When my mum was in Israel, she asked me what I wanted as a souvenir.I told her to buy me a spice. And being the culinary world handicap that she is, she bought a small jar of these valuable stigmas home.
I had forgotten to mention that it was the world’s most expensive spice.
She converted the price from USD and beat me with the imaginary handbag that she could’ve bought with the money.Middle Eastern cooking has strong, bold flavours that will slap your taste buds (and probably leave you with garlic/onion breath). There is something communal about the tearing apart of flatbread and everyone just taking a piece of this and a smear of that; all eaten amidst the swirl of shisha smoke that makes this one of my favourite cuisines to date.
Though there may be many components to this meal, the extra effort is really worth the time. The perfect bite is a piece of kebab enveloped in the flatbread, smeared with creamy hummus and balanced off with the cool yoghurt dip.
Hey, wanna buy me a shisha bong?
500g minced lamb
1 large onion, grated (include the juice)
4 cloves of garlic, grated
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
Medium sized bunch of mint and parsley, roughly chopped
Zest of a medium sized lemon
Juice of half a medium sized lemon
A pinch of saffron (Optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
More parsley and mint for garnish
Oil for frying
1. If using saffron, steep the fronds in 1tbsp of hot water, set aside until needed.
2. Grate the onion using a grater. Reserve the juice.
3. Mix all the ingredients to form a paste, then add the saffron including the water of which it’s steeping in.
4. Form the patties or kebabs into eight or ten (depending on how large they are) patties. Do not make them too long or thick – they’ll take much longer to cook and is very difficult to flip.
5. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
6. In a shallow pan, fry the kebabs until they develop a golden crust and is cooked all the way through.
7. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and roughly chopped parsley and mint.
Makes about 2 cups
1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp of tahini or sesame paste
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 tsp of smoke paprika
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Parsley and mint, roughly chopped
1. In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth.
2. Serve in a shallow dish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle of paprika and chopped parsley.
3. Hummus can be stored in airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator.
The Mint Yoghurt Dip
Makes one cup
1 cup natural yoghurt
1 cup peeled and diced cucumber
1/4 cup of finely chopped mint and parsley
1 medium lemon, zest and juice
1 small garlic, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine all the ingredients and chill before use.
We made this a couple of weeks back and still talked about how colourful and flavourful the meal was. We had our kebabs with Lebanese bread, but rice would be perfect or even soft, warm pita bread.
It is amazing how food can transport one beyond the confines of brick walls and mortar. I decide to quit my corporate job to pursue this cooking shenanigans seriously. When I tell people this, it is usually met with concerned feedback about how I would be stuck at home all day staring at the oscillating fan and waste my youth away.
But I suppose not everyone knows the joy of being able to create something, how rewarding it is to put food before your loved ones and see the joy on their faces.
Honestly, I don’t know where
sekpaumei? would go, if it will make me rich or famous; but I do know that when I knead dough for pan mee or bake life changing Portuguese egg tarts, it makes me infinitely happier than a business suit and the corporate title.
Wish me luck.