For our second London Cooking Club evening on 23rd January 2010, we decided to host a Syrian themed event inspired by one of my favourite blogs “Syrian Foodie in London”.
In addition to the usual faces, three new members joined us on the evening - Jennifer Ah-Kin of Dashi Dashi, Eduardo Sant’Anna of Start Café, Columbia Road, and fellow foodie extraordinaire Hendrik de Jong.
All recipes were taken from the Syrian Foodie in London blog with each person contributing at least one dish and accompanying wines. It was an informal evening with a great atmosphere as we all participated in the cooking and tucked into some amazing Syrian fare.
We started with a selection of different mezze served with flat Arabic bread freshly baked by Tim and Regis, washed down with some delightful Pomegranate Bellinis expertly mixed by our new joiner Eduardo.
The recipes were easy to follow and only a few unusual ingredients were required to prepare some scrumptious dishes. The mezze and main ingredients were:
“Baba Ghanoush” (aubergine, pomegranate molasses, walnuts, parsley and tomato)
“Hummus” (chickpeas, tahini, garlic, oil and lemon juice)
“Aubergine Mutabal” (aubergine, tahini, garlic, yoghurt, lemon)
“Beetroot Mutabal” (beetroot, tahini, yoghurt, lemon)
“Chicken Livers with Pomegranate Molasses” (chicken livers, pomegranate molasses, ghee, red wine, butter)
All these dishes were delicious with some of the favourites, by common consent, being the chicken liver with pomegranate molasses and the aubergine mutabal prepared by Hendrik.
We also had a good variety of main dishes, these included:
“Hummus with Meat” (hummus, venison fillet, pine nuts, ghee) – the venison fillet was a gift from Uyen of Fernandez and Leluu and was incredibly tender, the perfect accompaniment for the creamy hummus and toasted pine nuts. I thought this was one of the highlights of the evening; it looked fantastic and was very easy to prepare.
“Mnazaleh” (minced lamb, aubergines, tomatoes, pine nuts) – also prepared by Hendrik, and similar to a Greek Moussaka. This was very flavoursome, honest, homely comfort food at its best.
“Chicken Fatteh” (chicken, Arabic bread, tahini, yoghurt) – this delicious chicken dish was cooked by Jen of Dashi Dashi. The composition of this dish was interesting as the layers of bread soaked in stock, chicken and a combination of yoghurt and tahini provided different flavours and textures.
To accompany the main dishes, we also had:
“Vermicelli Rice” (rice, vermicelli, ghee) – this was deliciously buttery from the ghee, and accompanied the Mnazaleh well.
“Mujaddara” (green lentils, bulgar wheat, tomato paste, onions) – this was surprising good as the combination of bulgar wheat and green lentils was brought to life by the addition of fried onions and the accompanying chilli sauce. It was an interesting alternative to the Vermicelli Rice.
“Foul Ma’alla” (broad beans, yoghurt, coriander) – this was a delightful and quick accompaniment that went well with all of the main dishes.
“Fatoush” (salad of ba’aleh, Arabic bread, cucumbers, tomatoes) – I loved this salad and the aromatic and refreshing flavours of the dressing which included sumac, lemon juice, dried mint and garlic. The addition of “ba’aleh” (Syrian greens) was interesting as they tasted slightly bitter and citric and unlike any other greens I have tasted.
Our dessert was baked by Tim who embarked on a foodie expedition around Edgware Road to find “Akawi” cheese for the “Syrian Cheese Cake”. This look very pretty in a delicate case of filo pastry. The cheesecake centre was firm, being oven cooked, and savoury-sweet in contrast to the more familiar soft, sweet American version.
By sharing the cooking from a single source/theme we were able to explore Syrian cuisine in greater depth than we could have achieved individually. It was heartening to see that a common love of good food and cooking helped us all to connect around the table even though some of us were meeting for the first time.
I was delighted to see what a successful and productive collaboration this evening proved to be. As a host I felt that it was one of the most stress free dinners I have had as everyone got stuck in from the moment they arrived.
Many thanks to Kano of Syrian Foodie in London for inspiring this evening.
Our next meeting will be in March 2010 and the theme will be Vietnamese Cuisine inspired by the cookery books “Secrets of the Red Lantern” and “Songs of Sapa”. Please visit our Facebook page “London Cooking Club” or e-mail me if you would like to take part.