Monday, June 13, 2011


Yesterday was wet! Very wet, rain poured down all day. So having been browsing a new cookbook all week, ORIENT EXPRESS by SYLVENA ROWE, there seemed no better time to put it to the test.

I have other books of hers and love them. They are Eastern Mediterranean dishes, covering Turkey, Istanbul, Beirut, Damascus and all places between. The spices and herbs used in these recipes are aromatic and absolutely divine. I love the way she writes the book. A cookbook with a bit of history and background into the food and recipes. I find myself looking more and more towards books like this.

I hope you will enjoy my first efforts.

I decided I would make the hummus followed by Spiced Lamb Filo Cigars with Za'atar and Pistachio Cream.

The hummus was easy to do. I had soaked the chick peas overnight, I so often forget this when planning, so already I was off to a good start.

HUMMUS Serves 10 to share.

500g dried chickpeas ( soaked overnight )
1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda
4-5 ice cubes
4 tbsp tahini
2 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lemon

Drain chickpeas and put into a pan with fresh water and bicarbonate of soda and bring to a boil. Turn to simmering until peas are soft. About 40mins. Skim off water from time to time.

Drain and put 1 tbsp to the side. Blend rest of peas in processor, dropping in ice cubes one by one. It will produce a smooth white mixture. I had to coax it a bit but it was worth the extra time,

Add tahini garlic and lemon juice. Mix and put into serving dish. Scatter the reserved peas on top.

Before serving drizzle with a little olive oil. This was my addition.

Serve with toasted pita bread.

First attempt successful. Onto next recipe, which was a bit more complicated, but did not put me off.

One of the ingredients for the recipe is za'atar which can be bought in some stores, but a recipe is given so I decided to make it up myself. This I will give you before the recipe in full.

ZA'ATAR Makes 6-8 Tbsp

8 fresh oregano sprigs, roughly torn
8 fresh lemon thyme sprigs roughly torn (luckily I have both of these in pots on my deck)
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp ground sumac
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin

Simply combine all ingredients. Store in jam jar in fridge for up to a week.

SPICED LAMB FILO CIGARS Serves 8-10 sharing

1tsp olive oil
350g lamb neck fillet
3cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery sticks finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and very finely diced
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 green chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
100mls lamb stock, I used a cube here
1 tsp ras-el-hanout, available in some supermarkets or halal stores.
12-14 sheets of filo pastry
2 tbsp of melted butter

Pre heat oven to 180c (350)
Heat oil in ovenproof casserole and brown the lamb all over
Add ginger, celery, carrots, garlic and chillies. Saute for a few minutes then stir in stock.
Cover and put into oven for 45 mins until tender. Leave in pot until cool enough to handle.

Once cooled shred the meat, mash the veg and add to lamb with the ras-el-hanout and season to taste.

Cut filo into 10cm x 10cm squares

Spoon some of the filling along one edge, fold over sides and roll. Brush butter over end to seal. Place seam side down on baking sheet and brush with melted butter.

Cook in oven for 10-20 mins, until brown. Serve with pistachio cream.

Now for the pistachio cream.

100 mls double cream
1tsp za'atar
50g fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
25g pistachios, finely ground
25g pistachios roughly chopped.

Whip cream then add all the other ingredients. Easy as that.

I served it with mashed sweet potato with lemon juice, garlic and ground almond. This is called SKORDALIA in the book.

The meal was delicious and well worth the effort. Next time it won't take so long as I now know the steps. It has made me interested and excited about these flavours which are new to me, and also happy to have found a very helpful young man in a local Halal store who is happy to help me source the ingredients, and who is also vey knowledgable about the products, and interested in the outcome of my endeavours. Perhaps I will pop in a jar of hummus for him!

However I will not be stopping there as I have many recipes flagged with stickers and I plan to work my way through each and every one of them.

My husband loved it and is looking forward to the next attempts at my Eastern Mediterranean cooking. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. This book is so worth seeking out.

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