Middle Easter Monday

In case you’re wondering, all I meant was Middle-Eastern dinner on Easter Monday (?). Haha. So funny.

I’ve had shakshouka one time a few years ago when I was dating G and his mum was visiting. Some place in NYC, I can’t seem to remember its name. And I remember thinking, then, “Gosh! This is so easy! A bunch of veggies in a tomato stew and runny eggs!” I also remember tweeting a few months (possibly, years) later that Shakshouka is just a fancy way of making anda-bhurji.

But we get snobbier with time, y’know. And shakshouka is shakshouka. Anda bhurji is anda bhurji. And the Mota Special at Egg Factory is the Mota Special. They’re all so similar, yet so distinct. Plus, eggs! My dad and I are complete egg fanatics. But I’ll leave the egg stories for another blog post, may be.

B was home for dinner (as usual). The original plan was to make pizzas from scratch (So, yes, the more recent pizza posts were actually put up BEFORE this one). But I was feeling really lousy the previous evening and never kneaded any dough. So, the guest (hardly!) shows up on time. And we reveal to him that we will be making the best of what we have in the refrigerator (duh!).

There’s a tonne of bhindi (naaah!), an eggplant, onions, tomatoes, and the usual fare.

B says babaghanoush. I say ok. And then I say, shakshouka. And then he says, desi pita, from regular chapati dough. And we have a great menu for the evening right there. Yay.

Tahini:
Ingredients:
4 teaspoons of sesame seeds
2-3 teaspoons of olive oil

Method:
1. Lightly roast the sesame seeds until they begin to brown. They will emanate a nice aroma, when they do.
2. Let them cool down for a couple of minutes and put them into a grinder with the olive oil and grind to a fine paste.
3. Home-made tahini. Tadaa!

Shakshouka:
I’ve been told it’s more of a breakfast/brunch recipe. But good food is good food. And if we can eat cereal at bed time if we’re sulking and not really in the mood to cook, I’m sure we can do shakshouka for dinner.

The only ingredient missing in my recipe, here, is feta. I didn’t have any in my fridge. But I’ll post the recipe with the feta, just so you know where it goes in. Because I’m very kind, like that.

Ingredients:
(We ate 2 eggs each, so I’ll give the recipe for 4 eggs. You can scale accordingly.)
4 eggs
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 large onion, minced or finely chopped
10-12 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chillies, sliced long
A handful of corn kernels
A teaspoon (or so) of whole peppercorn
A teaspoon of tahini
6-8 whole cloves
3-4 teaspoons cumin powder
Olive oil, to cook
Salt, to taste
10-12 cubes of feta cheese (or more if you prefer)

(I had picked up a bag full of mixed peppercorns from the market in Barcelona. White peppers, little red ones, yellow/green ones, the regular black ones and a slightly larger variety. I used those. You can use regular black peppercorn, really.)

Method:
1. Heat the oil. When it is hot, add the garlic. Let it brown a little.
2. Following that, add the onion, the green chillies, the cloves and the peppers and saute until the onions are soft and slightly brown.
3. Throw in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft and the mixture is reduced to a chunky sauce-like consistency.
4. Add the corn and cook for a few more minutes. (You can add green beans, if you like. Or even fava beans or a white bean of your choice, boiled.)
5. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius.
6. In a pie pan, lay the tomato mixture out. Make four little wells in the pan, and break the eggs into those wells. Stick the cubes of feta in, where ever you like.
7. Bake for 2-3 minutes, until the eggs cook. Feel free to bake for longer, if you like your eggs less runny.
8. Pull the pie pan out of the oven. Ideally, if more than one person is eating the shakshouka, you should be able to cut out the egg and the tomato mixture to serve into a plate, without it being messy. However, if you’re eating alone, you can dig right into the pie pan. I’ve eaten caramel custard that way one time. It sure is fun!

I’m not sure if shakshouka is usually had as is, or whether it is accompanied with pita bread. It could be, if you ask me.

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Whole wheat pita:
So, here’s what I did. We were short on time and most pita recipes suggested that the dough sit around at least 3 hours, to rise. I made regular chapati dough before I begun any other cooking. Cooking time for the shakshouka and the babaghanoush, in all, was an hour. That gave the dough some time to rest.

Recipe:
Wheat flour
Some olive oil
Salt, to taste
Water, to knead
(You could use sesame seeds or caraway seeds to top the bread, and even use milk to knead, if you like.)

Method:
1. Knead the dough and set it aside for about 30 minutes to an hour.
2. Roll the dough into small round pieces, about 4 inches in diameter and a quarter of an inch thick.
3. Cook them on low flame on a pan, for a minute or so on one side and flipping them over when they begin to fluff up.
4. Serve warm with a blob of butter or a drizzle of olive oil or just plain.

Baba Ghanoush
(also spelt Baba Ganouj, I think)
This is good old hummus, sans chickpeas and sub. roasted aubergine.
Sounds fancy, right?
Heh. That’s like this tweet, where B and I had had gotten back to his apartment after a painfully unfruitful day of apartment hunting (way long ago) and decided to keep dinner simple: tadka daal and steamed rice.

It’s tremendous fun, writing menu-descriptions for simple food. I think I should indulge in this activity more often. May be, someday, when my best friend goes to culinary school or my uncle opens a restaurant, I can help with the menu.

Though, right now, I’ll just settle for sharing this recipe.

Ingredients:
1 brinjal/aubergine/eggplant
2-3 teaspoons of tahini
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or ground to a paste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt, to taste
Red chilli powder, optional

Method:
1. Use your fork to poke holes into the eggplant. I used, what I’d call, a medium-sized egg plant – something that’d fit comfortably into a regular plate but is just slightly bigger than the regular quarter plate. And I, possibly, poked it at about 10 or 12 spots. I bet Mark Z is brimming with excitement. So many pokes!
2. On a low flame, roast the eggplant uniformly on all sides, turning after a few minutes. This process should take anywhere between 20 minutes to half an hour. The eggplant should be done all the way through, if you can insert a really long tooth pick or skewer (or anything sharp, though I’d avoid a knife) all the way through, with complete ease. Also, the purple cover turns to a black and almost flakes off, leaving a gooey, mushy brown inside.
3. Wait until the eggplant cools down to room temperature (or work with it while it’s still hot and burn your fingers, you could be in a hurry… or well, just enjoy the heat, heh). Mash it to a pulp. I’m not sure I’d want to recommend this, but here’s something I learnt from my mum. It doesn’t quite work all the time (it works brilliantly while making tartar sauce, for instance… which I’ll describe in another post. But fails miserably if you’re making chunky salsa). If you want to make a dipping sauce that has chunky consistency, and working with a fork or the flat end of a big spoon in a big bowl doesn’t seem to work for you, throw everything into a blender. Most ordinary blenders have a working knob that needs to be turned clockwise, for the contents of the blender to be umm… blended. Do this instead, give it an anti-whir (as I like to call it). Spin the snob anticlockwise, for less than a second. Peer into the blender to see if your sauce the consistency you’d like it to be. No? One ore whir. May be two. But not more. You get a hang of how much you need to work the blender to get something to a consistency you like.
4. Mix the pulpy eggplant, the garlic cloves, the tahini, the lemon juice and the salt.
5. Add a wee little bit of red chilli powder, if you want that extra zing.

So, that’s baba ghanoush, shakshouka and pita bread… And one wholesome meal.

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On a side note, I really wish more people would read my blog. Because I’ve been cooking so much new stuff, of late. Sharing the excitement is always a good thing, isn’t it. Right, I know I need to work on my picture-taking abilities. I will. I am. I promise. Ok, maybe. Alright, I’ll try.

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