Tuesday, 13 November 2012
The woman in Red
Monarchies have changed a lot since the past. They now marry journalists, lawyers and writers, including handball players that eventually become frogs. Fascination about kings and queens in the past can be compared to some of the singers and actors today. Now the Kings are human, they make mistakes, they go on an elephant hunting trip and then apologize.
After a busy summer working on the Olympic and Paralympic Games and living a unique experience, I am ready to resume my posts, and I will try to publish a bit more often than before, so, let's get back to the subject of today's post. The London Borough of Greenwich was declared Royal in a small ceremony that took place last February, apart from the beauty of the area the Royals showed once again their preference for this lovely borough with a great maritime and historical past. Here's where the body of Admiral Horatio Nelson rested, here is where Henry VIII was born, and this was where he and Anne Boleyn used to meet, right there on the slopes of Greenwich Park, before she lost her head. And many, many years later, another monarch made her royal appearance in the neighborhood, this time to inaugurate the most awaited new Cutty Sark, the vessel which used to carry tea from Asia to Europe. After it caught fire back in 2007, it has taken a multimillion pound renovation. The Duke of Edinburgh is the official Patron of the Society for the Preservation of the Cutty Sark and both he and his distinguished wife profess a special love for this beautiful borough.
The Queen showed up that day, with her husband. The weather was not nice at all, rainy and cold. But since nothing depends on the weather the Official act went ahead so, I decided to stay, you don;t get to see the Queen of England every day. It carried on raining when the escort arrived, we all heard the trumpets announcing Her arrival and Her royal head appeared under a red hat, matching Her coat. People cheered, children screamed and clapped and then it stopped raining! The woman in red stopped the traffic and the rain in Greenwich. Gifts were given and the curtain was opened by her royal hands to officially inaugurate the new Cutty Sark. The queen went back to her palace and I went back to my house for a nice cuppa.
And all this takes us to the present and today's recipe. I don't know if her Majesty likes Middle Eastern cuisine, but I do love it. Dolmades and Fatayer, two representatives from the delicious food of the Middle Eastern. The dolmades are vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables, cooked in a pan with patience. They can be found in the cuisines of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon and Russia and even in some areas of Southeast Asia. Fatayer are like the middle eastern empanadas, typical of the area and can be filled with spinach, ground beef or cheese and they are delicious as a snack or as a starter, they can be eaten either hot or cold. Very easy to make and eat and difficult to forget. Sumac is a berry that grows in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, before the arrival of the lemons, the Romans used sumac acid agent for their meals. It has a nice purple color and a unique flavor, lemon juice can used as a substitute.Here are the recipes ...
For the Dolmades (Anissa Helou's recipe)
A package of vine leaves (in middle eastern shops)
140g short grain rice
300g diced tomatoes
1/2 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
100g chopped parsley
50g chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons sumac or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
A medium potato, peeled and sliced
A large tomato sliced
Wash the rice until the water runs clear and drain. Place in a large bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley and mint, followed by sumac or lemon juice, olive oil and spices. Mix well.
Spread leaves on work surface and put a bit of the filling. Roll up like a spring roll. Place the potato and tomato in layers covering the base of a casserole dish or a wide pot, then place the rolled vine leaves with the loose ends down . When the bowl of the filling is empty, add some water and swirl it around so it takes the rest of the filling, and pour this water over the leaves, almost covering them. Add salt and pepper, and cover with a heat proof plate.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook for one hour. After this time it better to try one of the sheets to see if the rice is cooked. If so, turn off heat and let stand a few minutes.
Plate and serve accompanied by lemon wedges. The potato slices and tomato are completely optional.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
For the dough
300 g organic plain flour, plus extra for kneading and shaping
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup extra virgin oil
For the filling:
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sumac
400 g spinach, cut in very thin strips
2 tablespoons pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the oil to the well and with the tip of your fingers, work into the flour until well incorporated.
Gradually add 125 ml warm water and mix until you have a rough dough. Remove the dough onto your lightly floured work surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes, then roll into a ball. Invert the bowl over the dough and let sit for 15 minutes. Knead for a few more minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Divide in two equal pieces. Shape into balls. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest while you make the filling.
Put the chopped onion in a small mixing bowl. Add a little salt, the pepper and sumac and, with your fingers, rub the seasonings into the onion to soften it.
Put the chopped spinach in a mixing bowl, sprinkle with a little salt and rub the salt in with your fingers until the spinach is wilted. Squeeze the spinach very dry. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl. Separate the leaves.
Add the onion to the spinach, together with the pine nuts, lemon juice and olive oil. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary -- the filling should be quite strongly flavoured to offset the rather bland dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Roll out one ball of dough as thinly as you can, just under 1/10 inch thin. With a pastry cutter, cut out 3 inch disks. Place 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons filling in the middle of each disk. Lift 2 sides of the disk, each about one third of the diametre, and pinch together to start forming a triangle. Lift the bottom third and pinch with the loose ends to form an inverted Y. Like this:
Transfer to an oiled baking sheet and brush the triangles with oil. Knead the cut-outs together and let rest while you roll out the other ball of dough and make more triangles. Transfer to the baking sheet and brush with oil. Use the cut-outs to make the remaining triangles. Brush with oil.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.