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.

AmeliaJohnsonPhotography

Tastes-Good-With-Everything Peach Salsa

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

 

Banana, Honey and Walnut Teabread

Amelia Johnson Photography banana honey and walnut teabreadI would love to be one of those homes where people don’t call before they drop by for a cup of tea and a slice of cake and a two-hour catch up. Where we threw big barbeques that start with a family or two and end up with friends of friends joining and kids running through sprinklers and people not leaving til 2 in the morning. Alas, our lives aren’t at that stage right now: we live an urban lifestyle on the 14th floor in a 2-bedroom apartment, and, more to the point, we’re rarely home! Anyway, if I did regularly have friends dropping by, this is one of many cakes I would have to hand. It has a fantastic texture, slightly crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and has a great depth of flavour thanks to the honey and cinnamon.

Banana, Honey and Walnut Teabread

115g unsaturated margarine

115g light soft brown sugar

115g honey

2 eggs

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp cinnamon

2 large bananas

50g walnuts

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a loaf tin.

Beat together the margarine, sugar and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs.

Fold in the flour and cinnamon.

Mash the bananas in a separate bowl and then gently fold them into the mixture with the walnuts.

Spoon the mixture into the tin.

Bake in the oven for about an hour, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. The top should be golden and firm to the touch.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Eat sliced, hot or cold.

Za’atar Cheesy Biscuits

AmeliaJohnsonPhotographyCheesyZaatarBiscuits

Has anyone else found themselves spending a full day trying to put together an ambitiously fancy dinner party only for it all to be a little disappointing? To wonder why you didn’t just go a bit simpler? Six months ago I spent two hours putting together fiddly, fancy canapés- crositini with ridiculous things like fried sage leaves, and mini yorkshire puddings. They were met with polite compliments, but not much more. Two hours making canapés? I don’t have the time, nor the patience to spend two hours making  canapés! This Christmas I decided to keep it simple. Tasty and simple.

Now, my disclaimer is that they’re not the prettiest of biscuits. Especially after you’ve added the Za’atar, but the taste is SO good that these may disappear before you get the opportunity to try one yourself. Use a star shaped cookie cutter if you have one. That’ll pretty them up. And of course, put on a sparkly dress and everyone will be looking at you, not your food!

To continue on my theme of experimenting with local ingredients, I’ve added Za’atar to these traditional sharp, cheesy biscuits. Mum used to throw these biscuits together for Christmas Eve drinks parties. You can make them several days before as they’ll last for up to a week. I promise they won’t take you more than 10 mins prep.

Za’atar Cheesy Biscuits

Ingredients

200g strong grated English cheddar

50g soft unsalted butter

100g self-raising flour

1 tbsp za’atar

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4/350°F.

Put all ingredients in a bown and mix together until a dough forms.

Bring the dough together into a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to half an inch thick. Use a cutter to cut out stars or rounds. Keep rolling, cutting and re-rolling until all the dough is used.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange your biscuits on top.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack until cool.

 

Canadian Blueberry Muffins

It’s 8 o’clock on a hot, Canadian, Tuesday morning in August 1999 and I’m 17 years old. My host family are sat around the breakfast table eating blueberry topped cereal. Would I like some?  Blueberries? On my cereal? Absolutlely! I don’t think I’d ever seen a blueberry before, other than perhaps one or two tucked away under some banana in a fruit salad. We were on a school field hockey tour to British Columbia, and I was eating blueberries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea.

Following the expansion of global fruit distributors, and my move to the desert, blueberries are now a regular guest in our fridge, but what follows is the very first recipe that got me hooked. This recipe reminds me of hockey matches, incredible scenery, playing ‘mafia’, the beach, and some of the most welcoming and hospitable people I’ve ever met. It smells of Vancouver Island’s bear inhabited forests and West Vancouver’s beaches. Most of all though, it reminds me of a particularly generous host-mother turning up at our minibus as we were about to depart with a BUCKET of these muffins, stuffed full of more blueberries than I thought possible. 14 of us hungry hockey players demolished them in a matter of minutes.

Turn on your oven and dig out the blueberries (frozen works too). These uncomplicated, fresh blueberry muffins are perfect for entertaining a crowd.

I wish I could remember the hockey-mum that gave me this recipe but I can’t. Instead I’ll dedicate it to all the mums in BC that were so kind to us in the summer of ’99.

Canadian Blueberry Muffins

Makes 20 large muffins

Ingredients

110g butter

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

240g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup of milk

2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, if using canned rinse first)

2 tsp sugar for topping

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk and vanilla.

Gently stir in the blueberries.

Put in paper lined muffin cups (I often use cupcake cases which make smaller muffins).

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Learn from my mistakes! This mixture can’t hold more than 2 cups of blueberries!

Walnut Bread

TheGratefulPhotographerWalnutBread3

I made a big mistake the first summer I lived in Dubai. I booked our summer holiday for the end of June. Ramadan was at the end of August. For those of you who are not familiar with summers in the Middle East, the temperatures go off the scale. The hottest temperature our thermometer has recorded in five years is 53 degrees Centigrade, and it hangs in the shade. Ermm… that’s hot enough to fry an egg outside, cause me to faint (numerous times), and HEAT PLATES.  That meant I had 3 stinking hot months ahead of me, with little happening and most people fleeing the heat for cooler climes. The kitchen was my refuge.

TheGratefulPhotographerDubaiDesert

 One of the best things about the heat is that I can use the balcony like an English airing cupboard, for my bread to rise. (In England the warmest part of any house is the cupboard with the water boiler in it, and it’s where we leave our dough to prove). For some reason I find this entertaining even five years on. In the summer when the sun only serves to scorch, I’ve found a use for it. On my balcony pretzel dough doubles, sourdough forms bubbles and doughnut dough rises.

So, here’s a recipe I discovered this summer. This bread is absolutely stuffed full of walnuts, and is divine served with goats cheese and figs. It’s easy to make- I’ve made 4 loaves and they’ve all turned out great. It just requires a bit of time. I normally get started with it on a Saturday morning when I wake up and by the time I’ve finished getting ready for the day, doing a bit of tidying and cleaning, with some low-energy kneading in between the loaf is ready for the oven.

TheGratefulPhotographerWalnutBread2

Adapted from Short & Sweet by the fabulous Dan Lepard who has taught me nearly as much about baking as my Mum.

Ingredients

300g strong white flour, plus extra for shaping

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons fast action yeast

125ml red wine

75ml water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

150g coarsely chopped walnuts

oil for kneading

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Using a liquidizer, blend the wine, water, oil, honey and 50g of the walnuts until smooth. Pour this over the flour and add the remaining walnuts. Stir to make a sticky dough. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Knead the dough on a lightly oiled word surface, 8 to 10 times only. Oil the bowl slightly and return the dough to the bowl. Leave for 10 minutes. Repeat the kneading process and place back in the bowl. Leave in a warm place for 30-45 minutes until increased in size by 50%.

Line a tray with baking paper, lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough to roughly 15cm x 20cm. Roll the shorter side up to form a tight sausage and place this seam side down on the tray. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave outside again for an hour. Heat the oven to 200 deg C/180 deg C fan/390 deg F/gas 6. Lightly dust flour over the dough with a small fine sieve or tea-strainer and make rapid criss-cross cuts with a sharp knife. Bake for 40 minutes and then leave to cool on a rack.

 

 

Chewy Chocolate and Raisin Rye Cookies

TheGratefulPhotographerRyeRaisinChocolateCookie2

These cookies were a fabulous surprise. Having bought a bag of rye flour to use 100g making a loaf of bread which didn’t turn out how I hoped, I had 1.4kg of rye flour sat in my cupboard. Every time I opened my baking cupboard it looked at me, asking to be used, and every time I reached over and picked out the self raising flour, or plain flour. What on earth was I going to do with all that rye flour? Dan Lepard had the answer. Chocolate and Raisin cookies. Well, they sounded a bit boring, but they ticked the boxes, I had all the ingredients and they use rye flour. I could also kid myself they were healthy with all the rye and raisin. (Ha- I ignored the 125g of butter!)

Well, as soon as my bag of rye flour is finished I’ll be straight out to buy another one. These are the best cookies I’ve had in years. A self confessed chocoholic, even with only 2 tablespoons of cocoa in them, these are rich and heavy and chewy and so very morish. I omitted the bicarbinate of soda from the original recipe, which means they don’t spread as much, and thus are chewy and dense rather than crispy and thin. If you want a crispier biscuit add half a teaspoon of bicarb to the flour. They are stuffed full of chewy raisins too.

These are particluarly scrumptious straight off the baking tray. But aren’t all cookies?

TheGratefulPhotographerRyeRaisinChocolateCookie1 copy

Chewy Chocolate and Raisin Rye Cookies

Adapted From Short and Sweet, Dan Lepard, a book I can’t recommend highly enough

Makes approx 20 cookies

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter, room temperature

100g soft brown sugar

100g caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa

1 egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g rye flour

250g raisins

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/160 degrees C fan/Gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Using a electric whisk combine the butter, sugars and cocoa, then beat in the egg white, followed by the vanilla.

Add the flour and with a wooden spoon beat everything together until smooth. Stir in the raisins and then roll the mixture into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. Sit them on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, until the raisins puff and pop through the crust of the cookies.

Leave to cool on the tray for five minutes and then place on a cooling rack.

Orange and Almond Biscotti

Orange and Almond Biscotti Amelia Johnson

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to share this biscotti recipe with you. It doesn’t contain ANY fat!  Zero, ziltch, added fat.  Well, apart from the fat in the almonds, which doesn’t count, it’s good fat!

Traditional biscotti isn’t made with fat, simply flour, eggs and sugar. And we’re not talking your average starbucks biscotti here with a trilion ingredients. These are simple, delicious and taste luxurious. They’re a little hard, mind, but that’s part of the fun.

When I have a baking itch- these are often what I’ll turn to to help me resist the temptation of chocolate brownies.  Then I’ll stash the batch away in a tin in my kitchen, knowing that they’re pretty much guilt-free, and they’ll last a few weeks too.

Ingredients

170g plain flour

100g caster sugar

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1 egg white

100g chopped almonds (chop whole ones yourself for added texture)

2 tbsp orange zest (approx 1 orange)

Method

Preheat oven to 180deg centigrade and grease a baking sheet.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Beat in the egg and then mix in the almonds and orange zest. The mixture will be quite dry. Knead the dough by hand until a small ball forms.

Roll the dough into a log approx 10″ long and place it on the baking sheet. Press it down until approx 6″ wide.

Bake for 25 mins. Cool on a rack. When cool enough to handle cut into 1″ slices or as thin as you can.

Place the slices back on the sheet and return to the oven for 20 mins.

Cool on a rack.

Enjoy with coffee at the end of a meal instead of dessert or as an afternoon treat

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

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

Easy Peasy Hokey Pokey

Have you done your Christmas shopping yet? The malls here are teaming with people… but really that’s no change from the rest of the year.

Today I made hokey pokey. Perfect for small gifts for neighbours and friends, it’s very easy and very sweet and very tasty and very fun to make. Get the kids involved once you’re past the bubbling sugar part.

Hokey Pokey

This recipe makes a small quantity but can easily be doubled or quadrupled as you wish.

Ingredients:

50g Caster Sugar

2 Tbsp Golden Syrup

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

To make:

Prepare a large sheet of greased parchment paper.

Combine the sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan.

Put the saucepan over a medium-low heat. Don’t stir it, just watch. It will start to bubble and after about 3 mins turn a rich maple syrup colour. Take it off the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarb of soda. The mixture will bubble up into a cloud of sugar.

Pour onto your parchment paper and leave to cool for about 15 mins. Store somewhere cool- mine melted overnight when I left it out!

Hokey Pokey