“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: It’s always a wonderful feeling to find a recipe that you know you will treasure and pass on to others. These recipes, for me, must be easy and delicious. I set the bar even higher when it comes to desserts and baking as our family is not a fan of sweet food. But this recipe might just make into our Hall of Desserts Fame. Fabulously easy and tasting rather special, this chiffon cake is a winner. I was a tad worried about the cardamom, but I shouldn’t have been as it set off the chocolate and coffee perfectly. I am already looking forward to making this again, and smile at the thought of the book page becoming more splattered as the years go by.

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“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

“Wholegrain Basmati Rice Greek-Style Salad” from “Sirocco”

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Here in the U.K., we celebrated the Queen’s 90th Birthday this weekend. This was her second birthday this year, because her actual birth date is 21 April, but when you’re the queen, you get two birthday celebrations: one for your birth date and another for when the weather is better. (I just did a bit of research and this is the ACTUAL reason.)

It’s good to be the Queen. Obviously.

So why am I nattering on about the queen and what does it have to do with the Greek Rice Salad pictured above? Well, for those of you who pay attention to these sorts of things, Queen Elizabeth II is married to Prince Phillip, who himself is of Greek heritage. We got invited to a Street Party to celebrate the queen’s birthday, so I decided the perfect thing to bring to it would be this Greek Salad.

It would have been perfect, except for the fact that I hadn’t planned it it taking more than nine hours* (not a typo) to make the cake for the cake competition at the party. The cake got done, but I ran out of time to make the Greek Rice Salad before the party began, so we had to have it for dinner instead.

Once we settled down to dinner, it got a thumbs up all around. It is exactly what it says on the tin– Greek salad (tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, red onions, feta and seasoning) combined with rice. It’s a winner.

Tim accused me of putting in more feta than was called for, but actually I followed the recipe, so it was the right amount. It would be the perfect thing to bring to a street party or family picnic. Anything where attending with a salad in your arms was required.

It was also delicious the next day for lunch. A bit of liquid had pooled in the bottom of the tupperware container, but a quick mix with a spoon fixed that.

Would I make it again? Indeed I would.

 

*(If you’re wondering why said cake took nine hours, here’s a picture. The blue cake is blueberry and the red cake is raspberry, all covered in buttercream.)

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“Wholegrain Basmati Rice Greek-Style Salad” from “Sirocco”

“Citrus and Za’atar Chicken” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: I knew I wanted to make this recipe as soon I opened the book.

Tom: Why’s that then?

Kirstin: I’ve never made anything with za’atar before, even though I have the spice in my cupboard. So I’ve been curious about it for a while.

Tom: And what do you think of this recipe?

Kirstin: I love the flavourings. But the chicken is a little dry.

Tom: I love the little accompaniments you’ve made here too which make it less dry. So what are in these bowls?

Kirstin: One has harissa in it. The other is greek yoghurt with some minced garlic and salt. They do work well with it, don’t they?

Tom: I love harissa.

Kirstin: Ha! I know you too well.

“Citrus and Za’atar Chicken” from “Sirocco”

“Seared Steak with Roasted Vegetables, Whey Dressing & Pepper Sauce” from “Sirocco”

IMG_8932I need to make a full disclosure, now, at the very start: I did not make the whey dressing.

Regular readers of this blog will know how I feel about hard-to-find ingredients. They truly drive me insane. Even worse is when you actually buy said hard-to-find or obscure ingredient, you use it once for a recipe, and then it’s just sitting in your cupboard for an interminable amount of time until you get around to throwing it away, safe in the knowledge that you will never use/need/eat it again. What a waste.

Brown Rice Syrup/Avocado Oil/Pomegranate Mollasses, I’m looking at you.

So: Whey. This recipe calls for it, and I wasn’t even sure where I would find it in my local supermarket or organic food store or green grocer. I had a look in all three local shops, but came up empty handed. But unlike previous recipes from previous books, I didn’t panic, because when we saw Sabrina Ghayour in person, she told us not to stress out too much if we couldn’t find the exact right ingredient called for in some of her recipes.

With her advice ringing in my ear, I made the bold decision to go ahead and make this without it. I thought perhaps we could live without the six tablespoons of whey mixed with six tablespoons of Greek yogurt, and I *think* I was right.

Nearly everyone loved this. While the rest of us were gobbling this down, Tim thought it was lacking something. (Maybe it was lacking some Whey Sauce? Who can say for sure.) He recommended the next time I make it, I sprinkle some feta over the top. Maybe the whey sauce would add the extra special something he thought it was missing, but you all know that I’ll accept any recommendation that says add more cheese, so we’ll do it next time.

But his criticism aside, I thought this was a great weeknight recipe.  To wit:

  • Healthy– what could be better than a tray full of roasted vegetables;
  • Using the steak as a garnish rather than the main event– I imagined nutritionists everywhere giving me a big thumbs up;
  • Easy– Nigella is a big proponent of tray bakes for weeknight cooking, and I couldn’t agree more.

So will I be making this again? Yes. Probably next week, if I can get away with it. (Note to self: Add feta.)

 

“Seared Steak with Roasted Vegetables, Whey Dressing & Pepper Sauce” from “Sirocco”

“Avocado Mash on Griddled Sourdough” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: So this is the third time I’ve made us avocado mash from one of our cookbooks of the month.

Tom: This is great!

Kirstin: I love the spring onions, chilli and griddled bread with this. All supremely good additions. Also I finally found the tahini after a trawl of our local shops.

Tom: I was worried the tahini would be too much and overpower it all.

Kirstin: But it’s good with the lemon zest, isn’t it? You know when you make food and you get all the ingredients together and you just know they’re going to make you smile when you make the final meal. That’s what happened with this recipe.

Tom: I can see why!

“Avocado Mash on Griddled Sourdough” from “Sirocco”

Cookbook of the Month, June 2016, Sirocco: Fabulous Flavours of the East by Sabrina Ghayour

Maureen: We picked this book after we saw her cook and talk in person.

Kirstin: But we haven’t been paid to review it. This is not a sponsored post!

Maureen: She was delightful.

Kirstin: She was inspiring and so lovely.

Maureen: She reminded me of an early Nigella.

Kirstin: She did. She made me want to go home and cook straightaway.

Maureen: I did that. I spent that weekend making about four things from this cookbook.

Kirstin: This cookbook reminds me of Moro, but easier.

Maureen: I liked her attitude where she said that she bungs and throws things in and doesn’t get too caught up in a recipe. If she doesn’t have a particular ingredient, or can’t find it, she doesn’t worry about it.

Kirstin: I’m going to have a cupboard full of Middle Eastern ingredients.

Maureen: Some of which we already have, thanks to Ottolenghi. I’m looking forward to a month of feta. That’s definitely going to be good.

 

Cookbook of the Month, June 2016, Sirocco: Fabulous Flavours of the East by Sabrina Ghayour