Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad

Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad

We spent last weekend getting our little balcony summer ready.We’ve had many wonderfully long sun-filled days – the neighbourhood is awakened, with the beaches and parks are bustling with people. It feels decidedly like summer now.

Our local farmers’ market started last weekend; that to me is the sign of summer’s start; the vibrant and cheerful energy of the open market, fresh local produce – colourful and abundant, it all just feels very summer-ry.

Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad
Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad

I snagged the most beautiful bunch of radish not quite sure what to make with them, I brought them home, saw my copy of Jerusalem and I just knew… I went back out and got tomatoes, cilantro and parsley – I was going to make Ottolenghi’s spiced chickpea and fresh vegetable salad again.

This is one of the very first recipes I tried from the Jerusalem cookbook; it seemed so simple and unfussy.
I was pleasantly surprised at how wonderfully the flavours melded.

I love this salad because it’s refreshing and tasty and plays well with the warm aromatic spices in the chickpeas.
I also love how easy it is to put together and the fact that it uses simple and nourishing seasonal produce.

Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad
Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad

Colourful meals eaten on lovely sunny balconies will make for happier people…

I want to stretch out on my little patio with salads like this, enjoy the lovely views and perhaps fall in love with my quirky neighbourhood again

That’s my wish for this summer, and for unending bright days that make everything seem possible.

Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad

Spiced Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

One weekend last month, my sister (@pearlsa) and I drove down to Seattle to attend a food styling and photography class with Aran Goyoaga and Leela Cyd.

Aran is a freelance food stylist, photographer, and writer; she’s the author of award winning blog Cannelle et Vanille

Leela is multi-talented food, travel and lifestyle photographer and writer whose work has appeared numerous editorial and commercial publications, she’s working on her first cookbook, and also authors the outstanding blog Tea Cup Tea

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle
Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Aran and Leela are seriously talented, and it was such a delight and honour to be able to take a class with them, especially since this was my first ever food photography class and it was fittingly an introductory course.

We gathered, about fifteen of us excited students, at Aran’s beautiful studio in Belltown, eager to learn.

The day started off with an overview of creative and technical process of styling and photographing food; we watched Aran style the beautiful mackerel she’d gotten from the market as she talked us through her styling process and gave us some great simple yet effective styling tips.

We also got to watch Leela’s approach as she took photos, demonstrating through her workflow how to create wonderful stories with photography.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

We had a spectacular lunch of creamy cauliflower soup and a wonderful roasted beet, citrus and greens salad.

Afterwards, we were let loose in the gorgeous studio to style and photograph our own creations using seasonal produce they’d gotten from the market, the incredible assortment of props, and a little guidance and direction from Aran and Leela. It was an amazingly fun exercise.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle
Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

It was a perfectly spent day, meeting people who are that passionate about food and photography is so inspiring, and to be able to learn from them was such an amazing experience.

I came away invigorated; the workshop made me assess the kind of food photographer I wanted to be, and I gained a little insight into the business of food photography.

Thank you Aran and Leela for bring such wonderful and kind instructors.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle
Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and beans; it sounds so exotic now, almost foreign, yet it used to be my favourite food not too long ago.

This beloved Ghanaian food of fried plantains and stewed beans holds a special place in my heart – sold by street vendors and a staple in homes, it’s one of the few meals I actually looked forward to eating when I was a child.

A dish so good it’s named twice – we call it ‘red red’, for the red palm oil and tomatoes that turns the bean stew red, and the golden red hue of the plantains when fried, or in this case, baked.

There are countless similar versions of this plantain and beans cooking in West African kitchens and all over the world.
Over here in our part of the globe, we typically wait for warmer weather when the plantains ripen better and sweeter just like back home.

Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans
Plantain and Beans

I should mention that this is really my sister’s dish, she diligently chooses the finest looking plantains, let it ripen further and spend days planning this meal – I’m always super nice to her in the days leading up to ‘plantain and beans’

I should also mention that this recipe isn’t wholly plant based; apologies to my vegan buddies – although it can be easily be made vegan by swapping out the anchovies for mustard seeds, cumin and harissa to give the palm oil a flavour boost, and you probably won’t miss the smoked salmon if you omit it.

We’re planning on a solely plant-based version this summer, so stay tuned.

Plantain and Beans
Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans

Like most Ghanaian dishes, there’s versatility to this plantain and beans, it can be tweaked and adapted to suit countless tastes and preferences.

My aunt S. cooks her beans very soft till they’re almost falling apart, then she sautés onions in palm oil and adds the beans to the oil with a little salt and let it simmer while she fries her plantains – simple, hearty and delicious.

We’ve been frying our plantains in the oven for a few years now, and it works superbly, yielding deliciously sweet plantains to go with the stewed beans.

I love this dish, it’s comforting and tastes like home, a meal for sharing with loved ones.
It’s the type of meal that is so much better with good company and good wine, perhaps an Argentinian Malbec.

Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

We’ve had a couple of really, really wonderful sun-filled days; I think if I don’t document them somehow, it’ll feel like they never happened when I’m back to trudging through puddles in my rain boots a week from now.

I’m talking tank-tops and flip-flop weather; it is as if we skipped spring and headed straight for summer. I even stopped taking my Vitamin D pills for fear I’d overdose.

Unfortunately, my week was inundated with mostly ‘stuff’ that didn’t include spending my free time outdoors – from the mounting pile of laundry to filing tax adjustments with the CRA and a million other tedious little tasks in between.

Thankfully I had pesto so dinners weren’t too much of a chore; I love pesto for this, I can quickly toss a spoonful with pasta, potatoes, couscous, quinoa… whatever, and hey presto, dinner is ready!

Whenever I’m making pesto, I make sure to double the recipe and freeze some for later, and boy, does it ever come in handy.

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

It took me a while to come around to making this marcona almond and mint pesto; I’ve become quite enamoured with these almonds in recent years, I went from not knowing they existed to wanting to put them in everything.

I get like that with certain foods sometimes, I discovered green raisins at the nut store last week and I’m having a moment with it also, I want to make soda bread with them badly.

I already love almonds in pesto, they impart a nutty savoury taste and make the sauce really shine.

Marcona almonds are a special kind of almonds, delicate and sweeter, they have a more buttery flavour than regular almonds. It’s my favourite nut to snack on at the moment.

Mint and marcona almonds make a wonderful pairing in this pesto, the buttery sweet flavours of the almonds compliments the mint’s refreshing and bright essences, and a nice fruity extra-virgin olive oil rounds out the pesto beautifully.

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto
Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

Forbidden Rice Porridge

Forbidden Rice Porridge

I’m a ‘porridge girl’, I love all manner of porridges; give me grain or seed and I’ll figure out a way to turn it into breakfast come morning; it’s not like it’s a hard task – all I need is a pot and some water

Porridge is comforting, filling and oh so familiar; I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t a part of my life.

In recent years I’ve been looking beyond the traditional corn and oat cereals I grew up with, I’ve experimented with a handful of grains and seeds like buckwheat, amaranth, polenta, cracked wheat, wheat berries, millet, quinoa, bulgur…

I like simple foods that pack a flavour punch, the porridges I make are usually creamy and pudding-like, when topped with fruit, nuts and more nut-milk goodness, it’s almost like having dessert for breakfast.

Forbidden Rice Porridge

I’ve been itching to try this forbidden rice porridge ever since I saw it here, then I saw it again recently, and like fate, it was topped with passion fruit and mango – guess what I had languishing on my counter? Passion fruit and mangoes!

The porridge sounded lovely, like something I’d wake up early on a weekend morning for. I’ve always thought black rice would be wonderful in dessert or pudding-like recipes with it’s naturally sweet and nutty aromatic flavours.

Rice porridge isn’t new to me; there was ‘rice water’ when I was a kid, it’s white rice cooked in plenty of water until almost mushy and the water turns thick and glutinous, it’s a popular breakfast food in Ghana.

I love, love this porridge, it’s rich creamy texture, the sweet nutty flavour and it’s so fragrant – there’s a bit of nutmeg and vanilla in this recipe to compliment the natural aroma of the rice.

It does transport you to tropical locales; fields of rice and coconut trees on deserted beaches with the bluest waters.

This porridge can be made overnight in a slow-cooker, use your favourite fruits and/or nuts, I’d even try dollop of whipped coconut cream for more coconut-ey creamy goodness.

Forbidden Rice Porridge

Forbidden Rice Porridge


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