Marmite Houmous. Uh-huh.

marmiteI bet the title of this recipe made you do a double take. But it’s a bit of a no-brainer really, as tahina and Marmite both have that kind of umami thing going on. And tahina is awfully like peanut butter, which is on kissing terms with Marmite. So there you have it. Mrs.S. is a Marmite lover anyway, and making 12kg of plain houmous each week can be pretty tedious, so it was only a matter of time before she created this. It is, frankly, sensational. And even if you’re a hater rather than a lover the ingredients have a synergistic effect on each other so you should totally give it a try anyway.

We actually got Junior (aka Mr.S.’ kid brother) to make the houmous this time as he is getting hitched in less than a fortnight and we have been working on his domestic skills portfolio for weeks. The boy done OK.

Houmous bi Tahina bi Marmite
To make just enough for today – should serve 4-6 people
The most important thing about houmous is that you eat it fresh. I write as someone who has worked her fair share of Mediterranean kitchens: anything that could be made ahead in big batches always got my vote. This recipe isn’t one of them; after a night in the fridge it can start to acquire a tang. I would also advise against cheating by using canned or jarred chick peas – they never have the same flavour. I actually like houmous while it is still slightly warm.
200g raw chick peas, sorted through, washed and soaked overnight
a pinch of bi-carb
4 tablespoons tahina
2 tablespoons Marmite
2 tablespoons really good extra virgin olive oil
juice of 2-3 lemons
about 4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
to serve:
olive oil for frying
Right. Reserve a handful of soaked chick peas, put the rest in a pan, cover them with (UNSALTED) water, add the bi-carb and bring them to the boil. Turn down the heat, allow to bubble for around ten minutes and then skim off any foam or detritus that has risen to the top. Cook for a further hour or until they are soft and can easily be squidged between finger and thumb. Do not drain, but remove the pan lid and leave them somewhere for half an hour or so to cool a tad.
You can do the next bit by hand – but it is so very much easier with a blender. Ladle about half of the still warm chick peas into the blender goblet, including quite a bit of the stock. Add half of the tahina, Marmite, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, and blend until smoothish, adding more of the stock if the mixture is too solid. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients, and then mix the two batches together well and season to taste.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the remaining chick peas, stirring constantly, until they are golden and crisp to bite. Drain them on a piece of kitchen towel and then roll them in a little salt.
Serve the houmous on a plate/s – if you bash the bottom of the plate against the palm of your hand the dip will spread evenly across the surface. Sprinkle the fried chick peas across the houmous, and follow it up with a pinch of paprika.
Serve as a dip (with Marmite toast soldiers, of course) or a sauce or a sandwich filling (with plenty of cress).

Street Food Photo of the Month: Open Kitchen

How’s this for a spot of outside catering? We just love this photo, which was taken in Egypt, although sadly we cannot actually make out what is being cooked. Especially like the use of cars as improvised tray rests.
If you took any good Middle Eastern street food pix on your holidays, do share them with us.
Photo taken by Atsuto and shared under the Creative Common Licence on Flickr.

Mother-in-Law’s Amazing Kufteh Soup: A Recipe for Ramadan

DSCF5889Firstly: for those of you are fasting – Ramadan Mobarak! Yesterday was the first of Ramadan for most Muslims. Whilst it is the month of fasting, it is also a month focused very much on food, and many of the recipes in Snackistan are based on the idea of iftar, or breaking fast.

The following recipe is more comfort food than anything else, although my mother-in-law makes it so quickly that it is truly a snack soup. It is astonishingly good any time of the day, but (I imagine) especially appetising if you have not eaten ‘owt else all day.

Ingredients (to feed 4):

  • 400g minced lamb
  • 2 onions, 1 (small) grated, 1 (large) diced
  • 1 level teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • oil for frying
  • around 1350ml water (or stock)
  • 100g rice (any)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons good tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint
  • 2-3 tablespoons verjuice (ab-ghooreh) OR juice of one lemon
  • pepper to taste

Mix the lamb with the grated onion, spices and salt, pounding well to get the lamb fat to soften. Roll the mixture into baby meatballs (around 2cm in diameter) and fry them (briefly, like for a few minutes) in a good splash of oil. Reserve, but leave the oil in the pan.
Put the water in a saucepan, add the rice and bring it to the boil. After 7-8 minutes add the tomato paste and set to simmer. In the meantime fry the diced onion in the reserved oil. Just as it starts to brown, toss in the mint, stirring constantly, and cook until the onion is thoroughly browned and the mint just beginning to smoke*.
Once the rice is soft (after about 15 minutes) and the liquid reduced to a little under than a litre, lower the fried meatballs into the bubbling stock. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the fried onion/mint mixture (allowing any excess oil to drain back into the pan) and add this to the stock ‘n’all. Finally add verjuice or lemon juice to taste, and pepper as required. The tomato paste and the seasoning in the kufteh should offer sufficient salt – but chuck some more in if your are a regular salt pot like Mr. Shopkeeper. Bubble the mixture for another 5-6 minutes before serving with warm bread.
Ghabul bashe! Which is what you say to those breaking fast – it kind of means “May your fast be accepted!”
*This is a famous garnish or seasoning in Iran and you will find it added to all sorts of soups and stocks. It is called ‘piaz dagh’.

Football Fodder: Flatbread Pinwheels

The World Cup has to be one of the biggest Snack-Fests in the world calendar. All over the world grown and not-yet-grown men are grabbing grub (and maybe a beer or two) whilst they cheer, gasp, weep, boo and cheer again. Whilst I don’t entirely get it myself, I do like to feed people. And it has to be said it would be kind of cool if either of our countries (UK or Iran) win.

Anyway, short of opening a bag of crisps, this is possibly the easiest football snack going. In fact, it doesn’t even need a proper recipe…

Just take one large, soft (malleable rather than brittle) flatbread (we use markouk – which, yes, handily we sell in our shop). Spread it with something spreadable: we used red pepper houmous for our colours-of-Iran themed number above, but you can use any dip, or labneh, or pesto, or yoghurt, or chilli sauce. Be careful to take the filling almost to the edge, otherwise you will end up wasting a lot of bread. Add something with a bit more substance (we used feta above – but you can use smoked salmon, ham, chorizo, fried aubergine, grilled peppers….). And then pile a load of herbs/salad leaves on top – we used fresh mint and Peckham mesclun (for real – we are now buying Peckham allotment produce). Roll the wrap tightly, tucking in any escapee ingredients as you go, and then cut it into rounds along the length. If you’re not too hot on the wrapping front, you may need to use cocktail sticks to pin the pinwheels together.

That’s all there is to it. Cool, no? You’re welcome.

Meat-on-Sticks Photo of the Month: Chopan Kabob, Afghanistan. With added recipe.

Sun’s out, barometers are swinging into action, a lot of whiter-than-white legs have suddenly gone on show (along with the depressing realisation that the playsuit has remained ‘in vogue’ for yet another year), and every pub garden in the land is rammed. Must be time for the official launch of that strange institution, the British BBQ season…
Hopefully you’ve all got your copies of Snackistan out – doesn’t matter if they get a bit of grease or charcoal on them, as cookbooks are meant to be used – but in the meantime, here’s some meat-on-sticks to inspire you. Chopan kabob is a bit of a regional speciality in Afghanistan. The lovely Helen Saberi (our expert on all things Afghan) explains it thus:

The kebab is supposed to be named after shepherds (chopan) who rubbed chunks of lamb on the bone with plenty of salt, skewer the meat on twigs or small branches, and roast them over fire while watching their flocks.

This recipe is a little more elaborate, but still a doddle to prepare. But then most meat-on-sticks is…
Ingredients (for 4):

  • 100 ml natural yoghurt
  • 2 onions, cubed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cracked coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon non EV olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 lamb (buy rib) chops
  • 4 long red or green peppers, halved lengthways
  • 4 tomatoes, halved
  • 8 large mushrooms

Mix the yoghurt with one of the onions, plus the garlic, coriander, oil and seasoning. Add the lamb chops, rubbing the marinade in with your hands, before covering and leaving in the fridge for at least 2 hours, if not overnight.
When you are ready to cook, heat your coals. Shake the marinade from the cutlets and then thread them onto skewers interspersed with strips of pepper. Sprinkle with a little extra salt if you’re a salt-head like Mr. Shopkeeper. Then thread the remaining onion, tomato and shrooms on another skewer. Cook the lamb sticks for around 3 minutes a side – and the vegetables for around half that time. Serve with warm bread and thick yoghurt. Noshe Jan! As we say in Peckham. Enjoy!

Action ‘meat-on-sticks’ shot captured by Afghanistan Matters via Flickr under the Commercial Commons Licence for Commercial Use.

Midnight Snacking…

Gotta love the internet. Went off cruising looking for a fun snack-related bunny-hopping egg-shaped Easter treat for you – and found this ABSOLUTE GEM of a snacking video by Hoodwinked Films. Featuring precisely zero bunnies and no visible eggs. Anyway: Happy Easter/Passover/Bank Holiday/whatever. Get snacking. y’all.

Red Kidney Bean + Labneh Dip

red bean
This was an experiment in our deli counter (and we do like experimenting on our customers). A rather successful one. So we thought we’d share it with you. A super-simple cupboard staple party dip which could double as an accompaniment to sausages, a filling for jacket potatoes or a sandwich spread. Perfect Snackistan fare in other words.

Ingredients (for a fairly big bowlful):
1 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons creamed labneh (or cream cheese)
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic (optional), minced
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
juice of one lime
salt to taste

Blend the first two ingredients thoroughly, and stir in everything else.
Serve with hot bread/crudites…
Told you it was simple.


The Iranians are very good at snacking. And this is nowhere better demonstrated than by their serious picnic habit. They LOVE to picnic, and come the Spring you will see rugs and makeshift barbecues and cooking pots all over the parks and countryside. Most importantly, thirteen days after NowRooz – the Persian New Year – it is considered very bad luck to stay indoors, and the whole nation and his neighbour empties out to celebrate, throw away their sabzeh (wheatgrass, grown just for the new year) and release their goldfish (kept as a symbol of prosperity for NowRooz). Ex-pat Iranians are less successful in observing this festival – which is known as sizdahbedar (the thirteenth out of doors) – on account of the fact that the British Spring is less, um, reliable, and the authorities are wary of their (BBQ) fire-starting habits. This year Sizdahbedar falls on Wednesday 2nd April – so if you see any Iranians picnicking, give them a cheery wave.

This cracking shot of an Iranian couple picnicking in the middle of nowhere was sourced from Flickr under the Creative Commons Licence for Commercial Use and was snapped by Kamyar Adl.

The Snackistan Mango Tamarind Smoothie

MilkshakeIt all started with a roast garlic recipe. Of which more elsewhere. Anyway, Mrs. Shopkeeper hadn’t had any lunch today. And she had some leftover ‘vegetable dressing’. So she made a milkshake. Yes sirree. Because that’s the weird kind of chick she is. Turns out the shake was so filling that she is still full, a good two hours later. SO this is a real fatboy of a snack drink. And you can have it hot or cold: a smoothie for all seasons.
Ingredients (for one):

  • 1/2 small honey mango, pureed with a little honey (or three tablespoons canned mango pulp, as per the photo)
  • 150ml oat milk (or almond, or soya, or even cow)
  • 1-2 teaspoons tamarind paste (to taste – it is mighty sour, mind)
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground ginger

Really easy. Blend all the ingredients together. To enjoy warm, er, well, just warm it up in a wee saucepan. Reckon a drop of brandy would be a nice addition, although clearly Mrs.S. didn’t have any in her liquid lunch today as you need all your faculties to drive a shop.
This is so good we are considering adding it to our new Snackistan Cafe menu. Did we tell you that Snackistan is actually a real place now? Swing by and snack some day: it’s open all the hours that the shop’s open.

Black-Eyed Bean & Avocado Wraps: from the Snackistan Sandwich Bar

Black eyed beans
To celebrate the opening of our own little real-life Snackistan (cafe, in the shop, two tables only – so don’t go getting too excited) we’ve been playing around with some new wraps and sandwich fillings. And I reckon this might be a contender for one of the best ever. Mr. Shopkeeper reluctantly agreed it was pretty good, but would prefer added smoked chicken, or perhaps some char-grilled sirloin. Hmm. In the recipe below it is delightfully vegan and (potentially) gluten free.

This is kind of refried beans, but with a Middle Eastern slant. Black-eyed beans are my favourite of all pulses as they have such a wonderful innate flavour all of their own. They are inexpensive, and don’t need soaking, and they look so silly that they always raise a smile (it’s the little things, right?).

Ingredients (to make six wraps):

  • 200g black-eyed beans
  • olive oil for frying (i.e. not extra virgin)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 level teaspoon turmeric
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt to taste
  • 1 bunch parsley, stalks removed
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe avocados
  • 1 teaspoon cracked coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2-3 tablespoons soya yoghurt (or use regular, obviously)
  • 6 small gluten-free wraps* or flatbread equivalent

Simmer the beans in a pan of water for around 40 minutes, or until well cooked. Drain, keeping just a soupcon of the cooking water. Next heat a good slug of olive oil in a skillet and fry the onion, celery and carrot: once they start to soften, add the garlic and chilli, followed by the turmeric, stirring well. Add the lemon juice together with 4-5 tablespoons of the reserved cooking stock, cover the pan and bubble on a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about fifteen minutes (adding more stock if necessary). At the end of this period use a wooden tenderiser or masher to pound the beans: you just want to break them down without actually mashing them. The mixture should be good and moist without having any visible stock to drain. Salt the beans to taste, and then chop half of the bunch of parsley and stir it in.
Next mash the avocados with the spices and yoghurt and season to taste.
To assemble the sarnies, dollop a goodly spoon of the bean mixture on each wrap, stripe with the avocado and add a handful of the remaining parsley. Roll and devour. They also toast very well.

*Easy to make your own, as per Pippa Kendrick’s tweeted recipe in the book:

Mix 110g gf flour (or 55g gram flour & 55g gf flour) 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (essential), salt, 1 tbsp oil, 4-6 tbsp warm water: sift, pour over oil & water and pull together into smooth dough. Griddle them over high heat for 3 mins each side. Makes 2.