves crushed garlic

juice of half a lemon

salt & black pepper

1 dsp garam masala

1 tsp cayenne pepper

3 tbsp tomato puree

Method:

Soak the preserved vine leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Chop the onion, spring onions, tomatoes, celery leaves, green pepper and herbs as finely as possible.  Fry the onion and garlic before adding the meat, if using, spices, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes to the pan. and cook through.  Allow the mixture to cool before adding in the rest of the ingredients.

While the mixture is cooling sort through the vines leaves, lining the bottom of a heavy casserole pan with any torn ones (this will prevent the dolma from sticking).

When the stuffing is cool, place a dessert spoon of it on the base of a vine leaf, fold the sides in and roll up tightly. Stack the dolmas in the casserole pan as you go. Place a ceramic saucer on top of the dolma once you’ve rolled and staked them all in the pan to prevent them moving around when cooking.

Cooking: 

Mix together 1.5 cups of boiling water with 1 chicken stock cube, 1 tbsp tomato puree and the juice of half a lemon. Pour over the dolma and boil them for 15 minutes on a medium heat, before turning down to low and cooking slowly for around 45 minutes.  Take care not to overcook – soggy rice is grim.

Serving:

Serve with Greek yogurt and make a salsa by frying off 1 onion, 1 crushed clove of garlic, and then adding in 1 tbsp tomato puree, 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, salt and block pepper.

Delicious!

Frugal February week 4

Where has this month gone? I can’t believe it has flown by so fast and we’re in our last week of Frugal February. This week is going to be slightly different, as the hubby and I are going away for a couple of nights by ourselves, the first time since before our daughter was born. In fact it’s going to be the first time in her (almost) four years of life that we’ve ever left her overnight with anyone! Some friends of ours from church very kindly bought us a couple of nights away as a Christmas present. We’re so blessed! We’re all very excited, as are my parents who are driving five and a half hours to babysit for us! Anyhow, I only need to plan two meals this week as a result:

Monday: Throw it all in veggie mac & cheese. Using up veggies left in the fridge, a simple homemade cheese sauce and crispy breadcrumb topping.
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Tuesday: Roasted veg and salmon tray bake. Using half a side of salmon we have in the freezer and veggies already in the fridge.
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Wednesday & Thursday we’re away.

Friday: Kubbah hammute. I made extra and froze them last time I made them, so mum is going to make the soup and poach them for when we arrive home.

You might notice I haven’t put any prices on, the reason being I haven’t actually had to buy anything, so actually in one sense this is an extra frugal week, although no doubt hubby and I will enjoy a couple of meals out while we’re away.

What will you be eating this week?

Frugal February week 3

Well hello again.  Where is February going? I don’t know about you, but to me it seems to be flying by.

Our oven packed up yesterday, half way through cooking a beautiful roast dinner for friends! Thankfully, the top oven was still going well enough to finish everything off, but obviously this week we’ll be eating things that can either by done on the hob, grill or slow cooker while we wait for a new one to be delivered.

Monday: Tonight’s dinner was rather bland and uninspired I’m afraid. I didn’t even bother with a photo. Pb and I had slow cooked chicken pieces while Ste had boring packet veggie sausages with veg and boiled potatoes. I worked it out to be roughly £3.80

Tuesday: Shrove Tuesday! My favourite Tuesday of the year! Before the  obligatory stack of pancakes (crepe style if you’re American) smothered in maple syrup or vanilla sugar and lemon, we’ll have a little bowl of healthful leek & potato soup to get some goodness into us! £2

Wednesday: Half side of salmon with pesto, and vegetable infused cous cous. Salmon was in offer today in the supermarket. I got an entire side for £8 which will do two meals for us, so I froze one half of it. This is the most expensive meal this week at about £6.50

Thursday: Quorn & vegetable spaghetti bolognaise. £2.90

Friday: Friday night curry. Thai I think. Prawn for Ste and chicken for Pb and I. I managed to pick up a couple of packs of organic chicken pieces for £2 each today. Half a pack will do the two of us, and we’ve already got the rice and spices in, so all in, it will prob only cost us £3.50. Much more economical than a take away. I’ve been useless this week when it has come to photos. Largely because I’ve simply forgotten, but here’s one of the curry. I used my Nutribullet green Thai curry paste recipe. It says delicious!
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I haven’t planned for the weekend yet.  What’s on your menu this week?

Frugal February. Week 1

For us self-employed types, the deadline for paying our tax bills was yesterday. Ouch. Don’t panic America, I’m writing from the UK. Anyway, January 31st equals a very frugal February for us, so I thought share my plans for our main meals trying to keep them relatively low cost.

Obviously, all costings are approximate, and I haven’t included things like seasonings, home grown herbs, condiments or eggs laid by our own hens. So, here goes, this is what we’ll be feasting on this week. The amounts are per entire meal, rather than price per portion.

Monday: Vegetarian chilli & rice £3.04
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Tuesday: BBQ beans using the left over chilli as a base, with ciabatta. Find the recipes here. £1.46
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Wednesday: Roasted vegetable and red pesto pasta. £3.17
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Thursday: Spinach and Salmon frittata with greens. £3.30
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Phoebe was especially excited about tonight's dinner!

Friday: Our weekly curry night. This week prawn balti. £3.61
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Saturday: Steak fajitas with guacamole (quorn version for hubby). £5.70
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Sunday: Vegetarian toad in the hole with vegetables. £2.14… Unfortunately after a hectic day of church then hosting a Contact the Elderly tea party I was too tired to cook, so we had a cheat tea of sausage butties instead!
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That comes to a grand total of £22.42, or on average £3.20 per day, or £1.07 per portion for the three of us. Happy days!  What’s on your menu plan this week? I’d love to know so do leave a comment below. You might inspire me for next week.

Homemade Bean Burgers

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Believe it or not, despite being married to a pescatarian for the last decade, I’ve never once made bean burgers! I had a look online for recipes, but ended up cobbling these together using flavours to our tastes, and what I had to hand.

This is what I used:
1 can of black eyed beans
1 can of kidney beans
8 button mushrooms
Breadcrumbs made from 2 slices wholemeal bread
2 spring onions
2 large cloves of garlic
Handful of fresh coriander
A couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to taste
A teaspoon of paprika
A teaspoon of garam masala
Freshly milled rock salt and pepper
1 egg to bind if you think your mix needs it. It might stick together just fine without. If you’re vegan just leave it out.
Very finely chop the spring onions and mushrooms and lightly fry with the garlic. Set aside to cool.
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Put the beans in a bowl and mash with the back of a fork. You want texture so don’t go overboard on the mashing.
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Add in the breadcrumbs, spring onion mixture and finely chopped coriander and mix.
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Season well with spices, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Trust me, these beans take some seasoning, no one likes a bland burger! Taste as you go along.
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Add in the egg at this point if your mix feels to dry. If you’re unsure fry a little one off to see how it holds.
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When you’re happy with the consistency shape into little patties, cover with cling and put in the fridge. Chilling them with help them hold their form.
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When you’re ready to eat put them on greaseproof paper on a baking tray, in a hot oven for twenty minutes or so, turning halfway through, or shallow fry on a medium heat.

I served ours in Pitta bread with chilli mayo, a green feta salad, and garlic and basil tomatoes. They were a hit all round.
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Your favourite posts of 2013.

I posted my first blog article in February 2013, and have had just under 7500 hits to date.  I just wanted to say a big thank you to all my readers, for the kind comments, encouraging words and inspiration you give me; and I thought I’d take a moment to look back at some of the more popular posts from 2013. Click the links below and Enjoy! 

Cinnamon and Frankincense Winter Balm

Judged for being a Stay at Home Mum

Being the Bible

Cinnamon Swirl Scones

Pearly Gates

Wow Factor Chocolate Slab

Happy New Year to you all!

Love your leftovers.

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I have been utterly disorganised this week when it comes to meal planning, which resulted in me gawping in the fridge at 5pm trying to decide what I could hash together for dinner. (Thankfully) We’d had friends round for afternoon tea so didn’t want anything too heavy.

Some left over mash, half a left over trout, some spring onions, seasoning and a polenta crumb later, dinner was served. Trout fishcakes with a crispy polenta coating served on whatever salad I could find in the fridge.  Quick, easy, nutritious and delicious. Happy days.   

Paprika spiced Salmon with minted Quinoa and roasted vegetables

Salmon & quinoa
With an under-the-weather and very tired toddler today, I needed something relatively easy to throw together for dinner tonight using what I had in. This totally hit the mark. Easy, yet tasty and undeniably healthy. Here’s how to do it.

Rub paprika, black pepper and lemon juice into the salmon and set aside to marinade. Chop up a load of veggies (I used butternut squash, onions, copious amounts of garlic, mushrooms, carrots, red and yellow peppers and broccoli) and place on a roasting tray. Season with pepper and herbs of your choice (I used parsley) and drizzle over some olive oil (or use fry light which is what I did). Roast for about 30 minutes, then toss and place the salmon on top and roast for another 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through.

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa to help get rid of the bitter taste, then cook in vegetable (or chicken) stock with a handful of fresh chopped mint and a little less of parsley, and a couple of smashed cloves of garlic. I did mine in the rice cooker using a 2:1 ratio of stock to quinoa. It cooked itself to perfection and kept itself warm without me having to check it was even done. Easy peasy. Serve and enjoy.

My recipe, in an actual book!

Food Glorious Food

Food Glorious Food

Book KubbahToday I had the great surprise of receiving a parcel that I wasn’t expecting. My anticipation was heightened for the mere fact that it wasn’t even delivered to my door, but to our old place, and I had to drive across town to collect it. The hubster was excited because he thought it was a birthday present from my sister in Japan which appears to have got lost en route, but he was wrong. It was for me. I ripped it open and to my sheer delight it was a recipe book. Not just any old recipe book, but a recipe book with one of my recipe’s printed in it! I am rather excited about this! Book full page I have had lots of articles published in the past, mainly in NHS mental health magazines which was my job before I became a mummy, but this is different. I am passionate about food and also about my Assyrian heritage, and to have the opportunity to share this is thrilling! The book, ‘Food Glorious Food’, accompanies the TV series which is starting at the end of Feb on ITV – be sure to tune in.