Monday, 16 July 2012

It starts here...

The journey of this blog starts here, in this quiet place, with a simple recipe.

Makloubeh, a Middle-Eastern dish, means "Upside Down" in Arabic. It is a rustic, unpretentious dish, and yet it remains fairly obscure. It consists of a harmonious medley of spices, herbs, vegetables, and meat that, together, almost conjure a feeling of Christmas or the Tudor period.

Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, white pepper, evoke the festive season. Images of open fire places, mulled wine, mince pies, take shape in my mind's eye; whilst coriander, aubergine, cauliflower and pine nuts are suggestive of the Orient: Agarwood trees, kohl, cardamon and black coffee.
Penultimately once the pot is turned and the ingredients fall into place, it reveals itself to be a delicious, hearty, somewhat unkempt, yet alluring, banquet dish.

The objective of this blog is both straightforward and manifold. The overriding aim is to "create", and by "create" I mean to be creative, to write (but also to think about how I write and how I wish to write), to take photographs (hopefully half decent ones), to express my inner voice as faithfully as I hear it, and to document and draw light upon the stark beauty of the small and every day, and to hopefully create something that is, in the end, quite special.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me. Let's see where things takes us.

(Dedicated to umi, Malika, for teaching me this recipe and many others)

Main ingredients:
Basmati rice (4 cups)
1-2 medium size aubergines
1-2 medium size cauliflowers
1-2 medium size onions
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of coriander
Chicken drumsticks / thighs (enough for 4-6 people)

1 heaped teaspoon of cinnamon
1 level teaspoon of ground ginger
1 level teaspoon of white pepper
1 whole nutmeg (grated)
3 cloves, crushed

Generous handful of roasted cashew nuts or pine nuts

Part One / Preparation:
Soak 4 small cups of rice in water, add salt, a dash of olive oil, stir once, and then place to one side.
Wash and slice the aubergine, salt generously and leave to settle for approx. 30 mins (this will reduce the amount of oil consumed at the frying stage).
Heat approx. 50% vegetable oil, and 50% olive oil in a frying pan.
Fry the aubergine until sliced pieces are nicely browned, before placing to one side.
Repeat the same process with the cauliflower.

Party Two:
In a large pot heat approx. two tbsp of olive oil on a medium-high heat.
Add the chopped onion/s and fry until soft.
Add the chicken, fry until sealed.
On a medium-low heat, add all the herbs and spices
Add a cup of water, reduce heat, leave to simmer for approx. 20 mins, until water has reduced.
Layer the cauliflower on top of the aubergine.
Layer the aubergine on top of the chicken.
Add the rice to the pot.
Add 2 cups of water to cook the rice and all ingredients.
Cover with a lid and leave to simmer on medium-low heat for 30 mins.

Part Three:
Roast or fry a large handful of cashew nuts or pine nuts (not both) until golden brown.
Upon serving garnish the rice with the roasted nuts.