Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Words: from one yogi to another

I took an Erica Robinson yoga class today and these words were passed on...

These are some serious times
That we livin in G
And our new world order
Is about to begin
You know what I’m sayin
Now the question is…
Are you ready for the real revolution
Which is the evolution of the MIND
If you seek than you shall find
That we all come from the DIVINE
You dig what I’m sayin
Now if you take heed to the words of wisdom
That are written on the walls of life
Then universally we will stand
And divided we will fall
Cause love conquers all
You understand what I’m sayin
This is a call to all you sleepin souls
WAKE UP and be in control of your own CYCLE
And be on the lookout for those spirits tonight
Trying to steal your light
You know what I’m sayin
Look whats inside yourself and
PEACE, give thanks, live life and believe
You dig me
You got ME
                                               ---- Public Enemy

join the revolution, be part of something big, bigger than yourself

Monday, 27 July 2009

Halloumi and Nectarine Salad

There are few things I like more than Halloumi cheese... it is the perfect "meat" for vegetarians and no other cheese can get close to its unique taste and texture. In fact, I love it so much I bring a few packets over with me when I come to Algeria. I try and save it for special occasions but I gave in the other night. There were several envious faces around my supper table when I made this. My family had roast chicken that night but I know they would have definitely 'gone veggie' if they had known halloumi was on offer!

On my way to France, I was lucky enough to stay with Hannah and her family outside Guildford. This recipe is a tribute to a fantastic-yummy-sunshine warm salad I had at Hannah's house, made by her lovely mum Sue. Their salad was made with peaches and chicory - I will definitely look out for chicory when it is in season. I have not managed to get their salad out of my mind and came up with the simplified Algiers version!

Thank you Hannah and Sue for being so inspiring! Xxx

I used a lined griddle pan to give the food a char-grilled effect but I am sure an ordinary frying pan would work too. I had not used a griddle pan before and I am going to buy one for my flat next year. I just loved the look of the food when it was cooked and it was so quick! Expect more char-grilled recipes soon...

Per Person:
1/4 pack Halloumi cheese
2 Nectarines
Few sprigs of Coriander
A handful of Pistachios
3 tbsp Olive oil

Cut the nectarines (or peaches) in half and each half into 4 wedges. Place in a bowl, mix with the olive oil and season with pepper whilst you wait for the griddle pan to heat up. Once pan is hot, place the wedges on and allow to char grill for a minute each side. Chop the halloumi up into slices and marinate in the same bowl as the nectarines - the remaining olive oil will have mixed with the fruit juice giving the halloumi an extra yumminess. Allow the nectarine wedges to cool whilst cooking the halloumi on the griddle pan.

Roughly chop the coriander and pistachios. Mix all the ingredients together and arrange. I added an extra drizzle of olive oil and a final ground of pepper. Enjoy!
C x

Rooftop Farms and a NEW new york

I have officially moved back to New York... and as you guys can see Charlotte is pit-stopping in Algeria before she passes through NY for a crazy visit with me. Nutty how different our worlds are right now!

Moving back has been kind of intense to be honest. I have been worried about falling back into old routines but (big fat BUT here) New York is feeling really new and fresh ever since I started volunteering at Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint with just about the coolest Brooklynites eva' and some great stragglers trekking in from Manhattan (me being one).

So in just a couple weeks I have met amazing people: the real farmers (Annie and Ben) and the volunteers (Kendra, Kate, Will, Spencer, Corey, Hannes, Erika, Margret, Alice and many more). Being up there on the farm and finally getting truly involved in the food movement feels freaking amazing. It feels like I have come home, like I have found my place.

Annie has let me help out with the Growing Chefs initiative she runs, which means I am teaching kids about our earth, getting them to stick their hands in the dirt and helping them understand where food comes from.... oh only if I could do this forever.

I have learned how to compost and I listen to everything Annie and Ben say about farming hoping that their crazy farming knowledge might rub off on me in an osmosis-like manner.

Volunteering at the farm has also led me to fall madly deeply in love with Greenpoint and north Willamsburg. Halfdan had been telling me to check GP out forever he said I would love. Oh how well he knows me. I think one of my favorite things is the constant sea of bikes floating about everywhere.

And OMG I met Cathy from Not Eating Out in New York on the roof this Sunday. I kind of sounded like an idiot but she was nice anyway. She is the reason I heard about the farm in the first place.

Rooftop Farms sells produce sold on Sundays as well as selling to restaurants like Eat Records and Marlow & Sons. But check out the market if you are in the neighborhood. 
Local, Organic, Grown with Love.

There is also a bees station on the roof, so hopefully honey will be available soon.

Us volunteer farmers grabbed some lettuce from the market for our rocking rooftop picnic, which we hope to make a weekly tradition.

Everyone made and baked amazing things. Will even made his own bread !

Kate, a fellow farmer, brought along this awesome purple cauliflower salad. I am still to get the exact recipe so I'll probably update this, but Kate said it is a simple recipe where the only major trick is marinating the veggies OVERNIGHT in a red wine vinegar/ extra virgin olive oil mixture.

July's Purple Cauliflower Marinade Salad

carrots (one, julienned)
head of purple cauliflower
chopped zucchini (one big one)
chopped parsley
red wine vinegar and e.v.o.o to taste
edible flowers to garnish (optional)

Toss it all together and let is marinate for at least 24 hours. That process softens the zucchini and the cauliflower a bit. Don't worry the veggies didn't get soggy though, they were just right!

After the picnic and farming Will, Spenc, Alice and I headed over to a free concert in the East River park in north Williamsburg.

(Alice being her cute self)

Being involved in Rooftop farms feels like I can read Michael Pollan's books and not get discouraged (well completely) because I know there is a massive movement rumbling right under us, which is fighting back against corporate American monopolies and helping us restore our food system. Check out some more sites if you are into food politics and buying locally:

The Edible Garden

And totally listen to this interview with Food Inc stars and food justice experts and activists.

bringing you information for the food revolution...


Saturday, 25 July 2009

Premier Mai

I have yet to find a more atmospheric place in Algiers than Premier Mai market where we buy most of our food. Stalls crammed with goods, people of all ages jostling to get passed, stifling heat...it is an experience worth having. As you enter the market, shops in various guises display clothes and an assortment of accessories. The more colourful and novelty-like the better. It is always worth having a good search around as you never know what you might find, or what you might find you need! There is an amazing cultural blend within in the market with Abayas hanging next to tight tops and skimpy dresses. I know Jacqueline would be impressed at the shoes on sale - heels that I will never be able to walk in! This is a photo heavy post but it is the only way you can experience this place.

I think the only thing which might improve this place is a little cafe, somewhere to buy a coffee and sit and watch the world go buy. There is so much going on but you end up following the river of people taking you deeper into the market itself. Going against the current is not that easy! Further into the market, the fruit and vegetable stalls start to emerge and they were the point of today's visit. Aisle upon aisle of produce, stalls piled high with ripe fruit and dented vegetables. Odd shaped vegetables are at home here. Often you will be allowed to taste before you buy...figs, nectarines and herbs have all been bought this way. Once you have seen what is on offer that day you are quickly able to go to the stalls with the best selection or most ripe and competitively priced food. Almost all of the food is grown in Algeria - we like to support local on this blog! The odd imported avocado or mango makes a rare appearance although their prices tend to put everyone off buying them. Nougat is a firm favourite of my brothers...pretty impressive blocks I think!

Now that we have got a well stocked fridge, expect some new recipes on the blog in the next few days. I am hoping to do some baking and different salad dishes.

Char xx

Friday, 24 July 2009

Cucumber Salad with peppers and poppy seeds

My goodness I feel like a stranger on this blog! Jackie has done such a fantastic job on the blog from Brighton, it felt I was down there eating all those yummy things too. I am sorry I have been away so long but I know you will all forgive me if I promise to do some posting to make up for it!

Algeria is incredibly hot at the moment. Yesterday it had reached 41 degrees by 10am. It is a little too hot for my liking although I know a lot of you would be enjoying the heat if you were here. I am avoiding being outside at midday, if only to avoid having to put suncream on! The evenings bring a breeze off the ocean and it is idyllic looking out over the bay of Algiers.

The heat tends to stifle your appetite; light, refreshing salads are all you can manage during the heat of the day. Ottolenghi came to the rescue at lunch today as only cucumber stared back from the fridge. (I am hoping to go to the big market tomorrow called Premier Mai to stock up on fruit and vegetables – I will take some photos!). This salad has been tweaked a little from his original recipe as I did not have all of the ingredients. Most importantly, it was tasty and simple. Perfect.

Cucumber Salad with peppers and poppy seeds
Serves 4
2 medium cucumbers*
1 long pepper
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs poppy seeds
Juice from ½ a lemon
Zest from 1 lemon
A handful of mint, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper

Chop the cucumber at an angle into long lengths, about 1cm wide and 3-4cm long. Finely slice the pepper and add to the cucumber.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. I did use my hands as Ottolenghi suggested!

Season to taste and serve. If not serving immediately, the salt tends to draw out some of the liquid from the cucumbers. You might need to drain some liquid before serving it.

* If you can’t find the small, crunchy cucumbers which are typical of the Middle East and North Africa, scrape out the seeds of a normal long cucumber to avoid the salad getting too watery and losing that fresh, distinct taste.

On a separate note, I arrived here on Sunday and have so far managed to get through 3 books. What a treat! I can’t remember the last time I have been able to read so much for pleasure. Hopefully I will get through a mountain of books and then have some to recommend to you all.

I have just heard about an Algerian author called Yasmina Khadra – I am looking forward to reading one of the books over the weekend. This author is particularly interesting because Yasmina is the nom de plume of an Algerian army officer, Mohammed Moulessehoul. He has written Wolf Dreams and The Swallows of Kabul.

Hope you are all having a lovely summer.

Big hugs, Charlotte Xx

Monday, 13 July 2009

The perfect summer side: Fresh Lemon and Parsley Leeks

This side is fresh, simple, healthy and most importantly tastes amazing. I serve it as a side to accompany fish or with something heavier, like pasta, just to get greens in there. The funny part is it always stands out like a main course. The leeks get mentioned more than the main.

Ill tell you I did not use to love leeks put this spring I got thrown into the love-all-things-leeky club after reading Why French Women Don't Get Fat. Yes I know! Wohoo I can feel your judgement- but NO just hold on. A quick disclaimer about this book - because let me tell you I do not read diet books - it is actually beautifully hilarious, very women empowering and really not about dieting as much as learning to how eat properly, enjoy food, stop worrying and just embrace life. I had been seeing it everywhere and hearing about it non-stop, so I decided to buy it and honestly I loved it. Anyway Mireille got me onto leeks like no other, probably because ever other recipe she mentions includes leeks.

They have great detoxing powers and they always make me feel fresh and new, so here is my I-think-I-have-been-eating-too-much-heavy-food/ what-an-easy-great-side recipe:

Fresh Lemon and Parsley Leeks
Serves 2
Prep and Cook time: no more than 15-20 min

2 large leeks
handful of chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
half a lemon squeezed
a dollop of luxury organic butter
Chop the leeks into 3\4 inch sized circles. Rinse them in cold water and then toss them into boiling water, reduce the heat (so they are not be boiled) and cook for no more than two minutes. You want them to remain a little crunchy with a fresh bite. Blanche them in cold water, dry them and then saute them in a pan with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil for a couple minutes. Then turn the heat off, mix in half the parsley, a dollop of butter and squeeze the lemon juice on. Plate and garnish the remaining parsley. Serve immediately.

Be innovative- maybe toss them on pasta or an egg next time,

Jacqueline xx

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Smoked Haddock Risotto

I think I have been cooking up a storm because I am kind a sad to leave Pete. Here we go starting the long distance again- that is the feeling I had when I woke up this morning knowing that tomorrow I will boarding a plane out of the crazy Heathrow. Urgg all this packing to do - my stuff is all over his house - and all the organizing to do when I get back to NY. For now I am reading Molly's new book like some one was going to test me on it and avoiding a bit of reality. Speaking of avoiding reality, here is the cook-to-not-deal risotto I made for Pete the other night, its proper name: Smoked Haddock Risotto.

Like I mentioned before our families went on a wee (translates to small in English) trip together and the Cullen Skink (an amazing Scottish soup) we had at most places we could find never dissappointed. I think if it was on the menu we ordered it. It is made with smoked haddock which I love, and if you get it from a certain region of Scotland it is called Arbroath Smokie. IF, and if, the haddock is not smoked in Arbroath you can never call it Arbroath Smokie- I just love that. Scotland is a small country and I love how the Scottish protect what is theirs through legal measures ;) So I bought the haddock in mind to use it for some Skink, but then I remembered one night on the trip when my pops ordered smoked haddock risotto (I guess not Arbroath). So I put the soup on hold and made the risotto. NB: It is really important when you make this recipe to buy un-dyed smoked haddock.

p.s pictures of risotto never do the risotto justice, plus my camera is broken so I am borrowing my moms. Trust me the risotto was goooood.

* Also this is one of those recipes that IS really important to read through all the way before you start. I am teaching you the foundations of risotto here, so listen up ;)

Smoked Haddock Risotto

Serves 4 (depending on who is eating ;)
Cooking time 45-50 minutes

300 grams of Arborio (Italian Risotto Rice)
350 grams of un-dyed smoked haddock, or two filets.
1 white onion
medium sized pot of broth (always homemade or gourmet, never cubes, this time I threw in a carrot, 3 dried bay leaves, the fish skins, celery and salt)
2 -4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 knobs of butter
around 1 cup of dry white wine
freshly ground pepper and sea salt
a generous handful of Parmesan

The funny part is I love making risotto and make it a lot. It was the first thing my mother taught me how to make properly and in our family there are two classics - saffron and spinach - so I am surprised this is the first one I am putting up. Hey at least now you will know I will be coming back to blog about more risotto- did I mention I love risotto, oh who doesn't? The trick to good risotto is it takes time and attention and....drum roll please....the ultimate trick: you always stir in one direction (clockwise) from the onions to the raw rice, to the finished product- never switch directions.

Heat a frying pan or risotto pan with generous glugs of oil (at least 2-4 tablespoons). When the oil is hot (not boiling) add the diced onion and saute for ten minutes until translucent. Then add the first knob of butter, turn up the heat and throw in the rice. You are braising the rice at this point, so the next couple minutes the high heat will brown the rice and lock in that butter-onion flavor. Make sure not to burn the rice just make it a bit golden around the edges. When you feel like it is done then pour in the wine (keeping the temperature up) this will make everything sizzle a bit. Stir clockwise. Allow the wine to burn off and then bring the temperature back down to medium low flame, start to add in some of the broth.

I think it is important to note a couple things here. One, I am not sure a fish broth would be good for thise risotto because smoked haddock has a strong enough flavor, two I mean it when I say don't buy cheap broth. It you have a gourmet store around you I'm sure their broth would be good, but taste it first! And gauge how much salt you had in relation to the salti-ness of the broth. Thirdly, I had grilled my haddock in the oven and then realized I probably should have poached it in the broth water to make the broth stronger. Nevertheless, grilling worked fine and then I removed the skins and added that to the broth.
More important things about the broth: the broth should always be on low heat on another burner, you need to have the broth hot when adding it to the risotto. Start the broth before the risotto so the flavors have had time to merge and mingle. Also when adding the broth to the rice add only around 1/2 cup at a time and make sure you do not add more until the 1/2 cup before has been almost burned off. Don't let the risotto get dry enough that the rice could burn, but do NOT saturate the rice either. If you saturate it even for part of the time it could ruin the rice and make it soggy.

Another trick my Italian nona taught my mom is that if you have any rinds of the Parmesan cheese lying arond then throw them in at the beginning to flavor the rice even more. You of course take them out at the end before serving. Actually my brother and I love them so much sometimes we make our mom keep them in so we can chew on the melty cheese rind that has been coated in rice.
When the rice if half way cooked (around 15-20 minutes) add the torn up pieces of the haddock. You should have cooked the haddock before you started the rice (by either poaching or oven grilling). After it has cooled, you can remove the skins and gently rip the haddock into small pieces. Yet, not too small, you still want pieces you can really taste when you bite into the risotto.Also watch out for bones!

Keep adding the broth slowly for about another 15-20 minutes. The rice, like pasta should be soft yet hard. It should NOT be crunchy but it should have substances, i.e not feel like rice pudding in your mouth. When you suspect it is about 5 minutes away from being done add the handful of Parmesan. When it is ready turn the heat off, add the last knob of butter and give it one last stir. Plate, garnish with parsley you if wish, and enjoy what is probably one of the plates of food I would request if I had one dying wish- Riiisottto (said like my father).

Bon Appetit,

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Leon's Biyaldi & Minty Raisin Barley Coucous

Leon is the newest addition to my every growing book collection. Yesterday, before I made myself swear I would stop buying anymore books until I had read and cooked through the ones I already have, I sneaked on Amazon and bought Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life....so one more book review will probably be coming up soon! Anyway this pact is suppose to last till the end of the summer! AHH - I really cannot promise that will happen, but I am going to try and go for at least a month. Don't get me wrong I am not some shop-O-holic here. I just have a book problem. I should be able to admit it - IT is starring me right in the face- big UPS packages being shipped from Scotland...weighing a lot....filled with books...and books....and well some more books.

Anyway lucky for you I acquired this amazing book, which is one part food dictionary one part recipes. With pull out maps of European cheese production and country origin of every fruit, veg and nut on earth I will be reading this book for a good long while, and YES I definitely recommend Leon Ingredients and Recipes.

I was in a very Levantine mood and cooking up a storm for Pete and his roomie Jordan, so I browsed through my new best friend (originally looking for babaganoush) and found this biyaldi/babaganoush combo. It was really absolutely fabulous. I had made enough for the boys to take it to work the next day, but NO Pete (and yes mostly Pete) ate it all that night. The cool and minty couscous I whipped up really complemented it, and for the first time I made couscous correctly!!! Ill tell you the trick....ready..... I followed the directions on the box- go figure ;)

The story behind biyaldi is that the Turkish Imam Biyaldi was (to quote Leon here) "so overcome by the deliciousness of it (due largely to the generous amounts of olive oil) that he fainted, or biyaldi'd." Yet as Leon states the original recipe involved cooking the aubergine/eggplant, extracting its flesh and then rebaking the flesh in its own skin. So technically this recipe is no biyaldi and even though it is cooked more like a babaganoush, without tahini it isn't babaganoush either. However, it is very good and healthy...and both Pete and Jordan forgot that they had not eaten meat that night.

I have altered mine a bit from Leon's and the original, because I definitely don't think I used as much olive oil as other's have - no one fainted when I served it.

Hybrid Biyaldi/Babaganoush
(Adapted from Leon)


1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
2 large aubergines/eggplants
olive oil to taste (3-6 tablespoons)
touch of balsamic vinegar
1 red onion
1 head of garlic (for roasting) + a couple more for frying
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
around 200 gms of organic tinned tomatoes
2-3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon raw sugar
large handful of flat leaf parsley
small handful of basil
salt and pepper

Grill your peppers and aubergines. I did it under the grill (in the oven) some people like doing it on an open flame. My peppers took about 25 minutes, the aubergines took an hour. I did it nice and slowly but you could always speed the process up. I peeled my peppers but decided to leave the skins of the aubergines\eggplants on because they were not blackened. About half way through grilling the aubergine I added some balsamic vinegar. Also while I was grilling the veg I cut the top of a head of garlic off (just enough to expose the garlic) and I turned it upside down and put it in the tray with the veg.

After the veg is grilled mush it together in a bowl, then extract the roasted garlic from its skin and blend it into the grilled veg. In a sauce pan add the olive oil and saute a red onion and some raw garlic. When they are golden add in the tomato puree, the 200 gms of tomatoes, a tablespoon of raw sugar, the basil leaves, the bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let the ingredients come to a simmer. Allow 10-15 minutes for this. Then add the grilled and mashed peppers, aubergines and garlic to the tomato base. If it looks a bit dry add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan.

At this point I put the top on the pan and allowed the mixture to simmer gentle for another 15 minutes. I am sure the longer you allow it to simmer the richer it would taste but I had hungry boys to feed. What I realized about this dish is that if you prepare the grilled veg ahead of time, this recipe becomes a quick dinner meal.

For the couscous I went with what I had around and it came out so brilliantly.

Minty Raisin Couscous

couscous ( I used barley)
half a lemon
salt and pepper
handful of nice sized raisins
handful of chopped mint
30-60 gms of feta
a couple tablespoons of olive oil

Cook the couscous according to the directions (really trust me). Then add in the salt and pepper, juice from half a lemon and olive oil (I assume you know I mean extra virgin always). Soak the raisins in boiled water for a couple minutes, drain them and then toss them in. Add the crumbled feta (crumble finely) and the chopped mint leaves. Toss all together and serve with the biyaldi-babaganoush.

p.s this biyaldi reminds me of my Turkish delight, i.e my Sweet Melissa - I'm missing you girl xoxo


J xXx

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Where the h*ll we have been...and some teatime thumb print cookies

Well we graduated...

then we got all dressed up...

...then we partied!!!

...and then partied some more...

... then after we all said our 'see you laters' not 'goodbyes' Pete's family gave my family a lovely tour of the eastern Highlands ...

visiting castles...

... and learning how to make fire and flour like the first Scots (then called Picts) had

...then Pete and I had some great visitors down in Brighton...

the lovely, super London and San Fran init' Huw and Rach

and then the awesome EU backpacking couple of Leila and Tim

After the boys became addicted to Fifa (Xbox) Leila and I decided to bake up a healthy treat which is versatile enough to be served as an after dinner dessert as well as a mid-day teatime teaser. Check out our spelt and agave based oaty thumbprint cookies, filled with either dark chocolate or jam (we used St. Dalfour No Sugar Added Thick Apricot jam because that is my fav).

Spelt Agave Thumb Print Cookies

Prep time 10-15 minutes
Cook time 15-20 minutes
1/3 cup butter
1/2 banana
1/4 cup agave syrup (or honey) or alternatively 1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or almond if you like)
1 cup whole grain spelt four (whole wheat would probably work as well)
1/2 cup of ground almonds/ almond meal (lightly toasted)
1/4 cup of roughly chopped whole rolled oats
Chocolate or Jam

Cream the butter and the agave together and then add in the vanilla extract and the mushed banana. In another bowl mix all dry ingredients together. After the wet and dry are mixed together refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes. Then take a small amount of batter in your hands and roll a small ball out of the batter. Place that on the greased baking tray and carefully make a thumbprint indent in the middle. Touch up the cookies so that all the sides of the cookies are even in measurement. This recipe makes about 15 cookies. Bake the cookies for 15minutes ( at 350 F /180 C) or longer if needed, so that they are slightly golden brown. If you are putting chocolate in the middle then break off a piece and put in the thumbprint whole as soon as the cookies come out of the oven, the chocolate will melt perfectly itself from th heat of the cooling cookies.

Peace, J