Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas #3 (real)

It was finally time for Christmas proper. Off I trotted to the shops full of ideas about confit turkey legs and with the full intention of sticking to tradition. But then I considered how it's always an effort for my parents to eat food lacking in spice and how much more they'd enjoy lamb to turkey. And then I considered how in my four turkey Christmas dinners (one that I cooked, one from a nice gastropub, one microwaved in a Wetherspoons, one 'Incredibly Good Looking' cooked) and how every time, I was thoroughly bored by the turkey. It was succulent and well cooked both at the gastropub and by my dazzling friend but I was still bored. Then I considered a conversation I had with my Lebanon-loving friend where she said she might do Lebanese Christmas food for dinner this year. Then I googled Lebanese Christmas and how this lady discussed doing a roast with stuffing but with highly seasoned rice and perhaps not even turkey. With all of these thoughts swirling around my mind and a slight craving for pomegranate, I decided to Middle Eastern-ise the Christmas roast. I thought it'd be fun to take the components of traditional Christmas and jazz them up a bit. I thought I'd focus in particular on dried fruits as they're a staple of Christmas but also a frequently occurring ingredient in Middle Eastern savoury. It would also add a slightly Iftar-ish vibe to the affair. (Iftar is the fast-breaking meal during Ramadan and that season/Eid is the closest I've seen Bangladesh having to a celebration.) I settled upon lamb for the meat with a honey glaze, 'stuffing' influenced by a Nigel Slater recipe involving chickpeas which initially horrified me, a carrot and parsnip salad and a host of other trimmings which were spin-offs of tradition.
Honey and herb roasted lamb shoulder (instead of turkey)
1kg lamb shoulder
Fresh thyme
Fresh mint
Fresh parsley
Fresh coriander
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 onions, thickly sliced
2 tbsp harissa
2 tbsp honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Enough water to cover 2/3 of the lamb

Place the sliced garlic and onion at the bottom of a casserole.
Chop a handful of thyme and mint. Scatter half of the herbs on top of the onions and garlic.
Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper.
Place the lamb in the casserole on top of the onions.
Pour over the water.
Scatter the remainder of the thyme and mint on top.
Cook, covered, for about 3 hours at 150.
Chop a handful of parsley and coriander.
Combine the parsley and coriander with the harissa, honey and lemon juice.
Spread the honey mixture over the lamb and return to the oven for 30 minutes at 190.
Remove the lamb from the casserole and leave to rest.
Heat the juices and onions in the casserole on the stove over a low heat.
Add 2 bay leaves, 2 cardamom pods and 3 cloves and simmer until it turns into a thick, onion-y gravy.
Chermoula marinade (instead of salmon)
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin
A few strands of saffron
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp paprika
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
Large handful coriander
Juice of half a lemon

Simply blend all the ingredients together in a food processer with 1.5 tsp salt. 
I marinaded a sea bream in this and then baked it in the oven at 200 for 20 minutes.

Iranian chickpeas (instead of stuffing)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, chopped

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric

1 stick cinnamon
2 cardamom pods

1 aubergine

1 green pepper, diced finely
60 ml orange juice

1 can cooked chickpeas
100g(ish) dates, chopped
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

135g roasted, salted cashews

1 tbsp lemon juice
Fresh coriander, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh mint, chopped
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Chop the aubergine into bitesized pieces. 
Season with salt and drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven at 220 for about half an hour until lovely and soft.

Fry the onion for about 5 minutes in olive oil until beginning to brown.
Add the garlic and chilli.

After a couple of minutes, add the spices and fry for another minute.

Add the green pepper and orange juice and cook until the pepper is softened.
Mix the chickpeas, dates and tomatoes in a bowl then add to the onion mix. 
Season with salt.
Add the roasted aubergine to the onion mix.
Add the cashews to the onion mix.
Season with lots of black pepper and lemon juice then stir in the fresh herbs.
Tabbouleh (instead of... stuffing/roast potatoes/generic trimmings I guess)
Mint, finely chopped
Parsley, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
100g bulgar wheat
Approx 200ml boiling water
Salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice

Place the bulgar wheat in a bowl and pour over the boiling water and a touch of salt.
Cover and leave for 20 - 30 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the bulgar wheat is cooked.
Once cooked, mix in the tomatoes, parsley, mint, red pepper and onion.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon.
Drizzle with a little olive oil (extra virgin if you're not a student).

Moroccan Carrot Salad (instead of carrots and parsnips)
4 carrots and 2 parsnips cut into sticks
Handful of coriander
2 green chillies, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves
A handful mixed dried fruit, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil on a medium heat. Add the cloves of garlic, whole. Cook the carrots with the whole garlic cloves until almost tender (so they still have a bit of crunch to them)
Finely chop the chilli, mixed dried fruit and coriander. 
When the vegetables are done, toss with coriander-fruit-chilli mixture and drizzle with the oil it was cooked in. Squeeze lemon juice over it.

Zaalouk (instead of... cranberry sauce?)
1 aubergine
1 tin plum tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chilli powder 
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt (to taste)
A handful of parsley finely chopped
A handful of coriander finely chopped

Chop the aubergine into bitesize piees.
Put the aubergine, tomatoes, cumin, chilli powder, cayenne, salt, and half of the chopped herbs in a big heavy bottomed saucepan. 
Low heat, 45 minutes, occasional stirring (less occasional towards the end of the time, it will start to stick). The aubergine will go all mushy and mmm.

Turmeric savoy cabbage (instead of brussel sprouts)
1 savoy cabbage, shredded
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 green chillies, left whole and slit down the middle
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp turmeric
A little water

In a large wok/frying pan, fry the onion on a long, slow heat until soft. 
Add the garlic and turmeric and stir. 
Add the cabbage and cover with the spice paste.
Add the fennel seeds, salt and water.
Fry until the cabbage is cooked.

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