Our Verdict: Sirocco

Kirstin: I think it would be safe to say that we loved this book.

Maureen: We most certainly did. I loved everything about this book; it was a fantastic way to spend June, cooking all these lovely recipes.

Kirstin: She was inspirational at at the event we saw her at, organised by Dulwich Books.

Maureen: Wasn’t she? Just so bubbly, down to earth…

Kirstin: And in love with food. Which is one of the reasons I loved this book. You can really tell she has a passion for her subject which made the food taste that much better. I know I’ve voted for her book in the Observer Food Monthly Awards.

Maureen: A total winner.

“Sirocco”
Overall Grade (A- F): A (Kirstin) A (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Vine baked feta. Maureen: Feta bites
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A
Any disasters?  Kirstin: No. Maureen: None!
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf  Maureen: Bookshelf for sure.
Would you give this to a friend? Kirstin: I already have! Maureen: Me too!

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Our Verdict: Sirocco

“Blackberry Tart” from “Sirocco”

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Hastily taken photo in the middle of book club. Apologies for the quality. 

When we went to see Sabrina Ghayour demonstrate this book, she said she always struggled with making pastry until Raymond Blanc showed her the method she describes in this recipe. If only we could all have personal lessons from Raymond Blanc to learn how to make things. Sigh.

But the point is, the recipe and the instruction she has for the pastry are very clear and easy to understand. So if you struggle with pastry, you might want to read and make this one.

I’ve now made this tart twice: once for Sunday lunch and another for my book club. It was yet another Book Club triumph.

Using pistachios as the base was interesting and delicious. However, here’s a top tip: try to find and use pre-shelled pistachios. The second time I made this, I couldn’t find them, so I had to shell pistachios instead. It was fine– it was a beautiful day so I did the task sitting out in the sunshine– but it’s much, much quicker to use the pre-shelled ones.

Delicious. Would eat again.

“Blackberry Tart” from “Sirocco”

“Za’atar & Goats’ Cheese Puffs” from “Sirocco”

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This is an absolutely genius recipe. It’s the perfect thing to make for when you’re having people around. It couldn’t be easier, it looks impressive and it is delicious.

I made this when we had some neighbours around for a summer night in the garden. All you need to do is unroll a puff-pastry sheet, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle za’atar over it, and then break up the goats’ cheese and sprinkle that on the top. Roll up the puff pastry sheet, and then cut it into rounds. Bake it in an oven at 220C for 15 minutes. You won’t be able to resist eating these immediately. We couldn’t, anyway.

This one was absolutely a winner. I’ve made them since, and we all love them. This definitely was a huge success.

 

“Za’atar & Goats’ Cheese Puffs” from “Sirocco”

“Vine-Baked Feta” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: So I tweeted the very lovely Sabrina Ghayour to ask her what I should make next from her fab book and she suggested the vine-baked feta. I am always up for anything with feta, so when Anna and Tom couldn’t get into work because of flooding, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it. Because while I could have eaten all that feta by myself, I felt it was probably best to share it with others!

Did we love it? We totally did! I couldn’t find any vine leaves and instead wrapped it in baking parchment like a present as she suggests in her intro. I should also add that while I was looking for vine leaves I also found a new Lebanese food selection in our local M and S which was very exciting! I am definitely going to make this again as it’s a perfect starter; super easy and very tasty especially with flat bread and olives. All I had to do to make it was add the zest of a lemon, some garlic oil, chilli and thyme to the top of the cheese before baking. And with all the rain today, it was the nearest we were going to get to the taste of the Mediterranean on a summer’s day. Yum, yum, yum! Thank you for the tip! We’ll be making this one again, for sure. And even better with a cheeky glass of rosé.

“Vine-Baked Feta” from “Sirocco”

“Feta Bites” from “Sirocco”

IMG_8930Regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan (read: obsessed) by cheese. I love it, in all its forms. Halloumi, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Asiago, Emmental, Comte, Cheddar, Wensleydale, Mont d’Or, Toite de Moine, … the list could go on, but I’m stopping at 10. Those were the cheeses I could list off the top of my head without breaking a sweat.

See what I mean?

So when I saw the recipe for Feta Bites, I was enthusiastic, to say the least. As was my family.

The recipe was easy to make, as basically all you’re doing is dredging feta cubes in flour, and then dipping them in a batter mix of egg, ice water and self-raising flour. Simples. You then have to fry them, briefly.

Personally, I then had a challenge to not eat all of the feta bites as they emerged all golden and lovely from the pan. I resisted as best I could, but I have to admit that I was not entirely successfully in resisting their charms before sharing with the rest of my family.

You also make a preserved lemon jam to go with them. While I enjoyed the jam, the rest of the family was lukewarm on it, at best. So when I do make this again, I’m not sure if I’m going to make the jam to go with it. Regardless, it was still a success.

In the introduction, Sabrina Ghayour writes, “Feta makes everything better.” I couldn’t agree more.

Want to try this recipe? Nigella Lawson, the patron saint of this blog, helpfully has posted the recipe on her website. Click through here to see it. 

 

“Feta Bites” from “Sirocco”

“Lamb, Saffron, Dried Lime and Cumin Spiced rice” from “Sirocco”

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Tom: Oooo. Yum! This is kind of like a biryani.

Kirstin: It is, isn’t it? I forgot to take a picture of this with all the bits and bobs. Apologies as it looked so very pretty.

Tom: The lamb is very juicy!

Kirstin: Ah yes. That will be the two hours of cooking beforehand which I didn’t realise until quite late. Oooops!

Tom: This is really great. I could really see this at a party too.

Kirstin: I could tell you were going to like this as you kept coming into the kitchen to see how things were going. And you’ve been hovering next to the oven for the last 20 minutes.

Tom: So Miles, you like paella. This is a bit like it. Do you like it?

Miles: I really like this! The lamb is yum!

Ella: I really like this too! It tastes delicious!

Kirstin: Another winner. And very good for parties, provided you you take the two hours into consideration beforehand. And so pretty too!

“Lamb, Saffron, Dried Lime and Cumin Spiced rice” from “Sirocco”

“Lemon, Tumeric & Black Pepper Salmon” from “Sirocco”

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Fish Friday!

I have to admit, at the outset, that I wasn’t convinced by this one. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with turmeric, given that it once stained a favourite top of mine, and also left a stain on one of our tablecloths. I can appreciate that it tastes good, but I also feel a frisson of fear when it’s on the plate because I don’t want it to stain something else.

For this salmon dish, you make a paste with turmeric, lemon zest, black pepper and garlic olive oil and spread it over the top of the fish. In the book, Sabrina uses a whole side of salmon. I just used it on two large pieces instead because by the time I got to the fishmonger, they didn’t have any sides left. Also, a whole side would have been way too much food for the four of us, (even with two hungry teenage boys) so I just bought the two remaining pieces of salmon, knowing that I could make it work.

That’s one of the good things about this recipe: it’s adaptable. I made slightly less paste than was called for for the whole side, but the math I had to do there was really the most complicated thing about this dish. You make the paste. You bang it on the fish. You roast the fish for 22 minutes. Bam. You’re done. Next stop? Dinner.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of easy, interesting, healthy and delicious fish dinners for dinner. I can include this in that category, even with the inclusion of  turmeric. The adults loved it, but the teenagers were split. The younger teenager (who didn’t like it) *might* have been put off by the bring orange glow that came off the fish. That’s too bad. He was missing something.

I would also imagine that you could spread the turmeric-lemon paste over any white fish and you would get a similar (read: tasty) result. Something to think about the next time.

Would we eat this again? 75 percent of us would. Happily. That’s a percentage I can live with.

If you’d like to try this recipe, click through this paragraph to find it on A Little Bird blog. 

“Lemon, Tumeric & Black Pepper Salmon” from “Sirocco”