My good friend Clare reminded me tonight that I haven’t posted in a while. I didn’t think that anyone was still interested in what I had to say! Here is something I wrote a few weeks ago..
The downside to playing a housewife and moving to Milton Keynes is that I haven’t made any new friends and my old friends, most of them being doctors, are dispersed around the country and haven’t come to visit. So when we put up the Christmas tree and began feeling festive my husband and I had no one to share it with!
But my family are amazing and after a few texts and with less than 24hours notice I was hosting Sunday Lunch! Instead of cooking a traditional English Roast I whipped up a Middle Eastern Feast.
My parents arrived early to help with preparation and things quickly escalated from a simple lunch to a banquet! There’s something about cooking as a family that makes the food taste better. My dad sorts and chops the parsley in a way no one can replicate (it also takes him about an hour). My mother tries really hard to be helpful and not get in the way but wonderfully manages to be in the way constantly – but I love her for it!
We started easy with some olives, hummus, mutabal (aubergine salad) and a traditional salad. I experimented with Joudie Kalla’s ‘Kubbet Batata Helweh‘ from Palestine on a Plate – a sweet potato kubbeh that was a massive hit with my dad! Let’s not forget my mother’s ‘Bamia‘ for Gordon Ramsey– lady’s fingers friend with tomatoes. Mr Ramsey recently said no one should ever cook lady’s fingers which deeply offended my mother. She wanted me to challenge him to a cook off but Mr Ramsey is WAY too scary!
For the main event we had ‘Mussakhan‘, another chicken dish – what my dad would call the take away of the Arab world! Chicken served on crispy bread soaked in onion and sumac juice.
For desert a rose syrup infused semolina cake that I would call ‘Sfoof’, taking the recipe for ‘Namoura’ from Palestine on a Plate. My husband’s contribution (other than chopping about 20 onions) was a rose water frozen yoghurt to accompany.
A wonderful afternoon, tummies full of food and hearts filled with love.
Things I learnt..
- Preparation is key
What can you cook in advance? I made the hummus the night before, saving a few chick peas to garnish. I also baked my aubergine, prepared my kubbeh and baked the cake. I was especially thankful of this when my parents arrived at the crack of dawn – it meant I could relax and have breakfast with them.
- Keep calm
A good host is cool, calm and collected even though you feel confused and out of control especially if your dining table is in the thick of it in the kitchen and all eyes are on you. Have the table set well in advance. Plan ahead by making a list of food you want to serve – it’s amazing how many times I have popped something in the fridge and forgotten about it. It can also help to make a rough plan of timings to ensure everything comes together at the end
- Boil the chicken first
I wouldn’t usually do this but I boiled the chicken in a big saucepan for about 1.5hrs before popping it in the oven to crisp up. It literally fell off the bone. If cooking lamb I’d add some lemon juice to help it tenderise.
- Cheap chicken stock
Remember to bottle the water afterwards – home made chicken stock keeps well in the freezer.
If in doubt more salt, garlic and lemon
- Most importantly
My family are bloody wonderful!
If you would like any recipes for anything I’ve made please leave a comment and I ‘ll try and replicate them. I except from the two I mentioned I took from the wonderful book ‘Palestine on a Plate’ it’s largely guess work and frequent tasting but I would love to share.