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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Midweek Harira Soup

The tanneries at Fez...smelly, smelly place!
Baby brother and I were lucky enough to spend a week in Fez about 12 years ago. It's the most fabulous city and the food is the best in Morocco. It was the first time either of us had eaten Harira soup (or briouates or b'stilla for that matter) and it was a powerful memory - a chilli hot lamb broth with tomatoes, spices, pulses and pasta.

Apparently there are endless versions of it, which of course gives you a fair bit of latitude when you come to make your own. So armed only with yesterday's lamb broth and some stuff from the larder I set out to make some.

Harira soup

Fez pottery - It'd be rude not to bring some home.
About 2 pints of lamb broth, skimmed of fat, plus the shreds of meat that came off the bone
500g carton of passata
2 cloves garlic
100g cannellini beans, soaked overnight
100g chana dal
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp vegetable stock powder
3 tsp Turkish mixed spice (a cinnamon, gingery, clovy type)
1 chili, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Large handfull of short vermicelli

Somewhat embarrassingly, I just put everything in a pot apart from the lemon and vermicelli, brought it to the boil and cooked for an hour and a bit. When the beans are tender, put the vermicelli in and when that's cooked (a few minutes), put the lemon juice in and serve.

This was gorgeous and while I know it's not that traditional (the real thing involves hours of faffing about and lots of different bowls of stuff being added at crucial moments) it's very doable on a weeknight and put me right back in the happy place - traipsing round the Mdina with baby brother, duking around the souks and riads and showing him how to haggle (for a really lovely chess set). And of course making him carry my Berber rug and about a brazillion plates all the way home.

Monday, 27 May 2013

A day at the museum & three things to do with a leg of lamb

The Green Coat by John Lavery
We went to the Ulster Museum today to see "Revealed" which is a collection of Government art and much more interesting than it sounds!

It's an exhibition of over 160 pieces which are usually displayed in British government buildings around the world, with artists from the 1500s to the present day including van Dyck, Graham Sutherland, Andy Warhol, Tracey Emin, Martin Creed, Gary Hume, Ed Ruscha and Grayson Perry.

I loved it, but I loved the Sir John Lavery collection even more, while "300 years of Irish landscape" was also worth half an hour of anyone's time. The Ulster Museum has definitely got its act together with the curation and display of its best artwork. Wish I could say the same about the Troubles section which was just plain dire - you could see it had been committeed to death by people who were just too scared to offend, to the extent that it was meaningless and boring.

My husband was pretty appalled by it all, particularly as he does a walking tour in Belfast which deals with the history of terrorism - it's not an easy subject to deal with, but it can't be airbrushed out of our history either.

Anyway, last night I did a leg of lamb as Jamie Oliver recommended, roasted directly on the oven rack with spuds and carrots underneath to catch the juices - and very good it was too. Left with plenty of good meat and some rather more gristly stuff on the bone, I made a lamb broth with the bone and scraggy meat which will go towards Harira soup tomorrow, while the good meat went in a very easy and lovely tagine I make a lot.

Lamb tagine

1lb or so of roast leg of lamb, cubed
1 tablespoon of minced garlic and ginger
Vegetable oil
2 aubergines, cubed
500ml passata
A pepper or two from a jar, sliced
2 tsp turkish style mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
Salt & pepper
2 chillies, chopped (or 1 tsp minced chili from a jar)
2 tsp quince paste or membrillo
1 tin of chickpeas

Fry aubergines in 2-3 batches till deep golden brown, drain very well in kitchen towel. Fry ginger & garlic for a minute till it colours, add spices and fry a bit more. Add passata a glug at a time till it's all incorporated. Add chillies and quince paste, stir through. Add a bit of water to make a soupy sauce. Put everything else in and cook on a low simmer for about 30-45 mins.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Gammon Berets and Tarragon Chicken

Going through Gran's recipe folder is...ummm.....interesting. Liver risotto? Pork crumble? Or how about some "American Mould"? There are some strong themes running through her collection. She has a dozen recipes for Rhubarb & Ginger jam and nearly as many for Chinese Chews (neither of which I have any problem with). She has an obsession for jellied salads (actually I do remember these from when I was small, particularly something made with lime jelly, carrots, coconut, mandarins and marshmallows - I shudder at the memory). And she seems to have had shares in a pork farm.

Really, I've never seen so many pork recipes. I had no idea it was so versatile. I found a solitary fish recipe ("Party Halibut") and the first ingredient was "1/2lb of pork pieces". Really? Pork & fish? What kind of parties was she throwing?

I'm going to have to try a few out, even if they don't sound too prepossessing - after all, she must have kept them for a reason. I'm intrigued by "Gammon Berets" - they sound like the paramilitary wing of the Pork Marketing Board.

I just couldn't face a pork crumble for my dinner tonight, so I went all continental and made Tarragon Chicken instead. This involves industrial quantities of Maille Dijon mustard but it all cooks down to a delicious mild sauce.

Tarragon Chicken

8 small chicken breasts
3 dsp Maille Dijon mustard
1 tsp vegetable stock granules
1 small bunch tarragon, minced
1 small bunch parsley, minced
4 small onions, chopped fine
2 red peppers, sliced fine
2 cloves garlic
1 large glass white wine
1/2pt whipping cream

Fry onion & pepper till soft, add garlic, fry another minute. Add mustard and stock, cook another minute, add white wine, cook 2-3 more minutes. Add cream & herbs, bring to the boil, add chicken breasts and poach for 30 mins.

Gran works her 1920s 'fro

Sad wee day today as we cleared out Gran's flat and moved her stuff to the nursing home. It's a lovely place and we just wanted to make sure it felt as homely as possible for her. We found this fabulous picture of her while we were packing up her things - here she is, working a ludicrously uncomfortable coat and a mad afro on Rutland Street, just off the Ormeau Road in Belfast around 1923-24.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Back with an Ad Hock Soup.....

Photos of Emir Pansion Bistro Cafe, Side
Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
I'm back! Right back where I began actually. Back from yet another trip to Side, my favourite Turkish town, with a suitcase full of cheap fags and an empty bank account. Teeth fixed up beautifully by Halile the sainted dentist (again), ate and drank too much (again), went white water rafting for the first time (never again!). I am happy, relaxed, tanned and skint. So very, very skint.

I ate so well in Side but the highlight was definitely Emir's Pansion where we ate the best meze and fabulously fresh fish and lamb followed by perfectly ripe, fresh fruit for about a tenner a head. On two of the occasions we ate Chez Emir he brought us gorgeous soups which I am determined to recreate at home. One was lamb and runner bean, the other lamb and okra, both were soooo rich and simple and good I could have eaten a pan full.

So off to the cut price vegetable section in the supermarket where I found a big bag of mixed carrot, turnip, leek and onion (20p), a bag of chillis (20p) and a bunch of coriander (12p) and fashioned a lovely soup out of them with a bit of cooked ham out of the freezer. Essentially carrot and coriander, but the ham definitely improves it! Nothing at all like Emir's, but that's for another day. A day when runner beans or okra can be found in the reduced section.

Ad Hock soup

1 bag soup mix veg (carrots, leeks, parsips & onions)
1 clove garlic
1 chilli, chopped
2 tsp Marigold stock (or Kuckarek stock, which I think I prefer these days and is very cheap!)
Small bunch of coriander
200g cooked, smoked ham hock

Sweat the veg and garlic in some olive oil at medium high heat for ten minutes, add everything but the coriander plus 4 cups or so of water, bring to boil and simmer for 45 mins, add coriander, liquidise.