Grilled halloumi and vegetable skewers

Grilled halloumi and vegetable skewers

When we first started eating a diet of mainly Mediterranean and Asian foods (many years ago!) we regularly had to shop at specialty grocers to buy Mediterranean and Asian ingredients, from tahini to tofu, kalamata olives to oyster sauce, and miso to arborio rice. Not any more — thanks to the growing enthusiasm for ethnic foods, most mainstream supermarkets now stock a wide variety of authentic international ingredients to cater to expanding tastes.

Supermarkets have also introduced more Mediterranean dairy foods onto their shelves, such as Greek yogurt and many different types of cheeses. These days, next to the cheddar, you can usually find a wide selection of cheeses from the Mediterranean region including Parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella, feta and halloumi.

Originating from Cyprus, halloumi cheese has the amazing ability to not melt over high heat. Instead it browns on the outside and softens delightfully on the inside without turning into a hot gooey mess.

These grilled skewers are one of the tastiest ways we know to enjoy halloumi. The fresh lemon and mint marinade adds a herby-citrus tang that balances the saltiness of the cheese. And the delicious golden brown exterior of the grilled halloumi lends itself perfectly to the sweet, caramelized flavor of the grilled vegetables. We often serve them alongside grilled fish or seafood together with some crusty bread and a simple side salad.

Here’s the recipe.

Chocolate miso cake

Chocolate miso cake

In the Mediterranean and throughout Asia, meals are traditionally finished off with fresh fruit. That’s not to say that sweet, rich desserts don’t exist in these regions. On the contrary, these cuisines offer a scrumptious array of desserts, cakes and pastries that would satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. However, rather than making these a regular part of their everyday meals, they’re regarded as occasional treats and reserved for special occasions and feasts. It’s a healthy food culture that our Western-style diets would do well to embrace.

This chocolate cake is an indulgent treat, but it also contains a number of healthy Asian and Mediterranean foods that you wouldn’t normally think of as cake ingredients.

Probably the most unlikely candidate is miso, fermented bean paste, a staple in Japanese cuisine that’s used in savory dishes like soups, braises and marinades. But miso in desserts? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Sweet dishes are often balanced by a touch of salt, and miso adds a unique depth of flavor and subtle saltiness to this recipe.

Cake ingredients

This chocolate cake also has an amazingly soft, moist crumb thanks to the addition of two traditional Mediterranean ingredients, Greek yogurt and olive oil. It’s lovely with a dusting of confectioners’ (icing) sugar on top and a dollop of lightly-sweetened yogurt or crème fraîche on the side. Or for something a bit more decadent, we sometimes lightly ice the cake with nutella. The hazelnut flavor has a natural affinity with the slightly nutty flavor of miso.

This cake keeps well in an airtight container for a few days, and can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for a few months, so you can enjoy a small piece occasionally as a treat rather than eating the whole cake in one sitting.

Here’s the recipe.

Basil and almond pesto pasta with broccoli, peas and zucchini

Basil almond pesto pasta

We use pesto to flavor everything from pizzas to bruschetta to soups. But more often than not we serve it the authentic way — tossed with pasta. Usually we make traditional Genoese pesto which combines fresh basil with pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. But we also like to mix things up occasionally and use different herbs or nuts such as in our Parsley and pumpkin seed pesto or Sun-dried tomato and walnut pesto.

The pesto in this pasta dish is very similar to traditional pesto but instead of pine nuts we use toasted almonds, which add their own unique flavor and creamy texture. We find this pesto sauce tastes particularly good with broccoli, green peas and zucchini. And to make things extra easy, the vegetables are cooked in the same pot with the pasta!

Here’s the recipe.

Mediterranean tuna and white bean salad

Mediterranean tuna and white bean salad

We love beans and add them to all sorts of dishes like soups stews, pastas, risottos, and salads like this one. In this salad we toss white beans and tuna — a classic Italian combination — with all the ingredients that you’d normally find in a traditional Greek salad, including cucumber, tomatoes, green pepper, red onion and kalamata olives. The dressing, too, is redolent of a Greek salad with olive oil, garlic, lemon and oregano. The end result is a delicious, rustic salad with fresh flavors and wonderful textures that encapsulates the essence of Mediterranean cuisine.

You can use any kind of white bean in this salad including cannellini or navy beans. We mostly use canned beans for convenience, but once in a while we’ll boil up a batch of dried beans, divide them into portions, and freeze. They’re ready to be defrosted overnight in the fridge, or microwaved for a couple of minutes.

Here’s the recipe.

White beans appear in all manner of culinary creations from around the Mediterranean. Here’s a selection of our recipes that feature white beans for you to try:

Soba noodle stir-fry with edamame, mushrooms and bok choy

Soba noodle stir-fry

Stir-fried noodle dishes are very popular throughout Asia, including classics like pad Thai and chow mein. Stir-fried noodles are also popular in Japan, especially Yakisoba which literally means “fried noodles.” It’s traditionally made with stir-fried noodles, vegetables and a little pork or chicken.

You would think that with the word “soba” in the title that yakisoba would use soba (buckwheat) noodles. But the term soba is historically used in Japan to describe any long, thin noodles. And yakisoba typically uses thin wheat noodles.

But we’ve found that soba noodles work really well in stir-fries, so in this version of yakisoba we’ve used actual soba noodles. And instead of pork or chicken, our meat-free version uses edamame beans as the main source of protein. This dish is so tasty and comforting as well as easy and inexpensive.

Here’s the recipe. And if you’re keen to sample more stir-fried noodle dishes from around Asia, here are some of our other delicious recipes you might like to try:

Singapore noodles
Thai lime pepper chicken stir-fry
Heavenly hoisin noodles with baby shrimp
Chicken noodle stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce
Tofu and cashew chow mein
Pad Thai
Spicy Korean squid stir-fry with noodles

Asparagus, avocado, corn and feta salad with lemon-basil vinaigrette

Asparagus, avocado, corn and feta salad with lemon-basil vinaigrette

Asparagus has such a unique flavor and delicate texture. It’s also low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber and contains plenty of health-giving beta carotene, folate and potassium. The only downside to asparagus, of course, is the infamous ‘Asparagus pee.’ As far back as 1781 Benjamin Franklin noted that “A few stems of asparagus eaten shall give our urine a disagreeable odor.”

So what exactly is it in asparagus that causes this reaction? It’s actually a compound called  Asparagusic acid that when broken down in the body releases sulfur compounds that typically have an unpleasant scent. But while these sulfur compounds might be a bit smelly, they’re also very beneficial because they have anti-cancer properties. So even though there’s a bit of a downside to eating asparagus, we reckon the benefits far outweigh the risks!

Here’s one of our absolute favorite asparagus recipes — Asparagus, Avocado, Corn and Feta Salad with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette.

A feast of health from the sea: 40 Mediterranean and Asian fish and shellfish recipes

Fish and shellfish recipes

We’re big fans of seafood and eat a lot of it! Apart from the delicate flavor and health benefits, it’s also the amazing variety that we love. Inspired by traditional Mediterranean and Asian dishes and cooking methods, we’re always coming up with recipes using all sorts of fish and shellfish. From Spanish braises, Provençal salads, Italian pasta dishes and Greek stews, and around the culinary world to Japanese sushi, Indian and Southeast Asian curries, and Chinese stir-fries — these dishes are deliciously diverse in flavor, yet they all feature seafood as the primary source of nourishment (one of the hallmarks of Mediterranean and Asian cuisines). Seafood is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, and rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Best of all, you don’t need to live near the coast to enjoy the benefits of seafood in your diet. You can buy a wide range of frozen fish and shellfish at most supermarkets. Canned seafood is also a really convenient and cost-effective way to eat more seafood.

To help you incorporate more fish and shellfish into your daily diet, here are 40 of our tastiest fish and shellfish recipes.

Salmon recipes

Tuna recipes

Other fish recipes

Shellfish recipes

Moroccan tomato, chickpea and couscous soup

Moroccan tomato, chickpea and couscous soup

Couscous is a Moroccan staple that’s often served as an accompaniment with tagine (Moroccan stew made in a traditional conical shaped clay pot), or used in salads and stuffings. Couscous can also be added in small amounts to soups such as this one to thicken and add extra texture. The tiny balls of couscous are simply added to the boiling soup and in a few short minutes they soften and plump up.

Moroccan soup

The chickpeas in this soup also add a wonderful textural contrast as well as providing plenty of protein and fiber. To create a creamier consistency we blend half of the soup into a puree before mixing it back with the rest of the soup. This really enhances the texture and flavor, but if you prefer a less creamy consistency leave this step out.

Here’s the recipe.