Investigating Iraqi food: Khouzi, timman and aubergine salad

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Miranda’s Sandwich Woes. Regular readers of this blog may remember the trauma that ensued when we visited a newly-opened, local, independent café and received both terrible service and a terrible sandwich. Today, we went to an 11am screening of ‘Gone Girl’, and due to the half hour of cinematic advertising and film trailers we had to sit through before the film, it was 2pm by the time we came out, and we were a bit starving! This is the only explanation for the fact that we decided to trust a certain ubiquitous high street bakery chain to fill the holes in our stomachs.

Excited by the uncharacteristically ‘exotic’ options available, Miranda opted for a Moroccan vegetable flatbread. This NEW offering is advertised as being ‘chunky Moroccan style houmous, roasted vegetables, baby leaf spinach and spiced beetroot relish, all wrapped up in our new tasty flatbread’, which sounded like just the ticket for lunch on the go. Funnily enough, if the label had said ‘half a jar of slightly odd-tasting chutney, one piece of an unidentifiable vegetable that might be aubergine and a couple of green leaves, all wrapped up in our new tough and rubbery flatbread’, it wouldn’t have sounded as appealing but, sadly, would have been more accurate. How fitting that this new culinary invention was experienced after seeing ‘Gone Girl’, a film which proves that perspective is everything and that it’s very easy to put an erroneous spin on a story.

Fortunately, there was the memory of last night’s Iraqi khouzi alla timman (lamb shanks with rice) and aubergine salad to provide strength through this difficult time. Initial searches for this recipe proved problematic as we’re not really set up to cook an entire lamb in one go (though Ash would no doubt have enjoyed lugging one home from the butcher), and we didn’t have any baharat (Middle Eastern spice mix) on hand. We realised it was achievable, though, when we found we could make our own baharat (thank you, taste.com.au), and found a recipe for a scaled-down version of khouzi, using lamb shanks, on food.com, which we adapted slightly. The exact authenticity of both of these might be questionable, but it certainly gave us a ‘flavour’ of Iraqi cuisine. The aubergine salad (recipe by Pete Evans) may not be strictly Iraqi either, but it did go very well with the lamb, so we’ll include the recipe anyway.

Khouzi (lamb shanks)

Ingredients
2 lamb shanks
Cold water
1 strip lemon rind
1 onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
1 tsp baharat (recipe below)
1/2 tsp turmeric
500ml passata
1 tbsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup raisins
Juice of about half a lemon

Method
1. Put the lamb shanks in a large pot with cold water to just cover the meat. Add the lemon rind and bring slowly to the boil, skimming as required.
2. In another pan, gently fry the onion until transparent. Add the baharat and turmeric and fry for a further minute.
3. Add the passata, tomato puree, salt, pepper and raisins and stir.
4. When the lamb shank liquid is well skimmed and simmering, add the tomato mixture.
5. Cover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until meat is very tender. Towards the end of cooking, place the lid slightly askew to allow the liquid to reduce and thicken. Add the lemon juice at the same time.

Khouzi

6. Serve with…

Timman (rice)

Ingredients
1 cup basmati rice
1 tbsp olive oil
500ml chicken stock
Salt
1/4 cup pine nuts

Method
1. Heat oil in a heavy based frying pan, add rice and stir over high heat for 2 minutes.
2. Add stock and bring to a high simmer, stirring once at first to separate the grains from the bottom of the pan.
3. Reduce heat to medium low and cover pan tightly for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a small dry pan, toast the pine nuts until golden.
5. The rice will probably be nearly ready by this time. Reduce the heat to low and leave it for another 5-10 minutes (until cooked, basically).

Timman

Baharat (Middle Eastern spice mix)

Ingredients
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Method
Mix everything together!

Baharat

Aubergine salad with tahini-yoghurt dressing

Ingredients
1 aubergine, cut into slices
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1/3 Spanish onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 tsp sumac
50ml plain yoghurt
15ml tahini
Juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp salt

Method
1. Brush the aubergine lightly with the olive oil and cook on a griddle pan until golden brown. Arrange on a plate.
2. Mix the parsley, onion, tomato and sumac together and pile up on top of the aubergine.
3. For the dressing, mix the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt together. Drizzle over the salad.

Aubergine salad

This might seem like a lot of work and a lot of recipes to follow but it really wasn’t. The baharat mix only took the time of finding the spices in the cupboard, and the salad was incredibly simple (and that dressing was delicious). Rice isn’t tricky, and as for the lamb shanks, considering they didn’t even need to be browned before they were cooked, the most difficult part there was enduring the yummy smells of stewing lamb for two hours before we could eat it! Another bonus is that the recipes could easily be scaled up to feed more people in a simple and delicious way!

Khouzi, timman and aubergine salad

Next up: Syria!

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