I have been trying out more than one recipe book in February but I'll stick to one for this post, saving the other one up for March. I hope this is acceptable.
I chose Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour. I gave this book to Richard for Christmas but it was really also a gift for me. I like Middle Eastern cuisine a lot, the flavours speak to me. I like the combination of sweet and savoury. Having said that, I am not all that keen on dried apricots in warm food. My main issue with Middle Eastern food is the preponderance of lamb. The smell of lamb makes me ill. I can eat it with a pinched nose but only just. Needless to say that the dishes I chose to cook did not contain any lamb!
The first dish I chose was a Moroccan chicken pie called chicken bastilla.
This is not something you want to serve on a Monday night, unless this is your day off or you fancy eating late at night. I spent the better part of the afternoon in the kitchen, preparing this and that. Ideally you'd use leftover roast chicken but we didn't have any and even if we did, it would never be enough. I had to roast some thighs and wait for them to cool down so I could remove skin and bones. There were a great many further ingredients in those little pies. Boiled eggs, pine nuts, dates and onions to name a few only. The actual pies were quite easy to make by layering two sheets of filo pastry crosswise and then folding the corners in. The response was not enthusiastic. The pies were politely eaten, no major complaints or pushing food around the plate but no compliments came forward either. We had a lot of leftovers, which is always telling. Unfortunately, the pies didn't do so well on the second day, the filo pastry is not very good cold and it doesn't reheat well either. I think if I were to make these again, I would use shortcrust pastry. I have visions of little Moroccan chicken pies eaten on a beach in Cornwall, possibly with a glass of chilled white wine.
The second dish was saffron lemon chicken.
For this, chicken pieces were marinated in a mixture of yogurt, onions, lemon juice and saffron. I mixed things up before work and cooked it the same day but I am sure it would be even better marinaded over night. Then the chicken pieces were cooked in the oven and the onion marinade was pan fried. I am not sure why not all could be cooked in the oven together but I followed the instructions because sometimes there is a good reason, even if I can't see it. I served this with rice and broccoli. It wasn't a very visually pleasing dish (see above) but the taste made up for it, I thought it was rather divine and the textures were really pleasing, too. My favourite part was the cooked onions, bursting with flavours. Of course nobody by myself and Richard tried the onions. This dish earned me a 'can you cook this again' comment, which is a sentence rarely heard in this house. I did a little dance (in my head only, to avoid embarrassment).
Apart from this rare success, cooking dinners has been tiresome. Sometimes, I really don't know why I bother trying out new things, or why I bother at all. A successful dinner liked by all is as rare as white rhinos and sometimes I feel like weeping. I am not surprised that so many families don't cook, it is bloody frustrating. I may stockpile tinned pasta hoops and leave them to it.
Rant over. I like Persiana, the recipes are well written and not difficult to cook. The only 'criticism' I have is that the recipes I looked at are maybe not ideal for the time poor chef. There are many other recipes that I would be happy to eat. The vegetable dishes look particularly delicious. Maybe served with tinned spaghetti hoops.