In my early twenties I couldn’t boil an egg. Starting a family meant our daughters’ expectations drove me to begin investigating the kitchen rather than the fridge, and some twenty-five years later cooking is one of my favorite non-working activities.
Many people (including our daughters) ask me to share recipes, so here are a few to get started. Natalia and I have spent time in Dubai, Jordan and Israel and the food of the region is one of my favorites. The lamb and rice recipes come from a hotel we stayed at on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. The salad is from Natalia’s childhood in Uzbeckistan. Place the rice on a large platter, the lamb shoulder on top and the tomato salad as a side. Voila!
A Shoulder of Lamb
1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
½ teaspoon of powdered allspice
½ teaspoon of powdered cumin
½ teaspoon of powdered cardamom
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
Head of garlic
4 cups water
Preheat oven to 220 degrees celcius.
Mix all spices and the oil in a small bowl.
Smear all over the lamb, giving it a coating.
Choose a dish with a snug fitting lid.
Put the lamb in the dish without the lid and cook for 30 minutes.
Slice the head of garlic and the onion in halves and put into the dish alongside the lamb along with the 4 cups of water.
Reduce heat to 150 degrees celcius and cook for a further 3 hours.
When ready, pour out the liquid into a small saucepan to make gravy, discard the onion and garlic, and place lamb on a serving tray. Serve with Saffron or Turmeric Rice and Uzbeck Tomato salad.
Uzbeck Tomato Salad
This is a dish from Natalia’s childhood, and a perfect accompaniment to lamb of other red meat.
4 ripe tomatoes
1 white onion
Remove all the pomegranate seeds and place in a bowl. This is best done in a sink half-full of water. It prevents getting too many pomegranate stains on your clothing, and makes it easier, as the white pith floats to the surface and the seeds sink.
Slice the onion in very fine rings and then cut in half. Wash in cold water thoroughly.
Both the onion and the pomegranate seeds can be prepared up to a day before and kept in the fridge in an airtight container.
Slice the tomato into very small pieces, making sure all the juice goes into the salad bowl and isn’t discarded.
Mix tomato, onion and pomegranate seeds, add a dash of pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper to taste and a schlock of olive oil.
Perfect to serve with the Arabian lamb.
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup fragrant basmati or jasmine rice
2 cups of water
Chop the onion into small pieces and gently fry in a large saucepan until translucent.
Add the rice and turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir thoroughly so the rice is coated with oil and the turmeric is evenly spread.
Add the water and bring to the boil.
Turn the heat down to low, put on a snug-fitting lid and leave until the rice is fluffy and all the water has been absorbed (about 10 minutes).