9-22 October 2010

Behind the old eighball again – I blame the SIFF (sounds like something much more unpleasant than it was – the Sydney International Food Festival) last Saturday, which I spent rubbing shoulders with the local foodie hoi polloi. Luckily I was in the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean session, and was inspired by such icons as Mary Taylor Simetti, whose book on Sicilian food, Pomp and Sustenance, is utterly fascinating and epitomises a style off anthropological food writing that is sadly not the flavour of the month in these celebrity-obsessed times. In a programme filled with recipes containing ‘ingredients’ such as isomalt and 2 grams of sun-dried cocconut husks, roasted, it was refreshing to hear speakers from countries such as Turkey and Lebanon talk about the pleasures of simple food.

Consequently, without even realising it, my menu planning has had a decidely Middle Eastern flavour over the past week.

Saturday 9/10 – having grazed on an all-day yum cha courtesy of Dai Tin Fung, and eating samples of all manner of delciousness, from Yotam Ottalenghi’s three-grain salad with wild lime to Abla Amad’s perfect rendition of baklava, I basically could only mange a poached egg on toast after the wee ones were fast asleep. Luckily they had been hyped up on goof balls at a kid’s party that afternoon, and I arrived home to my husband and his mate feeding the various kids his specialty, pastizzis (he also makes a fine Cornish pasty, must be the Adelaide in him). That was as exciting as it got in the kitchen that night.

Sunday 10/10 – My dear friend C returned from her travels across the ‘stans via the Fat Duck and dropped by with a deliver of spices all the way from Redfern, not the Silk Road where she had just been, and to regale us with her travel tales. Despite her great dislike of the local Central Asian signature dish plov, starring carrots and rice, I cooked her a meal featuring both ingredients (I realsied as I was peeling the carrots), but with distinctly un-Central Asian ingredients such as lemongrass, five spice and beef. I generally thicken this with a steamed carrot puree, a tip from watching Guillaume Brahimi make boeuf borguignon on SBS which I now apply to many stews and casseroles. Not only does it add a sweet note, but it thickens the sauce in a much more pleasant way than flour (uggh) and is infinitely faster than reducing the sauce over low heat for 30 minutes (hell, I usually only have 30 or so minutes to cook, so I’m not going to spend that amount of time reducing a sauce, especially not after having spent the morning at a kid’s party where my son took his turn at being the freak child at the party on that particular day. I justified it’s fitting the theme, given the French colonial influence on Vietnamese cuisine – it worked for me!)   Eaten with said rice and stir-fried garlicky snowpeas and broccolini, another definitively non Central-Asian touch. Made double the amount to ensure there was lots for Monday night’s dinner, which I was most grateful for the next day.

Monday 11/10 – leftover Beef, Carrot and Paprika Stew with rice and stir-fried broccoli.

Tuesday 12/10 – Stir-fried  ramen with rump steak, bok choy and snow peas. Marinated the beef with shoyu and mushroom oyster sauce the night before, then added a bit of grated ginger to the wok.

Wednesday 13/10 – For a complete change of pace we had chicken schnitzel with hazelnut oil-roasted potato and sweet potato, corn on the cob and an avocado and cos salad. Simple but good.

Thursday 14/10 – Feeling a bit poorly so it was Lebanese-style pumpkin and red lentil soup with pan-fried haloumi, Lebanese bread and hummus.

Friday 15/10 – Bucatini with puttanesca sauce, including some of my favourite olives – the luscious, verdant-green, fleshy Sicilian ones. Gabriel calls them ‘lollies’ and attacks them with as much gusto as the ubiquitous party lolly bag.

Saturday – Now that some shopping has actually been done, here’s where the Middle Eastern influence kicks in. Tonight was Roast chicken with coriander seeds and lemon. Tossed the roast potatoes Lebanese-style, with loads of chopped coriander and lemon juice, then sauteed some sugar snap peas and broccoli with garlic.

Sunday – my lovely galpal, cookbook cover girl and colleague V and her gorgeous family are coming over for lunch tomorrow. Planning to make Turkish-style lamb koftas in a spiced tomato and coriander sauce, to go with a burgul pilaf (with a little of the capsicum paste ajvar stirred in for good measure). Dinner will no doubt be simple – leftover pumpkin soup and bread of some kind.

Monday – If there’s any leftover koftas we’ll have that with couscous. If not, I’ll take refuge from my freezer.

Tuesday – Chicken, chorizo and baby green bean paella, made with the stock currently simmering away on my stove right now and some smoky Rodrigues Brothers chorizo I snafued from Hudson Meats.

Wednesday – picked up some butterflied lamb leg today and plan to get going with a Greg Malouf recipe for a lamb and couscous soup as the starting point for a kind of tagine. Probably more couscous.

Thursday – Zucchini and feta eggah (omelette) with flatbread and lemony broad bean dip.

Friday – Might be time for pesto with cherry tomatoes…

Until next week’s dinner…


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