Cookbook 159: Modern Flavours of Arabia

So this book, Modern Flavours of Arabia by Suzanne Husseini, is out of print in Australia, which is a shame, because it’s a good book. Not surprising though as it was published in 2012, and that is a long time in publishing years. However, if you do see if for sale in a second hand bookshop, and you like what I describe below I do recommend buying it. We cooked 3 dishes, heavy on the yoghurt and lemon, and loved all of them… well the cauliflower was loved by Nigel and that is the main thing about cauliflower.

The dishes are really generous, the instructions aren’t too hard to follow, the flavours were delicious, and there are several other dishes in this book that I want to try. Overall rating 4 stars out of 5.

One note, some of the recipes call for pine nuts and I don’t support the pine nut industry (I haven’t for some time), so just used extra slivered almonds. I’ll list the pine nuts in the recipes, but I beg of you to stop buying pine nuts and just enjoy the awesomeness of almonds instead.

Also, there are more nuts here than you need. If cooking all these dishes just halve the nuts.

Chickpeas with Yoghurt Topping and Pitta Croutons (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups full-fat yoghurt
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cuts pitta croutons (see below)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Method:

  1. In a saucepan, heat the chickpeas over medium heat and set aside, keeping warm (just bring them to the boil, and then leave at an incredibly low simmer)
  2. To make the sauce, put in a bowl the yoghurt, tahini and half of the garlic, mix well until creamy and set aside. Mix the remaining garlic with the lemon juice to make a dressing, and set aside.
  3. In 6 individual small bowls (or allow your guests to build their own), place a layer of the pitta croutons in the bottom and drizzle a little of hte garlic lemon dressing on top. Drain and spoon some hot chickpeas on the crispy bread layer. Next, pour on the prepared yoghurt sauce. Garnish with the nuts. Serve immediately.

Pitta Croutons

  • 2 large pita breads
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil

Method:

  1. Split the pita breads open so that there are now 4 pieces. Cut up into small squares. Heat some of the peanut oil in a large frying pan (you’ll be doing this in batches). Place half of the bread in the frying pan and fry until golden and crisp. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
  2. Top up the oil and fry the second batch the same way.
  3. Store any extras in an airtight container and snack on them later

Notes on this recipe:

  • For those of you who have been lucky enough to go to the Moroccan Soup Bar in Melbourne in the days before the pandemic, are very likely to have had their chickpea bake. This is very much like that and absolutely delicious.
  • We ended up (when we remembered) to put the lemon garlic dressing on top of the yoghurt and not on the bread, that worked fine for us.
  • A very simple recipe with the longest bit being frying the bread. If you don’t want to fry the bread, you can also toast it in the oven.

Roasted Cauliflower with a citrus tahini sauce (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • sea salt
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • zest and juice of 1/2 orange (use remaining zest to garnish)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, to garnish
  • 1/4 cup slivered pistachio nuts, to garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Take the whole head of cauliflower and cut (core included) into 4 thick slices. Place on a large baking sheet, coat with oil and season with salt. Roast until golden and crisp, and cooked through (approx 25 mins). Turn over halfway though, being careful not to break the cauliflower.
  2. Mix the lemon juice, orange juice and zest, water and tahini to make a creamy sauce and leave aside.
  3. In a deep frying pan heat the olive oil and sautee the onions and garlic until light golden and soft. Pour the tahini sauce over the cooked onions and bring to a simmer until the flavours mingle and it thickens slightly. Taste to adjust seasonings. Serve drizzled over the roasted cauliflower and garnish with toasted pine nuts, slivered pistachios and orange zest.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Nigel loved this. He loved the citrus tahini sauce, he loved the cauliflower, he loved the nuts. The cauliflower smelt good all toasted (we left ours in the oven for a bit longer than the recommended time to get it to start browning more), but still tasted like cauliflower, even with the sauce (as far as I was concerned).
  • A good vegan recipe if you really like cauliflower.

Lemony Garlic Chicken with Rice and Yoghurt Sauce (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pita croutons (see above)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, to garnish
  • 1/4 cup toasted pistachios, to garnish
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds, to garnish

Yoghurt sauce

  • 3 cups full-fat yoghurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • sea salt

Chicken layer

  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 whole chicken (1kg)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice 3 lemons

Rice layer

  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 2 cups short-grained rice, pre-soaked, drained
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • sea salt
  • 4 cups water

Method:

  1. In a bowl mix the yoghurt, crushed garlic and salt to make a sauce and put aside.
  2. Take the 10 cloves of crushed garlic, and rub all over the chicken, getting under the skin. Season with salt and pepper. In a large enough pot, heat the oil and place the whole chicken to brown all over. Pour in all of the lemon juice. Bring the heat down to a simmer, cover and leave the chicken until the meat falls off the bone (approx 40 minutes). Remove all the skin and bones, and discard. Reserve the meat in it’s lemony sauce.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, it is a good time to make the rice. In a pot, heat the ghee and stir in the drained rice. Add the turmeric and salt. Mix well to coat each grain. Pour in the water to cover the rice by 2 cm. Allow to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and leave to cook undisturbed until the liquid is absorbed. Leave covered until ready to serve.
  4. To assemble the fatteh d’jaj, place some of the croutons on a serving platter, followed by a layer of the hot rice. Mound the chicken with its lemony sauce on top. Drizzle the yoghurt sauce over everything and garnish with the toasted nuts. Serve immediately.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Incredibly lemony and really tender chicken. The rice was a hit also, and the yoghurt sauce was amazing.
  • I really enjoyed this dish and would totally make it again.
  • When we served it, we assembled it ourselves on our plates so that Nigel could also have some of the rice. This recipe makes A LOT of rice.
  • We didn’t pre-soak the rice. That didn’t seem to be a problem.

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