Starting Fresh

by yogalife_user
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Begin your meal the smart way with these healthy starter recipes from Lara Ariss.

With ‘Levantine Harvest’, her first cookbook, Lara Ariss bring her signature love of medleys of flavour together with a keen appreciation for fresh seasonal produce and a gratifyingly straightforward approach to preparing food. We bring you some interesting starters…

Smoky Aubergine and Tahini Bruschetta

Smoky aubergine mixed with tahini, lemon and garlic and drizzled with olive oil is called moutabal batenjan in Arabic. The trick to making the dip is blistering the aubergines, as it is essential to blacken the skin in order to create the proper avor – a smoky quality that brings a distinctive note to the dish. I prefer to chargrill the aubergine over an open ame, but it can also be baked in the oven at 200°C on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Either way, cook it until the skin has turned black.

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6

For the smoky aubergine:

1 aubergine (600 to 800g)

2 tbsp tahini

Juice of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the bruschetta:

6 slices wholewheat bread

2 garlic cloves, whole 30ml olive oil

To serve:

1 tsp nigella seeds

Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate Olive oil, to taste

Chargrill the aubergine over a medium flame, turning from time to time to ensure all sides are blackened and the flesh is softened through, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle.

Skin the aubergine by hand and place it in a colander over a bowl for about 10 to 15 minutes to allow any excess water to drain.

Place the aubergine, tahini, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Place the sliced bread on the tray, and bake for 5 to 7 minutes each side, or until toasted. Remove from the oven and rub garlic on one side of each slice, then brush the same side with olive oil using a pastry brush.

Top each piece of toast with 1 to 2 tbsp of the smoky aubergine. Sprinkle with the nigella and pomegranate seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

Hummus with Sun-Dried Tomato Confit

Hummus bi tahini is probably the best-known Middle Eastern mezze staple, a creation of Levantine and Egyptian Arabs. In this recipe, I have moved away from the traditional Lebanese topping – fried chopped or minced lamb with pine nuts and olive oil – to an equally delicious, vegetarian version.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus overnight

Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours

Serves: 4 to 6

For the hummus:

125g dried chickpeas

1 tsp bicarbonate soda

2 tbsp tahini

Juice of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt, to taste

For the confit:

15g sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped

10g walnuts, finely chopped 5 tbsp olive oil

4 basil leaves

Salt, to taste

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl, pour in three times their volume of water and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. Leave to soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain and rinse the beans under cold water.

Cover the beans with water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, removing any white foam that may form.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 11/2 to 2 hours. Stir and check the level of water. If the water reduces too much, add some boiling water.

The beans are ready when they are soft. Remove them from heat, drain and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the ingredients for the con t in a small jar. Seal tightly and shake for 1 minute. Set aside. If the mixture is not completely submerged in olive oil, add enough to cover it to ensure it marinates properly.

Process the cooked chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes in a food processor. If the mixture is crumbly, add 2 to 4 tbsp cold water and process again until smooth. Season with salt.

Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and top with the con t. Serve at room temperature with Arabic bread.

Source: The book ‘Lavantine Harvest’

Written by: Lara Ariss

Bio: Lara grew up eating seasonal, fresh produce from her family’s farm in Sarafand, Lebanon, and developed a taste for flavorful foods at an early age. What started out as a family hobby—farming, harvesting and cooking meals from the fresh ingredients of their garden—established a sturdy foundation on which Lara has built her professional career.

Lara believes cooking should be accessible and frank. A meal doesn’t have to be fancy and elaborate to look and taste amazing. The simplest recipes executed in the right way make for food that is quite simply divine.

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