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.         

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