Peppery Pakistani: Lamb nihari

It was a Saturday, and Miranda had spent the day at work, leaving the recipe for Pakistani nihari (slow cooked lamb) in Ash’s capable hands. By the time she got home, he’d confused the butcher by requesting that a full leg of lamb was cut into five chunks, searched high and low in a number of different shops for black cardamon (eventually successfully), managed to grind the spices into a satisfactory powder and was just adding the spice blend to the pot. After letting it cook for a while, Miranda tasted the sauce. Now, Miranda is not one to shy away from spicy food, but even she was surprised at the extent to which her head felt like it was about to explode. There wasn’t that much chilli in it – surely?

‘Oh – I suppose the black pepper will be adding some heat, too,’ she realised.

‘I know! Three to four tablespoons is a lot,’ responded Ash.

Miranda blinked in confusion. She’d read the recipe. She would have noticed an unusual quantity like that. Suddenly, a visual image of that part of the recipe floated into her mind: ‘3/4 tbsp’.

’Three-quarters of a tablespoon,’ she emphasised. Ash’s face changed as he realised what he’d done. Continue reading

Syrian ‘sandwich’: Kibbeh bil sanieh

Lesson #1 learnt whilst cooking Syrian food: cutting a wedge out of one’s finger whilst trying to dice a tomato makes it really quite painful to type.

Subsequently, this is going to be a shorter than usual preamble. However, it is probably an appropriate moment to sing the praises of what is possibly our best bargain buy ever – and that’s saying a lot, as Miranda is one of the world’s most dedicated bargain and freebie hunters. But few bargains have had the longevity of our favourite kitchen knife – from IKEA, of all places.

IKEA knife

When Ash first moved out of home, we did a big IKEA shop, cheaply picking up all the essentials, with the intention of upgrading the important things later. One of the essentials, of course, was an all-purpose knife, which he picked up for about £8. Four and a half years (and a few sharpenings) later, it is still our most reached-for knife when cooking, and will probably feature in nearly every recipe on this blog, despite the fact that since then we’ve acquired fancier and more expensive knives. Moral of the story: don’t underestimate IKEA. (But don’t come into too close contact with the knife blade, if you know what’s good for you. And don’t visit the store on a bank holiday Monday, if you know what’s good for you.)

Fortunately, losing a chunk of Miranda’s finger didn’t affect our ability to cook and eat Syrian kibbeh bil sanieh, which is basically multiple layers of meat sandwiched together – which made Ash very happy. Unfortunately we can’t remember which website this recipe came from, so apologies for the lack of credit. Continue reading

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,, and found a recipe for a scaled-down version of khouzi, using lamb shanks, on, 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. Continue reading

Tantalising Turkish tucker: Lamb and aubergine kebabs

Having spent hours upon hours yesterday afternoon researching wedding photographers (who knew there were so many?!) and concluding the search with about two dozen options and a spinning head, a simple Turkish dinner was the perfect antidote. Ash had lamb kebabs in mind for our Turkish meal, so we turned to our trusty favourite, Bought, Borrowed and Stolen by Allegra McEvedy for a recipe for lamb and aubergine kebabs.

We stuck to the recipe fairly stringently, except for the fact that it said to use flatbread and we used standard Turkish bread. Flatbread would have been perfect, but there’s a shop near us that sells beautiful, fresh Turkish breads almost the size of a football field for 70p, and this was an ideal excuse to buy one. Not that we really need an excuse when they’re that nice and that cheap. Considering we then bought all of the vegetables at the adjacent market, this turned out to be a bit of a budget meal (also sorely needed after researching wedding photographers). Much as we probably won’t mourn the day we leave this crazy South London suburb we currently call home, not having that market just up the road will one day be a huge loss. Continue reading