Tag Archives: aubergine

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra – Aubergine Dip

My husband is half Armenian and we love eating Armenian food at home. It’s fairly tricky to find Armenian restaurants, but there is an amazing Armenian deli in Gatley called Armenique, which isn’t far from where we live. We go fairly regularly and I usually order the salad plate. One of my favourite things, and something I always order is their igra, which after years of searching for, I realise it is more commonly known as ikra.

Ikra is an aubergine dip, you can make it as chunky or as smooth as you like. At Armenique it’s quite chunky, so that’s my preference. It tastes far richer than it actually is. It’s so healthy, it’s virtually a guilt free dip. I make it quite often these days, it’s a lovely quick lunch with some warmed pita, or as a dip to share with friends and a bottle of wine. And it’s a great way of using some of the cheap aubergines which are in the shops at this time of year and it freezes really well too!

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

My recipe makes quite a lot of dip, but it disappears quite quickly in my house. If it’s too much for you to tackle, you can always freeze some for a later date.

Armenian Style Ikra – Aubergine Dip

Ingredients:
2 aubergines
Olive oil
1 large red onion
1 large green pepper
2 fat cloves of garlic, or more if you move garlic
4 salad tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Half a lemon
Half a teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
Optional: A tablespoon of tomato puree, if your tomatoes are a bit insipid

How to make your Armenian Style Ikra:
Take your aubergines and cut them into quarters. Put them on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over them. Put them in the oven for 45-60 minutes at 200°. Turn them every 15 minutes or so. You want them to be soft and squishy rather than brown and crispy.

While your aubergines are cooking, finely dice your onion and pepper and with a splash of olive oil, cook them very gently until soft but not brown. Once they’re soft add your crushed garlic cloves and stir.

Take your tomatoes and skin them. To do this easily make a large X on the bottom of each one, put them in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave them to soak until the skin starts curling on the X’s. Once they are at that stage, take the out of the water and pull the skin off. Some people remove the seeds too, but I don’t mind them, I will leave that up to you. Remove the core, chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan.

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

Continue cooking your onion, pepper and tomato mixture on a very low light with the lid on. When your aubergines are cooked remove them from the oven and let them cool enough so you can handle them. With a teaspoon and a sharp knife scrape the insides out of the aubergine. Chop the flesh very finely and add it to the pan. Discard the aubergine skin. Again this is a matter of preference, I actually really like the taste and texture of the skin, so I always finely chop a little bit of it and add it to the mix.

If your tomatoes were a bit pale and lacked flavour, you can add some tomato puree at this stage, this beefs up the tomato flavour and is worth doing.

Season the mixture with a little salt and pepper, you can always add more later. Cook the mixture for 30-60 minutes on a low light with the lid on the pan. Stir every so often. How long you cook it for depends on the texture you want. I cook it for around 30 minutes because I like a chunky texture. If you cook it for longer it breaks down more and becomes smoother.

Towards the end of cooking, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add your sugar and taste the ikra for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Finely chop your fresh parsley and add it. Give it all a big stir and leave it to cool.

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

Ikra is usually served cold or at room temperature and is great with all kinds of things. We’ve been trying some new vegan crispbreads and vegetable chips from The Beginnings who are based in Latvia. They go so well with the ikra and together make a pretty much guilt free lunch. I absolutely loved the beetroot chips and my husband went mad for the kale chips, but the tomato chips worked brilliantly with the ikra.

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

If you enjoyed this recipe, here are some more of our Armenian recipes:

Recipe: Armenian Style Ikra - Aubergine Dip

Five Delicious Vegetarian Comfort Food Dishes

I turned vegetarian when I was 13 and there’s not a lot I miss, but on a cold winter night I do sometimes hanker after the slow cooked, deep flavoured chilli my Nan used to make. Thankfully after lots of practice I’ve finally nailed the recipe and managed to make it vegetarian too.

Most of the warming comfort food dishes from my childhood were meat based – family roast dinners, my Nan’s amazing beef chilli, corned beef hash, shepherd’s pie and bubbling stews cooked so long the meat almost melted in your mouth.

There’s something about cooking up some comfort food which makes you feel like you’re showing your family some extra love. I enjoy throwing a few things in the slow cooker and knowing that by tea time there will be a delicious meal ready for my family.

Vegetarian comfort food can feel a bit hard to come by, so I’ve created and shared some of our favourite family recipes on my blog, here are five of my favourite vegetarian comfort food recipes – 

Vegetarian Galletes

vegetarian comfort food

These are a recent addition to my comfort food repertoire. They’re really easy to make, utterly delicious and once you get the hang of it you can fill them however you want. I made a Goats Cheese, Caramelised Onion and Quince Galette and a Feta, Red Pesto & Tomato Galette. Both were absolutely bang on and real crowd pleasers.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

vegetarian comfort food

Now autumn is here my soup making pot is starting to see some serious action. Cauliflowers are cheap and plentiful in the shops, so I recreated my favourite soup, but with a cheesy twist. Try my very delicious Norwegian inspired Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

Spanish Style Bravas Sausage Casserole

vegetarian comfort food

I’d had it in my head to make a big Spanish style bravas sausage casserole in my slow cooker for a while. This summer hadn’t been up to much and I was desperate to start rustling up comfort food dishes, and this was the first one of the season. I made my sausage casserole with Quorn sausages, but you could very easily make them with your favourite meaty sausages if you’d prefer. I made the sauce in the slow cooker and let it bubble away gently to itself for a few hours. The recipe is really simple and it’s now a firm family favourite.

Authentic Armenian style Imam Bayildi 

vegetarian comfort food

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. They’re simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables and herbs are essential, they’re packed full of flavour and these sunshiny aubergines are a little bit of summer on a cold autumn evening.

Easy Microwave Jam Sponge

vegetarian comfort food

No vegetarian comfort food round-up would be complete without a pudding. This incredibly easy to make and very quick to cook microwave jam sponge is just the ticket to warm your cockles on a cold winter evening. All you need are a few store cupboard ingredients, ten minutes of your time and you’ve got a good pud that’ll make your family smile.

Voucherbox.co.uk have a great blog post about the five healthy foods that can actually save you money, and if you want even more money off your online shop they also have plenty of Sainsbury’s vouchers which you can use.

vegetarian comfort food

Recipe: Authentic Imam Bayildi Armenian style

I am married to a tall, dark and (I think) handsome man, he gets his olive skinned good looks from his Dads side of the family and he is half Armenian, meaning the small boy is one quarter Armenian. I have no hint of interesting ancestry on my side of the family so I have wholeheartedly embraced some parts of Armenian culture. If I’m honest it’s the bits which involve food.

Armenian food is very Mediterranean, you can find very similar food in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. They do beautiful things with vegetables, so I’m sharing my favourite vegetarian Armenian recipe Imam Bayildi, I hope you like it.

Imam Bayildi is basically stuffed, baked aubergines. They’re simple to make, you can prepare them ahead of time and then cook them when you need them and they are melt in the mouth gorgeous. I like to use good quality ingredients in this recipe as every single mouthful zings flavour. Fresh vegetables are essential and Cirio Tomato fillets are ideal, full of flavour and a little does go a long way.

Imam Bayildi Imam Bayildi – Armenian Style (serves four)

Ingredients:
2 aubergines
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced (I prefer red, but a white onion works too)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 green pepper, finely diced
Half a can of Cirio tomato fillets
Big handful of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of sugar
Salt & pepper

Method:
1. Cut the top off each aubergine, slice it in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh, leaving an aubergine boat, leave a little of the aubergine flesh around the skin so it can help retain its structural integrity while in the oven. Griddle the aubergine halves on a high heat until they have a little bit of char, then put in a baking dish so they are snuggled up close to each other, this will help them keep their shape in the oven.
2. Chop up the aubergine flesh and fry gently in the olive oil, while that is cooking (stir frequently) chop and add the onion and peppers to the pan. Cook until they are all soft and then add your crushed garlic cloves and half a tin of Cirio tomato fillets.
3. Season well and add your sugar, cook and stir regularly until most of the liquid has evaporated and all of the vegetables are cooked and soft. Stir through the chopped parsley (reserving a small amount to garnish with later).
3. Carefully spoon the tomato and vegetable mixture into the aubergine skins. Add two tablespoons of water to the baking dish to help the aubergines to cook. Bake for 30 minutes at 200c.
4. Once cooked serve with salad, rice or bulgar wheat, maybe some pitta bread.

Imam Bayildi

We love Imam Bayildi, it’s a regular meal for us, really flavoursome and healthy as well as being a traditional Armenian meal. I’m ticking all of the good wife boxes here.

I like to use Cirio tomato fillets because the quality of the tomatoes, the juice is really thick and you can tell by the colour, texture and flavour of the raw ingredient that anything you make with them will be delicious. They are especially good in my Imam Bayildi, a meal we all enjoyed as a family.

Note: I was sent some Cirio tomato products to try out in some of my recipes. All images, opinions and recipes are my own.

Family Meals: Easy-Peasy Risotto Recipe

I love risotto and I love making it. I know some people really struggle to make it, but once you’ve cracked it then it’s a really handy thing to add to your repertoire. It’s one of our “nothing in the cupboard” meals and great for using up odds and sods in your fridge.

We have two favourites in our house. Tomato risotto and aubergine risotto. We cheese them up a bit more to make it more toddler friendly as he adores cheese. I’ve been asked a few times for my risotto recipe so I’ve decided to blog it. It’s fairly standard really. Here’s my basic risotto recipe with both tomato and aubergine options. It feeds about 4 and any leftovers (pah!) can always be turned into arancini the next day.

Family Meals: Easy-Peasy Risotto Recipe

Tomato Risotto

Finely chop an onion and fry gently until soft in some olive oil. Add a crushed clove of garlic (or more if you like garlic) and cook for a minute. At this point I add the risotto rice. If I’m being sensible I weigh it (250g) but mostly just use about half a 500g packet. Stir the rice and cook it for a couple of minutes. Add a small glass of white wine if you have it open, but I tend to use a smaller amount of dry vermouth as we rarely drink wine and the vermouth works just as well.

Stir through and then start adding hot stock. I use veg stock but you can use chicken if you’re that way inclined. At this point I usually add my tomato or aubergine, but more of that later. Keep stirring and loving your risotto, adding stock a ladle at a time until the rice is cooked to how you like it. Give it a taste and check for seasoning, add salt, pepper and I like chilli flakes to your taste. Add some grated cheese (we use Pecorino and cheddar, as like I said, the boy loves it cheesy, but add as much or as little as you like), stir through and take off the heat, let it rest for a few minutes.

Tomato Risotto recipe

In a frying pan I chop fresh, good quality tomatoes in a dab of butter, usually some cherry tomatoes and some vine tomatoes. As they start to release their juice I add salt, pepper, a touch of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness and some fresh or dried herbs. I usually go for dried oregano and some mixed herbs.

Once the tomatoes are collapsed I pick out some of the skins. It’s a personal preference, I don’t mind them but some do. Then at the point where I start adding stock I chuck in the tomatoes.

You should note that as the tomatoes are very wet and juicy you really won’t need to add as much stock as you normally would. So do go easy.

You might want to add some tomato purée to the risotto if you think your tomatoes need a flavour boost, just don’t forget to cook the purée out.

If you like you can add some fresh spinach towards the end and stir through until wilted. I love spinach and it’s so good for you.

Aubergine Risotto recipe

I tend to buy a few aubergines when I see them cheap, prep them and freeze them so there’s always a speedy risotto ingredient available.

Finely dice your aubergine and fry in some olive oil until cooked through and soft. (This is the point where I freeze them, usually in 200g portions).

Add the aubergine to the risotto when you start adding the stock so some of the aubergine flavour imparts itself on the rice.

It’s a really lovely, subtle recipe. I often use mozzarella instead of cheddar because I think it works slightly better, but in terms of cheese just chuck in whatever floats your boat.

So that’s my basic risotto recipe. It’s really easy and there’s no need to be afraid of it. Give it a try. Although I’ve only blogged my two favourites once you’ve got the method then you can try it with other ingredients.

What’s your favourite risotto recipe?