17 December 2006

Going Mediterranean

'What is Mediterranean food?' my friend asked. When I think Mediterranean, plenty of beans and healthy food comes to mind. Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, Moroccan, Turkish... all fall under that category among others (which is just a convenient way of saying that I am not entirely sure myself).

Many recipes I looked through required a wide variety of spices. Some also involved Harisa, a Tunisian chilli paste that one can make from scratch at home but using ingredients that are difficult to find here in Singapore. Thankfully, I managed to find a Paula Wolfert recipe from 'The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook (that's me!)', that involved only a reasonable amount of work and easily accessible spices - Lamb Smothered in Onions. The lamb, braised slowly in the oven for 3 whole hours then roasted for another half an hour, was fork tender and an explosion of flavours from the caramelised onions, ground cinnamon, ginger, saffron and tomatoes. I combined some pasta, spinach and red lentils, tossed in oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, as the lamb's sidekick - there to support and complement, but never to steal the show.

In addition, I found a greater treasure trove of Mediterranean recipes in Claudia Roden's 'Arabesque'. Sorted into the various parts of the Mediterranean region then split into the starters, mains and desserts, her book was easy to navigate and had better food porn. Also, the recipes featured seemed a little less fiddly than the previous cookbook. I attempted a Cream of Dried Broad Bean Soup that awoke the tastebuds with garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper and caraway. And to finish off the meal, I chose Sweet Cous Cous with walnuts, sultanas and pomegranate. It was the simplest dessert I have ever put together and thankfully it did not lack in taste.

The only un-Mediterranean part of the meal was the Korova Sables (Pierre Herme's prized recipe) that I had baked earlier in the day and served with a scoop of S's delicious and smooth (it's as smooth as it gets!) eggless milk ice cream. GreedyGoose had written about these delectable chocolate chip cookies before and it's worth every turn of the KitchenAid, every chip off the Valrhona chocolate block and every calorie consumed.

Cream of Dried Broad Bean Soup
Adapted from Arabesque
Serves 3

125g dried broad beans, soaked overnight
3/4 litres water
2 whole garlic cloves
1 chicken stock cube
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground caraway
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste
Strips of fried bacon (optional)

Simmer beans, water and garlic cloves for an hour.
Crumble stock cube into soup and simmer for another 30 minutes or until beans are tender.
Mash the beans in the pot, add spices and salt to taste.
Simmer longer if soup is not thick enough, if not, serve immediately with strips of fried bacon (optional).

Sweet Cous Cous
Serves 6-8

500g fine ground cous cous
600 ml warm water
1/2-1 tsp salt
2 tbspn sunflower/veg. oil
100g or more unsalted butter
2 tbspn caster sugar
Chopped and toasted walnuts, raisins and pomegranate seeds
Icing sugar, ground cinnamon (to decorate)

Mix warm water with salt and add to cous cous.
Leave for 10 minutes for cous cous to swell.
Add oil and fluff with a fork.
Work in butter and sugar until butter has all melted.
Add in walnuts and raisins then shape on a plate using high ring molds.
Sift icing sugar and ground cinnamon over cous cous and serve with more walnuts and raisins, and the pomegranate seeds.


faith said...

hi, rem i stumbled on ur blog sometime back?

ur tomato soup recipe turned out great for me! yay! =] im doing brownies for a gathering soon. do u have a good recipe on hand for that? ;)

mail me? faithongyj@yahoo.com

ade-is-doing-a-real-degree said...

hey daffy! can i get your easy recipe for harissa paste? i wanted to make felafel the other day and coun't find harissa anywhere...

Anonymous said...

Faith>Of course I remember you, and I'm real glad that you had a great tomato soup! In fact I'm making it again for a party really soon.
As for brownies, I haven't found a kick ass recipe as yet, but Cheryl from She Bakes and She Cooks raves about a particular brownie recipe that's foolproof. Go check her out! =)

Ade> Hello my dear, nice to hear from you! I didn't make harissa in the end because the ingredients were not easy to find. Though you might be able to make substitutions. The cookbook is no longer with me so I don't have the recipe that Paula or Claudia recommended. You could probably find some nice ones at epicurious however. Good luck!

the brother said...

I was there! and everything was perfect. my fav was the choc chip cookie. yummy! =)

Anonymous said...

Your dishes look amazing, I saw you enjoy Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean cookbook, you might be interested in this too...a cassoule and her cassoulet recipe.