A Sirocco Feast

Unknown.jpegWhen I got a copy of Sirocco from the publisher, I was incredibly excited. I adore Persiana, Sabrina Ghayour’s first cookbook, rather a lot: it’s like Jerusalem but slightly more work-a-day… and I think it’s a prettier book too, overall. I had no idea there was another one in the works, and there it suddenly was, on my doorstep!

I’ve cooked from it for the last week or so, but this weekend we had a friend coming over so I thought I’d go full Sirocco.

Main: roast chicken with vegetables.

The chicken has orange and lemon zest and za’atar slathered all over it. I just used the zester on the citrus; next time I would chop it a little finer, because it didn’t stay on the chicken quite as well as I’d hoped. But it was delicious, and I’ll be doing it like this from now on. I also put the zested lemon into the chicken cavity, as Nigella insists.

Souk-spiced root vegetables: turns out I had no cumin seed (?!), but in looking I discovered a jar of Moroccan souk spices that I’d forgotten which was basically what the recipe required. I used parsnip, potato, carrot and celeriac; it was my first time ever cooking (and, I think, eating) the last. Would do so again.

Beans: fried with mustard seeds, preserved lemon, garlic and some other spices. Was meant to have pickled chillies, too, but I couldn’t find what I thought were the right things.

Asparagus: just sat in boiling water for five minutes, then tossed with more preserved lemon, mint, and oil. Also meant to have preserved chillies. I didn’t use anywhere near the amount of preserved lemon suggested, and it was quite lemony enough; needed more mint but it was dark and cold when I went out foraging in the garden.

I think that this dinner will be made again.

Dessert: lime and basil cream

Not enough basil, sadly, but very tangy with the lime – zest and juice of two limes to 600mL of cream (2/3 of recipe). Was meant to be topped with a persimmon compote, but I didn’t realise it was persimmon season, so when I went to the shops and saw them I couldn’t recall how many I needed. Also, persimmons scary. So I did a little not-quite-compote with apples, lime and vanilla. It was very, very tasty; served in jars from Kate’s jams they looked amusingly bohemian. Because I didn’t think our martini glasses were big enough.

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An average picture but a tasty meal.

It’s available from Fishpond. 

A Middle Eastern Feast

UnknownOn Saturday night we decided to have friends over to play a rather obsession-making board game, and treat them to a Middle Eastern feast. They had lavished us with a beef bourguignon that left mine for dead and a delightful lemon tart last time, so it was only fair…

First course was a eggplant brushed with homemade chermoula, baked for 40 minutes, and topped with a burghul salad that included coriander, green olives, and nuts. It was fantastic although not actually as good as it could have been – I used those awesome long Lebanese eggplants, which were tasty but because they were skinny, didn’t get as mushy and baba ganoush-y as they would if they’d been fatter.Unknown

Next, my darling made him favourite dish – lamb and braised egg. We minced lamb eye fillet and cooked it with harissa, pistachios, preserved lemons and other good things, then braised eggs in it. Served with flat bread, it was utterly delightful. Both of these are from the fabulous Jerusalem, which is probably my favourite cook book ever.

Finally, Egyptian filo pudding, from Moorish. Cook filo sheets; break them into pieces and layer it with rosewater-soaked dried apricots and currants, and pistachios and almonds. Then cover the lot with boiling custard, basically, and cook… it was utterly, photoutterly delightful; more-ish, in fact. The picture does it no justice whatsoever.