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"Like all foods, bread is a nexus of economic, political, aesthetic, social, symbolic, and health concerns. As traditionally the most important food in the Sardinian diet, bread is a particularly sensitive indicator of change."

Carole M Counihan

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Entries in mint (8)


Cheese and Chard Triangles

On Friday I did my second demo at the Natoora shop in Turnham Green. I made loquat chutney, which we served with pappadums and naan bread, and these cheese and chard triangles. They were both very well received; a couple of people even asked if they could buy some, nice!

I deliberated a while over what to call these. In Australia I would have called them ‘pasties’ without a doubt, but in the UK that implies something Cornish and stodgy with a short and lardy pastry. Delicious, but not quite what I mean.

In Australia spinach and cheese pasties are almost as ubiquitous as meat pies. They are usually made with puff pastry and stuffed with spinach and cheddar or ricotta. My cheese and chard triangles are more like Turkish börek, since I use feta, as well as ricotta, and add dill and mint to the mix. I also tend to use filo pastry, though ready-made puff is a great cheat if you are short on time.

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Ezogelin çorbası

Red lentil and bulgur soup with dried mint and Aleppo pepper

This soup was the first course in the five course meal my sister and I helped cook at Cooking Alaturka in Istanbul. It sounds plain, but it is hearty, wholesome and delicious. The people at Cooking Alaturka say:

This heartwarming soup, named after the bride Ezo, is so delicious and simple to make that you will want to make it all the time! You can use a chicken stock, but we prefer it with plain water, so that the other flavors come through more clearly. Don’t forget to squeeze a little lemon juice into it at the table. 

They also advise that there are pros and cons to serving it straight away versus leaving it overnight. If you serve it on the day it has a nice granular texture from the bulgar. However, the flavour is better the next day.

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Middle Eastern mezze no.4: Tabbouli

I read the Saturday Guardian magazine religiously, my favourite sections naturally being those on food and drink, although Tim Dowling’s column comes a close second. So I was very pleased one Saturday morning a few years back to find that Yotam Ottolenghi had dedicated his column to this favourite salad of mine. The subheader had its desired affect, drawing me in with the following statement:

There's a right way and a wrong way to make this brilliant Middle Eastern salad, says Yotam Ottolenghi. Here's the right way...

Had I been making it the right way all these years? A perfectionist through and through, I was very pleased to find that I had. 

The most common issue is the proportions – far too many cooks do not realise that parsley is the star of the show here, not the bulgar … Another biggie is the way the herbs are chopped, and in this instance I'm afraid I must side with the purists and shun the food processor. Chopping the leaves with a razor-sharp, heavy knife, although a lot of work, prevents bruising and gives the parsley its light and dry texture.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” my Australian readership is probably thinking, “talk about stating the obvious."

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Middle Eastern mezze no.3: Hugh Foster's spicy lamb mince


Hugh Foster is often credited with having introduced Sydneysiders to Morrocan and Middle Eastern food in the 1990s with his trendy Darlinghurst restaurant, the Fez. The Fez is now closed, but he continues the theme with Café Mint in Surry Hills which has been open since the early noughties and still draws a large crowd, a testament to his ability to keep up with the times.

Café Mint’s takes the successful Sydney café model – communal tables, sleek furnishings and interior, good coffee, all day breakfasts which merge into lunch and dinner – but adds a twist, North African cuisine. Alongside the usual breakfast offerings of sourdough toast, bircher muesli, and scrambled eggs, you have breakfast cous cous with yoghurt, merguez sausage with chakchouka, and baked eggs with beans and sucuk.

My Dad did a stint working at Café Mint after he closed his own restaurant. It was probably around this time that Middle Eastern mezze became a regular part of our weeknight dinner menu. One of my favourite of these recipes is Hugh’s spicy lamb mince with pine nuts, which has made appearances on Cafe Mint’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menu over the years.

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Middle Eastern mezze no.2: Falafel

Updated on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 7:51PM by Registered CommenterVix

Falafel is one of those foods which you either love or hate.

Or is it?

I think the people who hate it just haven’t had the good stuff.  

When falafel is bad, it is really bad – bland and dry, you might as well be eating cardboard. It is a pity that this is many people’s only experience of falafel, because the problem is so easily remedied; add more! More spices, more herbs, more garlic, more salt. This may seem obvious, but in practice more people turn out bland falafels, than aromatic and fragrant ones, so it is worth driving the point home.

At first glance, 4 tablespoons of cumin, 3 bunches of herbs, 6 cloves of garlic and 3 tablespoons of salt may seem excessive, but bear in mind that this falafel mixture makes 20 to 30 balls. You can test your falafel mix by frying a small bit of the mixture to check the seasoning; if it doesn’t taste right, add more!

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