Travels on Our Stomachs (March 29, 2012)
Warm weather is on the way and we're thinking travel! We're helped along with planning by a gorgeous new clutch of ethnic cookbooks, and as we travel on our stomachs these books remind of holidays past, and those we want to make!
We're drooling over Turquoise: A Chef's Travels in Turkey by Greg and Lucy Malouf. We were in Turkey 20 some years ago, and so enjoyed the food! Our first stop in Istanbul was the fabled Pudding Shop, opened in 1957 and quickly becoming a centre for adventurous (and otherwise) travellers. The food was filling and cheap, and best of all, really tasty!
Travelling around the country, we fell in love with Datça, a tiny fishing village down on the Marmaris peninsula reached by a scenic and pleasant bus ride past pine forests and apiaries, producing the famous eponymous honey. We stayed in the village, just across from the boat docks; across from our little hostel the restaurants proudly displayed the day's catch out front; we would choose a pretty one for dinner, then enjoy a Raki while the chef prepared it. We've never eaten fresher fish!
Turkey is truly a great place, the culture, history and cuisine; capturing much of this spirit in one volume is almost impossible, but it's
been done beautifully in Turquiose. The author, Australian Greg Malouf, is the son of immigrants; he's widely acclaimed as the master of modern Middle Eastern cooking whose influence has spread across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. His restaurant MoMo in Melbourne delights diners with the flavours of his heritage presented with a contemporary flair. His wife, Lucy Malouf, is a popular Australian food writer and together they've published 4 award-winning cookbooks including Saha, Arabesque and Moorish.
Food writer Paula Wolfert comments, "I could praise Turquoise just for its lush photos and charming stories, but it's the recipes that make it a standout. Chef Greg Malouf has a great gift for bold free-wheeling cooking. The book is a keeper."
Another favourite of ours is The Lebanese Cookbook by Beirut-born Hussien Dekmak, who has lived and worked in London for years. He opened an "outpost of classic Lebanese cooking," Le Mignon in 1997, and goes back to Lebanon every summer to recharge and purchase authentic ingredients for his dishes. His cookbook is a great read, and – best – the recipes genuine but tailored for home cooking.
One fan, Darina Allen, food personality and owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, stated, "I can't believe I'm going to get the recipe for moujadara after all these years! I could never extract it from Hussien, despite all my pleadings!"
Darina bought the book and so should you, for these recipes will transport you to the Mediterranean!
Sailing back across, we land in Morocco via Mourad: New Moroccan, by Mourad Lahlou. Jacques Pépin, chef, cookbook author and PBS cooking series host, said "Mourad Lahlou is a marvelous raconteur; his book is full of passion; his cooking is simple but sophisticated, classic but creative and is true to the flavours, smells and soul of Moroccan cuisine."
As a starving graduate student in San Francisco, Lahlou was homesick for the flavours of his native Marrakesh. So he started cooking – improvising and reaching deep into his childhood memories. He made meals for himself, then friends, then – abandoning his doctorate in economics – he opened a restaurant and almost overnight this accidental chef became one of the rising new stars in the SF culinary scene! The book is a beauty, full of photos, anecdotes and hard (and fascinating) information. Want to know all about tagines, the quintessential Moroccan conical-lidded pot? It's all here in its own chapter... and much much
Then to Spain, which we love. We've house exchanged on the Costa Blanca, Madrid and La Coruna up in Galicia where the Spanish fishing fleet ports are ocated. Galicia is a beautiful, lush corner of Spain and truly a gourmand's paradise: we stuffed ourselves on the freshest and best seafood and wonderful wines for a month... sigh, but I digress! All those memories came back when we started leafing through Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking by Barcelona-born chef and restaurateur Frank Camorra and his colleague, Richard Cornish, a food writer and sausage expert!
Living in Australia since 1975, Camorra returned to Spain to rediscover the foundations of his childhood cuisine, travelling from Galicia over to the northern seaside Basque towns, into Catalonia, Madrid, then Andalusia in the south.
This epicurean saga is all in Rustica; glorious photographs and those magnificent recipes! We pored over the chapter on Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrim destination for hundreds of years, and relived our visit to so many of the delightful towns and markets in the area. Rustica is a must-have for anyone who loves food and travel!
On today's menu:
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Stuffed Mussels, Istanbul Street-Style
Trays full of gleaming blue-black mussels sold from vendors around the street cafes gave us a first and lasting impression of the importance of seafood here. One shop described in Turquiose had them "exquisitely displayed, the shells open just enough to reveal their stuffing of plump orange mussel, herbed rice, pine nuts and currants... to eat, just break off the top shell, squeeze on a little lemon juice, then use the loose shell as a scoop to spoon the delicious contents straight into your mouth." Thus, to us, moving street food to a whole new level! From Turquoise, A Chef's Travels in Turkey by Greg and Lucy Malouf.
Note: For an extra-special presentation, lightly brush the shells with vegetable oil to five them a glossy sheen.
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1/3 pound short-grain rice
- 30 mussels, cleaned and bearded
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 ounces pine nuts
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 vine-ripened tomato, grated
- Pinch of sea salt
- Boiling water
- 1/3 cup finely chopped dill
- 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Lemon wedges to serve
Soak the currants in a little warm water for 10–15 minutes, then drain.
Meanwhile, put the rice into a large bowl and rinse well under cold running water, working your fingers through it to loosen the starch. Drain off the milky water and repeat until the water runs clear. Cover the rice with cold water and leave to soak for 10 mintues. Drain the rice and rinse a final time.
Soak the cleaned mussels in a sink or large bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Fry the pine nuts, onion, garlic and spices on a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until the pine nuts begin to colour a light golden brown. Stir in the drained rice, tomatoes and currants and cook for 2 minutes. Season lightly and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over a very low heat for 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Put the rice into a shallow bowl, then fork through the herbs and leave to cool a little.
To prepare the mussels, use small sharp knife and work over a large bowl to catch and reserve the juices. Hold each mussel by its narrow end with the "pointed" edge facing outward. Insert the knife between the two shells near the large rounded top and cut through the mollusks where it is attached. You should then be able to pry the shells open, taking care not to break them – the idea is to pen them slightly, not fully, and for the mussels to stay in their shells.
Strain the reserved mussel juice into a measuring cup and add water to make it up to about 2 cups if necessary, then pour this into a large, heavy-based saucepan. Stand a colander inside the pan. Spoon a generous amount of rice into each mussel, then squeeze the shells shut and wipe away any excess.
Stack the mussels in the colander and cover with wet parchment paper. Weigh the mussels down with a plate to keep them from opening too wide as they cook. Cover than pan and bring it to the boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let the mussels cool in the pan. When cold, refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving chilled or at room temperature.
Stack the mussels onto a serving platter when ready to serve. To eat, break off the top shell, squeeze on a little lemon juice, then use the loose shell to scoop out the contents.
Tony's wine recommendation:
Viognier, Riesling Kabinett, Alsace Pinot Blanc
Moujadara (Lentils and Rice with Crispy Onions)
It's a perfect dish: few ingredients, quick and rapturously delicious. No wonder, Darina Allen travels from Ireland to enjoy these lentils at Le Mignon, Hussien Dekmak's restaurant. We don't have to go so far now we've got the recipe, but after tasting it... we know we'd make the trip in a flash. Chef says, "This is always a favourite at my restaurant. You can use either brown or green lentils, but I find that brown lentils give a much better result." From The Lebanese Cookbook by Hussien Dekmak.
- 225 g brown or green dried lentils, rinsed
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
- 100 g basmati rice
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
For the crispy onions:
- Vegetable oil
- 4 Tbsp sliced onion
Place the lentils in a deep pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 20 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the chopped onion and fry until browned. Add the rice, cooked lentils, salt, pepper and cumin and just enough water to cover. Cover and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and stir occasionally for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Place in a serving dish.
For the crispy onions, pour vegetable oil into a deep frying pan to the depth of about 5 cm. Heat well and deep-fry the sliced onion until brown and crispy. Remove from the pan and arrange on top of the lentil and rice mixture.
Tony's wine recommendation:
Alsace dry Muscat, dry Riesling, dry Gewurztraminer
Pulpo a la Plancha
We were in the market in Oviedo, Spain, where the octopus was being prepared by boiling in large upright oil drums. We're fond of octopi as living creatures, but faced with the uh, prospect... served fresh and hot with a simple oil dressing, we couldn't resist. The cliché "Market Fresh" took on new meaning, and we were hooked forever. Frank Camorra in Rustica: A Return to Spanish Home Cooking was given this recipe in the Cambados fish market, where the fishmonger and old friend declared it to be "Galicia's National Dish." It's worth the trip, but meanwhile, with the help of a good fish market, you can do it here!
Serves 6 to 8
- 3½ lb octopus, frozen overnight, then thawed
- 1/2 lb red radishes, trimmed
- 3 small cucumbers
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Bread to serve
Remove the head from the octopus and discard.
Heat a flat, lightly oiled grill grate as hot as it will go. Place the octopus on the grill, then cover with a heavy baking sheet and place a heavy weight – such as a cast-iron saucepan – on top. Cook the octopus for 7 to 10 minutes on each side, then remove from the heat, place in a bowl and allow to cool. Slice the octopus into 1-inch chunks and return to the bowl with any juices.
Peel the radishes and cucumbers, leaving on a little skin to add a flash of colour to the plate. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthways, remove the seeds using a small spoon, then thinly slice the flesh. Cut the radishes in half lengthways, then thinly slice and add to the octopus chunks with the cucumber, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice.
Toss gently and check the seasoning. For the best flavor, serve the octopus while it is still warm, with plenty of bread to sop of the juices.
Tony's wine recommendation:
Sancerre, Ontario Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, unoaked Chardonnay
Lamb Shank, Spiced Prunes, Brown Butter Farro
Mourad Lahlou said, "Whenever I mentioned that I was writing this book, it seemed like nine out of ten people would ask, 'Are those lamb shanks gonna be in there?' These are those lamb shanks. Their classic model is lamb, braised with onions and spices, then covered with honey and sometimes prunes. '...to me it's like the baklava of lamb dishes – very sweet and very much about the honey.'"
So Chef finally eliminated the honey over the years, adding sweetness by way of separately cooked spiced prunes. It's all accompanied by a rich, tangy red wine gastrique, but for us he's given the simpler option of a more rustic sauce made from the braising liquid. Whatever... this works so well; rich and satisfying with just that hint...
Be Aware: This is a complicated recipe with many turns and twists and a major do-ahead. Please read completely before starting out. Yes, it's soooooooo worth the effort!
- 6 lamb foreshanks (1 lb/453 g each), trimmed and frenched
- Kosher salt
- 8 cups (1 kg) coarsely chopped onions
- 1/4 cup (32 g) sliced garlic
- 3/4 cup (159 g) grape seed or canola oil, plus more for browning the lamb
- 1/4 cup (22g) ground coriander
- 1½ Tbsp (93 g) ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp (7.7 g) ground cumin
- 2 tsp (3.7 g) ground turmeric
- 1 tsp (0.9 g) saffron threads
- 8 to 10 cups chicken stock or water
3 Tbsp (27 g) kosher salt
- 2¼ cups (450 g) faro, picked over and rinsed
- 1 cup (134 g) finely diced red onion
- 1/4 cup (53 g) grape seed or canola
- 3/4 cup (130 g) Brown Butter melted and still warm (see recipe below)
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter (for the braising liquid sauce)
- 1 tsp finely chopped parsley (for the braising liquid sauce)
- About 3 Tbsp clarified butter melted, or extra virgin olive oil for brushing the shanks
- 6 Spiced Prunes (recipe follows)
- Small spinach leaves
- Edible wildflowers, preferably radish and mustard blossoms
- Crunchy sea salt
(Makes about 7 cups)
For the Lamb Shanks
Put a cooling rack on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Salt the lamb shanks on all sides and put on the rack. Cover with a damp towel and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Put the onions and garlic in a large bowl and toss with the oil.
Heat a large heavy roasting pan over medium heat for several minutes. Add a film of oil, then add the shanks in a single layer. Brown the lamb evenly on all sides for about 12 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
Transfer the shanks to the baking sheet and pour off any fat remaining in the pan. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the onions are an even golden brown, adjust the heat as necessary. Increase the heat to high, add 2 Tbsp salt and the remaining spices and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly to bring out the flavours of the spices.
Nestle the shanks, smoother side down, in the onions and cook for 2–3 minutes. Turn the shanks over (the side with the most connective tissue will be facing down; the meat will be more tender cooked this way). Add enough stock to come three-quarters of the way up the shanks and bring to a simmer. Cover with a parchment lid, brush it with water to keep the edges from curing up and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Put in the oven and cook for 2 hours and 45 minutes, or until the meat is completely tender.
Meanwhile, for the Farro:
Pour 5 quarts water into a small stockpot, add the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the faro, reduce the heat and boil gently for about 30 minutes, until the faro is tender but not mushy. Drain the farro in a large strainer, shaking the strainer to remove the excess water.
Meanwhile, put the onions and oil in a large saucepan and set over medium-high heat. When the onions begin to sizzle, decrease the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, or until the onions have softened and are slightly caramelized. Set aside.
To finish the lamb:
Carefully remove the shanks for the braising liquid, place them meaty side up on a baking sheet, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
If you want to make a sauce from the braising liquid, preheat the oven to 200°F and transfer the shanks to the oven to keep them warm.
Pour the braising liquid, with the onions, into a large saucepan. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then ladle off the fat that has risen to the top and discard. Bring to a boil and boil gently for about 15 minutes to reduce the sauce to 5 or 6 cups. If the flavour seems weak, continue to reduce it to intensify the flavour. Bend in the butter, preferably with an immersion blender, and stir in the parsley.
Stir the prunes into the sauce you have chosen. Turn on the broiler. Brush the shanks with the clarified butter or oil and put under the broiler for a few minutes to brown.
To serve: Reheat the onions over medium heat and stir in the faro. Add the brown butter, stirring to coat the faro.
Spoon some farro and sauce into each serving plate. Set the lamb shanks over them. Garnish each plate with a prune, some spinach leaves and edible flowers. Sprinkle the shanks with crunchy sea salt.
Chef likes to use Moyer prunes for their flavour, texture and deep rich colour. These are sold with the pits, and it's important to use prunes with pits as the brine doesn't get inside the prune and make it mushy. The pits also add an almondy sweetness.
Makes 4 cups
- 4 cups unpitted Moyer or other prunes
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp brandy
- One 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 3/4 tsp Tellicherry peppercorns
- 3 allspice berries
- 1 bay leaf
Put the prunes in a medium bowl.
Combine all the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the prunes and let cool to room temperature.
Let stand in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week before using. The prunes can be stored at room temperature for up to 6 months.
Melt 6 Tbsp unsalted butter in a small frying pan over medium heat. Continue to heat until it is a rich nutty brown color.
Tony's wine recommendation:
Zinfandel, Amarone, California Merlot.
We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:
Workman Publishing Company, New York and Thomas Allen and Son, Ltd., Toronto for Mourad New Moroccan, The Cookbook. © 2011 Mourad Lahlou. Photographs © 2011 Deborah Jones.
Kyle Cathie Ltd., London, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for permission to publish material and photographs from The Lebanese Cookbook by Hussien Dekmak. Text 2006 © Hussien Dekmak. Photography 2006 © Martin Brigdale. Design © 2006 by Kyle Cathie Ltd.
Chronicle Books, San Francisco and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for Rustica, A Return to Spanish Home Cooking. Text © 2009 Movida Pty Led. Photographs © 2009 Murdoch Books.
Chronicle Books, San Francisco, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf. Text © Greg Malouf and Lucy Malouf. Phtography © Lisa Cohen. Food photography © William Meppem.
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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.