23 January 2013

The Blue Doors


As you can imagine, recent events in Algeria mean we're a little bit consumed with other things at the moment. These are some photos I snapped on New Year's Eve in Sidi Fredj, just outside Algiers. This morning we had snow on the ground, and are ending the day with fireworks for the Prophet's (PBUH) birthday. Things are never predictable around here.

15 January 2013

Cabbage, Apricot, Walnut Salad


Admittedly, this is something I made in the last few days as we were going out of town, an attempt to use up the odds and ends in the fridge. I had no intention to post this here, but it turned out to be pretty darn good, and an easy healthy thing to take for lunch. I tend to make a lot of grain salads like this one as they keep well and are satisfying and easy.

I have noticed that whenever I buy a head of red cabbage it seems to multiply exponentially. First, I use half of it to make my favorite braised red cabbage, the slivers filling up my large cast iron skillet as they cook down. Then, I use some of it to make a salad, or to saute quickly and serve alongside some chicken or fish. But every time I look into the vegetable bin, it's still there, taunting me. How have I not used this all up yet?!?!


If you have the same red cabbage problem I do, then this salad may be an answer. Also, blitzing it in the food processor is a nice way to chop it quickly, for whatever dish you're trying to dispatch it with. Two things you should be warned about this salad, one it has that sulfurous cabbage smell. so if that bothers you, then this might not be the salad for you. Second, be generous with the dressing, as it needs quite a bit to keep it moist.


Cabbage, Apricot, Walnut Salad

2 cups cooked couscous (or bulgur or quinoa)
1/4 of a small head of red cabbage (use 1/8 of a large head)
1 cup of whole dried apricots
1/2 cup walnut pieces or toasted hazelnuts
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch allspice
salt, pepper
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil

1. Chop the apricots into small pieces. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet and set aside.
2. Roughly chop the cabbage, then place in a food processor and pulse until chopped into very small bits.
3. Combine couscous/bulgur, red cabbage, apricots, toasted walnuts, cilantro, parsley in a bowl. Add the cinnamon and allspice and season well with salt and pepper. Pour over the lemon juice and olive oil, tossing to coat. I usually eyeball the olive oil, but if you need a measurement I'd go with about 1/4 cup (this salad tends to need more oil then you think otherwise it verges on dry). Taste for seasoning, serve.

11 January 2013



How come I can buy the world's largest butternut squash, but I can only buy these teeny tiny containers of yogurt? What if I want to make a recipe that calls for 2 cups of yogurt, why then yes, it's totally normal to buy 20 tiny containers from the store. Of course.

Algeria, so many questions.

Why do you only ever sell purple onions? How come we only ever, ever see white onions during Ramadan, and then they miraculously disappear. Are white onions so much harder to grow than purple onions?

How come for months I could buy labne in the stores here and now, ever since the December, no one in the entire country has labne.

And why, why, is it impossible to buy bread after 5 pm? I know you all like your bread and all, but apparently unlike everyone else in this country, I don't leave work to go to the bakery in the middle of the day. 

I suppose I should stop asking questions and go back to eating my delicious local oranges now.

05 January 2013

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread


Happy 2013 everyone! I'm not one for New Year's resolutions - who is, I always wonder. Smokers who make the same resolutions year after year? But after the excesses of the holidays (let's just say a  lot of mince pies and sticky toffee pudding were had in London), a reminder to eat simpler and lighter is always nice. Upon our return home I've already made three kinds of soup, and I have several more on my list.

As much as we enjoy Algerian flatbreads, it's nice to have a proper sandwich bread around the house too. Something to make toast with - in my opinion "things on toast" is a whole category of perfect meals for one. Also for the eponymous sandwiches and grilled cheese of course. What are you making this new year?


Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
The dough will appear almost too much for your loaf pan - just pile it on in there. This is inspired by a recipe from Good to The Grain, if you don't have graham flour just use 2 1/2 cups of whole wheat.

1 package yeast, or 1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup graham flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1. Place the yeast, molasses, and warm water in a large bowl. If using regular yeast, let the mixture stand until the yeast blooms, about 5 minutes. If using instant yeast you can proceed immediately.
2. Slowly add the whole wheat, graham, and bread flour, stirring with a wood spoon. Add the butter, salt, and oats and stir vigorously with the spoon. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes covered with a damp towel.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough until smooth and cohesive. Grease a bowl with butter or oil, then place the dough in the bowl, cover with a damp towel and let rise for one hour.
4. Grease a loaf pan with butter and pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Punch down the dough, pushing the bubble out, then scrape up the dough and transfer it, as neatly as possible, into the brepared loaf pan. Cover again with a damp towel and let rise until dough is puffed above the edge of the pan, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
5. Bake the dough for about 40 minutes, until the top of the loaf is very dark brown, like the color of molasses. The dough should sound hollow when tapped on top. Gently remove the bread from the pan and let cool on a rack at least 2 hours before slicing (this allows the crumb to firm up and the flavor to develop).