The fairy tale dinner
Falafel, the ur-version, made with dried broad beans instead of chickpeas. After painstakingly removing the tough skins from every single broad bean (which took me more than half an hour) I decided I should have listened to Claudia Roden, who advises to buy the dried beans 'already skinned'.... The soaked, hulled beans are pureed with parsley, coriander, coriander seed, cumin and chili powder - and a ton of garlic. The deep-fried end result was very tasty - I would say that flavor-wise, these were the best falafel I ever had - but the texture needs some tweaking. They were a bit dry, and the outer crust was a tiny bit chewy instead of nice and crisp.
I used Paula Wolfert's recipe for this traditional Arab chicken dish. It's spiced with lots of ground sumac, which gives it a mysterious, lemony tang and a deep earthy flavor. I love any dish that combines good bread and juicy meat, and this recipe has you baking the chicken on a bed of pieces of flatbread. The juices of the chicken and stewed onions permeate the bread, which becomes part soggy / part crispy, and the whole dish (though simple and easy to make) is unusual, delicious and interesting.
We had finished the entire tin of Basbousa my friend had brought us from Abu Dhabi, so I decided it was time to make my own. Instead of soaking the cake with a lemon sugar syrup as the recipe (from Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food) states, I used the reduced poaching liquid from my quinces, with a good glug of quince wodka for an extra quince (and alcohol) kick. Served with poached quinces and a good dollop of mascarpone, this was a truly gorgeous dessert - one I can see myself making for a big dinner party in the near future.
The dish without a beautiful name
Roasted aubergine with a minted joghurt dressing, sprinkled with smoked paprika.