Roasted Vegetable Sheetpan Shawarma with Spinach Hummus

A flavour party in your mouth.

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Hello and welcome to the first recipe of 2018! Having survived my first year of college without a kitchen, I felt like I needed to take baby steps in the kitchen. You’d be surprised by how unsteady your hands can be when you haven’t handled a knife in ages.

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So here we are: right back at the basics. There’s nothing complicated here: just chopping some vegetables, making a marinade and handling a blender, surely I could get that right? If you want to go a step further, then you can make your own naan bread (which is precisely what I did) using this recipe.

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Quick rundown: you’ve got your brown sugar carrots, your curry roasted cauliflower and the creamy spinach hummus that ties it all together. This is a really weekday lunch idea, if you want you can roast some extra broccoli and have different variations of vegetables throughout the week! I can also see this as a post-workout meal, you’ve got to load up on all those healthy vegetables!

Roasted Vegetable Sheetpan Shawarma

Ingredients:

For the shawarma:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • 250g cauliflower, roughly chopped into florets
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 red onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, sliced in half
  • 4 pieces of naan bread or 4 pita pockets

For the spinach hummus: 

  • 1×400g can of tinned chickpeas
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • A handful of fresh parsley, torn

Method:

  1. Start by preparing the vegetables. In a small bowl, toss together the olive oil, brown sugar and cinnamon. Chop the carrots into sticks that are about an inch long. Toss the carrots and brown sugar mixture together, ensuring that the carrots are completely coated in the sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, throw together the vegetable oil, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and black pepper and stir to combine. Toss the cauliflower with this curry mixture and make sure that the cauliflower is completely coated in the mixture.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Lay the brown sugar carrots, curry cauliflower and sliced red onions in a single layer on a large sheet pan. Place the lemon halves on opposite ends of the sheetpan. Drizzle some olive oil over the vegetables and top with a crack of salt and pepper.
  4. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft. Whilst the veg are in the oven, combine all the ingredients for the spinach hummus in a food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes. The texture should be smooth but slightly runny, closer to ricotta cheese.
  5. To assemble, spread the spinach hummus on the naan/pita and top with an assortment of the roasted vegetables. Squeeze some of the roasted lemon over the shawarma. Enjoy!

 

 

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Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Sandwich

Well that recipe title is a mouthful, but not as delicious as the mouthfuls of hot cheese sandwiched between some incredible toppings.


To the person who decided to marinate cheese- THANK YOU. I first came across the concept on The Kitchn and stopped in my tracks to try it. The only cheese I had in the fridge at the time was halloumi, and you can see for yourself how much I’ve enjoyed using halloumi. I marinated it in a tandoor paste to make these killer skewers a couple of months ago- seriously so good!


Whilst in Europe, I fell in love with sandwiches. I know, so terribly common of me. There was one particular sandwich that sealed the deal and it was this caprese sandwich. Made by an Australian man in Interlaken, Switzerland, I had this sandwich alongside a blood orange cocktail; incredibly incongruous but in that moment, I didn’t feel lonely. At that point, I had been without family for 3 weeks and I was feeling that ache in my chest commonly known as homesickness.


There’s a reason why a large portion of Zimbabweans choose to migrate to Australia. Their culture is very similar to ours, our weather patterns are almost identical and our accents are indistinguishable to the average European/American. Seriously, I have been asked way too many times if I’m from Australia or New Zealand. For this one plucky restaurant owner, his friendliness and sage in helping me choose a meal I’ll never forget uplifted my spirits after a long day of hiking.


Upon my return to Zimbabwe, I spent my time in the kitchen trying to recreate the magical sandwich. To some extent, my circumstances created some of the magic around the sandwich; I had been travelling alone for a week and I hadn’t had anything to eat that day since descending the mountain. The prospect of a new friend and a killer cocktail made me enjoy the meal so much more. Cheers to familiar faces in strange places!

Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Grilled Sandwich

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 250 g mozzarella cheese, sliced into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup spinach pesto, homemade or storebought
  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced in half horizontally then cut into sections.
  • Optional for serving: balsamic reduction, just boil 1 cup of balsamic vinegar until thick and reduced by half.

Method

  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic cloves, honey, lemon zest, black pepper and chilli flakes in a large airtight glass jar. Seal tightly and shake the jar to combine everything. Normally I would microwave the jar for 30 seconds to infuse the olive oil with the spices but this isn’t necessary.
  2. Throw the mozzarella and tomatoes into the olive oil mixture, seal the jar and shake to soak the tomatoes and cheese in the oil. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour but for best results, leave overnight. Meanwhile, make the balsamic reduction if using.
  3. Heat your grill/broiler. Spread both halves of the ciabatta bread with the spinach pesto. Layer one half of the sandwiches with the tomatoes followed by the marinated cheese. Add both halves of the sandwiches to a baking tray, with the empty half pesto-side up.
  4. Grill the sandwich until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. If desired, you can leave it until the cheese is starting to turn golden brown, about another 5 minutes. Serve hot whilst the cheese is still gooey with the balsamic reduction!

Crispy Curry Vegan Potato Pancakes

Because savoury pancakes beat sweet pancakes any day.


As much as I will always be a sweet tooth at heart, coriander beats chocolate in my book. Whilst we’re on the topic, what do you think about chilli infused chocolate? Is it the best of both worlds or an utter hit and miss?


This is a ridiculously easy snack recipe. It’s a variation of potato croquettes but with an Indian twist with the addition of the curry spices. If you’re shy of spicy food then feel free to either reduce the cayenne pepper added or serve with a dollop of yogurt on top! As much as I detest tomato sauce in every other context, I have to confess that it does compliment this particular dish.

Spicy Vegan Potato Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2 large Russet potatoes, peeled
  • ¼ cup soy milk or any other plant based milk
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup plain flour

Method

  1. Fill a large saucepan with boiling salted water. Boil the potatoes until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Pour the soy milk into the saucepan with the cool potatoes and mash until smooth.
  2. Add the mashed potatoes to a medium bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined. Shape into 8 patties and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large frying pan and allow to heat until almost smoking. Fry the patties until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm with tomato sauce, fresh parsley and fresh mint. Enjoy!

Spicy Chickpea Veggie Burgers

I’ve been dreaming about the veggie burgers I had in Europe ever since I got back.


Black bean burgers, soy burgers, cauliflower burgers-ugh it’s like a vegan’s playground! Vegetarianism is pretty uncommon in Zimbabwe, so it’s incredibly difficult for me to find something to eat whenever we go out to dinner. So you can imagine my delight at finding that most European food establishments in fact have a separate menu for vegetarians/vegans. Even McDonald’s had a vegan menu. You heard me, MCFREAKINDONALDS STOCKED VEGGIE BIG MACS + VEGGIE MCNUGGETS. Absolute insanity.


On a brighter note, the supermarkets in Zimbabwe have recently started re-stocking vegan frozen foods, i.e. vegan chicken burgers, vegan nuggets and vegan sausages. These are incredible options for veggies who don’t always have the time to prepare their own burgers from scratch (I know I don’t). If you’re not big on the taste of commercially produced frozen food, then hey, this post is for you! Top tip: prepare these burgers in bulk, shape and freeze them to consume at a later date!


These burgers are packed with intense flavour, and are amped up with the addition of toppings. I’m a huge fan of loading burgers with as many toppings as possible, just look at these loaded burgers I made a couple of months ago. For these particular burgers I spread the toasted buns with some honey mustard sauce, topped with burger, followed by sliced tomato and fresh sprouts! Other alternatives include sliced avo, caramelised onions, crispy onions, an extra burger (cheeky) or even some good old tomato sauce. Make sure not to skip out on the sweet potato fries, they are heavenly! Or crack open a cold one with the boys on a warm summer afternoon with these burgers!


Spicy Chickpea Veggie Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1×14 oz tin of canned chickpeas or 2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • ½ red or white onion, diced finely
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • ¼ cup plain flour (or gluten free flour)
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or water if you want them oil-free), optional
  • For serving: 4 bread rolls (gluten free if desired), sliced tomato, sliced avocado, fresh sprouts, sweet potato fries

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Add the chickpeas to a large bowl. Use a fork to mash them as best you can, it’s okay if some of them are still whole, at least half should be mashed. Throw in the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil, and use your hands to mix until the ingredients have been evenly distributed.
  2. Shape into 4 patties. If you’re finding the patties difficult to shape or they keep falling apart then add the olive oil (or water) and try again. You should be able to shape them easily after this.
  3. Lightly grease a rimless baking sheet and gently transfer the patties to the pan. Bake for 15 minutes before gently flipping and baking for another 7 minutes. The burgers should be golden brown and crispy on the outside. Enjoy on top of a freshly baked roll topped with tomato, avocado and sprouts!

 

A Complete Guide To Maximising Your Homemade Pizza Experience

Buckle up kids, we’re about to go on a journey. Let me set the scene for you. It’s one of those summer days that feels like it’s going to last forever, the golden heat doesn’t make you hiss and recede into the shade but is just enough to warm your skin and make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s one of those days when you’d like to sit back and relax by the pool with your family. Just as the sun starts to fade into the horizon, you retreat to your kitchen and start to think about what will satiate your tastebuds; what you could possibly throw together that will put the cherry on top of this glorious day.


That’s when it hits you: homemade pizza. It requires minimal effort, will make everyone at the table happy and is the perfect excuse to add heaps of mozzarella to a dish! Unfortunately, we’ve all had the cooking mishap where the crust comes out soggy, the toppings aren’t quite done or it just lacks the pizzazz that you were expecting.

Lucky for you, I’ve finally cracked the code to achieving the ultimate homemade pizza every single time. Today, I am sharing the secrets with you! So get your apron and rolling pin ready because we’re about to get into this dough.

The Crust

This is the vessel that will deliver your toppings to the dinner table. You could just buy any old frozen dough from the supermarket but that’s not how we do things around here. I find that storebought crusts bake much faster than the toppings and are either grossly underdone and soggy or are burnt and inedible. No my friend, if we’re going to do things the right way then we’re going to make our pizza dough from scratch.

‘But isn’t that time consuming?’ you lament. Homemade pizza dough only requires 15 minutes of hands-on time – even less if you have a stand mixer.

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I always use my trusty recipe for homemade pizza dough, and it makes enough dough for 2 pizzas, so you can freeze one and defrost it whenever you get the pizza craving. In fact, that’s what I usually do and it is the most convenient thing on this planet. You never know when you’ll feel the irresistible desire to have hot cheese in your belly, but I promise you that the day will come. When it does, you will be overcome with gratitude that you made an extra pizza dough. That doesn’t nearly compare to the disappointment you feel when you thought that you had an extra pizza dough lying around and realise that you used it last week. #oops.

Alas, homemade pizza dough isn’t the only hurdle you need to jump over to attain that perfect golden crust. one must also consider their toppings. If you overload your pizza then you are assured of a soggy crust. If you can’t help it and you need to pile your crust with spinach, avocado, mushrooms, pineapple, caramelised onions, olives, sweetcorn AND chickpeas (adds a nice crunch to pizza I must admit)- then you can alleviate the situation by cooking some of the toppings first. I normally don’t cook spinach before I add it to a pizza but I will briefly saute mushrooms, peppers or onions before adding them to a pizza. Toppings such as broccoli, chickpeas and eggplants would be better off roasted in the oven before going on top of a pizza.


Another strategy that I recently employed is to bake my pizza in a skillet. To see this tactic in action, head over to this recipe. The method is simple: heat a large skillet on the stove until it is sizzling. Dust the hot pan with cornflour and quickly toss the dough onto the hot skillet, making sure not to burn your fingers. Cook the dough for 2 minutes on the stove before adorning with your toppings. That’s simple enough, right?

The Crust- Part Two

There’s more to the crust than you thought. There are several ways to prepare a pizza dough, one doesn’t have to adhere to the standard yeasted dough technique. If you find yourself short of yeast then my homemade pizza dough recipe includes a yeast-less option though I have to tell you that it isn’t nearly as good as the yeasted version. There are other options out there!

For those of you who are gluten free, cauliflower crust is a viable option. It’s easy to prepare, even if you don’t have a blender then you can use a cheese grater to get the cauliflower down to mini-florets. This crust is perfect for those of us who are fans of super-thin crusts, it produces a beautiful thin crust that is golden, crunchy and all for a fraction of the calories! There a couple of drawbacks with the cauliflower crust- it is much easier to yield a soggy crust. To avoid this dilemma, you have to make sure to squeeze all the water out during preparation. You also can’t go topping crazy with this crust because of how thin it is. Overload the crust and the pizza will just fall apart in your hand. You have to exercise restraint with this one. Ready to give it a go? In the photo below, I made this Chickpea Cauliflower Crust Pizza by Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest. It’s well worth a try!


Other options include a broccoli crust (similar to the cauliflower crust, the only difference is the colour which could potentially offset small children), chickpea crust and quinoa crust all of which I am yet to try. Another option would be to grab a piece of naan bread, spread some of the best pasta sauce on it, sprinkle some cheese and a couple of toppings before baking in the oven. Can we call it a pizza when it is technically a flatbread? Why yes, yes we can.

The Oven

Pizza is not baked in a 180°C oven. Pizza is not baked in an oven that you turned on 30 seconds before baking it. This is non-negotiable. If you have an open fireplace (lucky you) then you can can prepare yourself an authentic oven roasted pizza. The rest of us peasants will have to settle for preheating our ovens a full 30 minutes before baking the pizza, and setting the oven temperature to the highest setting- for me this is about 225°C/575°F. I know that all you conservative penny-wise readers out there are already whining about the electricity bill, but believe me, you will not yield a golden crust with gooey cheese in a cold oven.


The oven has to turned on in advance to ensure that heat spreads to every corner of the oven, we want it to be at a relatively even temperature. On that note, try and keep your nosy hands from opening the oven several times whilst the pizza is baking. You want to keep the heat locked in for maximum crust crunchiness. The only time that your oven door should be open is to put the pizza in the oven- and that shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds. That is all! If you happen to be the proud owner of a pizza stone, this should be preheated at the same time as the oven. Watch your fingers!

The Sauce

Oh man, pizza is as much about the sauce as it is about the crust. If the crust is the vessel then the sauce is the captain. Sure if the vessel is strong enough then that may be good enough to disguise a bad captain but there’s not much in the way that can save a sauce that’s too acidic, too spicy or just lacklustre in nature. The sauce is what taints the flavour of the toppings. No amount of cheese could remedy this situation. My go-to pizza sauce is also my go-to pasta sauce because everybody loves versatile options! Great sauces include barbecue sauce, any sort of pesto and Bechamel sauce.


The Cheese

Mozzarella will never not be good on pizza. If you’d like to stray from the safe zone then there are other cheeses waiting with open arms! I’ve used ricotta before and combined it with a killer balsamic reduction to give you this delectable pizza. Burrata, provolone and white cheddar are also really good on cheese.

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Ricotta White Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Honey Reduction
Another thing I’ve grown to love this year is huge puddles of gooey cheese on pizza. Can’t get enough of them. To achieve this, cheese is sliced thinly, rather than grated and is layered on top of the crust before baking. Heaven, I tell you, heaven.

Now that you know all my pizza making tips, go forth into the world and enjoy your pizza! Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking to gather information from different sources and I’d love to hear what you think makes a great homemade pizza! Until next time loves,

x Andy

Ultimate Skillet Margarita Pizza

No exaggeration here- this is the ultimate skillet pizza.


I’ve been trying to brush up on my pizza-making skills but those attempts have been anything but successful. Having a killer topping combination means absolutely nothing when the base is soggy and falling apart under it. This is where the skillet pizza comes in- watch all your soggy crust fears disappear with this simple cooking technique.


The crust is cooked on the stovetop for a couple of minutes to form the perfect vessel for the tomato-cheese topping. I started with a simple margarita this week but trust me when I say we are going to build on this- bigger and better and more complex flavour combinations. Let this serve as a guide to show you that effortless flawless homemade pizza is not a myth and truly does exist.


Ultimate Skillet Margarita Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 pound pizza dough, homemade with this recipe or storebought
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ each salt and black pepper
  • 1 and ½ cups of the best pasta sauce or any storebought marinara
  • 150g mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp honey + 2 tsp water
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • some fresh basil leaves, torn roughly (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to the highest temperature it will go to. Mine goes to 250°C/480°F. At the same time, set your skillet on the stove at medium-high heat to allow it to start heating up. You want your skillet to be hot, but not smoking. I used a 9 inch skillet but if you want a thicker crust/deep pan pizza, go with an 8 inch skillet.
  2. Once the skillet is hot, dust the bottom with the flour and cornflour. Stretch or roll the pizza dough into a circle that is roughly the same size as the skillet. Carefully lay the pizza dough in the skillet, being careful not to burn your fingers!
  3. Cook the pizza dough until it starts to form large bubbles, about 3-4 minutes. Switch off the stove before drizzling olive oil over the surface of the dough and seasoning with salt and pepper. Spread the marinara sauce evenly over the surface of the dough. It’s okay if you don’t have as much of a crust as you would like, the tomatoes will caramelise where the sauce is thin and you will end up with something so much better. Layer the cheese evenly over the tomato base before transferring to the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is deep golden brown, and bubbling.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the honey, water and chilli flakes. Once the pizza has finished baking, switch off the oven. Drizzle the chilli honey over the surface of the pizza and allow to rest in the hot oven for 5 minutes. Top with basil leaves before removing to a cutting board to slice and serve. Enjoy!

Tandoori Spiced Halloumi Skewers with Mint Sauce

Halloumi definitely goes on the list of things that I wish I’d known about earlier.


It just compliments everything I put it next to. Try these Halloumi And Veggie Wraps on for size. Then come back and make this recipe and try and tell me that halloumi is not magical. I have many things planned for this salty cheese in the future but let’s talk about the NOW.


Halloumi has long been criticised for becoming rubbery and unpleasant when cooked. Not that I don’t understand, I’ve experienced this firsthand. Do I have any magical tips for avoiding this? Of course I do, you know me. These are the 3 options most recommended by the Internet. Firstly, you could make your own halloumi. Whilst I’m not against homemade cheese, I don’t have 3 days to wait. The second option, which is more convenient, is to soak your cheese in cold water for up to an hour to get rid of some of the salt. The third option is to eat that cheese as soon as it comes out the pan! Don’t let your food get cold and you don’t have to worry about that rubbery feel. This is by far my favourite option because you don’t need to tell me twice to tuck into my food.


That having been said, this recipe is no frills, no fuss. The instructions are as simple as the cooking time is short. If you’d like to turn up the heat then increase the amount of cayenne. If you’re spice-shy then I’d suggest lathering the halloumi skewers in this simple mint sauce. Enjoy!


Tandoori Spiced Halloumi Skewers with Mint Sauce

Ingredients

For the halloumi:

  • 250g halloumi, sliced into thick rectangular prisms (nerd much??)
  • 6 skewers
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

For the mint sauce: 

  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan

Method

To make the mint sauce: combine all the ingredients for the mint sauce in a blender and pulse until combined. Store in a tightly sealed glass jar. Will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.

To make the halloumi skewers:

Start by carefully skewering the halloumi. Set aside. Combine the spices and olive oil in a small bowl and stir until it forms a thick paste. Coat the halloumi skewers in the tandoori spice paste. Heat a skillet on high heat and brush with some vegetable oil. Grill the skewers for 3 minutes on either side. Serve with the mint sauce and some naan and yogurt to curb the heat!