I have been on a Persian binge recently, I can’t get enough of it; the more I cook it the more I want it…you can see how this could easily get out of control (and it has). I have quite a few recipe books of that ilk (see my Cookbook Library for the full list) which I’ve used on and off over the last few years; but it’s Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour (see post here) that has set me off on my binge. After loving Persiana so much I couldn’t resist buying her new book Sirocco and it hasn’t let me down – oh no – It. Has. Not.
The first meal I made out of Sirocco was Citrus & Za’atar Roast Chicken with a Date, Orange, Almond and Rocket Salad and a Maftoul Salad. The chicken is pretty straight forward – just smother the chicken in a rub made of spices and zest and bung it in the oven for a while. One thing I did find a challenge was not letting the spice rub burn; you can see in the image below that it got pretty dark (but luckily in a good way). I turned the chicken over a few times while it was roasting and next time I’ll put it on a rack so that the skin stays crisp on all sides. I ended up taking the chicken out of the oven early (thanks to my trusty instant read thermometer telling me it was cooked) but if I’d left it in there for any longer I would have had to cover it in tin foil to stop it colouring further.
To go with the chicken I made a Maftoul Salad which is basically just Palestinian couscous mixed with lots of other tasty morsels and a gorgeous citrus-y dressing. I’d had some black garlic in the cupboard for quite a while and I recently bought a jar of sour cherries so I couldn’t resist making this salad just so I could use both of those ingredients!
I also couldn’t resist the Date, Orange, Almond and Watercress Salad because it looks so beautiful. In this case I couldn’t find watercress so I used rocket which worked well. The dressing on this salad contains honey and red wine vinegar and it is ab-so-lutely delicious. One of the great things about all of these recipes is that they are very straight forward to put together and they make a great alternative to the western-style Sunday roast.
The next meal I cooked from Sirocco was Rose Harissa Seared Lamb Steak (was meant to be beef but I wanted lamb) with Turmeric & Spice-Marinated Cauliflower and Asparagus with Preserved lemon & Pickled Chilli. This was actually a pretty quick meal. I did do one thing in advance that you wouldn’t normally need to do, but because I was going out on the night that I wanted to cook this I made the spice paste the night before and left the cauliflower to marinate in the fridge. That meant that when I got home from work all I needed to do was make a quick tomato sauce and fry the cauliflower (another adjustment – the cauli was actually supposed to be deep-fried but I shallow fried it).
The asparagus was also super quick and easy to prepare and is deliciously crisp, has a lovely freshness from the mint, a salty tang from the preserved lemons and heat from the chilli (in this case I didn’t have pickled chillis so I just used chilli flakes). Sooo good!
For the lamb, I don’t have rose harissa so I crushed up some edible rose petals and mixed those in with the standard harissa that I have in the fridge. After rubbing that all over the steaks I gave them a quick hot fry and Bob was my Uncle – dinner was ready! Such a nice combination of flavours, looks super fancy and is quick enough for a week night – I had it cooked and eaten in plenty of time for me to lounge around for a while before I went out – win, win and win 🙂
It’s funny but I didn’t realise how often I was making slight changes to the recipes until I was writing this post and it reminded me of something that Sabrina Guyour wrote in her introduction to this book:
“…many people feel the pressure to follow recipes to the letter, but Middle Eastern cookery just isn’t rigid in that way.”
I can certainly vouch for that.