Akkawi Cheese & Thyme Topped Vegetables

When my mother gave birth to my eldest brother, Rory, my grandmother Shafiqa came to the UK to stay for a few months to help my mum and spend time with the new baby.  To give my mother a break, my grandmother and my father went to the supermarket to do the shopping and the story goes that my grandmother would ask for 2 tomatoes and 1 cucumber etc and my father would come back with 2 tomatoes and 1 cucumber my grandmother had meant kilos!  She would always laugh a lot telling this story.  It was absurd to her to buy so few vegetables.  In Palestine you always buy veg by the kilo- lots and lots of vegetables each week.

And this is how mama and I buy our vegetables too.  Each week we fill a huge box at the grocers so large that he has to carry it out to our car.  It’s great to have recipes like this for when you have a few bits of vegetables left over before you start a whole new week.  That’s what we did today to clear the fridge ahead of our weekly shop tomorrow.

This is a great dish to make with little ones, layering the veg discs, spooning the sauce and crumbling the cheese it fun, interactive and safe- my eldest son Otis loved helping me with this dish today.  It tastes extra tasty when Otis helps.

ingredients

1 large aubergine

2 courgettes

1 red onion

3 red peppers

1 white onion

4 cloves of garlic

Large handful black olives

Handful fresh basil, chopped

Small handful fresh thyme leaves

½ packet of Akkawi cheese or feta cheese

1 can chopped tomatoes

500ml vegetable stock

A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil

2 bay leaves

Vegetable oil for frying

method

  • make the tomato sauce by finely chopping the white onion, garlic cloves and 1 red pepper and sautéing them in the olive oil until soft
  • add the chopped tomatoes, vegetable stock, black olives, basil and bay leaves and bring to the boil
  • once bubbling reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.  Leave the sauce to one side until needed.
  • Now prepare the vegetables but finely slicing into discs the courgettes, aubergine, red onion, 2 red peppers.  Deep fry the aubergine discs and then drain on kitchen paper until cool enough to handle.
  • To assemble the whole dish, put a few spoons of the tomato sauce at eth bottom of a casserole dish, then start layering the vegetable discs.  I use a lot of courgette so have a row of courgette after each other vegetable; courgette, red onion, courgette, red pepper, courgette aubergine, courgette and repeat until you have packed all your vegetable discs into the casserole dish.
  • Evenly spread the remaining tomato sauce over the top of the vegetables, then crumble over the cheese and scatter the fresh thyme over.
  • Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes then serve hot with rice with Shayari.

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