Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Daring Cooks February 2010 a lot late and a Lovely Dinner Party

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

I really wanted to do the Daring Cooks from last month, but couldn't get around to it in time, I live by myself and making all that food just for me seemed a bit of a waste. I invited some friends round but we couldn't all get together until this last weekend, so I made it then and we had a Mother's Day feast. I have to say that I cheated slightly, I bought the falafel and dolmades, but the pitta bread, hummus and muhummara dip are all homemade. I really enjoy his style of dining, and have been on a bit of a north African kick since Christmas so this was right up my street. I also love watching pitta bread puff up in the oven, its so exciting!

Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

To follow the meze I made a spicy lamb and olive tagine, in a dutch oven, which I forgot to put the mint into! Oops! I also made couscous with red pepper, pine nuts, grated courgette and parsley and a side salad. It wasn't as spicy as it could have been, but it was still tasty. I also didn't put the sun dried tomatoes in as my Mum can't eat them. We then had cheese to finish. It was lovely to see everyone. I had a fantastic night catching up with them.

Spicy Lamb and Olive Tagine
(Serves 6)

2 large onions, chopped
1kg leg steaks cut into cubes
3 tbsp harissa paste
4 tbsp olive oil
140g tomato puree
1 tbsp plain flour
150ml red wine
250ml beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
150g pitted black olives
100g sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
handful chopped fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Finely chop the onion. Season the lamb and toss in the harissa.

Heat the oil in a casserole over a medium-high heat. Add the lamb in batches and cook for 3-4 mins until browned all over. Set aside.

Add the chopped onion to the pan and reduce the heat slightly. Cook stirring for 5 mins until soft. Add the wine, stock, bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then season well.

Bring to the boil, then cover and transfer to a hot oven for 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender. Stir in the olives and tomatoes. Serve.

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