In the book Arabesque, Claudia Roden explains why Lebanese cuisine is so well known. Representative of food throughout the Middle East, often when a Syrian restaurant opens in London it calls itself a Lebanese Restaurant. This is possibly because most people will have heard of Lebanese food but she puts this down to the Lebanese being great entrepreneurs, making the best of their food heritage, and they were first people in the Middle East to develop a restaurant trade which spread to Europe and the rest of the world in the 70's and 80's. Both books (edited to include links to Amazon so you can see what I'm talking about), Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf and Arabesque make fascinating reading.
Sambousek Bi Jibne - Little Puff Pastry Cheese Pies
Taken from Claudia Roden's Arabesque. I halved the recipe as didn't want 32 pies. If you want the full recipe and instructions then please refer to the book. Below is what we used.
250g puff pastry, flour for rolling out, beaten egg for brushing the pies prior to cooking.
For the filling: 125g mozzarella, 125g feta, 1 egg (beaten)
I took the pastry out of the fridge about an hour before we used it.
Blend the mozzarella in a mini food processor. With a fork mash the feta in a bowl. Add the blended mozzarella and mix together using the fork. Add the beaten egg and mix well.
Heat the oven to 200C.
Roll out the pastry very thinly on a floury surface. It's easier if you cut the pastry in two and work with them separately. (We cut out an even number of medium size hearts and then larger circles using a cereal bowl.)
For the circles place a spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Dab water around the edges of the pastry with your finger. Then fold over the pastry to make a half moon shape, matching up the sides and press down firmly to create a seal. Transfer to a baking tray.
The hearts needed a top and a bottom. If you're doing shapes that need a top and a bottom then put a little of the filling in the middle of your shape, dab water around the edges of the pastry with your finger, then place the top pastry over the filling, making sure that the edges match up with the bottom. Press the edges firmly together to make a seal. Transfer to a baking tray.
You can use a fork to press around the outside. Beat an egg then brush the tops . Bake in the oven for approximately 12-20 minutes until puffed up and golden.
Some of the filling spilled out on a few but we just trimmed them off to neaten them up a bit.
120g bulgar wheat
Half a large red onion, peeled and VERY finely chopped
Approximately 8 medium size tomatoes, finely chopped
Large bunch of flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped
Bunch of mint, washed and chopped
Juice of two lemons
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Cook the bulgar wheat in a pan of 600ml of boiling water for 15 minutes, pour into a sieve then rinse with cold water. Let it sit to drain as much as possible. When ready to use, squeeze out any excess water by pushing down in the sieve.
In a separate bowl mix the red onion, tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper then when ready to serve add the bulgar wheat and mix thoroughly. (I forgot the flat leaf parsley this time and it was still good so if you're not a mint fan it doesn't matter, add whatever you like).
I just wasn't in the mood for following a recipe so we made our own slow cooked lamb dish using flavours inspired from the Middle East.
Pomegranate and Red Pepper Slow Roasted Lamb
Approx 700g diced lamb
1 tin chopped tomatoes (and water to fill the tin)
1 large onion peeled and chopped or two small
1/2 an onion peeled and chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 roasted red pepper from a jar
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
1 heaped teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of oil for frying
Small handful of chopped fresh coriander to add on serving
Turn the oven to approx 175C, medium heat.
In a mini blender/processor add the pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika, lime juice, roast red pepper, ground cumin, garlic and the half of an onion. Blitz to a fine paste.
In a large heavy bottomed pan gently fry the large onion. Move to one side and add the lamb to brown. When the lamb is browned add the paste from the blender, let it bubble for a couple of minutes, keep stirring. Add the tinned tomatoes, fill the empty tin with water and then swill this around the blender to get the last bits of paste out then tip into the pan. Bring to the boil then cook in a medium heat oven for approximately 2 hours. Just before serving add the fresh coriander and stir through.
We served this with the Tabbouleh above. It got very big thumbs up from all!
Strawberry Jam Tarts with rose water and orange blossom water
Now these would have been a triumph if I hadn't totally messed up by putting too much jam in. Also I should have used shortcrust pastry and not puff but I was trying to be economical and use up the puff pastry from the cheese puff pies... Oh well. they still tasted great and as Little said 'Minus infinity looks but top tasting'.
I wont bother with a recipe, all I did was add a few drops of rose water and orange blossom water to some jam, mixed it up well then filled some pastry cases. You can see the disastrous results below. I like to show you my mistakes too!
There will be more Arabian inspired food later in the week.