Why try one new recipe in an evening when I can try 4? That means I have 4 times the chance of messing something up. To throw another wrench into the machine, I’ve also ventured into the unknown
The Green Lentil Soup was mild but flavourful and served as a nice starter to the meal. It was quick to make too and didn’t require much attention. That was a bonus as the Kibbeh certainly required more work. Kibbeh is basically a fried oval shape made up of a mixture of lamb and bulgar which coats another mixture of lamb and spices. As is often the case with me, I made things more difficult than they had to be. I thought I was being so smart too. I looked at the recipes, made a shopping list and went into town to get my ingredients. I didn’t even consider putting bulgar on my list, (a key ingredient in the Kibbeh) because I thought of course I would have some in the cupboard. I was already well on my way to assembling ingredients and putting things together when I realized that all I had in the cupboard was an empty bulgar container. But at this point there was not going to be another trip to the store so I had to look for a substitution. In retrospect I should have used couscous. In reality, I used pearl barley. I don’t think I’ve ever used pearl barley for anything before so why I decided to use it in a brand new recipe, I don’t know. It wasn’t the right choice.
One bad choice led to the need for more changes to the recipe. When I tried to blend things together there was way too much liquid so I started adding multigrain flour despite the fact that flour is not called for at all. Then I forgot the cilantro and had to go back and add it in. The end result wasn’t awful, but I know it could have been much better. The barley was chewy and my Kibbeh was dry. To try to hide the dryness I slathered it with a yogurt sauce that I made up by draining yogurt on cheesecloth and then adding about a teaspoon of za’atar. Za’atar is combination of spices that I’ve never used before either, I just picked some up a few days ago and I thought it sounded Middle Eastern, so I decided it fit in with the rest of the meal. The tangy and cool yogurt was a welcome accompaniment to the unfortunately dry Kibbeh. I’ll have to remake this recipe properly one day because I know it has potential. I love lamb so I should really get into more Arabian cooking as many of the recipes call for it. I’m sure Meeta’s round up of the Monthly Mingle will be chockfull of excellent recipes that will soon be plastered all over my kitchen.
The final recipe that I made was Baklava and I hope that it will find its way into some of your kitchens. My Aunt used to make baklava and I’ve always loved it. I remember thinking it seemed exotic and unlike most sweets that graced the holiday table. Mom enjoys baklava as well and has been pestering me to make it for ages. I’ve been putting it off because of the phyllo dough. I don’t enjoy working with phyllo dough. I find it fiddly and aggravating. It either gets too dry and cracks or too wet and clumps together. And it’s never the right size for what I need. And basically I’m a big baby. I’ll try to keep my whining at bay while I tell you that this recipe was actually quite simple to put together and produced excellent results. The only thing I was irritated by was shelling pistachios. If you can find them unshelled, you’re all set. Then you too can add baklava to the list of dishes you’ve made successfully! I’m hopeful that one day my success list will surpass my failure list. I’d better get back in the kitchen…
Baklava (Adapted from Medierranean: Food of the Sun by Jacqueline Clark and Joanna Farrow)
1 ½ cups shelled pistachios
¾ cup almonds
¾ cup walnuts
1 T ground cardamom
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
18 sheets phyllo pastry
2 cups sugar
1 ¼ cups water
2 T orange blossom water
First you will make a simple syrup by combining the 2 cups of sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the orange blossom water and let cool.
Preheat oven to 325F. In a food processor, combine all of the nuts and pulse until lightly ground. Add the confectioners’ sugar and cardamom and pulse again to combine.
Brush a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with melted butter. Using one sheet of phyllo pastry at a time, (and keeping the rest covered with a damp towel) layer 6 sheets of phyllo into the pan, brushing each one with butter after you lay it down. Pour half of the nut mixture on top of the phyllo and press it down evenly. Continue to layer 6 more sheets of phyllo, brushing with butter between each one. Pour the rest of the nuts on top of the phyllo and repeat the layering process one more time, using up your remaining 6 sheets of phyllo. Pour any leftover butter over the top. Cut the pastry diagonally into small bars using a sharp knife, (it’s easier to do this before the pastry is baked as it is softer at this point).
Bake for 20 min and then increase oven temperature to 400F. Bake for 15 more minutes until golden on top.
Remove from the oven and drizzle with the orange flower blossom syrup. Let stand about an hour so that the syrup can be soaked up. Remove from the pan and try not to eat them all in one sitting.