Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: July

I'm joining with Penny at The Homemade Heart who invites fellow bloggers to choose one cookery book each month, select and cook two dishes from it and post their thoughts at the beginning of the following month.

 In July I finally got round to cooking from Persiana.  They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I'd defy anyone to resist the seductive colours and textures of Sabrina Ghayour's delightful book.  I'd coveted it for some time but it wasn't until the beginning of the year that my husband used a money off voucher to pick it up in Foyles.

Having been brought up in India I appreciate the use of herbs and spices and have recently enjoyed visits to our local Middle Eastern restaurant, Souk Kitchen.  Now I had the opportunity to recreate them at home.

The first dish I chose was Baked Eggs with Feta, Harissa Tomato Sauce and Coriander.  It's traditionally a breakfast dish, but I cooked it for dinner  I began with the harissa tomato sauce, spiced with warm tones of turmeric, ground coriander, cumin and cinnamon, as well as the fiery kick of harissa.  I've eaten in before in the Souk Kitchen but I don't remember there being any feta in it.  I  think its salty creaminess adds another dimension.  The eggs are slipped into craters created in the rich sauce before the dish being finished off in the oven.  We ate it with flatbreads to scoop up the rich juices.

The second dish was Lahmacun, or spicy minced lamb pizzas.  First I kneaded the dough which is similar to bread dough, but with the addition of Greek yoghurt which gives it a softer tangier flavour.  The topping is a paste made from minced lamb, onion, tomatoes, chilli flakes and parsley.  The recipe specified Turkish chilli flakes and advised holding back to avoid too much heat.  I used normal chilli flakes, which I imagine are milder, but held back anyway, which I regretted.  I would have liked more of a punch.  I would also turn the oven temperature down a little bit as they browned very quickly.  We ate the lahmacun with a coleslaw dressed in a mint and orange blossom dressing lifted from a salad recipe in the same book.  It went down well even with my daughter who's particular about her dressings.

Other recipes we've tried are Lamb & Sour Cherry Meatballs (I substituted cranberries for the sour cherries) and Cod in Tamarind, Coriander & Fenugreek Sauce.  I have my eye on plenty of others, particularly ones involving aubergines of which I am very fond.

I'd heartily recommend Persiana to anyone who likes hearty stews, interesting salads and mezze style eating.  It does call for a variety of unusual ingredients, especially spices, but these are now readily available and can be used to brighten up other dishes.  It has even inspired me to attempt a jar of preserved lemons.  

My next book is by one of my favourite cookery writers and food campaigners, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstal.  I heard him speak in Bristol a couple of years ago and got him to sign the book he was promoting,  Three Good Things, for my daughter.  We have it on loan and I intend to take advantage of this to try as many recipes as I can.         

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Making Every Day Count: Days 6-11/40

Day 6

Another sorting and tidying task, this time the shelves in the hallway just outside the kitchen, which serve as an overflow for foodstuffs.  On our last trip to Ikea we bought four flatpack wooden crates to separate and store tins, spices, flour and pulses.  These are now full, with another list of contents.  I could do with another couple, but will resist for the moment as I hope that when I tackle the kitchen cupboards I may be able to rationalise them and free up some space.  At least that's the theory!

Day 7

A light day.  I allowed myself to be distracted by catching up with the previous evening's Celebrity Masterchef and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's War on Waste, and lost momentum.  Still, it is my holiday.  I did however devote 15 minutes to blitzing hot spots in each of the dining and living rooms.

Day 8

I spent an hour and a half on our monthly Green Party stall in our local high street.  We were collecting signatures for the proposed closure to cars of a city centre bridge.  Response was mixed with some car owners admitting to wishing to continue to be able to drive across it.  Still, the sun was out and we stayed on for a cup of coffee and a chat with one of our local councillors afterwards.

Day 9

I spent an hour in the back garden sweeping and tidying.  It's not much more than a concreted yard with a raised rockery and a small pond at the end of it.  We grow (or at least attempt to grow) a variety of plants in pots, window boxes and a mini greenhouse.  As I mentionned in an earlier post, the elections put paid to any serious attempts at planting this year, but we still have a few bushes and herbs which we're keeping alive.  Now that the summer holidays allow us the time and weather to spend more time eating and relaxing outdoors I've spread our table with one of the colourful French tablecloths I bought in the French market one Harbour Festival, and dragged out the umbrella, to create a temporary outside room.

Day 10

I made a start on my kitchen cupboards.  First in line were the corner shelves.  A few items were binned and others rationalised to create more space.  I really should have managed the one over the fridge but we went to the cinema in the afternoon.  We saw The Commune which I enjoyed.  It's been too long since our last visit.

Day 11

Our fortnightly vegetable box was delivered.  Normally it sits in a corner of the kitchen floor from where we pick items as required.  Unfortunately this leads to some vegetables being neglected, rotting and being wasted.  So today I sorted through it as soon as it arrived, refrigerating all the perishable items, making a list of all the items and starting to think of how I would use them and in what order.  I made a start on them this evening adding cavolo nero to our dal at dinner time.