Kofta b’siniyah & طحينة (Tahini) – An evening in Jerusalem without the flight!

This week I am in Darlington again and have a place booked at my favourite new Bistro, Meze which I am really looking forward too.

Inspired by warmer weather and the thought of past holidays in exotic locations this weekends kitchen efforts have been focussed on Turkey, Egypt and Jerusalem.  I have two of Yotam Ottolenghi’s books and looking through ‘Jerusalem” my eyes were drawn to Kofta b’siniyah, a delicious looking dish of mince shaped into sausages,  full of exotic spices and herbs, and served on a sauce of Tahini, and dressed with toasted Pine nuts, Parsley and Sweet Paprika.

To accompany the kofta I spent some time on the internet searching for a dish similar to the one I had recently at Meze. It was a Patates Salatasi or Potato Salad but without the mayonnaise, and I eventually found an original recipe by Ayla Algar a Turkish cook and writer here, from another food blogger!

To prepare the salad, I had some Organic Colleen potatoes supplied by Riverford. These are a waxy variety and seemed ideal for this particular dish. I steamed them for about 35 minutes and then removed the skins whilst still hot. I recall a TV programme many years ago saying most of the flavour is just under the skin, I think they were right as they were amazing. The dressing is made from Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Mustard Powder, Salt, Pepper, Dill & Flat Leaf Parsley. The dressing is added to the potatoes while still hot, that have been cut into smaller pieces, this allows the flavours to penetrate better. I ended up using the spring onion (chopped finely) in the potato salad and the red onion went in the tomato and pepper salad.

Other dishes to complete the meal were ‘Cacik’ a dish of Yoghurt, Cucumber, Garlic, Salt and in my case some Sumac, a salad of Tomato, Red Onion, Orange Pepper, Coriander, dressed with Sherry Vinegar, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, and toasted Pitta with some Olive Oil, sprinkled with Dukkah, an Egyptian spice mix.

The meal was delicious and was full and flavour, it took some time to prepare but was well worth the effort. Some genuine food from the kitchens of the Middle East.

The table, if you are wondering, is a slice of ‘rock’ from Erfoud in Morocco, about 3/4 inch thick and polished. Its full of Fossils and in the centre an Ammonite. It was purchased from HERE when we were on a tour a few years ago and shipped over within a week. It weighs 175Kg’s and always reminds us of our holidays in the sun.


Sardinhas em brinde, meu caminho or Sardines On Toast, my way!!!!

There is a heady aroma in the house this evening, Garlic, Thyme, Rosemary, Lamb, Wine, Red Currant Jelly & Port, braised Lamb Shanks are on the menu with ‘Butter’ Mash and Green Beans wrapper in Pancetta.

Last week was hectic, manic and downright crazy with lots of travelling, eating, workshops and courses so the energy levels were rather low this weekend and cooking was not on the agenda.  The benefit of travelling was the chance to try some great food, Meze in Darlington is really worth a visit and my review is already on Tripadvisor. Pauline and Cem made me most welcome, they don’t normally open on Monday evenings but my booking was accepted over the internet and the restaurant was all mine for the night. After a delicious starter of Feta stuffed filo ‘cigars’ with a selection of side dishes the main of Izmir Kofte returned fond memories of our two holidays to Turkey, eating proper home cooked food.

The Delicious Starter of Feta stuffed Filo, Yummy!

A real treat was when being cheeky, and mentioning I was ‘into’ food, could I see the kitchen and meet the chef, within minutes I was sitting with Cem, drinking coffee and talking food, a lovely end to a fantastic evening, thank-you both for your warm Turkish hospitality.

Another treat was some ‘posh nosh’ at the 5* Rockliffe Hall Hotel just outside Darlington, imagine Wild Garlic and Smoked Potato Veloute with crispy Frog’s legs, it was beautiful. The main was a difficult choice as there was lots to choose from, in the end it was the Sea bream ‘French style peas’ Pancetta & Parmesan Dauphine that got me, beautiful cooked. Dessert was ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ you will have to eat their to try it, it was fab.

So back to this weekend, feeling rather ‘zonked’ the only outing was a trip to the New Forrest to get some fresh air, see the Ponies and surprisingly, find a fab Fish and Chip shop in the centre of Lyndhurst which was just brilliant.

On getting home, a snack was in order but not feeling up to much a quick look in the cupboard to see what could be thrown together quickly.

Sardines, what could we do with a couple of tins and some half decent Rye Bread and a few brain cells kicking into action, so here goes!!!!

Take some Ras-al-Hanout and Dukkah spice (about a tea spoon of each) and stick into a cup with some olive oil and mix to make a marinade, you will need to adjust the quantity depending on how many people you are making this for.

Put the marinade into a flat dish and add some sliced Tomato for 30 mins or so.  Empty the Sardine’s and Oil into a dish, add some chopped Garlic and sprinkle over some Dill, Thyme and some Black Pepper from the mill. Grate some lemon zest over the top, and squeeze half a lemon’s juice, turning the Sardines over to ensure both sides get the treatment.

Butter the bread (or brush with Olive Oil), and bake in the oven until crispy (about 7 mins at 180 deg fan). Remove from the oven and lightly spread some tomato paste (the stuff in the tube) over the bread, you need about 2 inches worth for each line.

Layer the marinated Tomato over the tomato paste on the Bread and bake for another 2 mins.

Split the Sardines into two, removing any eggs and place 2 slices on each piece of bread and bake in the oven for about 5 – 7 minutes.

The end result is just delicious, crispy buttery Bread, soft Tomato with a kick of spice and added flavour from the Tomato paste, and the Sardines with a hint of Lemon, Dill and Garlic.  Good food does not need to involve expensive ingredients, I have added this one to the memory banks for later.

Hope you all have a great week, until next time.

Esta comida es muy picante – Mole and the Lemon Tart Revisited

Olé Mole!

This week has been hectic, I’ve recently started a new job and it was induction time in Darlington (a 4 1/2 drive for me), then to Solihull to help paint a ‘Children’s Hospice’ as part of a volunteer team from work, and then up to Macclesfield before home down south.

Luckily, I was able to include some excellent restaurants so if you like Indian, Rose Murree in Hagley Road Birmingham is worth a trip, and for excellent English fair, Bacchus in Prestbury is also worth a trip the weekday special being extremely good value money. Click on the names to see their web sites.

I recently decided to spruce up the herb and spice cupboard and venturing food wise into Mexico, ordered a range of dried chilli’s amongst other exotic items such as Dukkah Za’atar and Ras al Hanout.

My inspiration was ‘Mole‘  Mexican for sauce. There are lots to choose from but I was going to attempt Mole Poblano,  more often used for celebrations as its apparently quite time consuming to make, it was about time for me to find out. Having the chilli’s to hand the rest of the ingredients were assembled, and there are quite a few. Peanuts, Ground Almonds, Onions, Tomatoes, Chocolate (YES, I had some special Peruvian, more of that later). Here is a picture of what you will need.

I used three different chilli varieties Pasilla, Mulato and Guajillo which needed soaking in hot water for 15 mins to soften them, after I had dry fried them for a couple of minutes in a hot pan to help; release their flavor oils.

I was using a combination of recipes for this Mole, William Harcourt-Cooze, of chocolate fame in conjunction with a web find and Tomasina Miers, Masterchef winner and owner of the ‘Wahaca‘ restaurant chain. The reason for this combination was that there were subtle differences in some of the processes, such as roasting the onions and tomatoes in a dry pan, and using Tortilla Chips as a thickening agent and flavour layer. The chocolate I used is a pure Cacao from Peru (Peruvian Black 100%), you can get it in Waitrose in the cooking section, or mail order if you click on William Harcourt-Cooze’s name above.

The spice mix on the left (Cloves, Cinnamon Bark), and the Peanuts were both dry fried to bring out their flavour before grinding into a powder. Once you have dry fried the chili’s, soak them for 15 minutes in hot water, reserve some of the liquid as this is added to the Mole to intensify the taste. Once soaked, remove the stalks and seeds before chopping up, and adding to the Onions, Garlic and Tomatoes.

The whole process took about 2 1/2 to 3 hours which includes soaking time, dry frying, grinding and reducing the sauce. Was it worth it, hell yeah. The flavour is just fantastic, deep rich and very satisfying. Its not too hot but warming and very satisfying.
To go with the Mole I got a couple of chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper, placed 3 fresh oregano leaves on the top and wrapped them tightly in cling film. They went into a saucepan of water that was simmering VERY gently, and cooked slowly for about 20-30 minutes (size dependent).
The Mole was served on top, alongside Basmati Rice with Sweetcorn and Red Peppers (diced very finely), and a salad of Tomato and Onion. Have a go, its worth the effort.

Lemon Tart Revisited

You may recall in my last post ‘the accident’, I dropped my Lemon Tart as it was being extracted from the oven ( I have a small scar to prove it, ouch).
My good friend Anna-Rita in Italy, showed me how to make this delicious Lemon Tart, something that would be perfect after a warm spicy number such as the Mole with Chicken. The Tart consists of a sweet pastry base, top and bottom and a filling of lemon crème/custard. Its easy to make BUT the pastry is DIFFICULT to handle due to its short sticky nature and even some time in the fridge did not seem to make too much difference.

The crème/custard is made by putting a couple of eggs, castor sugar, lemon zest and juice from 2 lemons into a saucepan and whisking over a moderate heat until thick. Don’t have the heat too high or you will end up with scrambled eggs. When thick, turn off the heat cover with some cling film to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool (you can put into a pan of cold water if you don’t have much time to speed the cooling process).

The pastry is a 3:1 ratio of Flour to un-salted Butter, Sugar, Eggs and Dried Yeast. This is mixed in a Kenwood to bring it together and then 2/3 of it rolled out on Baking Parchment. Once in a greased fluted baking dish, add the lemon crème/custard roll out the remainder and put on top, sealing the edges. You should have about 1cm of crème filling, cut away any excess pastry.
30 minutes at 160 deg (fan oven) and you end up with a delicious dessert fit for any dinner table. I served mine with Mascarpone and slices of Lemon Confit which had developed a beautiful intense sweet/sharp flavour since they were made a couple of weeks back.
That’s it for this time foodies….. I hope you enjoyed the blog and have a go yourself……