Preparations for the Festive Season
Many of us will be planning our festive fare soon, and I have been reading a lovely new cookery book called BALADI: Palestine – A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea. The second book from author Joudie Kalla (the first one was Palestine on a Plate) it contains superb photography by Jamie Orlando Smith. It’s a cross between a travel, history and cookery book. `Baladi’ means `my home, my land, my country’. Published by Jacqui Small, at £26 hardback, it’s a great coffee table book and a very welcome gift. I’ve chosen a couple of recipes from the book for you. First, a delicious salmon recipe that’s perfect for a buffet, or serving at a large family gathering over Christmas. The other is pistachio biscuits that make a lovely homemade gift or could be sold at a Christmas fair.
Salamoun bil arak (Arak-poached salmon) Serves 6–8
‘Salmon is not typically used back home, but seeing as it is readily accessible elsewhere, this recipe works well with the fattiness of the fish. I made this for a client who loves Middle Eastern food but wanted to use salmon instead of white fish, and it worked beautifully. The arak and lemon against the fatty fish is perfect, and the dill really brings out the flavour of it all.’
1 tbsp English mustard
75g fresh dill, roughly chopped
4 tbsp arak
juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp pink peppercorns
1 whole side skinless salmon fillet, approx. 900g For the rice:
50g butter, melted
1 onion, diced
2 tsp coriander seeds
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
200g basmati rice
Combine the mustard, dill, arak, lemon juice and peppercorns in a bowl. Add the fish and leave to marinate for about 20 minutes in the fridge before slicing into 6–8 pieces.
Preheat the oven to 200oC Fan (220oC/425oF/Gas 7). Prepare the rice by melting the butter in a frying pan and caramelizing the onions for about 10–12 minutes. Add the coriander seeds, lemon zest, salt, and rice and mix well. Add enough water to cover by a knuckle’s worth, and cook over a medium heat for about 15–20 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, place the salmon pieces in a small baking tray and cover with water, then place in the oven and cook for about 12–15 minutes, depending on how pink you like your fish. You can cook it for longer if you like.
When the rice and fish have finished cooking, place a portion of rice on to each serving plate and serve one piece of salmon per person.
Ghraybeh biscuits (Pistachio biscuits) Makes 25–30
‘These delicious shortbread-textured cookies are so reminiscent of my childhood. We used to eat them by the dozen. They are buttery and crumble so quickly in your mouth. I adore making them, especially in the festive season, as they are quick to prepare and hit the spot every time.’
125g ghee or butter
80g icing sugar
dash of orange blossom water 250g plain flour
In a bowl, beat the ghee or butter with the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange blossom water and mix to combine. Finally, add the flour and incorporate into the mixture until you have a smooth dough. Place in the fridge and leave for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 150oC Fan (170oC/325oF/Gas 3).
Remove the dough from the fridge and knead it gently for 2–3 minutes. Create small walnut- sized balls from the dough and place on a baking sheet. Flatten each ball slightly and add a pistachio to the centre of each one. Cook the biscuits for about 12–15 minutes – you don’t want them to turn brown, they should stay a creamy colour.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Enjoy them with some sage tea.