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The Fine Dining Experience

The Fine Dining Experience

Issue 75 December 2010

Add some regal flair to the otherwise bland dining table through Fatema Zehra’s pick of refined and elegant dishes.

Photography by Bilal Yusuf


Middle Eastern Mezze Starter



For the falafel

2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g canned chickpeas
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Handful parsley, chopped
1 egg, beaten
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For the falafel, heat one tablespoon of oil in a large pan, then fry the onion and garlic over a low heat for five minutes until softened. Tip into a large mixing bowl with the chickpeas and spices, then mash together with a fork or potato masher until the chickpeas are totally broken down.
Stir in the parsley or dried herbs, with seasoning to taste. Add the egg, and then mix together with your hands.
Mould the mix into six balls, and then flatten into patties. Heat the remaining oil in the pan, then fry the falafels on a medium heat for three minutes on each side, until golden brown and firm.

For the bourekia

Pastry dough
450g plain flour
1 tsp salt
240 ml cold water   
5 ml lemon juice
50g clarified butter
225g margarine 
Cheese filling
450g halloumi cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt, for tasting

To make the cheese filling, mix all the ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
To make the dough, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the water and lemon juice and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Add the melted fat and knead for about 10 minutes or until smooth. Shape the dough into one large ball, cover with a damp cloth and leave for 30 minutes.
Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the dough until 7.5cm long. Put the block of margarine or butter in the middle of the sheet of dough and fold the pastry over the fat so that it is completely enclosed.
With a well-floured rolling pin, flatten the dough to a 1cm thickness. Fold the dough in half and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Roll out the dough again on the floured surface to 12.5cm length. Fold in half and refrigerate for a further ten minutes.
Keeping the work surface well floured, roll the dough out once more as thinly as possible. Cut into seven,individual squares or circles. Put 5-10ml of filling in one half of each shape.
Dampen the edges with cold water and fold over to make rectangles or semi circles. Seal the edges with your fingertips or a fork.
Arrange on a greased baking tray with a little beaten egg. Bake in a 180C for 20-30 minutes or until puffed or golden brown.

For the baba ghanoush
1 aubergine, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
¼ onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bunch fresh basil
splash olive oil
extra olive oil, to brush

Preheat the oven to 225C.Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat. Add the aubergine and onion and fry for five minutes to soften.
Add the garlic and transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove the aubergine from the oven and place into a food processor with the basil and a splash of oil. Blend to a rough paste and leave to rest, ready to serve.


For the Hummus
125g dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic, peeled
120ml olive oil

Drain the chickpeas and put in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil until tender; this can take 60 minutes or more depending on the age of the chickpeas.
Drain and cool, then putin a food processor with the garlic, lemon juice and zest, tahini and salt. Whiz together and pour in the olive oil as the motor is still running.
To smoothen the dip, add some cold water, still with the motor running, until you reach the right consistency. Taste for flavour and add more salt if required.

Chicken breast with Egyptian foul paté and vine leaves



For the lemon and thyme chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
½ chicken breast
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lemon
For the foul (bean) paté
425g cooked fava beans
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
dash of cinnamon
dash of clove
dash of turmeric
dash of cayenne
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt, to taste
For the stuffed vine leaves
227g pack vine leaves in brine
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
500g lamb minced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lemon, juice only
100g long-grain rice
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the lemon and thyme chicken, heat the oil and thyme leaves in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the chicken breast for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and golden-brown. The chicken is cooked through when the juices run clear. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add the lemon half to the pan, cut-side down, for the final 2-3 minutes, or until char grilled.
For the foul paté, cook onion in vegetable oil until brown. Add garlic and chopped tomato and cook until softened. Add spices and lemon juice and stir. Add fava beans and salt to taste. Leave on low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Put in blender and puree until smooth.
For the vine leaves, rinse the leaves well in warm water, shake dry and set aside. In a large bowl thoroughly mix the other ingredients, reserving two tablespoons of oil and one teaspoon of tomato purée, and season. Lay out the leaves, vein-side up, and roll 1 tbsp of the mixture in each leaf. Place the parcels in a large casserole.
Mix the remaining tomato purée and oil with 400ml cold water and pour over the vine leaf parcels so they are almost covered. Cover the casserole with foil. Bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cover with the lid. Cook for 45 to 60 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the leaves are tender.
Allow to cool before serving with the chicken and paté.

Baked figs and rosewater ice-cream



12 fresh figs
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
4 tsp honey
2 tbsp cold butter, cut into 12 pieces
2 tbsp water

For the rose water ice cream
3 tbsp rose water
275 ml whole milk
4 large egg yolks
110g superfine sugar
284 ml heavy cream
For the date cookies
120g wholemeal flour
200g rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
125 ml raw organic honey
2 tbsp tahini
125 ml light olive oil
125 ml low-fat milk
88g diced dates
43g sunflower seeds
2 tbsp of linseeds
To serve
Handful of raspberries
Raspberry coulis

Heat the oven to 425C. Cut the stems off the figs. Rub the oil over the figs and put them in a baking pan, stem-side up. Cut a cross in the top of each fig, cutting almost to the bottom.
Drizzle the honey over the figs. Top each one with a piece of the butter. Bake the figs for 8-10 minutes until they open up like flowers. Remove the pan from the oven.
Put the figs on plates, add the water to the pan, return the pan to the oven for one minute, and then stir to make a sauce. Drizzle the sauce over the warm figs and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
To make the ice cream, heat the milk slowly in a pan to boiling point. Meanwhile, in a bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar together until smooth and foamy; pour the heated milk over the egg mixture, beating all the time.
Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens slightly to form a coating over the back of the spoon, making sure it does not boil.
Pour into a bowl, cool then refrigerate until chilled, stir in the cream and rosewater then either churn in an ice cream maker or pour into a shallow plastic box and place in the freezer until completely frozen. After two hours of freezing, remove the ice cream from the freezer and whisk it to remove any ice crystals forming. Repeat this twice more during the freezing process.
For the date cookies, preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper. In a bowl add all dry ingredients and mix until well combined. In another bowl add all liquid ingredients, whisk until well combined. Pour liquid into dry mixture and combine. Gently fold in dates, linseeds and sunflower seeds.
Use one tablespoon of mixture for each cookie and place them on a baking tray. Press cookies flat with the back of a fork and pat them round the edges to make perfectly round cookies. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Serve the ice cream and figs, and drizzle with raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries, and top with the biscuit.


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