Bright, fresh, and beautiful Persian Pea & Herb Little Bakes with Beetroot Labneh.
For our last cookbook club session we cooked from and reviewed “A Modern Way to Cook” by Anna Jones (non-affiliated link). I know. I said we wouldn’t be doing vegetarian for a long time after our experience with Plenty …. BUT I’ve gifted this cookbook and it got rave reviews so I put it out into the realm that is cookbook club voting and it won!
And I’m so glad I put this book out there; it received the highest rating of any cookbook to date! All the dishes were outstanding and the final 2 made it incredibly hard to pick. Not to worry, we got the job done. From the book, I made Persian Pea & Herb Little Bakes with Beetroot Labneh (salted yogurt).
My dish kind of, sort of tanked, more on that later, but how pretty does it look?! The bright pink yogurt is the Beetroot Labneh and it was a huge success. Labneh is basically thick salted plain yogurt and I can’t speak highly enough of it. Kids adore it. Adults inhaled it. It can literally make dinner. Well not make it, but it can make dinner so much more enjoyable.
Truth time. I messed up the little bakes. I used some edamame as I ran out of peas and that was a mistake. It really needs the sweetness of the peas in this dish. I ran out of frozen peas because I serve them a lot to my kids and I couldn’t replenish my supply in time to make this dish (thanks to being housebound for nap time). My fellow cookbook club members said that the labneh was amazing, but the little bakes were okay. The little bakes in this case are basically a baked frittata, similar to this recipe. The Persian portion of this recipe comes from the herbs and spices used, but to be frank, they fell a bit flat. It needed some more oomph. The saffron and coriander were basically non-existent as the herbs completely overpowered this dish.
Would I make it again? Maybe with some massive modifications. You better believe that this labneh is happening on repeat around here!
The winning dish was the Seeded Halloumi and Harissa Rainbow Bowl. It had a great spice, saltiness from the halloumi, and the freekeh was a treat of a grain to have in there. It’s on page 76. Freekeh is a quick cooking ancient grain which is becoming more popular. It’s been termed the next “super grain” as it contains more protein and fibre than quinoa, but true love lies in the fact that it’s way tastier than quinoa (sorry, but true) thanks to the production process that sees the outside portion of the wheat smoked. You could say that freekeh is more complex in flavour with a subtle smoky side. You also get to say “free-keh” which is fun too.
The cookbook received an 8.5 overall at cookbook club which plants “A Modern Way to Cook” in the lead just ahead of Donna Hay’s “The New Easy“. For the most part, “A Modern Way to Cook” had lovely photographs, although not all the recipes had photos. The recipes were very approachable. All of them had herbs, grains, and bright prominent flavours that we all loved.
There was the odd ingredient that people weren’t familiar with or didn’t know where to buy it (sumac, freekeh, etc.), but the recipes are on the short side and to the point.The book is organized by time per recipe, so a 30 minute section, a 40 minute section and so on, but we found on average that the recipe took quite a bit longer than the time estimated. The ingredients in the cookbook is by weight, which makes sense since the author is UK based (Jamie Oliver’s ex-food stylist actually). A few members had beef with this, but in reality a kitchen scale can be found almost anywhere nowadays (I got a very basic one at a larger local grocery chain store).
All these issues aside, the book is beyond inspiring and full of flavours that get you excited about cooking with real fresh foods without meat. Top marks for Anna Jones!
- a good pinch of saffron threads
- 400 gr frozen peas about 1 small bag of peas / 2 cups overflowing
- 4 spring onions green onions, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh mint think small plastic clamshell, not overflowing bunch with a twist tie around it, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh dill think small plastic clamshell, not overflowing bunch with a twist tie around it, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh chives think small plastic clamshell, not overflowing bunch with a twist tie around it, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley think small plastic clamshell, not overflowing bunch with a twist tie around it, finely chopped
- drizzle of oil olive
- 1.5 tsp ground coriander
- 6 large eggs
- 1 green chile finely chopped
- 2 small beets peeled, roots trimmed and grated with a cheese grater
- 1/3 cup thick Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1 unwaxed lemon juice and zest
- 6-12 walnuts optional
Preheat oven to 400° F (or 200° C).
Soak saffron in about 25 ml (1/8 cup) of boiling water. Place peas in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set both aside.
In a large non-stick pan heat a little drizzle of olive oil and add green onions and coriander. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until onions soften and coriander becomes fragrant. Remove from heat and add all but 1 tbsp of chopped herbs to the pan.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, add saffron (and liquid, drained peas, and the ingredients from the pan (green onions and herb mixture). Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle a tiny bit of olive into each hole of a 12-hole muffin tin and place tin in warm oven for 20-30 seconds, until oil heats up. Pour egg batter into each hole, about 2/3-3/4 way up. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly browned.
Meanwhile, add grated beets and yogurt to a small bowl with tahini, lemon (zest and juice) and 1/4 tsp of salt. Mix well and top with remaining 1 tbsp of chopped herbs and walnuts if using.
Suggest serving little bakes with pita/flatbread, lettuce greens and labneh.