The Food Of Lebanon 2

Sorry I haven’t posted anything for so long, that’s the topic for another entry.  But I’ve still been cooking regularly and here’s what I made for C & me last night. Another great dish from Salma Hage’s The Lebanese Kitchen, published by the wonderful Phaidon, it’s Koftas With Tomatoe Sauce And Potatoes. 

It seems that all countries have their own version of meatballs but these Koftas made with lamb, onions, garlic, parsley and mint (amongst other items) had a particularly middle eastern flavour.  The recipe called for seven spice season but I used some Ras El Hanout instead which is Moroccan but pretty similar, I imagine.   And here it is…straight out of the oven and on the plate. I still score low on presentation but it tasted great, especially when I had the leftovers for lunch today!

Food Of Lebanon

There is something always particularly exciting about the discovery of a new region to draw your cooking from and so in recent weeks I have been on a culinary journey which began approximately 12 months ago in Spain, crossed the strait of Gibraltar to Morocco and leapfrogged its way into Lebanon. Of course, the journey does not see me wander much further than my kitchen and dining table but thanks to anecdotal comments many enlightened cookery writers place alongside their recipes cooking a meal can be the equivalent of a cultural experience to bring the tastes and flavours of a middle eastern market street food outlet into your own living room.

The Lebanese Kitchen by Selma Hage is a cookbook published by the wonderful Phaidon which is enhanced by the unusual way they have cut zig-zags into the edges of each of the 260 odd leaves which make the pages of this wonderful book of recipes.

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I have already cooked a few recipes from the book but this weekend saw us go truly Lebanese crazy as we drew on it for both our Friday and Saturday night meals. Friday saw us opting for Mother’s Milk with lamb; a fairly simple recipe of minced lamb cooked in a sauce made of yogurt, water and cornflour with lots of garlic thrown in for pungency and mint for sweetness. Mixed with rice, the meal was a riot of flavour with the flavour of the lamb buttressed by the tart acid of the yogurt. This was one of those meals where every flavour played its part as the meat, garlic, yogurt and mint vied for position to come out tops but overall it was a tie with all four flavours crossing the line in dead heat.

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I confess, it has a look of porridge about it but I can assure you it tasted wonderful served with slices of grilled aubergine (egg plant).

So successful was Friday night’s dish that we stayed in Lebanon for a further night opting for a fish dish of fried cod with caramalized onions and rice. We nipped out in the afternoon to buy the fish and elected to buy an alternative white fish instead and chose pouting, not least because it was substantially cheaper than the cod and no doubt more sustainable too.

The dish required the slow cooking of two thinly sliced onions with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar until it was practically caramalized which was then mixed with cooked basmati rice. A sauce was made out of capers, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice and parsley which was spooned over the pan-fried pouting fillets sitting on the caramalized onion and rice mix. This was the first time we had tried pouting and although not as strong in flavour as cod, it’s delicacy was enhanced by the sweet sauces of top and below. We also threw in a handful of broad beans which gave it a bit of additional colour.

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I think we’ll stick around in Lebanon format least another week or two and perhaps hop over to Morocco to give the tagine a run out in between but now we’ve discovered the flavours of Lebanese cooking I suspect it will become a region that we shall visit, at least culinarily, quite often!

When life gives you lemons…

Preserve them!

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I’ve been a keen cook since the early 1980s (I have a feeling that story will be one of the subjects of a future blog) and some 30 years on I’m currently getting to know and enjoy cooking from countries that embrace Muslim culture mainly thanks to a book C bought me for Christmas called Arabesque by the excellent cookery writer Claudia Roden.

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This wonderful compendium of recipes from Turkey, Lebanon and Morrocco inspired me to try my hand for the first time at preserving lemons (or preserving anything for that matter) and here is the jar 6 weeks on from the picture taken above.

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The lemons are now ready for use and would have been utilised for tonight’s lamb, potato and pea tagine except that we still have a few left over in a jar of the same preserved lemons I recently found in a Waitrose store in Preston along with the uncommon spice that is ubiquitous in Turkish cuisine; sumac.

Here’s how I made preserved lemons from Arabesque:

Ingredients
4 (or more) lemons
4 table spoons of sea salt
Juice of 4 (or more) additional lemons

Wash and scrub the lemons and make 4 slices in each lemon from top to bottom. Stuff each lemon with a tablespoon of sea salt into the slits. Press the lemons down into a sterilising jar and close the lid. Leave them for 3-4 days.

Open the jar and press the lemons down as much as possible then cover in lemon juice squeezed from the other lemons. Close the jar again and leave for at least a month. Before use, wash the lemons under running water to lose the salt and enjoy.

I’m really impatient to try my lemons so while writing this I have decided to use them in tonight’s recipe so I will let you know how they taste.

Catch you later, I’m off to the kitchen!