Yaprak – Hot stuffed vine leaves (Syria)

Yaprak - Hot stuffed vine leaves (Syria)

1 x cup rice (long grain white rice or any other type you prefer)
400g minced lamb/beef/quorn
1 x large jar of grape leaves
1x teaspoon salt
1x teaspoon ground black pepper
1 xtbs ground allspice
1 x tsp ground cumin
3 x cloves garlic – mashed
1 x large onion (finely chopped)
1x can of chopped tomatoes
.5 x cup lemon juice

Start cooking your rice according to packet instructions but cook for only half the time required and drain well.
Whilst the rice is cooking, finely chop the onion and mash the garlic then mix them into your (raw) mince, stirring in the salt, pepper, lemon juice and spices – Set aside. (large onion chunks could tear your leaves when it’s time to roll so do chop finely or blend together with the garlic in a blender !) –
Open your jar of grape leaves, rinse gently and drain (patting dry with a clean teatowel).
Place the leaves flat on a board, ready for stuffing, vein side up.
Once your rice is drained, mix this into the mince.

To stuff the leaves, place about a spoonful of filling at the bottom of each leaf or more if you prefer.
Roll each leaf upwards, turning in the sides carefully until the leaf looks like a short cigar.

Brush a small amount of oil at the bottom of a deep pan or pot or if you prefer, line the bottom with extra vine leaves, to prevent the stuffed ones from sticking to the bottom.

Place each stuffed leaf carefully at the bottom of your pan/pot with the overlap facing the bottom. Pack them in nice and tight and then pour the chopped tomatoes and fill the can with cold water pouring that onto the leaves as well. The wider the pan the better as fitting all of the leaves into one layer will mean that they will cook at the same rate.
Cover the leaves with foil and put a plate ontop of the foil which will serve as a weight to keep the leaves in place.
Bring pot to the boil and then simmer on a low to medium heat for an hour or until the leaves and rice are soft and cooked.
Serve immediately or later , hot or even cold if you prefer.

Muhammara – Red Pepper & Walnut Dip – Syria

Muhammara - Red Pepper & Walnut Dip - Syria

2 x red peppers
0.5 x cup walnuts
1 x Tbs honey
1 x clove garlic
1 x tsp cumin seeds
0.5 x lemon (zest and juice)
2 x Tbs olive oil
1x cup fresh coriander leaves
Salt, pepper and chili flakes (to your taste)
0.5x cup fresh parsley ( chopped, for garnish)

Roast the peppers and then plunge into cold water.
If you prefer to peel your peppers – do it now (we don’t bother).
Chop and deseed the peppers.
Place the peppers, and all the other ingredients (expect the parsley) into a blender and wizz them until you have a smooth dip.
Garnish with parsley and serve with pitta bread

WARNING:  there will be no leftovers !

Bean Salad – Syria

Bean Salad - Syria

1 x can chickpeas
1 x can fava beans
1 x handful of fresh parsley (stalks removed and chopped)
1 x small onion (finely chopped)
1 x large garlic clove (mashed to a smooth paste)
3 x tomatoes (finely chopped)
2 x Tbs olive oil
1 x lemon
1 x tsp cumin seeds
1 x tsp ground sea salt
1 x tsp ground black pepper corns

Rinse and drain the chickpeas and fava beans and place in a large salad bowl.

Chop the tomatoes, onion and parsley and mash the garlic. Place all of these in your bowl and mix them well with the beans.
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan (on a low to medium heat) until aromatic and then place in a mortar and pestle ( or equivalent) .

Add the salt and pepper corns to the cumin and grind lightly then add them to the salad bowl.
Finally grate the rind of the lemon into the bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemon  and add the olive oil.
Finally – mix it all in for a few minutes until all of the ingredients are well combined and serve.

Syria

Everybody had heard of Damascus. It lays claim to being one of the oldest inhabited places in the world with people reported to have been living there for over 6,000 years. And if you hadn’t heard of Syria before, you probably have now – but sadly not because of the delicious food, which we explore in our post today.

Syria in the past was a very busy route for trade coming out of Asia to the west. The trade in Syria in today’s day is local but it’s history and food is ever reflecting of its past. Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq ring Syria and as a result it’s food a melting pot of history and cuisines from Turkey, Persia and the Ottoman Empire.

Mezze heaven! Syrian food is all about Mezze and what comes before and after served with baba ghanoush (delicious aubergine dip), labneh (strained yoghurt) and hummus (chickpea dip). If you are a fan of Levantine food, then you will certainly enjoy the Syrian twist.

Syrian food is synonymous with lemons, garlic, mint and parsley rich in vegetables, beans, nuts and grains and of course spices like cumin. Presentation is everything and each dish is a small work of precision. Main meals are meat heavy although chicken and fish are very popular. Each dish is dependent on fresh vegetables and fruits. Generally served with salad, rice and Syrian bread (pitta).

Our favourite starter or mezze was a sambusak made from semolina dough filled with cheese. Apparently the preparation of this is the measure of how good a cook is.

In the sweet section baklava is a must. It is made with filo pastry, stuffed with crushed pistachio nuts and sweetened with sugar syrup.

Here is also some music to get you in the mood:

What follows below are selected group dishes which we had the opportunity to test:

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Rene’s Adobo

adobo

Adobo
Ingredients
1. 8 Chicken thighs skinless with the bone.
2.Soy sauce
3. White vinegar
4. 1 large onion chopped in large pieces
5. 3 large potatoes chopped in medium sizes cubes.
6. Small handful of dried bay leaves
7. Salt and cracked pepper

Method
1. In a casserole dish, heat some oil and cook onion until half cooked.
2. Put on low heat and add chicken, 1 tall shot glass of soy sauce,1 tall shot glass of vinegar, some salt and pepper and the bay leaves into pot. Mix around with wooden spoon until chicken is marinated with all the the ingredients.
3. Simmer covered on low for 30 mins but check and mix in 20 mins.
4. Simmer for a further 20 mins or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked.
5. Add a bit of vinegar or soy sauce to achieve flavor to your taste.
5. Once cooked serve with white steamed rice and freshly cut cucumbers.

Enjoy ! 🙂

Traditional Filipino MUSIC

The Philippines

Years ago, we had dinner at a friend of ours who dished up an Adobo. It was excellent and something which we had never tried before. A comfort dish.  It turns out  that Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines (but we didn’t have a clue at the time).

Filipino food is synonymous with a melting pot of different cultures. The different cultures which are described to have influenced this cuisine include Spanish, Chinese, and Malay although other cultures are said to have left their mark more recently.

Food is described to be a central part of Filipino culture (as it should be!).

The custom is to ask “Have you eaten?” to greet someone.

Offering food  to any guest that drops in is considered to be polite and a cultural norm – almost like a measure of respect or familiarity.

The Philippines are a large group of islands – about 700 of them. You can imagine how diverse the food must be given the size and variability of the country. In our recipe search we found for example that in some areas of the country pork is one of the more popular meats and that beef is more popular in others. Rice is a common staple but not to every area and whilst hot chillies are reportedly found  everywhere in the Philippines we found that not all recipes include them. Recipes from some areas include a lot of coconut milk but those from other areas describe a dry marinated and barbecued method of cooking.

Fresh seafood recipes are of course widely available and  fish features in many traditional dishes and we found that some cities are even renowned for the extensive variations of their fish recipes. The variety of recipes and ingredients really is astounding.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover recipes which  include snails, frogs and even more intrigued to discover a taster dish called Balut, an aged duck egg which is traditionally eaten with a spicy sauce (unavailable in London…).

Perhaps a good way to distinguish Filipino cuisine is by its bold combination of sweet, sour and salty flavors.

So….armed with all this exciting information, we salivated all the way to a Filipino restaurant in east London where we asked our friendly hostess to help us choose  some traditional dishes to taste. She was delighted to help.

This is the feast that followed:

Chicken Sisig – a heavenly mixture of lime, chilli’s and chicken all served on a sizzling grill. It sizzled the taste buds too. A dish invented out of necessity originally turning pigs heads into a tasty feast apparently. There are annual contests in which Filipino chefs have a cook off to see who has the best recipe…sounds like a must.

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Spinach with garlic and lime. Sounds simple (and is) but what a great idea. A new and interesting twist on boring old spinach.

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A garlic fried rice. Cremated to perfection:

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Adobo baby yeah! More about this star later:

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And last but not least pudding! A sago based feast of carrot cake, custard and sweetened sesame seed crackers. I’m dribbling looking at the picture again!

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A friendly people making wonders out of humble ingredients….try it!

Traditional Filipino MUSIC

Myanmar Music

And to complete your meal…….. some Myanmar Music