Category Archives: Middle Eastern

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and Blood Orange à la Ottolenghi/Tamimi

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar and Blood Orange à la Ottolenghi/Tamini

The partnership between Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is one that I find truly inspirational. They both seem to have an intuition for creating beautifully balanced food, that delivers in not only flavour and texture, but visually as well. The fact that their friendship is stronger than politics (one being of Palestinian background and the other Israeli) is also something to be celebrated and admired. Continue reading

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Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

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’.

‘Fatteh’ / ‘Fatta’ is a general name for a range of dishes that have a layer of toasted flat-bread soaked in stock/sauce at the bottom and a layer of yoghurt on the top. Claudia gives a couple of versions in her book – one with poached chicken and another with stuffed eggplants. All well and good, but surely no match for melt-in-the-mouth lamb shanks!

This is by no means a mid-week, speedily-cooked dinner. It requires a long lazy weekend afternoon of hanging out in the kitchen… though there’s plenty of time once the shanks are on cooking, to read the paper or play boardgames with the kids.

I can’t stress enough how delightful this dish was to sit down to on a winter’s night.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion (Thickly Sliced)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (Chopped)
  • 4-6 Free-Range Lamb Shanks
  • 2 x 400g Tins Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses
  • 250g/1 Cup Natural Yoghurt
  • 2 Teaspoon(s) Crushed Dried Mint
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Crushed)
  • 3 Thin Lebanese/Pitta Breads
  • 1 x 400g Tin Chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • Handful of Fresh Mint (Chopped)
  • 40g/4 Tablespoons Pine Nuts

In a large Dutch Oven (or a large deep saucepan with lid), cook the onion over medium heat in the olive oil (with a little salt) until softened. Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two more. Place the lamb shanks into the pot and brown slightly on all sides, before adding the tomatoes, spices, salt and pepper, pomegranate molasses and enough boiling water to just cover the shanks. Cover and simmer for approximately 2 – 2½ hours, until the lamb is practically falling off the bone. Take the lamb shanks from the pan and remove all meat from the bones.

While the lamb is braising, mix together the yoghurt, crushed garlic and dried mint with a pinch of salt and set it aside for later. It is best if this is at room temperature when you are ready to serve.

Toast the lebanese/pitta breads in the oven, or under the grill until crisp and light brown.

In a large serving dish, break up the toasted bread into pieces and scatter them across the bottom of the dish.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

Spread the chickpeas over the top of the bread and then layer the shredded lamb over the top of this.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

Scoop a number of ladlefuls of the tomato/onion sauce that the lamb was cooking in to fully coat all of the ingredients beneath.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

Cover the dish with foil and place into a pre-heated 170°C oven for about 20 minutes until heated through.

While the dish is in the oven, toast the pine nuts carefully in a small frypan until golden. Set aside for the moment.

When you are ready to serve, pour the yoghurt over the top of the dish and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and fresh mint. Serve with plain basmati rice.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

* Recipe from Claudia Roden’s ‘Arabesque’ Cookbook

Zaatar and Haloumi Man’oushe

Zaatar Haloumi Man'oushe | Gather and Graze

Yeast and Herbs! They’ve been playing on my mind a lot lately. You see, I needed to make a dish (or drink) that combined both yeast and herbs. Why? Because Angie from ‘The Novice Gardener’ (along with her co-host Catherine, from the exquisite ‘Catherine Cuisine’) suggested it… they were the ones who put down the challenge. Fiesta Friday has recently evolved to include a monthly challenge for those who are up for it… and this month (for Fiesta Friday Challenge #1), we’ve been asked to come up with something interesting (as well as of course delicious), combining these two sensational ingredients.

My initial thought was to create a Herbed Brioche, dotted with lemon myrtle (a native Australian herb) and small chunks of feta cheese. However after struggling to find brioche moulds in the local kitchen shops… and is a brioche really a brioche if not presented with a fluted base?, I decided to go with the following instead… and I’m so thrilled that I did, as this recipe for Lebanese flatbread I will use over and over again in the future. It is a delicious accompaniment to Middle-Eastern dishes that have juices or sauce that require mopping up; as well as being a perfect breakfast or lunch bread able to support fillings such as spiced lamb or chicken, or the scrumptious vegetarian haloumi and herb option given below. The homemade zaatar (recipe to be found in the notes section below) also contains both fresh and dried herbs, which make this dish incredibly moreish.

Wishing you all a happy and relaxing weekend!

Fiesta Friday Challenge | Gather and Graze

Zaatar and Haloumi Man'oushe | From 'Feast Magazine'

  • 1½ Teaspoons Dried Yeast
  • 250ml/1 Cup Lukewarm Water
  • 450g/3 Cups Plain Flour (Sifted)
  • 2 Teaspoons Caster Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (plus extra for brushing)
  • 3 Tablespoons Zaatar (see notes below)
  • 500g Haloumi (Sliced)
  • 2 Tomatoes (Sliced)
  • 1 Cup Mint Leaves
  • 3 Teaspoons Dried Chilli Flakes (Optional)

To make the flatbreads:

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in a medium bowl. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until the mixture bubbles.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture and olive oil. I find at this stage a bread and butter knife can be useful for cutting through to combine the dry and wet ingredients well. When a dough has formed, knead for about 6 minutes on a clean surface until smooth and soft. Place the ball of dough back into the bowl, cover and allow to rise for about 2 hours in a warm, draught-free spot.

Zaatar Haloumi Man'oushe | Gather and Graze

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down and separate into 6 even pieces. Roll into smooth balls and allow to rest again on a lightly-floured baking tray covered with a clean tea-towel for about 1 hour, until slightly risen.

When ready to cook, roll out each ball of dough to a thickness of about 5mm.

Zaatar Haloumi Man'oushe

Place a frying pan over medium-high heat and brush each flatbread one at a time with a little olive oil, before placing in the pan (oil side down). Cook for about 2 minutes, before brushing the tops with a little more olive oil and flipping to cook the other side. Sprinkle the top with some zaatar and remove to a warm place while you cook the remaining flatbreads.

Homemade Zaatar | Gather and Graze

Homemade Zaatar

When all of the breads are cooked, place a little more olive oil in the pan and fry the haloumi slices on both sides until golden brown.

Arrange the haloumi, along with the sliced tomato, mint and chilli flakes (if using) on the bread. Fold in half to serve and eat while still lovely and warm.

Zaatar Haloumi Man'oushe | Gather and Graze

Cooking Notes

To make your own Zaatar: combine the following ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Sumac
  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Fresh Oregano
  • ½ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

(Persianised) Apple Crumble with a Rosewater Cream

Persian Apple Crumble with Rosewater Cream| Gather and Graze

My friend Azita, from the most beautiful blog Fig and Quince, is travelling overseas over the next couple of months… to her beloved homeland of Iran that she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Her excitement and anticipation for this journey is well and truly infectious!

Not long ago, she very sweetly approached a number of her blogging friends to help out with providing a ‘guest post’, so that Fig and Quince may continue to run smoothly during her time away. I was completely humbled (and surprised… and excited…) that Azita had invited me to do this… Gather and Graze is still less than a year old and most of the time I still feel like the new kid on the block… winging it as best I can.

The one request she had, was that my dish, if at all possible, should have a Persian-slant to it. So, this is for you dear Azita… beautiful, new season Australian apples (from a local orchard no less) have been infused and enhanced with the exotic delights of cardamom, pistachio, barberries and rosewater to create a Persianised Crumble that (may not rival the foodie delights of Tehran and surrounds, but…) will at least touch upon some of the flavours that make Persian cuisine so delicious and unique.

Safe and wonderful travels my friend… You will be in my thoughts often.

(Persianised) Apple Crumble with a Rosewater Cream | Gather and Graze

  • 50g Roasted Unsalted Pistachios (chopped fairly finely)
  • 150g/1 Cup Plain Flour
  • 75g/ 1/3 Cup Raw (or Brown) Sugar
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 90g Chilled Unsalted Butter (separated into 75g and 15g)
  • 4-5 Apples (peeled, cored and chopped into chunks)
  • 10g/3 Tablespoons Dried Barberries
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
  • 250ml/1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1½ Teaspoons Rosewater Essence
  • 1 Tablespoon Icing (Powdered) Sugar (sifted)

Persian Apple Crumble with Rosewater Cream | Gather and Graze

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

Start by making the crumble topping… Place the pistachios, flour, raw sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the 75g portion of butter (that has been diced into small cubes) and rub into the flour mixture using fingertips.

Persian Apple Crumble with Rosewater Cream | Gather and Graze

For the apples… place a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the 15g portion of butter. Once it has melted, add the apples, barberries, brown sugar and cardamom and allow to cook for 4 to 5 minutes (just enough time for the apples to soften slightly and for the barberries to rehydrate a little).

Divide the apple mixture evenly into either individual baking dishes/ramekins or one larger-sized baking dish).

Persian Apple Crumble with Rosewater Cream | Gather and Graze

Spread the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the apple. Place dish(es) into the oven and bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes until golden on top.

Persian Apple Crumble with Rosewater Cream | Gather and Graze

Allow to cool a little, before serving warm with rosewater cream (simply whip together the cream, rosewater essence and icing sugar until you have medium/stiff peaks) and/or ice-cream.

Persian Apple Crumble with Rosewater Cream | Gather and Graze

A Little Tip…

Another delicious alternative is to mix together some vanilla ice-cream with rosewater essence (about 1 teaspoon rosewater to 200g of ice-cream). If the ice-cream softens too much during the mixing, place it back into the freezer for half an hour or so, to harden a little. This was absolutely perfect with the apple crumble – I can well and truly recommend it!

Secret Aromatic Lamb Pilaf

Aromatic Lamb Pilaf, Gather and Graze

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!

Aromatic Lamb Pilaf

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 small Onion (finely chopped)
  • 700g Minced Lamb
  • 1 Tablespoon Ras El Hanout *
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Mint
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper
  • 450g/2 Cups Basmati Rice (rinsed well under cold water)
  • 40g/4 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
  • 40g/½ Cup Dried Barberries * (rehydrated in cold water for 10 mins and drained)
  • Pinch of Saffron Threads (soaked in 1 Tbsp hot water for 10 mins)
  • 2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses *
  • 1 Litre/4 Cups (Heated) Free-Range Chicken Stock
  • Handful of Fresh Mint Leaves (Sliced finely)
  • 35g/4 Tablespoons Roasted Unsalted Pistachio Nuts (Chopped)

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.

Aromatic Lamb Pilaf, Gather and Graze

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.