A green and pleasant lunch: Sabich

A memorable dining experience of ours was at a restaurant called Four Tables, in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Not because the food was particularly outstanding (though it was very good) or particularly terrible (it wasn’t), but simply because of the unmatched quirky nature of the place. Having had some nibbles, breads and dips before taking our seats, we were greeted with an enormous salad entrée (in addition to our starters). As for the menu of main dishes, it looked fairly standard until you gazed up at the ‘exotic’ meats offering on the specials blackboard: think animals like crocodile, camel and zebra. Portion sizes were huge, and that was before the totally eclectic mix of side dishes made their appearances. Roast potatoes, roasted baby aubergines and giant onion rings were just the beginning! Neither of us is accustomed to leaving food on the plate, but even we couldn’t make it through this marathon.

Our visit was in honour of Miranda’s birthday which meant that we were also offered another treat: a complimentary signed copy of the proprietor’s cookbook, Elaborate Cooking Uncovered. It is full of recipes from all around the world, but it is primarily our go-to book when we want to make hummus. As hummus is an element of today’s dish, and so are aubergines, we couldn’t help reminiscing about that dinner nearly 5 years ago, which is why we’ve described our visit as a precursor to our Israeli recipe.

This week, we’ve opted for a lunch dish instead of a dinner one. Apparently there is no real ‘national dish’ of Israel, as its cuisine is so influenced by neighbouring countries and Jewish immigrants, but the sandwich known as sabich seems to be accepted as unquestionably Israeli. This is no ordinary sandwich though: this is a substantial meal and shouldn’t be attempted if you’re also planning a large dinner! The recipes for most elements of the dish come from I Will Not Eat Oysters, with the exception of the hummus, which is courtesy of Four Tables’ Ali Javaheri as mentioned above. Apparently a key feature of the sabich is amba, a pickled mango sauce, but despite an hour or so spent traipsing around our local ethnic food shops, we couldn’t find any, so we substituted it with mango chutney… which seemed to work! Continue reading

Sunday dinner with a difference: Lebanese stuffed pot-roast chicken

One of our favourite meals is a classic Sunday roast. Ash, being English, was raised on this weekend staple, but it was less frequent in Miranda’s household due to the slightly inappropriate Australian climate. Thinking about it, suitability for a weekly roast is one of the few points that British weather has in its favour. Because seriously, what’s not to like about Sunday dinner? Tender meat, tasty veg, crispy potatoes, the mysterious is-it-savoury-or-is-it-sweet parsnip, plenty of gravy bursting with flavour, a selection of condiments to suit the chosen joint (horseradish… mint sauce… applesauce… cranberry sauce) – and the king of the plate, the Yorkshire pudding. Or puddings.

Much as we love trying out new recipes, Sunday dinner is something we don’t usually mess with, in an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ kind of way. The meat-veg-gravy formula works, so there’s no need to experiment. Ash is so practised at it now that he can pretty much cook a roast dinner on autopilot. So at dinnertime on Sundays, we usually tend to sit down, ignore the enormous pile of dishes that has somehow built up during the cooking process (something else he can produce on autopilot), and relax ourselves before having to face the working week ahead of us. It’s one of our favourite times of the week.

The difference this week is that we did mess with it, by putting a Lebanese spin on roast chicken, as recommended by Allegra McEvedy in our trusty Bought, Borrowed & Stolen. Rather than roasties, we have delightfully ‘poached’ butternut squash and caramelised onions. Rather than boiled veg, we have a fattoush salad (recipe adapted from here). Rather than traditional gravy, we have the intriguing tang of pomegranate molasses. And rather than Paxo (other brands of stuffing are available), we have a blend of beef, bulghur wheat and pine nuts. Yes please. Continue reading