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2 Easy Ways to Simplify Any Recipe

Chickpea & Za'atar Cabbage Wraps-2

If you had to nominate your strongest ‘super power’, what would you choose?

For me, it’s easy.

My ability to simplify things, especially in the kitchen would have to be it. Hello 5-Ingredients!

Earlier in the year I wrote a post where I showed how I simplified one of Yotam Ottolenghis recipes which was great fun. So I thought it about time I tackle another one.

But first, the basics…

2 Easy Ways to Simplify Any Recipe

1. Combine like ingredients.
This is always my starting point. Look for any ingredients that are providing the same function and instead choose one. You’ll need to adjust the quantities accordingly. The example below is the best way to illustrate what I mean.

2. Don’t be afraid to outsource.
There are no prizes for making every single part of every meal you eat from scratch. So ‘cheat’ when you feel like it. My favourite examples are to use commercial spice blends or commercial sauces such as hummus, mayo, pesto or curry pastes.

Cabbage Wraps – An Example.

As you may have guessed from the photo above, todays inspiration comes from one of my fave vegetarian blogs, My New Roots. Well worth a read whether you follow a plant based diet or if you’re like me and love your veggies AND your meat.

My New Roots:
Spring Cabbage Wraps with Couscous, Za’atar & Spicy Tahini Dressing
Ingredients list
– 17 items
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
grated zest 1 organic lemon
1/2 cup kalamata olives
8 whole cabbage leaves
1 cup cooked butter beans
handful fresh pea shoots
1/3 cup tahini
1 large clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon raw honey or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup ground sumac
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano

Cabbage Wraps with Chickpeas & Za’atar
Ingredients list
– 5 items
2-4 cabbage leaves
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
4 tablespoons lemon juice + wedges to serve
4 tablespoons tahini
1-2 teaspoons za’atar

So what have I done?

1. Combining substantial ingredients.
The couscous, olives and butter beans are providing the filling for the wraps. I could have chosen one of these to use but I was in the mood for chickpeas so they replaced all three.

2. Simplifying the flavours.
The red onion, parsley, lemon zest, pea shoots, cayenne, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and honey / maple syrup are adding extra flavours (and some colour). I chose to slash this down to just tahini and lemon to make a simple sauce for the wraps. If I was allowing myself an extra ingredient I would add in the parsley for some freshness and greenery.

3. Outsourcing the spice blend.
Instead of making my own za’atar, I used a commercial one.

From 17 ingredients down to 5. Easy.

(see below for the complete (simplified) recipe.)

Want more simplicity?

If you’re interested in learning how to simplify not just recipes, but the whole of your life, then I recommend checking out A Simple Year.

It’s a 12 month program which focuses on simplifying different areas of your life each month. If you join us I’ll show you even more ways to simplify not only recipes but your kitchen and your approach to healthy eating.

For more details, go to:

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What about you?

I’d really love to know about your ‘super powers’! Do tell in the comments below…


Chickpea & Za'atar Cabbage Wraps

Cabbage Wraps with Chickpeas & Za’atar

There are so many things I love about these wraps! The tahini sauce is an old favourite but combining it with za’atar, a middle eastern spice blend is something I hadn’t done in ages.

The other brilliant idea (thanks Sarah B!) is to use cabbage leaves as your wrapping ingredient… Much lighter than using pita bread or other grain based wraps but more substantial and more nourishing than good old iceberg lettuce (my previous go-to veggie based wrap).

Enough for: 2 as a light meal
Takes: 10 minutes

2-4 cabbage leaves
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz)
4 tablespoons lemon juice + wedges to serve
4 tablespoons tahini
1-2 teaspoons za’atar

1. Divide cabbage leaves between two plates.

2. Drain chickpeas and rinse with boiling water from the kettle to warm them. Skip the warming if it’s a really hot day.

3. Place warm chickpeas in your cabbage leaves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

4. Combine lemon juice, tahini and 4 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. Season.

5. Drizzle tahini sauce over the chickpeas and top with za’atar. Serve with extra lemon wedges on the side.

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carnivore / paleo / legume-free – replace chickpeas with ground (minced) meat such as beef, lamb or chicken. Brown the meat in a pan with a little oil before using to stuff the cabbage. Or use roast diced root veg like carrots, parsnip and sweet potato.

chickpea alternatives – cooked couscous, quinoa, lentils, butter beans, other beans or a combo of any of the above.

no za’atar? – Replace with sesame seeds, or fresh thyme leaves. OR make your own by combining 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, 1/4 cup ground sumac, 2 tablespoons dried thyme and 1 tablespoon dried oregano (Sarah B.’s recipe). Or order online from a good spice supplier. If you do buy it’s also great sprinkled on cooked eggs, chicken and fish.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss cooked couscous, quinoa or other legumes with the chickpeas OR replace cabbage leaves with warm pita bread or tortillas.

more veg – sprinkle over flat leaf parsley leaves, mint leaves and/or pea shoots. Grilled eggplant, zucchini and peppers toss in with the chickpeas would also be lovely.

no tahini? – tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds you could use almond butter or cashew butter instead. OR replace the whole sauce with well seasoned natural yoghurt (full fat of course!).

hot! – do as Sarah B. does and add some cayenne pepper or other chilli powder to the tahini sauce.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. This is the 3rd year we’ve run ‘A Simple Year’.

After a few very ‘unsimple’ years in my life… getting married, having a baby and buying a house (and tiny farm) I’ve been getting back into practicing simplicity myself. So I’m going to be following along with the whole program next year.

Super excited to have the amazing Leo Babauta from Zen Habits leading the month of mindfulness in September! Can’t wait.

To find out more go to: www.simpleyear.co/course

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • jan 18 November, 2015, 8:23 am

    This was really helpful. I’d also like to know how to substitute for “Brand name” items, available (I suppose) in the USA but not elsewhere and often bandied about on the Internet. Some recipes seem interesting but might as well be written in another language because I have no idea what some of the ingredients are- therefore I am unable to substitute

  • Gail Plaskiewicz 18 November, 2015, 1:32 pm

    I guess my super power is to look at the things we have in the freezer or on the shelf like pasta and sausage and then I find something else that goes with it and make a sauce and I’m done! I don’t do it very often but when I do, I am so proud of myself and what I’ve made. I don’t know if I would make this recipe or not but I have passed it on to my friends.

  • Susan 18 November, 2015, 1:57 pm

    When I see what you’ve done to this recipe I’m torn between it and the original. But I like simple. Don’t think I have much of a gift for simplifying. If you ask my husband, my superpower is making a mess in the kitchen when I cook. If you ask me, I think it’s that I can generally read a recipe and tell whether it would turn out to be something my tastebuds would like.

  • Camille 20 November, 2015, 11:43 pm

    I love Sarah’s blog and admire her work, but I have to say the original recipe sounds a bit overkill in terms of ingredients and flavorings. It looks a little bit random, like those really good recipes you happen to throw together based on stuff you have in your fridge, but would never make the same way twice. I guess it’s the kind of recipe I would use more for the (excellent) idea of it, as you have, than the exact formula as printed.

  • INRFOOD Inc. 23 November, 2015, 5:52 pm

    I loved the way you have mentioned the ways and the variations.. This really helped. My super power is to combine the things which I like and which can go with the recipes.. And the aroma of the dishes should be mouth watering :)….
    Thanks for this information…

  • Katie 24 November, 2015, 7:50 am

    Love this orient flavor so much – they take any recipe to another level! I always up for trying new flavors and dishes! Thanks for the tips! xoxo Katie http://www.whatskatieupto.com

  • Matt 24 November, 2015, 9:53 am

    “Outsourcing” spice blends is probably one of the biggest ones. It seems like 90% of the ingredients in most recipes is just like 15 different spices, so if you can get those all combined in one bottle, then that’s awesome.

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