By SHERYL DIXIT
Enjoy a variety of flavours and fare to make your tastebuds tingle
The month of April always puts me in a mellow mood. Summer is finally over, the school term is well under way, the weather’s getting cooler and the rich colours of autumn are all around us.
For some strange reason at this time of the year, I develop a yen for Middle Eastern cuisine with its rich flavours and exotic aromas. Most of us are familiar with felafel wraps, shawarmas, hummus and tabouleh with khubbus, the pita bread – popular Lebanese and Arabic fare. But there’s a huge variety of cuisine to explore from this region, which is tasty, healthy, easy to prepare and can enliven your appetite. So try some of these mouth-watering specialities for a bit of Middle Eastern culinary magic.
Kofta al Kadhour
A delicious dish in a tangy tomato gravy
500gms lamb mince
3 medium onions
Pinch of black pepper powder
Pinch of cinnamon powder
2 medium eggplant
4 medium tomatoes
5 tbsp oil
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
Slice half the quantity of onions, finely chop the other half. Slice the eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes, and keep aside. Mix the mince with the chopped onions, garlic, salt, black pepper, cinnamon and parsley. Shape the mixture into small circular dumplings (koftas) and keep separate in an oven-proof casserole.
Heat the oil and fry the potatoes and then the eggplant until cooked, then drain and keep aside. Arrange the fried eggplant and potato slices over the koftas, topping with the sliced tomatoes and onion.
Mix the tomato paste with the chicken stock and heat gently. Pour this mixture over the koftas, cover and bake for an hour at 180o (fan-forced), or until the koftas are cooked through. Serve hot with khubbus or rice.
Delicious fish fillets in a fresh, healthy sauce
600gms skinless kingfish fillets
250gms fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves
400gms fresh coriander
120gms cooking oil
40gms finely chopped garlic
40 gms ball (1tbsp paste) tamarind
200mls warm water
Salt & white pepper to taste
Wash the methi and coriander leaves thoroughly and chop finely. Keep aside. Soak the tamarind in warm water and simmer on a low flame for about 5 minutes. Strain and keep aside. In a pan, heat the oil and sauté the garlic. Add the chopped leaves and tamarind stock, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the liquid turns into a thin sauce-like consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the fish into cubes and add gently to the sauce, simmering till cooked through. Turn gently once to cook on all sides. Take care not to overcook and maintain the same sauce-like consistency. Serve hot with rice or pita.
Spiced couscous with chicken
An easy ready-to-cook recipe, and you can control the spice
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced 1 cup couscous, preferably whole wheat 2 cups coarsely shredded roast chicken 3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tsp baharat or allspice mix ½ cup sliced almonds ¼ cup raisins
½ cup spring onions, finely chopped ¾ cup roughly chopped fresh coriander 2½ cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper Boil the water in a pan adding ½ teaspoon cinnamon, allspice mix, ginger, salt and pepper according to your taste. Add the carrots and cook until tender, then remove and keep aside. Add zucchini, cook until semi-soft, remove and keep aside. Turn off flame and keep liquid aside
Place the couscous and shredded chicken in a large bowl and gently pour a cupful of the liquid over the mix. Stir, cover for five minutes with a plate and let it sit. Fluff the couscous with a fork.
In a separate pan, add almonds, raisins, Put the couscous and chicken in a medium bowl; pour 1 cup of the hot cooking liquid on top. Stir, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Heat the oil in a separate pan and add almonds, raisins, spring onions and the rest of the cinnamon. Cook until the nuts are well toasted. Take off flame and add the coriander.
Top the cooked couscous with the carrots and zucchini, adding enough of the cooking liquid to make the mix moist, but not runny. Spread the almond mix over the top, adding more fresh coriander to garnish. Serve hot topped with yoghurt or harissa (hot sauce) depending on your taste, or serve in a separate bowl as an accompaniment.
A delicious, healthy dessert
2 tsp ghee
4gms cardamom powder
½ cup pistachio nuts, flaked
1 small sprig of mint leaves
Seed the dates and grind them into a fine paste. Heat the mild and add ghee, sugar and cardamom powder to the paste. Cook on a low fire stirring continuously, until well blended. Scoop the mixture into serving dishes and garnish with pistachio flakes. Just before serving, add the sprig of mint to each bowl. Serve warm or cold.