Tag Archives: lamb

Dinner with friends, orange blossom water, saffron, mouhammara

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We had twelve people around our dinner table on Saturday night, with a menu – below – built around Paula Wolfert recipes. It was all about orange blossom water, cinnamon, saffron, mysterious peppers, and sugar. For one evening, we were in Northern Africa. Morocco.

There were dips scented with orange blossom water and cinnamon/thyme, hovering between dessert, salad and dips. Then, soup with gruyere and rye, home made stock, baked in a whole pumpkin, lightened with a touch of cinnamon.

The tagine was laden with cinnamon, saffron and turmeric. Slow-cooked lamb, onions slowly braised in the same liquid (Wolfert described the onion sauce as ‘unctuous’, so it was), finished under the grill with more cinnamon and sugar. It was aromatic, inviting, looked laden with history, and was magical.

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The mouhammara and a Berber bread stole the show.

Mouhammara, with the assertive flavours of pomegranate molasses, roasted capsicum (peppers), roasted chilli, thickened with walnuts, rounded out by the warmth of cumin. Everyone tasted, wondered, and asked for more. (Recipe at the end of the post)

And the Berber bread – made over 3 days, starting with a pungent garlic starter and ending with rounds of crusty, chewy-dense, savoury bread from the skillet – no oven! We kept tearing off chunks, burning our fingers and marvel that so much flavour could come from so few ingredients.

As for dessert? I made profiteroles, but all attention was on that cake – made by a friend’s mum who is a professional chef. It was the ultimate centrepiece – bigger than anything from a domestic cake pan, dense with liqueur and hazelnuts, covered with swirls of buttercream and chocolate.

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Pizza, Eastern Mediterranean, Syrian

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A few years ago, shortly before the Arab Spring, we had the trip of a lifetime in Syria. We met a friendly hotelier who used to live in Perth, Australia (his neighbours called him Abu Salim of Australia), saw some incredible Roman sites and Crusader-era castles, and wandered around the ancient cities of Damascus, Hama, Aleppo.

Some of our most cherished memories are of food. Knowing no Arabic, we looked, wondered, pointed, smiled, and began to understand the meaning of true Arabic hospitality. We walked into bakeries by the street, and walked out bearing bags of round, soft, silky bread, more refined than any lebanese-style bread we could find at home. I bought bags of fresh nuts, walked past sacks of spices – so many colours and smells, many barely recognised.

We walked past shops that sold rounds or pockets of silky bread. Some had a smear of lamb and tomato and mysterious spices, others were stuffed with unknown (but so tasty) white cheeses and herbs. Each one we tried was delicious. We had something similar on our day trip to Baalbek, Lebanon. Knowing no Arabic, we called them Syrian/Lebanese lamb pizza things.

A couple of years later, I found a recipe for the lamb pizza in Greg Malouf’s Saha, a culinary journey through Syria and Lebanon. The proper name is lahm bi ajine. (But I still call them lamb pizza things)

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This is a long-winded way of saying this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) assignment, Eastern Mediterranean Pizza by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, reminded me of those lamb pizzas. Both use a mixture of chopped tomatoes, minced lamb and spices on a thin dough base, which is cooked quickly on a hot pizza stone or baking tray. I made both the (Greek?) pita dough and Greg Malouf’s yoghurt dough, but played around with Greg Malouf’s recipe for pizza topping.

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