Bus Station Keftas

Craig bought me a North African and Middle Eastern recipe book for Christmas this year, I have only tried a few recipes so far but this one has been a stand out! According to the book this is the kind of dish that is sold at bus and train stations throughout North Africa and the Middle East. It is cooked on the spot and eaten straight from the pan.

Its a really easy dish to make and the only item that is hard to find is a Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout. I found it online from spice bazaar and it cost me $4 for a pack. Sounds expensive but you only use one teaspoon. I have made it about five times and haven’t used half the pack yet. Because ras el hanout is a mixture of many different spices there isn’t really an easy way to replace it with something else (unless you make it up yourself).

Bus Station Kefta

Serves 4

Ingredients

225g minced (ground) lamb

1 onion finely chopped

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

5 eggs

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Bunch of flat leaf parsley chopped

2 tsp olive oil

400g can of chopped tomatoes

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp ral el hanout

Small bunch of fresh coriander roughly chpped

Salt and ground black pepper

Crusty bread to serve

Method

1. In a bowl, knead the minced lamb with onions, breadcrumbs, one egg, cinnamon, chopped parsley and salt and pepper until well mixed. Lift the mixture in your hand and slap it down into the bowl several times.

2. Take a small amount of mixture and shape it into a small ball, about the size of a walnut. Repeat with the remaining mixture to make about 12 balls.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy frying pan. fry the meatballs until nicely browned. Turning them occasionally so they cook evenly.

4. Stir the tomatoes, sugar, ras el hanout and most of the chopped coriander into the pan. Bring to the boil, cook for a few minutes to reduce the liquid and roll the balls around in the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Make room in the pan for the remaining eggs in the pan and crack them into the spaces between the meatballs. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook for about three minutes, or until the eggs are just set.

6. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped coriander and serve in the pan with chunks of bread to use as scoops.

Note: I didn’t have any fresh coriander, and no time to get any so I just used a little extra parsley and added half a teaspoon of ground coriander into the sauce. Also I was making it for a large family dinner and so I tripled the recipe, and cooked it in a large casserole dish. Which meant that after I cooked the meatballs in the pan I combined it all in the casserole dish and put it in the oven at 200C, the eggs took about 5-8 minutes to cook in the oven.

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Tex Mex Black Eyed Pea Casserole

Although this does not look super appealing, it was REALLY TASTY and Craig loved it (big deal because Craig is really fussy)!

I am an avid Pinterest user (http://pinterest.com/) and this was a recipe posted on Pinterest from Recipe Girl (http://www.recipegirl.com/2011/12/29/tex-mex-black-eyed-pea-casserole/). It looked easy and I love tex mex (we can’t really get the real stuff here in Australia), so I though this would be a good one to try.

It was actually easier than I thought to find black eyed peas, just from a local deli, about $3-4 for a kilo, and you don’t need much. Also, a while back I bought 4kg of bacon when it was really cheap, so any chance to use up some of my bacon and free up some freezer space. The original recipe called for Rotel tomatoes which i’m sure would be hard to find here, so I just altered the recipe to include green chilies and a can of tomatoes which is pretty much the same! The recipe feeds 6 and takes about an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried black eyed peas, rinsed
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (or more!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups rice (your preference)
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 300g canned diced tomatoes (3/4 of the usual 400g can of tomatoes)
  • 1-2 large green chilies, seeds removed and sliced.
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, cut into strips
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • chopped cilantro, sour cream and sliced avocado (for serving)

Method:

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the dried peas and boil for 30 minutes, or until tender (as tender as a canned black bean would be). You don’t want them to have much of a bite to them, but you don’t want them mushy either. Drain the beans when you’ve got them where you want them.

In a deep medium skillet, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Add onions and chili and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, then rice, stock, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 20 minutes (just until the rice has almost absorbed all of the liquid). Time will vary depending on the type of rice you choose to use (20 minutes for white rice, but longer for brown, etc)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Scrape the rice into a large bowl. Add peas, tomatoes, spinach, 1 cup of the cheese and bacon. Stir it all together and then scoop it into a 9×12-inch (or similarly sized) casserole dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for an additional 10 minutes, just until cheese is melted.

Serve in bowls topped with sour cream, fresh cilantro and sliced avocado.

I must admit that both my lovely house guest and cooking assistant Jasmine and I agreed that we wanted lots of cheese on top (a bit naughty) so we added about half a cup extra! I used 5 rashers of bacon this time and I think that next time I will either add more or I will try it with some chorizo.

Baked Tomato, Bacon and Haloumi Gnocchi

As a premise to this first recipe blog I must admit that this meal was actually cooked by my wonderful husband Craig!

We got the idea for this baked gnocchi online and altered it to suit what we had in the kitchen.

Ingredients

    • 500g of gnocchi (we used store bought, make your own if you are game!)
    • 1 medium brown onion, diced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
    • 4 rashers of bacon, diced
    • 2tbs balsamic vinegar
    • 2tbs olive oil
    • 100g haloumi, cubed
    • 1 400g can of crushed/diced tomatoes
    • 200mls pasata (or some sort of plain pasta sauce)
    • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
    • 100g parmesan cheese, grated
    • flat leaf parsley or basil as a garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C

Fill a medium sized saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. Add Gnocchi and cook according to instructions on the packet, making sure you don’t overcook it. Drain immediately.

Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan (I use the same one as the gnocchi because then I don’t have to wash two), add onion and garlic, cook at medium heat until the onion becomes transparent.

Add balsamic vinegar and bacon, saute for 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and pasata, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Combine gnocchi, haloumi, basil and tomato mixture in a large ovenproof casserole dish. Top with parmesan cheese and bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until parmesan appears golden brown.

Serve while hot with fresh parsley or basil as a garnish.

Notes: Feel free to add salt and pepper before baking, however remember that most cans of crushed tomatoes and pasta sauces contain a lot of salt, so taste the tomato mixture before adding any extra. Also, for a vegetarian version of this dish just remove the bacon (your arteries will thank you).

Enjoy!

Lauren