Random Recipes has been playing out very well for me recently. After a clunky start, I’ve been selecting some beauties. This month, Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenged us to ‘Get Random Baby!‘, using his automated random number generator to select the cookbook. Regular readers will know that I’ve used a similar function on several occasions as I can’t possibly bear to tip my cookbooks in a pile on the floor. Good to see you’ve caught up Dom!
The number generator selected one of my newest acquisitions – Arabesque by Greg and Lucy Malouf. A lovely Christmas present from Anthony. Originally published in 1999, it was the definitive book on what was at the time a relatively new cuisine to Australians, Middle Eastern. Greg and Lucy have gone on to open and close a number of restaurants, dissolve their marriage but not their business partnership, hop back and forth across the pond and continue to publish cookbooks that are visually stunning and a pleasure to read and cook from. This ongoing success is not flashy or celebrity cheffy in any way. It’s just the business of cooking traditional and modern Middle Eastern cuisine and sharing it to a wider audience. Arabesque is not as glamorous as its cousins Turquoise and Saraban that are full of glorious travel and food vignettes, glossy pages and laser cutouts. It has only a few colour photos and recipes are divided into sections based on ingredients. So basically, a real cookbook. Growing up on Women’s Weekly and transitioning to Donna Hay, it’s sometimes hard to cook from a book with few pictures. What’s the finished dish supposed to look like? I guess I’d have to use my imagination….
The recipe randomly selected was Moroccan Chickpea Soup – also known as Harira, the traditional soup eaten during Ramadan to break the fast. Most recipes are thicker, based on a lamb broth and made from the bones however this version is much lighter, using chicken stock or make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock. The lemon and its zest are a must to include, lightening and freshening the soup even more.
- 60ml olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 100g green/brown lentils, washed
- 100g chick peas, soaked overnight
- 2.5 litres chicken stock
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (approx 400g)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 pinch saffron, lightly roasted and crushed
- 60ml sherry
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp coriander, chopped
- salt and pepper to season
- Heat oil in a large saucepan and gently sweat onions and garlic until they soften.
- Add lentils, drained chickpeas and stock. Do not season at this time!
- Simmer for around 1 hour until lentils and chickpeas are soft and starting to disintegrate.
- Blend with a stick blender to crush lentils and chickpeas but keep some texture. It should not be a completely smooth puree.
- Add tomatoes, cinnamon, ginger and saffron and give a quick blend (again, not to a smooth puree).
- If the soup is too thick (unlikely) add a splash of stock or water and bring to the boil.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper, sherry, lemon juice and zest, parsley and coriander.
- I had soaked extra chickpeas but decided not to add them. This kept the soup nice and light but if you need something thicker in winter, another 50g of chickpeas won’t hurt.
- I didn’t have any dry sherry so didn’t add it in – no one missed it.
- I had some very good Cypriot feta so crumbled a small amount into each bowl and dressed with some oil.
- This freezes well and can be reheated with some additional whole tinned chickpeas, left over lamb roast or a handful of pasta for a hearty winter soup.
Makes enough for 4 – 6
The selection of this recipe was very timely as I was having my family over for ANZAC Day, so this filled the role of entrée very well. I was game for a challenge and chose to cook the main, Marinated Lamb with Lebanese Rice from Arabesque as well. How times have changed that I cooked a meal from a culture that 100 years ago, we were at loggerheads with on the edge of the Dardanelles in Gelibolu, or Gallipoli.
A reminder of the rules: