Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I am fashionably late for my own event. I do apologize! I had trouble starting my camel and the belly dancers were just not ready.
But I am able to give you a rough count of of how many guests are turning up - 45! So, expect a huge party this weekend.
My own dish for the Arabian Nights is something I experimented with and created using my own experiences from living in the Middle East countries for almost 14 years! Ever since I was a child I was exposed to foods from around the world. It was a wonderful experience. However, the Arabic cuisine is one that I truly enjoyed with huge enthusiasm.
Whatever it was, a quick Lahmacun at the Lebanese bakery down the road, a chicken shawarma drenched in tahini sauce at the busy souk or a healthy Fattoush at the Pirates Cove on the private lagoon of the Sheraton hotel, nothing kept me from indulging in one of the many favorite dishes the Arabic cuisine offers.
As I went on to complete my management training program at the Sheraton hotel, I was lucky enough to get an inside view of the what happens behind the scenes in a five star luxury hotel. Believe me it was the most exciting 2 years of my life! What I enjoyed the most was the 3 months in the kitchen and the 6 months in the fine roof top restaurant. Here I learned the secrets of the cooking trade and I think it was also here that the first seed of the "Foodie" addiction was planted. I had the true pleasure of training under one of Middle East's finest Arabic chefs. He was in charge of the Arabic food section in the kitchen and as we pureed hummus, rolled kibehs and roasted pine nuts for one of the many Arabic weddings, he would narrate many wonderful tales of the origin of Arabic cooking, in specific that of the Persian Gulf countries.
There are three major influences that shape the food and the cultural values shown in the Persian Gulf cooking: the Bedouin, the ancient Arabian dominance of the spice routes and of course, the restrictions that the Qu'uran implemented. The Arabs of today inherit their cultural values from the nomadic Bedouin. A folk who prized their honor, chivalry and hospitality. These principles were strengthened by the ancient Arab dominance of the spice trade, which brought travelers to the region who would stop to rest. Hospitality is written big with the Arabs. The tradition of hospitality, handed down from generation to generation, continues unchanged to this day. It is believed that how well one treats their guest is directly reflected on the character of the host or hostess. It is very common to cook an extra portion, for the unexpected guest. Entertaining is a joyous occasion and it is an honor for the host/hostess when the guest remains for another meal.
With this little insight I hope I can persuade you to remain for a few meals. I promise you a lot of entertainment and some exquisite food.
600g Chicken breasts - cut into stripes
3-4 garlic cloves - 1 chopped finely rest left whole
1 red chili - finely chopped
1 lemon - zested and juice reserved
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon saffron powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
small bunch of parsley - finely chopped
small bunch of basil - finely chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 red bell peppers - cut in thicker slices
150 g cherry tomatoes - halved
You'll find these food articles at the WFLH Mall:
Organic Whole Wheat Couscous
Epicure Garden Saffron Powder
Put the chicken slices into a large bowl and add 3/4 of the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/4 of the chili, the chopped garlic, cumin, saffron, coriander powder and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper. Mix well and allow to marinate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven at 250 degrees Celsius. Place the bell pepper slices and whole garlic cloves on a baking tray lined with baking paper. In the oven roast the peppers and garlic until the skins of the peppers are slightly charred and bubbles build up under the skin. Take out and place a kitchen towel on the peppers to allow them to sweat. Now peel the skin off the peppers. Set both garlic and peppers aside.
In a large pan or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the chicken with the marinade . Allow to cook for 7 to 8 minutes until the chicken is golden brown. Add the tomatoes, peppers, garlic cloves, parsley and basil and cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes.
In the meantime place the couscous in a small saucepan and cover with approx. 350 ml of boiling water. Cover the saucepan and allow to steam for 5 minutes (please read the packet instructions). Mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the couscous and loosen any big lumps with a fork. Generously salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining lemon zest and chili. Serve with the couscous.
Use aubergines instead of the chicken. Simply place sliced aubergine into the oven with the bell peppers and allow to roast.
Middle Eastern Cooking
Spicy, lemony, and full of flavors. I was rather chuffed when I served this dish to a few of my friends and they were "ohhing" and "ahhing" to the very last bite. A mingling of zesty and spicy aromas in perfect harmony.
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