Yes, your guess is right .As we go by the title it means food from the Eastern Mediterranean cuisine that comprises the culinary tradition of Greece,Turkey,Syria,Lebanan ,Israil,Palestine and Egypt. The food involves extensive use of yogurt,fresh cheese like feta, halumi and lebanah.The Eastern Mediterranean cooking demands the flavours of parsley, sumac, mint and lemon juice while the pomegranates and nuts are the regular ingredients in sauces and spreads.Grains like rice and wheat in the form of flat bread like pita or lavash rule the plate.The mutton,lamb poultry and goat meat form the source of protein and are usually consumed grilled or minced and skewed like kibbeh.Salads and pickles also form major part of their food.Chick peas are widely used as a meat substitute in different forms.
My Middle Eastern Plate is very simple and comprises of fresh and pickled salad,hung curd dip , a chicken dish in a mildly spiced sauce served along with their most famous bread pita. For the vegetarian version I have replaced chicken with grilled cottage cheese. Below follows the recipe of each element in my plate.
Recipe of Pita bread
Makes about 18 having 4″ diameter
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour(maida)
- 1 tsp salt
- 14 gm dry active yeast( one sachet was of 7 gm each)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp olive oil or any other oil or butter
- luke warm water
- Zatar (it is a mixture of dried thyme, oregano,salt and toasted sesame seeds/white til)
- In a glass take about 1/4 cup of luke warm water.Mix in this 2 tsp sugar and yeast and leave aside in a warm place for the yeast to bubble up.This would take about 10-15 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl take all purpose flour and mix salt in it.Make a well at the centre and in it pour the yeast mixture.Mix it well and then drizzle olive oil over it and start kneading the dough by adding about 3/4 cup of luke warm water.The dough will be sticky in the beginning. Sprinkle some dry flour on the counter and take out the dough on the counter.Now start kneading the dough by continuously stretching ans rolling .As you progress the dough will stop sticking to the hands and will form into a nice soft ball.This will take around 10 -15 minutes of kneading. The more you knead the better are the results.Place the dough back it bowl,brush it with little oil,cover it with cling foil or moist kitchen towel and place it in a warm place to rise till it becomes just double in size.This may take about 1/2 an hour or more depending upon the temperature.
- Once the dough rises up ,take it on the dusted counter.Knock down the dough by gently pressing with the fingers and lightly roll into 3-4 mm sheet.With the help of a lid or a cookie cutter cut out the roundels.(mine are about 4″ in diameter).Place them on the baking sheet or tray which is also dusted with flour.Brush it with olive oil and sprinkle zatar.Rest them for 15-20 minutes.Preheat the oven at 250 degree centigrade setting the mode at bake.Pop the bread into the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes checking in between.When they puff up,lift the bread and check its base.If it is golden in colour ,change the mode from bake to grill .This will help in browning from the top.The cooking process will not take more then 10 minutes.
- Cooking can also be done on the iron girdle( tawa),but the results may vary.
- Baking needs to be done on high temperature to get soft bread.
- Zatar can be bought from the store or can be made at home .
Recipe of Chicken in mild nutty sauce
- 300 gm Chicken boneless cut into medium pieces
- 1 medium size onion thinly sliced
- 4 green cardamoms(hari elaichi)
- 1″ cinnamon stick(dalchini)
- 15 almonds blanched and peeled(badam)
- 1 tbsp desiccated coconut powder(nariyal ka burada)
- 7-8 cashews(kaju)
- 2 tsp ginger garlic paste( 1:1 ginger and garlic)
- 1 tbsp mint leaves chopped
- 1/2 lemon juice
- salt to taste
- 2 green chilies (chopped)
- 1/2 cup milk or curd
- Marinate the chicken with little salt ,lemon juice and 1 tsp ginger garlic paste.Refrigerate it for minimum 30 minutes or till the time you cook.
- Prepare the paste of almonds, cashews, coconut,cinnamon and green cardamom along with milk or curd.
- In a pan heat some olive oil and fry sliced onions in it.When the onions turn golden brown add chopped mint and green chilies .Fry for few seconds and then 1 tsp ginger garlic paste.Fry till its rawness is gone and then add nuts paste.Fry till it starts leaving the oil.
- Add water and mix well.Season it with salt and cook on medium heat till the desired consistency like a creamy sauce is obtained.
- Simultaneously either saute or grill the chicken in a separate pan till nice and juicy.(I have sauteed the chicken in a pan).
- Mix the chicken in the sauce or can be poured over the chicken while serving.
- For the vegetarian version I have used grilled Panir(cottage cheese) in place of chicken.The recipe remains same only for the time required for marination.Marination of 15-20 minutes is good enough for cottage cheese.
Recipe of Hung Curd Dip
- 2 cups plain curd
- salt to taste
- 1 fat garlic clove minced
- 1-2 tsp finely chopped mint leaves
- 1 tbsp cream(optional)
- Line a sieve with a muslin cloth and tie the curd in it.Support it over a mug or a bowl and put it in the refrigerator 3-4 hrs.A little less may also work.
- Empty the hung curd in a bowl and mix mint and garlic and season it with salt according to taste.Mix cream(optional) and add few drops of lemon as per taste.
- This can be prepared in advance and kept in refrigerator .
Recipe for carrot and beet root pickle
- Beet roots
- white vinegar
- powdered sugar to taste
- Peel the carrots and beetroots.
- Slice, grate ,chop or cut into juliennes as per your choice.
- Steam them in a steamer till 90% done.Let them cool down .
- Take it in a bowl,pour over it vinegar and some sugar according to taste and let it rest till it is used.
- This can also be prepared in advance and stored in refrigerator.
- Handle the carrots and beet roots separately otherwise the colour of beet root may spoil the colour of carrots.
Now its Time to Plate
For the salad skewers I have threaded lettuce leaves along with carrot and beetroot pickle topped with black olive.
All elements of the plates are ready .Its time to serve.HAPPY EATING!
HAPPY COOKING TILL I COME BACK WITH A NEW RECIPE.