One of my all time favourite chef and cook book writers this week, all hail the Great ‘Yotam Ottolenghi‘ and recipes chosen from his beautiful book written with Sami Tamimi, ‘JERUSALEM’ sharing recipes from their children memories, family occasions and homelands. Yotam’s books that he has created are stories and works of art, shared through food and delicious food photography – Definitley books to have on show, even with well worn, spiced stained page corners.
I was introduced to Middle Eastern cooking and flavours many years ago, through a Palestinian friend, who was eager to share his love of warm, aromatic spices and regional cuisine with us. For a long time, I left the cooking to him, sitting back and relaxing and soaking up the flavours and heady scents with the dishes he created. On moving to Spain some 9 years ago, I started looking back into the history of Moorish spices and their influence in many Andalucian dishes, and then took inspiration from many new recipe books and ancient flavours that were being highlighted from these Eastern climes.
Most recipes focusing on locally produced, home grown ingredients, abundantly using fresh vegetables, healthy pulses and heady fresh herbs and spices. Dishes to share with friends and family.
My recipe this week for my #cookfromthebooks challenge was MEJADRA, descibed as an ancient dish, popular throughout the Arab world, many families taking a huge pot of Mejadra with them to share on a picnic, with a spoonful of fresh yoghurt. It is a sweetly spiced, comforting and warming dish of rice and lentils, laddened with sticky caramelised onions.
I added, as I do 😉 a handful of dried cranberries, and fresh mint and coriander chopped and stirred through the dish at the end, to add a lightness to this rich dish. This dish although simple in ingredients and economical too, was easy to prepare but not quick, I found it stir, relax and sip cooking, perfect for a weekend evening when there is no rush.
250g green lentils ( I used Pardina in Spain)
4 Medium Onions sliced
3 tbsp plain flour
250 ml sunflower oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
200g basmati rice
1/2 ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp grounds allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
350 ml water
S & P
- In a small saucepan place the lentils with plenty of water to cover, bring to the boil and then simmer for 12-15 mins until slightly soften but still with bite ( I added a bay leaf with my water), then drain.
- Place the onions in large plate or bowl and sprinkle on the flour & salt, mix thoroughly.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil until hot. Divide the onion into small batches and fry until golden and brown and some crispy. Don’t crowd your pan at this stage as it will create steam and the onions will just soften.
- As the onions are cooked transfer to a colander lined with kitchen paper to drain. Sprinkle with a little more salt.
- Wipe the saucepan clean, then toss in the coriander and cumin seeds to toast for a minute or two, until their aromas are reale4ased.
- Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar and salt & pepper.
- Stir to coat the rice in the oil and spices, then add the lentils and water ( here I added a handful of dried cranberries) .
- Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and then simmer on a a very low heat for 15 mins.
- Take off the heat, remove the lid quickly and place a clean tea towel over it the pan and replace the lid, to allow it to rest and steam for 10 mins.
- To serve, layer the dish with rice, lentils and half the onions, ( I stirred fresh herbs in here) more rice and lentils and top the final dish with the crispy caramelized onions.
COOKING : Easy but not quick.
FAMILY RATING : Adults 9/10 Children 7/10 (Think it will grow on them, it’s a lentils thing 😉
On friday night we also had ‘Ottolenghi’s’ Turkey & Courgette burgers with spring onion and cumin, these were a winner all round.
If you would like to join in this years challenge of #cookfromthebooks I would be delighted Just add the hashtag #cookfromthebooks and add the logo below & link to this site.