Monday, February 9, 2009

Writing Retreat - the Exotica Feast

Before I share stories from the recent 2009 Smoky Cape Writers' Retreat, Lisa has agreed to share her fabulous recipes with the group, and decided that the best medium is through our blog.

Our feasts are always a highly anticipated part of the retreat, and Lisa's culinary skills never fail to impress (below, left)

Baba Ghanoush

2-3 medium sized eggplants
1½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Parsley, finely chopped
Tomato, finely diced

Grill the whole eggplant over a gas flame, turning with tongs until the skin is evenly toasted. Soak in cold water for about 10 min to cool. When cool, completely peel the eggplants and drain for 15-20 min. Place into a food processor with tahini, lemon, garlic and salt and process again until well combined and creamy. Place the mixture in a serving bowl and make a well in the centre just deep enough for the oil to be poured in. Sprinkle paprika, parsley and tomato on top.


500g dried chickpeas
2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
Place chickpeas in a large saucepan. Add enough hot water to cover by at least 10cm (they will absorb the water and increase in size). Add bicarbonate soda and leave to soak overnight. After soaking, rinse chickpeas, return to saucepan and cover with hot water. Bring to the boil and cook for approximately 1 – 2 hours (or until their skins peel off). When chickpeas are soft and the skins are loose, drain and allow them to cool.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until soft and creamy. Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt and blend again until the mixture is well combined and smooth.

Place the mixture into a serving bowl and make a well in the centre, deep enough for the oil to be poured in. Sprinkle paprika and chopped parsley on top.
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons flour
Oil for frying

Place dried chickpeas in a bowl, covering with cold water. Allow to soak overnight. Drain chickpeas, and place in pan with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer on low for about an hour. Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour.
Mash chickpeas, ensuring to mix ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste. Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten. Bake, or fry, until golden brown.

Feta and Ricotta Dip

500g Feta cheese
500g ricotta cheese
6 tbl softened butter
1 x clove garlic, crushed
1 tbl dill, chopped
2 tbl parsley, chopped;
2-3 cups walnuts, chopped

Process feta until finely crumbled. Add herbs and garlic and process. Add ricotta and butter. Blend until smooth. Add walnuts.


2 bunches fresh parsley, finely shredded
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons
2 tbsp fine burghul
3-4 medium tomatoes, diced
4 green shallots, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Squeeze lemon over burghul and leave to soften for 30 minutes. You may need to add a little water Combine parsley, mint, tomato, shallot and softened burghul. Season with salt and pepper and mix in olive oil. The best way to mix is to use your hands.


4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp salt
3 tsp sweet paprika
4 tsp sumac
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp lemon juice

Handful of cherry tomatoes
Handful of yellow tomatoes
Handful of finely sliced radish
Handful of lettuce leaves or other greens
2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced
½ red capsicum, sliced
½ yellow capsicum, sliced
½ red cabbage
½ cup of mint
½ cup flat leaf parsley chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
1 toasted Lebanese bread

Crush the crushed garlic and mix the salt, paprika, sumac, olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. To a large mixing bowl add the vegetables and fresh herbs. Add the bread, torn into small, rough pieces. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well.

Kibbeh bil sanieh

800 grams lamb mince
4 large brown onions finely chopped
1 tsp baharat (seven spice mix)
½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp finely ground black pepper
3 tbsp roasted pine nuts
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

1½ cup fine cracked wheat (burghul)
800 grams fat free beef mince
2 tsp salt
3 tsp cracked pepper
1 tsp baharat spice mix
2 large brown onions, grated
1 tbsp olive oil

FILLING: (inner layer)
Place oil and mince into a large frying pan over a low heat. Break it up constantly until it is well separated and loose and the moisture is starting to evaporate. Add the spices, seasoning and chopped onion and keep stirring. In a small pan melt the butter, add the pine nuts and roast lightly. When the pine nuts are starting to brown in the butter, add to the meat mixture. Keep mixing until the onion becomes soft. Set aside in the fridge to cool.

KIBBEH: (outer layers)
Soak the burghul in a large mixing bowl with 1 cup of water for at least 5 mins or overnight if possible. Drain well. Add salt, pepper, baharat, grated onion, and mince and mix well by hand till it forms into a paste. You may need a little water to keep the mixture soft. Set aside in the fridge to cool.

To assemble the dish, use a flattish tray with 2cm sides. Grease the tray well. Dampen hands and layer the tray with the kibbeh by forming small balls in your hand then flattening them evenly in the tray. Add the cool filling evenly across the kibbeh, pressing it down a little to keep the layers tight.

Sandwich with the top layer of kibbeh the same way. Flatten evenly and cut into slices or servings before baking. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and bake for 25 minutes in a pre-heated moderate oven. Serve with yoghurt and salad.

Tomato Rice with Lentils and Beans

3cups rice
1 tbs salt
2 tins of brown lentils, drained and washed
2 large onions, sliced finely
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon turmeric
400ml vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup warm water
2 cans tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
500g green beans, cut into small pieces, about ¼ inch in length
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 dried limes

Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil; add the rice and salt. Boil for 10 minutes, until only about half-cooked – just like al dente pasta. Drain in a colander; rinse well with cold water to stop the cooking process, and set aside to drain really well.

In another big saucepan, sauté the onions in 4 tablespoons of the butter until golden brown. It’s important to let them go really very dark, for the taste. Stir in the turmeric. Add the green beans, vegetable stock, tomato paste (diluted in the warm water), tomatoes, salt, pepper, soy sauce, cinnamon, dried limes, and lemon juice. Cover and simmer until the beans are tender (about 25-30 minutes).

Now you’ve got the parboiled rice, and the bean stew. It’s time to put them together. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan, pour in 1/3 of the rice, then 1/3 of the meat mixture. Alternate layers of rice and meat until the ingredients have all been used up. Cover the saucepan with a lid wrapped in a cloth, to catch the steam, and steam over a medium heat for about 30 minutes. Don’t lift the lid at all until at least 30 minutes – you should be able to smell when the rice is cooked. This dish, when inverted onto a serving platter, will be quite red; it is very decorative as well as delicious.

Thankyou, Lisa. And perhaps Roby will share her recipes from Monday evening.

Now, what are you waiting for? Get cooking!

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