Friday, May 24, 2013

In which courgette hamburgers go pear-shaped, or rather shapeless

                                          This tasted better than it looked...

I fail  meatballs, it seems.I remember once I attempted to make some with bread crumbs and ground beef, and the result wasn't pretty. I wanted to try this recipe because I often eat chicken burgers (as in, those you buy already made) and I liked the courgette combination. But something didn't quite go well in the meatball-making process, as is obvious from the photo.  Possibly the usual reducing-proportion issue? Or that I was in a hurry and was running around the kitchen like those cuisine programmes where people have to make a 3-course meal in 30 seconds, or something? Anyway, here goes:

- This recipe goes with a sauce which, as can be easily inferred, shows that this is a Jerusalem cookbook and not a Jewish one, and I understand that Arabs often use dairy-based sauces for meat:

Mix in a small bowl 100 grs sour cream, 1 cup Greek yogurt (but I used some nice one from the Swiss countryside), a teaspoon of crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt pepper. You're also supposed to put sumac in it. Now, Yotam and Samimi, I thought I'd gotten by now all the spices I needed, what the heck is sumac? Needless to say, I went sans sumac. Put in the fridge.

For the meatballs, mix in a large bowl the minced turkey, 2 teaspoons crushed garlic, cumin, one egg, salt, crushed mint, pepper, 3 roughly grated mini-courgettes. Mix and make into meatballs. Here, I had the impression there wasn't enough meat in proportion to the other ingredients. Maybe the mistake was that, after putting 2 mini courgettes, I went "There's no such thing as too much courgette! Plus it's green and colourful!" thus producing an excess of courgettitude.

Afterwards, you're supposed to fry the meatballs in heated sunflower oil. I never pre-heat oil, I think it's healthier and reduces the risk of hot oil going all over the place...But this is where my already poor-looking meatballs began to undo themselves. I was tempted to transform the whole thing in a kind of chili, but still went through the rest of the recipe, putting the meatballs in the oven at 200 C for 7 minutes. This is when they lost all semblance of meatballness. However, it actually tasted good! The sauce was nice too, but then I'm a sucker for anything containing sour cream. And I wouldn't advice making this dish for a romantic dinner, since it's a bit garlic-heavy. Either that, or remove the garlic.

So there's definitely room for improvement in this recipe, as in, I basically need to improve my meatball-making skills. Because right now, I couldn't have really brought the dish to a picnic or as lunch to work, as Mssrs Ottolenghi&Tamimi suggest (they say it's "portable").

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Aaand I'm back: fish with harissa and orange salsa.

I realize I haven't been doing too well on my project since it's mid-May and this is my first post for 2013, but life and stuff have been happening, but I'd never given up in my mind. To tell the truth, I'd gotten slightly bored with Jerusalem's mealy desserts, so I decided to try one of the fish dishes, especially as I'm always looking for ways to make what I call "hospital fish" (ie bland, white fish of any sort) more interesting. Here goes my semplified recipe:

filets of cod (the recipe calls for mackerel)
2 oranges
1 lemon
harissa (we'll get to that)
black olives
cumin seeds

Re: the harissa, there were 2 potential problems: 1) I have a fairly mild palate and generally go about extremely carefully with harissa considering past experiences, those aren't tastebuds I'll be getting back. 2) My local supermarket, while reasonably well equipped in "ethnic" foodstuffs, didn't carry harissa. I'm sure  would have found it easier in a Middle Eastern food store or even a better equipped supermarket, but I just couldn't be bothered. I knew from reason 1) I wouldn't be making massive use of the stuff, so why be particularly "purist" about the stuff? After standing in a hamletic pose for several minutes in the condiment aisle, I settled for sambal. Which is basically a South East Asian equivalent of harissa. I mean, it's a chili paste that's red and spicy, it can't be that different?

Another point: the recipe calls for the use of golden beetroot. I have no idea what golden beetroot is (apart from the fact that presumably it's a beetroot and has a golden colour) or where to find it, so, once again I just didn't bother. I've been accused in the past of remaking recipes so that they aren't really the same thing anymore, but I struggle to believ that a beetroot is going to make a world of difference. Maybe once I have more time I'll try again and chase the Golden Beetroot of Wonder.

So, as to the actual recipe:

mix a couple of teaspoons of harissa with cumin seeds and a pinch of salt. Smear it on the fish. It really depends on how much fish you have, but I was quite parsimonious with the mixture, because I had no wish to set my mouth on fire. Then put the fish away.

Peel and cut into small cubes 2 oranges and half a lemon, mix them with the parsley, olives, cumin and coriander and juice of the other half lemon (I took a picture of the salsa on its own because it just looked so pretty, but my phone ate it, it seems). Cook the fish in a skillet with olive oil for a few minutes, add the salsa.

If I can say so myself, this dish was great. The effect of the slight spiciness with the bittersweet flavour of the orange and lemon is fresh and delicious. Definitely something to try again to spice up (indeed) some boring fish, and fairly straightforward and quick to make to boot!