Pastitsio is a layered Greek pasta dish, in many ways similar to it’s rather delicious Italian cousin, lasagne. It works well with either minced beef or lamb, though my family unanimously prefers the beef version. If you’re unable to find the Greek Kefalotyri cheese, feel free to substitute with Parmesan. Hope you enjoy this gently-spiced pasta dish as much as we do! Continue reading →
I must admit to being quite smitten by this particular lamb dish… only quite recently plucked from the pages of Elizabeth David’s fabulous book, ‘French Provincial Cooking’. My copy is a fairly cheap Penguin-published paperback, which I’ve flicked through occasionally over the years, but in fact, have never really made anything substantial from. Happy to say that this was put to rights about a month ago. Continue reading →
Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks are one of the ultimate winter comfort foods, in my opinion. I’ve cooked them a number of ways over the years and enjoyed each and every one of them, but today it was a Middle-Eastern flavour I was craving, so decided to improvise and adapt on a range of recipes in a beloved cookbook of mine – Claudia Roden’s ‘Arabesque’. Continue reading →
Do you have any secret family recipes? Ones that are so intrinsically special that you refuse to share them with anyone?
This wonderful Middle Eastern-style rice dish (or at least something rather similar) was presented to us one lovely evening, by friends who had invited our family to dinner. I was in absolute awe of the spices and flavours that came through with each and every mouthful and was quietly desperate to find out the recipe, to be able to cook it again… and again… in the future. This recipe would be an absolute keeper! Initially I thought the refusal to share said-recipe was a little joke (as you do… when dishes are appreciated by guests with such gusto), but alas our hostess was completely serious and only deigned to pass on the names of one or two extra ingredients that weren’t obvious from just looking at or tasting the dish.
So I’ve spent years adapting, researching and playing around in the kitchen trying to replicate what we tasted that evening… and I think it’s pretty close (though possibly only because the original is now very much a distant memory)!
Sharing favourite recipes and ideas is at the heart of Gather and Graze, so I certainly won’t be keeping this one a secret from you. 😉 Enjoy!
In a large heavy-based saucepan, gently sauté the onion in olive oil until softened (about 10 minutes). Raise the heat a little, add the minced lamb and fry until browned. Now stir in the Ras El Hanout, the dried mint and season well with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two, to coat the grains. Tip in the pine nuts, barberries, saffron threads (along with the water the saffron was soaking in), pomegranate molasses and chicken stock. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, before covering the pot with a lid. Allow to simmer away gently for about 15 – 20 minutes, until the liquid has all been absorbed and the rice is tender (adding a little more stock or hot water if necessary).
When ready to serve, scatter the top with chopped pistachios and fresh mint. See below for a few ideas on accompaniments to serve alongside the pilaf.
Notes on Cooking:
Suggested accompaniments for the Lamb Pilaf: Thinly sliced tomatoes and red onion, sprinkled with sumac on top. Chunks of cucumber, tossed with yoghurt, crushed garlic, lemon juice and S&P. Lightly dressed salad of rocket leaves.
Ras El Hanout is a classic North African mixed spice, usually containing between 10 – 30 different spices. It’s name means ‘Head of the Shop’ and is usually the very best spice mix to be found in the Souk. Some of the main spices it contains are paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander seed, cardamom seed, turmeric, fennel seed, black peppercorns and allspice.
Barberries are a prized Iranian ingredient – known as zereshk in Persian. They add a wonderful tart flavour to meat dishes, salads and sauces and look like little jewels dotted throughout the dish. I found dried barberries here in Australia (through The Essential Ingredient and also noticed that Herbies sells them in small packs). Advice online is to rehydrate them in cold water for approx 10 mins before using, though must say that I didn’t notice much of a change in their texture until they finally went into the hot stock. If you are unable to find barberries, feel free to use currants or sultanas instead.
Pomegranate molasses is a tangy syrup made up of boiled pomegranate juice and can be found in some supermarkets or in specialist Middle-Eastern grocery shops. It adds a beautiful sweet/sour taste when used fairly sparingly, a little like balsamic vinegar in Italian cuisine.
A completely unexpected delight which has stemmed from creating this little blog has been opening up my ‘WordPress Reader’ each morning to discover what my newly-found blogging friends from around the world have been creating in their own kitchens. Their musings, recipes and photos are at once delicious and provide more inspiration and encouragement than they can possibly imagine. For this, I thank you all dearly! You so frequently bring a smile to my face, illuminate light bulbs in my mind and bring calm to my heart in the knowledge that I’m not alone in this passion for all things food related. It’s like discovering a family out there, that I never new I had! Continue reading →