The day I made this I’d subsisted on burnt toast, cheese and onion crisps and peanut M&Ms. So, you can imagine how hungry and pleased I was to eat this hearty and delicious meal at the end of the day. I actually meant that sincerely even though it doesn’t sound sincere. I love the food of the Middle East. I meant that too.
I made this in particular because I’d been cooking mostly vegetarian meals all week. I like to cook a balance of meaty and vege meals but this week had been particularly veg heavy. I suppose there could be worse things like the week we ate fried food every day. The book with the meatball recipe is from a small bookshop in the village of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland. It’s called ‘Tackle and Books’ (the shop that is, not the cook book) and it’s definitely worth a browse if you’re in that part of the world. When we go away I like to put a bit of money towards the local shops. Preferably a book. And usually (actually always) a cook book. I also bought a bag on the same trip which I was going to use as a beach bag. Unfortunately, I’ve not been on any beach holidays since I got it (ever in fact) so I’ve not used it. It’s sat in the bottom of my wardrobe unable to fulfil its destiny due to my inability to lie prone for hours in the sun.
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (Dawood Pasha)
(From New Flavours of the Lebanese Table by Nada Salah)
225g (8 oz) lean beef or lamb mince
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of allspice
½ tsp salt
For the sauce:
3 onions thinly sliced
3 tbsp double concentrated tomato puree
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
45g (1.5 oz) pine nuts
1 tsp plain flour
1 tbsp lemon juice
Combine the mince, cinnamon, pepper, allspice and salt in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Form mini meatballs 2 cm (3/4 in) in diameter. Arrange in a single layer on a baking tray or a suitable dish and grill until browned. Remove meatballs from the dish to prevent them sticking.
Put the onions in a pan with 750 ml (1.25 pints) water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a medium heat for 10 mins. Add tomato puree, salt, cinnamon, allspice, pine nuts, flour and meatballs (mix the flour with some sauce liquid before adding to the pan otherwise you’ll be trying to squash lumps of flour during cooking). Stir and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 – 30 mins. Stir in the lemon juice (do not boil) and turn the heat off. Leave for a few minutes for the flavours to blend. I love it when recipes say things like that.
(From Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour)
250g maftoul (‘giant’ couscous)
olive oil for drizzling
finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
400g can chickpeas, drained
200g ready-to-eat apricots, thinly sliced
100g dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
1 black garlic bulb, cloves thinly sliced (A what? I used regular garlic)
50g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
Sea salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper
Boil the maftoul in plenty of boiling water according to packet instructions. If like me you have a packet with no instructions boil for 15 – 20 mins. You want the maftoul to be cooked al dente and not mushy. Drain, rinse in cold water and leave to stand to drain excess water.
Put the maftoul in a large bowl and drizzle with the oil. Add the orange and lemon zest and juices, salt and pepper and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients and fold them into the maftoul. Cover and leave to rest for 1 hour in the fridge to allow the flavours to infuse. I love it when recipes say things like this too. Allow to come to room temperature ½ hr before serving.