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Archive for February, 2014

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Dawoud Pash are small meatballs with a pine nut in the centre cooked in a tomato sauce with the addition of cumin which gives this dish a middle eastern flavour.  Named after Dawoud Pasha, ruler of Iraq during the Ottoman empire who apparently, loved to eat them.  This is an Iraqi recipe that I have taken from Lamees Ibrahim’s book.   I had been to Books for Cooks just before Christmas to look for any new Greek cookery books and The Iraqi cookbook caught my eye as I was leaving.   It was sitting strategically on the table by the door, the beautiful food photography on the cover enticed me to pick up the book and have a look through.  As I can no longer justify buying any more books I did say with some conviction that this was a book I would love to receive as a Christmas present.  I might have gone on to repeat myself somewhat later on.  I have learnt pester power works!

The addition of the cumin to the sauce is what makes this dish middle eastern.  Although a delicate dish, there is a curry element to the flavour but without any of the heat.  The flavour of the lamb is still there and every now and then you find yourself biting into a pine nut which is quite satisfying, a bit like winning at the lucky dip or finding the coin in the Christmas pudding.  Even though I had carefully placed a pine nut in each ball I did notice when cooking a few of them escaped.

The Iraqi Cookbook has been traveling around with me since Christmas allowing me to dip into it and muse at which recipe I will try first.   As with a lot of things in life I didn’t plan on making Dawoud Pasha.  It was Sunday morning and as I looked into the fridge all that was there as any real basis for a meal was one pound of lamb mince.   The usual thoughts of Keftedes, or Italian meatballs crossed my mind but I desired something different, something new.  Then I remembered a recipe I had glanced at in The Iraqi Cookbook –  Dawoud Pasha.  I had all the ingredients in the cupboard and the recipe seemed straight forward and easy to follow.

The first unusual thing about making these meatballs is that an egg isn’t used to bind the mixture just a little water.  The second being that flour was kneaded into the meat, usually I dust the meatballs in the flour not mix it in.  The one thing I did learn was that by kneading the meat with a little water, it begins to change texture, it becomes more fluid and manageable.  There are no instructions about the adding of the water except to add as and when needed.  I added a large tablespoon of warm water instead of cold because I felt cold would tighten up any fat in the meat and would not help in the binding.

I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes so instead used a tin and strengthened the taste with a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.

This is a very easy recipe to make and follow and I enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table making the little meatballs the size of walnuts, remembering to place a little pine nut in the centre.   Like a squirrel burying its nuts for winter!

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Dawoud Pasha

Makes 23 meatballs

Ingredients

500g/1lb lamb mince meat

1 clove garlic crushed

2 tbs plain flour

1 onion chopped

1 tablespoon oil

1 tin of tomatoes

2 tbs tomato paste

water

pine nuts

salt and pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

Method

In a frying pan over a low heat dry roast the pine nuts until light brown in colour.  As the pan gets hot take it off the heat and tip the pan, rolling the pine nuts back and forth allows them to still colour just from the heat of the pan. Place on a plate to cool.

In a bowl mix the lamb mince with the crushed garlic and the 2 tbs of flour.  Season.  Using your hands start to knead the meat adding a little warm water, a large tablespoon at a time.  The meat will become more pliable.

To make the meatballs take an amount the size of a walnut and roll in your hands to create a ball.  With your thumb push down and add a single pine nut.  Roll again into a ball and set aside onto a plate.  Continue until all the meat is used up.

Place some oil in a pan and fry the meatballs in small batches until all are browned. Place on some kitchen paper when cooked.

In a saucepan add a little oil and fry the chopped onions until softened.  Add the tin of tomatoes filling the tin with water and adding this too, tomato paste and cumin.  Season and bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  As the tinned tomatoes do not break down as easily as fresh I used a hand held blender to break them up.  Add the meatballs and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Serve with simple white rice.

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Perfect yogurt produced using the EasiYo

Like a lot of things in life once you have made your own yogurt there is no going back.  Unlike most shop bought yogurt, home made is far superior in texture and more importantly taste.  It has a fresh tangy flavour that is not overpowering on the palate and with no after taste.

For years I have shunned the flavoured yogurts.  I don’t like the taste nor in some cases their alarming colour.  When I do come across a natural live yogurt the price has me moving on.  I cannot justify in my head the cost that some of these little glass pots demand.  I am certain that the pretty terracotta or glass packaging plays a large part in the pricing.

Making yogurt has been around for centuries and made with very little equipment. For many it was second nature to having a rolling stock of yogurt that is used for drinks, in cooking and eating.  Yogurt can be made from not just cows, goats, sheep’s milk but the milk of buffalo, camel or even horse.  Nay I kid you not!

Many moons ago an electric yogurt maker with its eight little pots had been passed onto me.  At the time I couldn’t believe my luck, why would anyone not want it?!  I soon found out.  I hated the idea of having to find a space in my tiny kitchen for it.  Like a spoilt child it demanded to be put near a plug because it had a short lead and insisted that it was not to be disturbed for a whole 8-10 hours.  This thing would take up to a third of my working counter.    I also detested washing out those eight little plastic pots with their equally annoying lids, that time hadn’t been kind to.  The plastic had become rigid so getting them to fit on properly was a struggle, ending most times with a milky mess across the counter.  It wasn’t long before we parted ways and the yogurt machine was passed along to another grateful person unaware of it’s drawbacks.

So when I returned to making yogurt I had strong views about what I wanted.  No cables or plugs.  It had to have the benefit of being able to be left anywhere to do it’s stuff, it had to be easy to clean and, finally, have no little pots, just one big pot.  I hunted around – nothing suited. Then out of the blue I saw an offer for an EasiYo yogurt maker.  It ticked all  the boxes and it was half price.  I have to admit anything half price has me sitting up and paying attention.  It was a done deal. I was reeled in.

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Basic EasiYo Yogurt kit. The red baffle sits inside the thermos and acts as a stand for the yogurt pot to sit on.

I opened the box with high hopes, I read the instructions – they were based on using EasiYo powders and flavourings. Hmmm,  this did not appeal, and it wasn’t what I thought I had bought.   I went ahead anyway.  I used live yogurt and fresh milk, nothing else.  I followed the instructions of putting the yogurt into the canister  which was then placed into a giant thermos whereby  boiling water was poured in.  The lid screwed on and then left.  Next morning I excitedly opened the lid to discover – a liquid mess which was promptly poured down the plug hole.  Back to the drawing board.

With a little thought and a lot of research I realised that to make yogurt in the EasiYo all I needed to do was to make sure the water in the thermos was the same temperature as the yogurt in the pot.

My second attempt worked not just satisfactory but gloriously!  As I unscrewed the lid the yogurt inside was set to perfection.  I placed it in the fridge and we ate the lot at lunch time, marveling at our genius!

The Yogurt Club rules.

The one golden rule is once the yogurt  has been left to form in the EasiYo container  LEAVE IT ALONE FOR EIGHT HOURS – do not move it, open it or vibrate it, or unscrew it.  This is VERY important.

Owning a thermometer is not vital but very very useful.  I have a cheap electronic one which I find very easy and invaluable to use.

When you make your first batch make sure the starter yogurt is a live one.  After that you can save two tablespoons from each batch to start off the next.  I use St Helen’s Farm yogurt’s.

After eight hours, open the lid, remove the pot and place into the fridge for the yogurt to set further.  Chilling it will firm and thicken it further.  Three hours minimum.

I have experimented with semi skimmed milk, full fat and Jersey.  The choice is yours.  Each will produce a slightly different thickness and taste.  All make beautiful yogurt.

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To make Greek yogurt the simple method is after it has come out of the EasiYo empty it into a sieve lined with muslin and leave in the fridge for two to three hours.  You will be surprised about how much whey will be released.  The longer you leave it the thicker the yogurt but be careful not to leave it too long or it will turn cheese like. Greek yogurt is made usually from either sheep and goats milk and is then strained to create the beautiful thick creamy texture.

Yogurt with EasiYo System.

Ingredients

1 litre of milk

2 generous tablespoons of live yogurt

Method

Heat milk in a pan or the microwave until it reaches 180F/82C.

Allow to cool to 116F/46C

When the milk has cooled to 116F/46C mix a little of it with the live yogurt then slowly add the rest.

Place into the pot.

Fill the EasiYo Thermos just above the line of the red baffle with warm water to the temperature of 116F/46C and place the pot inside.

Screw lid and leave alone for 8-10 hours.

Unscrew and remove the pot and place in the fridge.  After 3 hours it is ready to eat.

The yogurt will keep in the fridge for 4 days.

I love this EasiYo method the only drawback is that I wish the pot inside was made of glass instead of plastic.  Then this system would be perfect.

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Lahanodolmades is a Greek dish of stuffed cabbage leaves filled with meat and rice and served with an avgolemono sauce.   The meat and rice stuffing is flavoured with oregano and mint.  The avgolemono sauce adds a lemony kick and takes away any thought that cabbage is a fundamental part of this recipe.

This may not be the most attractive dish but what it lacks in appearance it makes up in flavour and has to be the ultimate in comfort food.  My mother only made this for my brothers and me, never for anyone else.  I don’t think she ever thought it was showy enough.  Perhaps that is why she always accompanied it with chips!  I have eaten it many times when I have cooked it myself without the chips but for me the chips are the icing on the cake.  My ritual is to eat the Lahanodolmades and then use the chips to mop up the avgolemono sauce.  Heaven. Well, for me that is.

Many Greek recipes call for Arborio rice, in this recipe it has been replaced by long grain as per my mother’s recipe.  No doubt she used this when she moved to England because she would have found it difficult if not impossible to find Arborio and like a lot of her Greek recipes she had to improvise.  Even though as the years passed and Arborio has become available my mother stuck with her long grain improvisation.

It took me a long time to make Lahanodolmades for myself, I just didn’t have a need.  When I was at home I would watch my mother on numerous occasions make this whilst sat on the kitchen chair chatting about nothing,  never thinking to note anything down.   When I left home I was busy trying all the things I didn’t get to eat at home to worry about any recipes.  It wasn’t until quite a few years later that I began to hanker after my childhood food.  I think my mother knew that she had a slight power over us.  If we visited her she would make our favourite foods.  It was a way of luring us in.

When we did visit it turned into a game, what dish my mother served up indicated who was the favourite.  If we planned a visit to my mother’s she would always ask what we would like her to cook for us.  My reply was either Lahanodolmades or Paella.  When I sat down to eat it usually wasn’t either.  There would always be a long list of rotating excuses why not, usually because they were a lot of work.  This all stopped when I realised what went on when my elder brother visited, he too requested my mother’s Lahanodolmades and that’s exactly what he got.  I can remember turning up unexpectedly one evening to find him happily eating a huge plate of them with the accompanying chips.  When I exclaimed my outrage my brother sat and laughed and said in a very smug way that if I wanted to eat them in future I should check when he was visiting!

This recipe sounds complicated but it isn’t and neither does it have a long list of ingredients.  The ratio of rice to mince is up to you. As with a lot of recipes the meat can be padded out with more rice.   I use oregano and mint but these can be replaced with parsley and dill, it’s just a matter of what you have in the cupboard or garden at the time.  Another joy of this recipe is that it can be made the day before and reheated gently so as not to break the Lahanodolmades.  The avgolemono sauce does though need to be made fresh just before serving and cannot be reheated.

Lahanodolmades

Ingredients

1  whole white cabbage

1 lb/500g lamb mince  (beef, pork, veal or a combination is fine)

1 small onion grated

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small egg lightly beaten

2 oz/60g long gain rice (washed)

2 tbs oregano dried

1 tbs mint dried

Salt and pepper

Vegetable stock

Avgolemono sauce

3 egg yolks

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tbs cornflour

Stock from the cooked Lahanodolmades

Method

1

Take the whole white cabbage turn it over and cut out the heart.

Place a large fork or as you can see I have used a serving fork into the middle of the cabbage.

Put a large pan of salted water onto boil.  The pan needs to be big enough to incorporate the whole cabbage.

Place the cabbage into the water when boiling and leave it in for a few minutes.  Remove.  Gently pull away the outer leaves as they loosen.  Place the whole cabbage back into the pan and repeat until all the leaves are removed.

Set aside the leaves until they are cool enough to handle.

2

Any of the small leaves or pieces of cabbage not used can be placed in the bottom of the pan.  This will act as a vegetable trivet and will stop the Lahanodolmades from burning or catching whilst cooking.

In a pan put the tablespoon of oil and heat gently.  Add the onions and cook until transparent.  Remove and cool.

Put into a bowl the mince, washed rice, onion, herbs, egg, salt and pepper.  Mix well with your hands.

Take one cabbage leaf and with a sharp knife cut any large tough veins out.  Place a walnut sized piece of mince and rice mixture into the middle.  Bring up the sides and roll.

Place the rolled cabbage parcel on top of the cabbage lined pan and start to fill the pan up creating layers of parcels. The aim is to pack them in tightly.

6

When all the leaves have been wrapped and packed into the pan place an upturned saucer on top to anchor them down.

7

Dissolve a stock cube in some boiling water in a jug and gently pour this into the pan until it just covers the Lahanodolmades.  Put a lid on the pan and gently bring to the boil after which turn down to a slow simmer.  Leave them to simmer for about 60 to 80 minutes.

To make the Avgolemono sauce

Beat the egg yolks to a creamy constituency in a pan.

Add the lemon juice slowly whilst continuing to beat

Add the cornflour and stir well until smooth

Now gently add a cup of stock from the pan of cooked Lahanodolmades which has been allowed to cool until tepid and stir well.

If you add the stock too hot it will curdle the eggs.

Place the pan on a low heat and stir until the sauce thickens.  Do not over cook.  Depending on how thick you like your sauce you can either add more or less stock.

As I usually make enough for two meals I do not add the sauce to the pan of Lahanodolmades.  I serve them onto a plate and pour the Avgolomeno sauce over them.

Serve as they are with the sauce and if you wish a large helping of chips!

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