Za’atar, King of the Sprinkles

I guess i should've got a pic before I blitzed it up. Oh well, the pic may be pretty boring but the za'atar is anything but
I guess i should’ve got a pic before I blitzed it up. Oh well, the pic may be pretty boring but the za’atar is anything but

This is one of my favourite litte spice blends.

Apparantly it’s pretty big in the middle east too.

It’s exceptionally good at being that little something you have in the cupboard for all those times you just need to sprinkle some shit on something (not the stuff in the bedside cupboard, that’s just disgusting… and there is no way in hell that’s sprinkling my friend… spraying, I’d say).

It’s like the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Co of the spice world.

(This is just for you Laura)

You can sprinkle this stuff on roasted vegetables, you can sprinkle it on a salad, you can sprinkle it on chicken, you can sprinkle it on fish, you can sprinkle it on lamb, you can sprinkle it on labne, you can sprinkle it on olives, you can sprinkle it on a simple chopped salad of tomato, cucumber and onion, you can sprinkle it on flat bread with a little splash of olive oil and then toast it to make your own crisp bread for scooping up olives and hommus and things of the like, or just sprinkle it straight onto your hommus or babaganoush and stick to your plain ol’ Jatz Crackers for the scooping *take a breath Bubba, take a breath*, you can make an awesome middle eastern pizza with lamb mince, onion and good sprinkling of za’atar, you can sprinkle it on soft cheese, you can sprinkle it on hot chips (fries), you can sprinkle it on cold chips, why gosh, you could even sprinkle it on the single girl down the road if you really wanted to but I don’t see how that is going to be advantagous to anyone, unless you get to lick it off, that is… in which case I’d suggest you bring the olive oil too… stay with the theme and all that.

Clear? Clear.

Put it it a jar to store it but not to make it look more exciting for a picture
Put it it a jar to store it but not to make it look more exciting for a picture

ZA’ATAR

2 teaspoons each dried oregano, marjoram & basil

2 tablespoon each dried thyme & sumac

½ cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted

1 teaspoon salt

• Pulse all ingredients in a food processer until kinda powdery and combined or, for a chunkier za’atar and for those of you who do not yet have food processing capabilities, simply put all ingredients in a plasic container or jar, seal and shake to combine

• Sprinkle on stuff

Also, we will be blowing this little country pop-stand for the allure of city lights, fried bugs and Robin Williams’ references in the country known as Vietnam. I will be carrying only manually operated pen and paper devices on my person, so you may not hear from me for the next month. After that though, prepare yourself for a barrage of posts about our travels.

Peace out.

G

Getting schooled about prawns

What do you know about school prawns? Not much. Well I’m sure that has absolutely nothing to with the fact that you live in a dark damp mountain cave in the middle of, err, the mountains…
School prawns. *Insert old English voice here. “School prawns? Prawns that go to school? Absolutely ludicrous man. What will they think of next? The coital union of two bearded men? Or maybe they’ll allow women to vote for Parliament? School prawns indeed”
Off to class with their tiny little bags and lunchboxes…
No, no, no.
School prawn is the name used to describe the translucent brown/green bodied mostly smallish prawns found near river mouths. The prawns that are caught, deep fried and then deposited into my mouth. Sweet and crispy. Salty and lemony. Eaten whole like you’re living in South East Asia. Shell and head and everything. And they are cheap like the South East Asian lady-boy prostitute as well. The only extras you need are some kind of mayonnaise and a cold beer. Or tequila would be nice I think. Or a warm beer if that’s the best you can do.

IMG_5566

CRISP SCHOOL PRAWNS WITH SUMAC AND PAPRIKA MAYONNAISE
(for 4-6 people as beer snacks)
1kg fresh school prawns, the smaller the better (should cost you about 8-10 bucks from the local fish monger)
2 cups polenta or semolina
2 eggs, whisked in a bowl big enough to one day house the prawns also
Oil to deep fry
2 tablespoons sumac
Sea salt
Lemon or lime or both if you wanna get crazy
• Heat oil over medium flame to 180C (Oil thermometer or your finger. Please don’t actually use your finger (I need to cover myself for these things))
• Coat the prawns in the egg mixture
• Toss the prawns in the polenta, then into a colander and shake off any excess polenta.
• In 3-4 batches fry the prawns for two or so minutes until they are crisp and golden. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Repeat until all prawns are cooked.
• Season with sumac and sea salt.
• Serve with lemon and smoked paprika mayonnaise (you can work that one out, yeah?)
Don’t be afraid of the shells guys… don’t be afraid.

Hommus…and other stuff Sammy likes

Sammy likes hommus… and a heap of other things that I probably shouldn’t tell you about.

I don’t know if you guys remember Sammy, but way back at the start of this piece of crap top notch blog Sammy would regularly tell me what was in her larder and I would create a recipe for her din-dins. Well Sammy is back with a double header… and this time she’s brought her mum. That could be a wild assed double header right there but for now I’ll just stick to the questions… for now.

Here’s what Sammy asked:
1. Could you please tell me some other ways to eat hommus? Love hommus but I’m getting sick of crackers.
2. Sammy’s mum (aka. The gelfling mother) is visiting and Sammy wants to cook her dinner. She did come all the way from England after all. Probably got sick of making cups of tea for all those bloody Greeks and their running races. Anyway, dinner. And she would like a nice piece of salmon.

How to tackle this one?

I guess it’s like having a good time with a goat – so many ways to tackle it. Actually there’s probably only one way to tackle it sensibly, and I do believe that’s roughly from behind. A chicken on the other hand… well a chicken is a totally different story.

Or…

There is no way hommus should be reserved for a pack of crackers and a lonely night in watching Sleepless in Seattle (I think that will prove beyond a doubt how out of touch I am with the chick flick rom-com type scene) as you slowly over-season it with your tears…

Hommus is good shit. It deserves better than that.

Firstly, brush some pita bread with oil and sprinkle with za’atar, bake for 15 minutes at 180C or until crisp. Basic hommus consumption for beginners at it’s very finest. Try it on a burger with some za’atar, tomato, red onion and lettuce. Use it to garnish a piece of meat (no. I don’t think we could call it a garnish in that application…) because lets face it, it’s just a chickpea puree, albeit a damn tasty one. Fish and lamb are especially susceptible to the love of a good chickpea. And don’t be afraid to warm it up a little either. Back on the sandwich tip and you could make a nice marinated vege number on warm Turkish with some homemade pesto or red capsicum paste and… you guessed it … hommus! A-maz-ing.

For Sammy’s dinner I have combined the best of both worlds, which is really quite clever. Pat, pat, pat (that is either the sound of me patting myself on the back or the old lady at number 42 calling out to postman pat?).

SALMON DINNER FOR THE GELFLING MOTHER
2 180g-ish pieces of salmon, scaled and pin-boned
Sumac
Lemon wedges
Hommus, recipe down there
Shepherds salad, recipe down there
Flat bread so you can mush everything onto and eat like a bruschetta
• Season your salmon on the skin side (this helps it get extra crisp), and cook it skin side down in an oiled non-stick pan. Once it starts to turn a lovely golden brown whack it in a pre-heated oven 180C for 4-5 minutes
• Take it out, turn the fillet over, rest for a minute and then plate up
• Put a bit of hommus down on the plate, fish on top of that, salad to the side, lemon on the side, sprinkle with sumac, serve flat bread separately

SHEPHERDS SALAD
1 tomato
½ small cucumber, deseed
½ red capsicum
2 red radish
½ red onion
½ cup toasted walnuts
½ long red chilli, deseed
1 handful mint and parsley
1 handful cooked big cous-cous (or quinoa, burghul, freekah… any grain you like)
juice of half a lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper to dress
• Chop everything into evenly sized cubes
• Dress and eat… which is almost the same as your date on Friday night but I do believe that would be “un-dress and eat”.

HOMMUS
2 cups cooked chickpeas
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbls tahini
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup olive oil
½-1 cup water
• Blitz all except parsley and olive oil, adding a little extra water if needed to make a smooth puree
• Emulsify olive oil into mix
• Season and fold through chopped parsley

Queenie, the original

Aah Queenie. The original “what am I going to cook with this”.

For a long time Queenie would pester me every coupla nights or so with a phone call or a text. “I’ve got blah, blah and blah”, he would say. “What can I make with that?” I would give him a few instructions and off he would go, maybe calling once or twice as he went, just to make sure he was on the right track.

A year or two later and he has stopped calling me. Maybe we’ve just grown apart, I thought. Fallen out of love, if you will. Maybe it’s because he’s married now and his wife, Veronica, can cook better than me. Surely not. Many different scenarios were flying around in my head… but here he is. He’s back. He’s returned to me. I am in love again.

Queenies cupboard contains

3 carrots
Half a capsicum
Half a cucumber
Rice
Tin of toms
Ginger
Soy sauce
Half a green chilli
Random spices
Baked beans ( canned )
Bread

Not a lot in the old cupboard tonight fella. I think you should get some natural yoghurt on the way home from work and I’m also hoping sumac is one of those random spices. You’ll also need a handful of parsley and mint from your herb garden (and if you don’t get that by now you probably never will) and you should also put the baked beans back in the cupboard and have them for breakfast tomorrow.

Get me a beer and let’s start. Middle Eastern salad type thing with tomato rice.

Brush the bread with olive oil and sprinkle it with sumac. Cut or tear into largish croutons and toast in the oven, 180C for 10-15 minutes, or until crisp and golden.
While that’s in the oven, cook a cup of rice 1.5 cups of water and 1 tin of tomatoes with the juice. Once it comes up to a simmer reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 8-9 minutes. Check rice and cook for another two minutes if it needed, season.
This salad is based very very very loosely on a fattoush salad, which is well worth a go if you ever get the chance. Chop the cucumber, capsicum and chilli, pick the parsley and mint leaves, feel free to add and other leaves you may have hanging around, peel two carrots then shred them into strips using the aforementioned peeler.
Toss that sucker with the croutons.
Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Hit it with a couple of tbls yoghurt and sprinkle the whole sherbang with extra sumac. Please tell me you have sumac.                                                                                                                                                                           Eat it with the tomato rice in the side.
Show her that you can still cook too Queenie.
Power to you brother…….

PS. send me a photo