The dictionary defines ‘oasis’ as “ In geography, an oasis is a fertile area in a desert or semi-desert environment.”
Offering ones time, company, table and home to weary travellers can be seen as such – an oasis in the desert of modern life. Inviting an old friend to join us for dinner alfresco in the middle of a heatwave seemed like the ideal opportunity to test out our new gazebo. That didn’t quite go to plan as the product was absolutely rubbish and soon was returned to South America.
Eating under canvass in stifling heat conjured romantic daydreams. In my mind’s eye I saw Rudolph Valentino, James Bond in “The Spy who Loved me”, of course Brad Pitt in “Allied” – sleeping out on the roof, “its where husbands sleep after making love to their wives” – not that I’ve seen the movie 20 times. Dry dusty sand and even drier heat took me on a culinary journey towards the Arab world & verily a menu entitled “The Arabian Night” took shape.
Planning a menu like this in summer time is quite easy – cold dips to start, barbecued meat on a bed of salad & grains for mains, and something light and sweet for dessert. I settled on the following:
Making each dip follows the same pattern; blitz in a food processor until smooth.
Hummus is something I make almost every week. The contents of a drained can of chickpeas is poured into the food processor bowl. Add 2-3 whole cloves of garlic, 1/2 – 1tsp of cumin, salt, 2-3tbsp of lemon juice, the nobly ends of a lemon (great for a zesty kick) & 3tbsp fat free Greek yogurt.
Creamy Coriander and Mint
Something new to me as I would usually make a Tzatziki however one diner has an allergy to cucumber so I wanted to find something as creamy as Raita but without the poison. Enter Creamy Coriander and Mint dip.
The recipe I found called for, 3/4 cup hung curds, 5 tbsp chopped coriander, 2 tbsp chopped mint leaves, 1 tsp roughly chopped green chillies, 2 tsp roughly chopped garlic, 1 tsp chopped ginger, 1/2 tsp lemon juice & salt.
Last time I heard of hung Kurds we went to war! Hung curds on the other hand isn’t something I am familiar with, fortunately there is always a substitute. In this case a whole pot of fat free plain cottage cheese.
It’s a spicy pepper dip that originated from Aleppo, Syria, sadly most of the flakes these days come from Turkey, blame the civil war, with one of the key ingredients being Aleppo chili flakes! Think of this dip as a mix of savoury, sweet, and smoky with a little spice.
2-3 Tbsp pomegranate molasses, 3 large red bell peppers (skin on), 3 Tbsp bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste, 2 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes, 1 clove garlic , 1/2 cup raw mixed nuts, & 2 Tbsp lemon juice.
Since I don’t stock pomegranate molasses, the yield from 1/2 a pomegranate was used together with 1/4tsp of general chilli flakes. Air fry the peppers for 15 minutes and allow to cool. Removing the seeds and skin is a doddle.
I love these posh French terms in cooking which basically mean something quite boring. Basically a collection of raw vegetables suitable for dipping.
“Thou canst not dip in gravy wid’out bread mother!” – or someone other stereotype that decrees its not a meal without baked flour.
Chargrill chicken with Tabbouleh salad
Tabbouleh is a salad made mostly of finely chopped parsley, with tomatoes, mint, onion, bulgur (soaked, not cooked), and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and sweet pepper.
The chicken is marinated for 4 hours in a mix of rosemary, thyme, oregano, & sage with the juice of a lemon. Chopped into large chunks then skewered and grilled until charred. Souvlaki is the best way to describe.
Dessert in the desert – Pistachio cookies with pistachio gelato.
Four things I know about pistachios, 1) they’re tasty, 2) a bugger to shell, 3) come from the Middle East, & 4) cost an arm and leg.
I did substitute a few quantities with cheaper cashews and added pistachio flavouring. I dont think my diners even noticed. Here are the official recipes which I aforementioned tweaked.
1 cup pistachios shelled (I used 1/4 Pistachio-3/4 cashews), 1/2 cup almond flour (I used rice flour), 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, 1/4 cup of butter melted and cooled (I used clover), 1/4 cup honey, 2 tsp pistachio flavouring, & 1 egg.
Put everything in the food processor and blitz until you have a thick paste. Spoon on to a lined bake tray and bake for 10 minutes at 170C.
25g shelled pistachio chopped nuts, 150g Fat free Greek yogurt, 5tbsp runny honey, and 1 tsp Pistachio flavouring. Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until firm peaks, transfer to a metal bowl, cover and freeze for a minimum 4 hours.
Maturing disgracefully as we are, we couldn’t manage midnight at the oasis. Though we retired not much short of the lyric, we did have a fabulous time with wonderful friends. That in the dessert is priceless!
[hit_count]Tags: Arab, Easy, Friends, Middle Eastern, pistachio, social eating, summer