Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey

Muttabaq (2)

Well, not just for Big Man, but for some dear friends who came to visit recently. Time for desserts, sitting around after a meal chatting until the candles burn down, sipping coffee and eating “just one more little piece” even though the waistband is straining a little.

To be honest, most of my girlfriends are not big dessert eaters. Not for any health or diet reasons, we’re just more fans of all things savoury. A good compromise was found once more in the pages of Jerusalem, the cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I decided to make Muttabaq, a delicious dessert made with layers of buttery filo pastry and filled with creamy cheese.

If you want a look at the original version, hope over to see how Chaise Longue of Olives and Artichokes made it.  I decided to add a little Chica twist of my own.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of filo pastry
  • 100g melted butter (the original recipe calls for about 50g more but I found I didn’t need it all)
  • 2 x 250g packs of ricotta (Check out Chgo John’s method if you want to make you own)
  • 1 x 250g pack of mascarpone (the original recipe calls for goat’s cheese but I have a goat’s cheese hating pal)
  • A large handful of chopped pistachios

Then my additions

  • About a dozen fresh dates, finely chopped
  • About half a cup of chopped walnuts
  • The grated rind of an orange
  • A tablespoon of icing or caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Using half the packet of filo, place layers of pastry in a deep baking dish brushing with melted butter between layers. Cut off any edges that curl up the side of the dish. Mix together the cheese, orange rind and sugar and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle over the dates and walnuts and then place the remaining pastry over the top in layers, brushing again with butter as you go. Tuck the outside edges of the top pastry section under the bottom half, brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle over the pistachios. Cut into squares, without cutting right through to the bottom

Muttabaq Pistachios (1)

Bake for25 mins approx. at 225 degrees (or a hot oven) until golden brown. Meanwhile make up a lemon sugar syrup using 250g sugar, 90mls of water and the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour over the sugar syrup (it seems like a lot but just keep going). Serve just warm but it’s also good cold.

To accompany the Muttabaq I made a Moroccan inspired dish of sliced oranges sprinkled with chopped mint, pomegranate seeds, rosewater, sugar and cinnamon. Very pretty and fresh.

Oranges & Rosewater (1)

We talked for hours, we reminisced, we laughed…now that’s what I call a perfect evening. And now I wish all of you and your loved ones peace and joy over Easter and I hope you all get to enjoy some wonderful food, time and laughter together.

Lamb with Quince, Pomegranate and Coriander

The 6th January is the Feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. In Spain el Día De Los Reyes is a feast Day, and widely anticipated and celebrated by young and old. Traditionally a Roscón de Reyes (a Cake of Kings) is made. Check out my recipe from last year here, or Giovanna´s beautiful creation here.

Although we´re currently in England, we weren´t going to let a celebration pass us by, and the opportunity to celebrate it with best friends and parents was too good to miss.

Lamb with Quince (1)

We may have had to eat off a folding table in a half decorated room with mismatched plates from charity shops, but we were going to eat well.

We started with Jamon y Queso (Ham & Cheese) and Habas con Jamon (Broad Beans with Ham) and a delicious Brandada. Check out Mad Dog´s fantastic post all about this Catalan delicacy.

Our main course was inspired by my Christmas present from Big Man, the beautiful book Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. We had bought a couple of quince back from Spain with us, although I didn´t have quite enough so added in chunks of butternut squash (Ottolenghi recommends pear) which worked really well.  Below is how I cooked the recipe with the original recipe also shown.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • 400g minced lamb
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 red chili, chopped (I used 1 tsp hot pimentón)
  • 20g chopped coriander plus 2tbsp to garnish
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2 medium onions peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 4 quince (1.3kg in total) I used 2 quince and a small butternut squash
  • ½ lemon squeezed plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses (I couldn´t find this so used honey plus the juice of an extra half a lemon)
  • 2 tsp sugar (I left this out)
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • Salt and black pepper

Place the lamb in a bowl with the garlic, chili, coriander, breadcrumbs, allspice, half the ginger, half the onion, egg and seasoning. Mix with your hands and then form small meatballs. The original recipe suggests stuffing halves of quince, Believe me, this is very hard work as quince are very hard to peel and chop, so I went with his other suggestion to chop the quince and cook with the lamb meatballs.

Lamb with Quince (2)

Peel and chop the quince/squash into large chunks and finely chop about a quarter of the chunks. Leave the larger pieces in a pot of water with the juice of half a lemon to stop the quince turning too brown. Or don´t bother – it will still look and taste good when cooked!

Heat the oil and add the finely chopped quince/squash, onions, ginger and cardamom pods. Cook (covered) until softened then add the molasses and lemon juice (or honey and lemon juice), sugar (if using), stock and seasoning. Now add the quince/squash and meatballs and cook gently for about an hour (covered) or until the fruit is soft. Remove the lid and turn up the heat and cook for a further few minutes until the sauce is thick and pulpy, check for seasoning and sprinkle with the pomegranate and fresh coriander before serving. I also added an extra squeeze of lemon juice.

Tastes even better if made the day before (just don´t add the coriander and pomegranate). I served it with basmati rice into which I stirred browned onions and cumin seeds (toasted and crushed with a pestle and mortar).

Fruit Platter (1)

Phew – a lovely meal with friends which was rounded off with singing and dancing (of the silly variety), Roscón and a fruit platter which went some way to convincing us that we hadn´t consumed any calories at all over Christmas and New Year.