Post-Christmas Tomato and Bean Mexican Stoup

Amelia Johnson Photography Tomato and Bean Mexican Stoup

Stoup? Stoup is my greatest dieting weapon. Take a tasty stew, chili, or other tasty dish with lots of sauce, and increase the amount of water and or tomatoes until it’s thicker than a soup, but no longer a stew. The word ‘stoup’ is strictly a Rachel Ray-ism but I’d been making them long before I heard the terminology. Stoup is filling because of all the water content and lower in calories than a regular meal, but still packs a punch with the taste. I stoup-ify (sorry I couldn’t resist) with bolognaise sauce, chili con carne, tuna and tomato pasta sauce, amongst others.

This recipe makes a great post-christmas festivities lunch. Warming for those of you in chilly climes, low in calories, and won’t leave you wanting to snack that afternoon. It’s also easy to make!

Tomato and Bean Mexican Stoup

Serves 2-3


1 tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion

2 garlic cloves

6 mushrooms, chopped (optional)

1 chilli, deseeded and chopped

1/2 tsp cumin

300ml vegetable stock

350ml passata

200g cherry tomatoes

400g tin black beans, drained

1 tsp sugar

1 lime

1 tbsp coriander, chopped

1/2 avocado

salt and pepper


Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over a medium heat. Add all but a tablespoon of the diced onion. Fry for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, mushrooms, chilli and cumin and fry for another minute.

Add the stock, passata, whole cherry tomatoes, beans, and sugar. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Season, then stir through the juice of the lime and most of the coriander.

Serve in bowls and garnish with avocado, onion and coriander.

Tastes-Good-With-Everything Peach Salsa

Amelia Johnson Photography Peach SalsaToday we’re going to talk peaches, juicy fresh peaches. Did you know that here in Dubai we get most of our summer fruit from Europe, and our winter fruit from the Southern Hemisphere*. For the first time since moving here 5 years ago I’ve found tasty peaches. I’m so excited! They’re South African and the only disappointment is that when you buy them, they’re hard. So I leave them next to a banana to ripen and a day later? They’re all ripe. What was I supposed to do with 8 ripe peaches?

I looked through some American blogs and found plenty of tasty peach recipes, but none of them were quite what I wanted. Peach cobbler, peach pie, peach crumble, peach crisp and peach ice cream. But none of them tempted me. Then I remembered an amazing peach salsa I had served with pork loin in peach country- Georgia. What I wanted to do was remake that food memory. I found a couple of different recipes and mixed ’em up. I am SUPER pleased with the results. My husband had this with eggs for breakfast this morning and his first reaction was ‘wow’.

*  I do eat/cook local as far as possible, but living in the desert our produce is limited. Apologies to my British readers for whom peaches are totally, completely and utterly out of season right now.


Tastes-Good-With-Everything Peach Salsa


6 ripe peaches

3 medium tomatoes

1/2 chilli

1 red pepper

1/4 red onion

1 tbsp fresh mint finely chopped

1 lime

1/4 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp muscavado brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste


Dice the peaches, tomato, onion and chilli as finely as possible. Mix together with the fresh chilli. Add in the juice of the lime, chilli, sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together and store in a sterilized jar. This tastes best after it’s had at least a couple of hours for the flavours to marinate.

Store in the fridge.


Four Minute Magic Pizza

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Four Minutes to make a decadent tasting but healthy, filling, nutritious meal? Can’t be done? Let me show you how.

Back when I was working in an office this meal became a regular answer to the question ‘What’s for dinner?’ It uses mostly store cupboard ingredients and less than 5 minutes prep. We coined the word magic pizza and it stuck. Seems magic to me- from fridge to plate in less than ten minutes.

The trick is to use Lebanese flatbread as the base of the pizza. This crisps up really nicely in the oven, and is very thin so you don’t feel stuffed full of carbs. Add some pizza sauce from a jar (the fewer ingredients on the jar the better), and then any ingredients you have in your fridge. A lot of the time we reduce the calories by leaving off the cheese, but of course a nice mozzarella, or goats cheese turns this into a treat.

Last night’s magic pizza was fig, mushroom and thyme. A fab combination. The sweetness of the fig was offset beautifully by the cheese and mushroom, and the hints of thyme made it taste really fresh. I suggest you add things like thyme after you’ve cooked the pizza, but it’s really up to you.

Stuck for topping ideas? Most veggies will work well on a pizza- some of them may need fry or bake before you add them, if cooking times necessitate. Anchovies, fresh pineapple, any herb, cold meats, chicken…. really anything you have in the fridge.

What’s your favourite pizza topping?

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Fig, Mushroom and Thyme Magic Pizza

Serves 1


1 medium Lebanese flatbread

2 tbsp pizza sauce (from a jar, I like American Garden’s)

1/2 fig, sliced

3 mushrooms, sliced

3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

3 sprigs thyme

salt and pepper


Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature.

Assemble your pizza using the ingredients above.

Cook in your oven on a pizza tray or a thin baking tray until the edges of the flatbread are golden brown and your toppings are turning brown. This takes about 4 minutes, but will vary depending on your oven. Keep checking it.

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Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Onion and Tahini Sauce

Amelia Johnson Photography

It’s taken me five years of living in the Middle East to experiment with tahini. I have no idea why, perhaps I just didn’t know where to start. I certainly wish I’d started earlier- it’s so easy to use and takes all the flavours up a notch. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds and is used throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. It is one of the main ingredients in hummus.

I was given Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem for Christmas. Filled with ingredients which I’d heard of, but never used, it sat on my bedside table, to be looked through and admired, but not dirtied in the kitchen. I finally bought a jar of tahini a few months ago. But this too sat on a shelf unused. When I realised that I had all the ingredients for this recipe in my cupboards already, I knew I had no excuse.

My husband has been pescetarian for 9 months, and one of my best friends is vegetarian. When she comes for dinner I always struggle with what to make. This will be perfect for our next dinner party. No more failed sweetcorn fritters and boring lentil dishes for my guests!

You can make this in advance, but it’s important not to put the tahini sauce on the vegetables until the last-minute. For those readers that don’t live in the middle east, tahini and za’atar area becoming more and more common in the UK and the States with the popularisation of Lebanese food. If you can’t find the ingredients in your local supermarket, there should be a specialist shop not too far away where you can buy these two mainstays of Middle Eastern food.

One of the things I loved most about this is that I hadn’t realised you can eat the skin of butternut squash. Certainly saves a lot of time peeling it!

Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Onion and Tahini Sauce

(Adapted from ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)

Serves 2 as a main course


1/2 butternut squash, cut into 2cm x 6cm pieces

1 x red onion, cut into wedges

1tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp tahini paste

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 small garlic clove

15g pine nuts

1/2 tbsp za’atar (optional)

To Prepare

Preheat the oven to 220 deg centigrade / Gas Mark 9

Spread the squash and onion on a baking sheet, pour over 2 tsp oil, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Spread out over the sheet with the skin down no the sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, until the vegetables have taken some colour.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Make the sauce. Place the tahini in a bowl with the lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, garlic and a pinch of salt. The tahini will thicken to the consistency of double cream.

Fry the pine nuts with a teaspoon oil until lightly browned.

Spread the warm vegetables on a platter, top with the sauce, sprinkle with pine nuts and top with za’atar.

Smoked Aubergine with Lemon and Pomegranate

Amelia Johnson Photography

Baba Ganoush would make it into my top ten foods of all time. This Lebanese meza dish just hits all the right spots. I love aubergine, and the smoky flavours are amazing. It’s always the first thing my husband orders when we go out for Lebanese food, even though he knows he won’t get his fork anywhere near it.

I’ll be honest- this isn’t the recreation of baba ganoush that I was hoping for. In order to get that extreme smoky taste you really need an open flame and my electric hob just ain’t cutting it. I grilled the aubergine, but again, without a flame it doesn’t work. For now, I’ll continue to rely on Reem Al Bawadi for my baba ganoush kick.

This dish is still delicious in its own right though. The smokiness is subtle and pairs beautifully with the fresh lemon. Be generous with the pomegranate seeds and you’ve got yourself a very tasty dip.

Smoked Aubergine with Lemon and Pomegranate

Adapted from ‘Jerusalem’ by Ottolenghi


1 large aubergine

1 small garlic clove, crushed

grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped parsley

50g pomegranate seeds


Score the aubergine with a knife a few cm deep, about 10 times and place on a baking sheet under a hot grill for about an hour, turning every 20 minutes. The aubergine will be black and very soft.

Allow the aubergine to cool and then scoop out al the flesh. Discard the skin and put the flesh in a sieve over a bowl. Put some foil over the aubergine, and then a bowl filled with water to weigh the aubergine down. Allow the aubergine to drain out the water for at least an hour.

Place the aubergine in a bowl and add the garlic, lemon olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir and  allow the aubergine to marinate at room temperature for an hour.

When you’re ready to serve it, stir in the parsley and check the seasoning. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and garnish with a little parsley.

I served this with some pita bread and celery sticks. It would also be delicious served with other meze- humus and tabbouleh for example.

Cabernet Burgers AKA the Best Burgers In the Whole World Ever.

My friends Lionel and Kat invited me for a bbq. Now this is not an invitation to turn down. Lionel is renowned for his gourmet  food and I was pretty sure we weren’t going to be eating horsemeat burgers and gritty sausages. However I have to say Lionel completely outdid himself.

(You can tell by the hat he’s serious about this whole bbq thing right?)


He made Cabernet Sauvignon burgers, which are hands down the best burgers I have ever eaten.

Go! Now! Light your barbecue!

Three ingredients. Cabernet Sauvignon. Brown Sugar. Minced Beef.

I’ll be making these for every single bbq I’m invited to this winter, starting with our family reunion in Cyprus next weekend. My friends and family are going to LOVE these.

Unfortunately I didn’t realise how delicious these were going to be and didn’t take enough photos of them before they were devoured. He also made some tasty bbq chicken legs and wings. I don’t remember there being any salad. Just meat. 🙂ImageImageImageImage


500ml Cabernet Sauvignon

1 tbsp brown sugar

700g 80% lean mince beef

salt and pepper to taste


1. Make the glaze. In a heavy saucepan over a medium heat mix the wine and sugar. Cook until reduced to approx 125ml. Set aside to cool.

2. Combine the beef with 3/4 of the cooled glaze and salt and pepper. Make 4 equal patties of approx 3/4 inch thick.

3. Grill the patties over a direct high heat, with the bbq lid closed, for 8-10 minutes. Whilst cooking brush with the glaze every couple of minutes.

Optional– add a slice of cheddar to each burger for a minute before removing from the heat. 

Serve with grilled tomatoes and focaccia buns.

Recipe adapted from Weber-

Sushi and Gardening at Nobu

Last week I had the opportunity to do a quick food shoot at Nobu, in the Atlantis hotel here in Dubai. Nobu is the creation of Nobu Matsuhisa who I was incredibly fortunate to meet and photograph last week when he was in the UAE. Despite having 3 Michelin stars and 29 restaurants to his name, he was remarkably uninhibited and gracious. He spoke at length about the importance of being passionate about our work. We had a great chat about how creatives: Chefs, Photographers, Musicians can’t be truly successful without passion driving what they do.

A week later and I was in the gorgeous sanctury of his vegetable garden. Multiple wooden planters, gravelled paths and moor grass sit in a spacious fenced in private garden. Nobu grow their own herbs- the usual suspects and well as tomatoes, some beans and mizuna (a type of Japanese lettuce which I’m growing too). The tomatoes plants and beans hadn’t fruited yet, so I’m not sure what type they were. Chef said that during the winter most of the herbs come from their garden. I did wonder why, when the space they have outside is so big, they aren’t able to use herbs solely from their garden?

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Here is my first shot from the shoot- a Shrimp Tempura Roll. It was an unusually cloudy day, but I still shot in the partial shade of a palm to get the beautiful soft light.