All posts tagged “middle eastern

Tunisian Lamb & Quince Stew

Winter has certainly arrived in Sydney and although it doesn’t get quite as cold as in certain parts of the world, it’s that time of the year when I’m definitely craving the warmth embrace of a hearty stew. And the following Tunisian Lamb & Quince stew really does the job and keeps you toasty with all of the beautiful North African spices and flavours.

Australia provides some of the best lamb in the world and a slow cooked lamb shoulder is just an absolute joy to eat. Quinces however are a much less used fruit, since you have to cook it to be edible, it’s an intimidating what the hell is that type thing in the market but in reality it’s just a giant fragrant sour astringent apple.

The following recipe is adapted from here, it makes quite a bit of stew but luckily it also freezes well so you’ll have enough stew to keep you going for many a winter day.

Tunisian Lamb and Quince Stew


Tunisian Lamb & Quince Stew

(serves 6)

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
6 medium cloves(peeled and smashed)
2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 kg lamb shoulder (cut into cubes 3-4 cm)
Salt & Pepper
2 brown onions (roughly chopped)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of saffron threads
1.5 litres chicken broth
2 large quinces (de-cored and cut into large chunks)
2 tablespoons honey

Toast the coriander and caraway seeds in a pan till fragrant. Then transfer to a mortar and pestle, crush and pound. Combine with the garlic, chilli flakes, paprika, cayenne pepper, 2 tablespoons salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl and marinate the cubed lamb in the mixture overnight in the fridge. Take the lamb out 45min before cooking to bring to room temperature.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Sear the lamb in batches until golden brown.

Remove the lamb and add in the onions, tomato paste, cinnamon stick, garlic from the marinade and saffron. Cook until the onions begin to caramelise and scrape off the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the lamb back into the pot. Add the chicken stock and simmer covered for 1.5 hours.

Once the lamb is almost tender add in the quince and honey, season to taste with salt & pepper and then simmer for another hour covered or until quince is tender.

Tunisian Lamb and Quince Stew


I make no qualms IRL about my disdain for cereal. There was a point in my life where pressured by television commercials and “healthy” breakfasts drives at school, I desperately wanted to be like every other kid and like cereal. I tried the multipacks, the healthy, and the downright unhealthy, but even Coco Pops couldn’t excite me. I’ve always felt that with cereal, you have a 20 second window where the meal was palatable. Usually that 20 seconds falls between the moment you pour the milk to when the milk seeps completely into the cereal and thus rendering it into wallpaper paste. For some cereals like Wheet-bix…there is actually no window. (I know that’s unAustralian, but guess what? I also hate Vegimite and Cricket)

You know all those Special K style ads where they put fruit on the cereal? As a small child I was also forever disappointed that my pack of cereal never contained fresh blueberries or strawberries, but then luckily I remembered how awful cereal actually tastes with fruit.

I mean seriously, what is the point of drowning over-processed wheat in milk when there are so many other awesome breakfast foods around? I even extend the awesomeness to other cereal-like foods for example; good quality granola, muesli, oats etc. But Boxed cereal? Ugh.

So anyway, now that I have that rant out of my system, how ’bout the following awesome breakfast/brunch recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi (and served up by my awesome friend Hannah)? Yeah, yeah, many of you are tutting under your breath thinking, gee-whiz I wish I had time to make that during the weekday when I’m half asleep after late night sessions of GTA V, and not rushing the kids off to school or doing five hundred other things that life throws at me. But here’s the tip, make the sauce on a Sunday and then refrigerate. On a weekday morning, put a few dollops in a saucepan, break in 2 eggs and as Jamie Oliver would say… Happy Days! Seriously it takes like 10min and it’ll beat cereal for good.



(Tunisian in origin, this dish is basically eggs poached in a spiced  tomato sauce…it’s also just fun to say…shakashaka,shukashaka,shakshushka…)

(Original Recipe from The Guardian here)

Serves 4

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
100ml light olive oil or vegetable oil
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 red & 2 yellow peppers, cored and cut into 2cm strips
4 teaspoon sugar
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme, picked and chopped
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
6 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
up to 1 cup of water
8 eggs

In a large saucepan, dry-roast the cumin on high heat for two minutes. Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and half of the coriander, and cook on high heat to get a nice colour. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, adding enough water to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Place four saucepans on medium heat and divide the mixture between them. Break two eggs into each pan, pouring into gaps in the mixture. Sprinkle with salt, cover and cook very gently for 10-12 minutes, until the egg just sets. Sprinkle with rest of the coriander and serve with chunky white bread.




I had an interesting conversation in the office this week on the merits of cooking, and wanting to cook. For those who didn’t see a point in cooking, the reason came down to, it’s just food, it’s transient, we eat for energy we poop it out the other end, there’s nothing more to it. Sure it tastes good for like 10 min, but that’s about it. We have eat every day to survive but in our busy lives, cooking has become somewhat of a tedious chore. It’s an interesting train of thought, one which I don’t subscribe to but one which intrigues me nonetheless.. For me however, and I think for a lot of others, food is intrinsically tied to family…to culture…to daily habits. But I do sometimes wish I could just approach food just as an energy source, I think my waistline would thank me profusely in return.

From the casual chat to mum while she prepares dinner to the ultimate focus and concentration whilst practising my chopping skills, for me the preparation of meals is also a time for reflection, relaxation and a bit of meditation.

But you can buy the food, and still enjoy the meal which saves you the arduous task of cooking it. But in the end someone has to cook right? It means someone enjoys the merits of cooking enough to sell the produce to others, whether it’s for money, a livelihood or for the actual love of it… or until Soylent Green becomes real…

Making your own condiments, sauces and spreads is pretty much the ultimate in kitchen prep meditation. They take a shitload of time to prep and make and the end result is a jar of something you can pick up for around $3 at the supermarket. But paradoxically they’re also some of the most rewarding items to make as they form the foundations of so many other recipes. For example, this harissa recipe (another from the Weekend in Canberra at Hannahs) forms the bases for another recipe to come this week.  Luckily jars of stuff do keep for a good chunk of time in the fridge, so make it on a lazy weekend and use it during the week.



(from Bourke St Bakery Book, Makes around 500g)

5 red capsicums, seeded, membranes removed and finely chopped
350g brown onions, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small red chilli finely chopped seeds included
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
15g smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
100ml water

Put all the ingredients in a large heavy based saucepan. On low-medium heat, simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 10-20min making sure the sauce doesn’t stick.

You can cook the mixture for less or longer time depending on whether you want chunkish harissa or a paste (Hannah has kept it quite chunky here). You can also blitz in a food processor once cool if you want something a little smoother.

Good to keep in the fridge for at least a week.


Fennel, Quinoa & Pomegranate

Fennel, Quinoa & Pomegranate

Out of habit I always like to have a something on a screen nearby. It’s almost like a comfort blanket. Some people always have music on, I can’t bear looking at a matte black monitor. It’s usually tennis or some crappy reality show like Kitchen Nightmares or The Voice but having a VPN means that I’m also privy to some great shows not available on YouTube.

This weekend I stumbled upon Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast, produced for Channel 4 in the UK. I’ve heard the name Ottolenghi through the grapevine and also whilst searching for cookbooks, his Jerusalem being perhaps the most lauded cookbook in 2012. I consider myself pretty well versed in celebrity chefdom, I’ve watched everything from Bourdain, to Huey (Aussies will know who I’m talking about) and yes even dabbled in a bit of infamous Guy Fieri. But Yotam Ottolenghi has flown under the radar….till now.

I’ve taken an instant liking to Yotam!  His style with salads and vegetables are right up my alley. It’s not hard to see why he has a cult following. Sometimes I find chefs try a little too hard to compensate with salads, a bit too much olive oil and cheese really. Not that I don’t love both. But Ottolenghi seems to treat it like meat in a way, simple mixes of spices, colour and flavour. I hope he makes more TV because he’s interminably watchable and endearingly dorky.

This is my take on his Quinoa, Fennel & Pomegranate salad from Bon Appetite . I had some red quinoa leftover and fennel is cheap and in season now, so this will be lunch this week. I’m not a huge fan of the crunchy aniseediness of raw fennel, however caramelised in a pan until soft and it becomes a moreish vessel of sweet succulence…oh…yeaaaah… the fennel is the real star of this dish, and therefore deserves the top billing.

mise en place


Enough for 4 mains.

2 bulbs medium-large Fennel
2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup of red quinoa
water or stock to cook quinoa (I used chicken)
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1 lemon
1 jalepeno or mild chilli
handful of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
handful of chopped fresh mint
couple of sprigs of fresh dill
handful of pomegranate seeds

Cut the fennel into thick slices (around 1cm), add the olive oil to a sauté pan, throw in the fennel, season with salt & pepper, saute on both sides until golden brown and soft. Combine, lemon juice, vinegar, cumin & sugar. Add to fennel and cook for another minute. Set aside.

Rinse Quinoa thoroughly, then with 2 cups of water/stock, bring to boil in saucepan, turn heat down and simmer for 10-15min or until quinoa has absorbed most of the liquid. Cover and let sit for 5-10min.

Segment the flesh from the lemon, finely chop the chilli, roughly chop the herbs.

Combine the whole shemozzle together with the pomergranate seeds, adding salt & pepper and more oil to taste.


Fennel, Quinoa & Pomegranate

Fennel, Quinoa & Pomegranate