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Welcome friends to my Middle Eastern and completely photo-heavy extravaganza of a post! The very nice people at Essential Cuisine were kind enough to send me a wonderful basket of goodies last week to participate in a little friendly cooking competition to put their new range of gourmet stocks to good use. Although I completely and utterly dig making stock from scratch when I have the time the reality is sometimes we’ve all just got too much on and unfortunately a lot of supermarket substitutes just won’t suffice. I think these guys have tapped into a much desired and appreciated niche of the home cooking world.

My food genre of choice for this challenge is Middle Eastern since 50% of my genes hail from Egypt. Obviously these dishes aren’t strictly Egyptian but our general mentality has something to do with a lot of spice, sweetness and FLAVOUR. How awesome is flavour?! Prettyyyyy, pretty good.

The original plan was to have four recipes up for you all to try however, most unfortunately, this crazy week involving too much work and a computer crash (!!!) has contributed to the demise of a few folders of images, mystery dish included. It’s a massive shame because it’s mighty fine! I promise to re-shoot and get it up as soon as possible because I’m sure you’re going to love it. And if you don’t… come at me bro. So in lieu of my disasterously hectic week I’ve come up with three publishable dishes! Firstly is a Lamb, Fig and Date Pizza. Oh my gosh. Since this challenge was about being creative I thought “why not throw a tagine on a pizza?!” Genius. You don’t even need to make, or add, pizza sauce. When I made it for my family the other night their faces literlly melted off… really truly. I had some for lunch and dinner and my brother polished off the leftovers for breakfast the following day. It’s seriously good. I also have a couple of sides; Buttery Pomegranate Couscous and Spiced, Roasted Chickpeas, they’re like ethnic wasabi peas! The couscous would have made a little more sense with the other dish I was going to post, but, yeah. Massive apologies again. :(

And, as always, I am always photographing for my book project so without further adieu, here’s a whole lot of photos!

Lamb + Fig + Date Pizza with Minted Yoghurt (makes 3 pizzas)
Lamb Tagine
3 tsp cumin
2 tsp crushed corriander seeds
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp saffron powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp cardamon pods, seeds removed
2 tsp peppercorns
1 cinnamon quill
2 onion
3 cloves garlic
30g fresh ginger, grated
1 kg diced lamb (I used leg)
250ml lamb stock
50g dried dates, chopped
80g dried figs, chopped
2 tbs (heaped) honey
Olive oil

Pizza Dough
14g (2 sachets) dry yest
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
60ml olive oil

Truss of fresh cherry tomatoes
1 cup natural yoghurt
Handful of finely chopped mint
Handful of pinenuts

For the lamb tagine
1. In a mortar and pestle crush the fennel seeds, cardamon and peppercorns. Combine with the rest of the spices. Dice onion, finely slice the garlic and mince the fresh ginger.
2. Drizzle olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook through, continually stirring, until beginning to soften (around 5 minutes). Add the spices and cinnamon quill and, once fragrant, add the diced lamb. Once it is nicely browned pour in the lamb stock and add the dried dates and figs. Turn the heat down, cover and allow to simmer for an hour.
3. Remove the lid and add the honey. Bring heat up to a vigorous boil for a few minutes to reduce the liquid. It needs to be of a thick, stewy consistency as this will also double as the pizza sauce. Once ready, decant to a shallow bowl and break up the lamb pieces with two forks, roughly shredding.

For the pizza dough
1. Combine warm water with yeast, sugar and salt. Cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes in a warm area. If the mixture does not become frothy discard and start again.
2. Add yeast mixture to flour and knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. Roll into a ball, cover with a damp towel and allow to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. The dough should double in size.
3. Punch the dough to remove air and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide into thirds and roll out as pizza bases.

For the assembly
1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Place truss tomatoes on a baking try and roast for 20 minutes. Remove and turn up oven to 250°C.
2. Place pizza bases on a baking tray and divide the lamb tagine between them, leaving a border of a few centimetres. Sprinkle with pine nuts and dot with cherry tomatoes once removed from the truss. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until dough is browned and cooked through.
3. Combine yoghurt with mint and dollop in the centre of the pizzas.

Buttery Pomegranate Couscous
1 cup couscous
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground corriander seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tbs butter
1 pomegranate, deseeded
Chopped coriander (optional)

1. Heat chicken stock in a saucepan until just beginning to boil. Place couscous, spices and salt in a heatproof bowl and pour over the warmed stock. Cover immediately with plastic wrap for 5 minutes. Gently fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the butter. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped coriander.

Roasted + Spiced Chickpeas
375g dried chickpeas
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground corriander seeds
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sumac
2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
2 tsp salt
50ml olive oil

1. Pour dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with double the amount of water. Leave to soak overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Drain chickpeas into a large saucepan. Cover with water and boil for an hour or until beginning to tender.
3. Decant into a bowl and toss through spices, salt and olive oil. Move to a baking tray and bake for 1 hour, stirring the chickpeas occasionally to ensure they’re cooked consistently. Serve with a sprinkling of paprika.

Phew! I hope your monitors have survived this epic lamb pizza post. I promise to post up that mystery recipe soon as well with another Middle Eastern inspired dessert I prepared very soon. Thanks again to Essential Cuisine for allowing me to try their stock! You guys are just too cool for pushing me to create such tasty things for my family.

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Chicken + Apricot + Ginger + Rosemary Tagine

One pot. Tender meat. Stone fruits, spice and honey. There a few things more delicious than a spicy chicken tagine.

Cous Cous

Rather than dousing everything in a variety of spices tonight I’ve opted for a different blend of flavours by marrying ginger with rosemary; a herb normally too pungent for chicken, but in this dish it is subtle, fragrant and wonderfully fresh. The beauty of this meal, and every variation of it, is that you can prepare it earlier in the day, pop the entire pot in the fridge and then re-heat it over the stove when you’re ready! It was also a nice opportunity to pick some fresh rosemary from the garden; our new plant being a recent gift from some family friends. This recipe will serve 4 people.

Rosemary Plant + Apricots

Chicken + Apricot + Ginger + Rosemary Tagine

1 kg chicken thigh fillet (8 pieces), sliced

3 tbs olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 long sprig rosemary – 1/3rd finely chopped, the remainder cut in half

40 g fresh ginger, minced

2 red chillies, finely chopped (and de-seeded for the sensitive)

2 cinnamon sticks OR 1 tsp freshly ground ginger

2 tsp ground corriander seeds

3 tbs honey

200 g dried apricots, cut in halves

1 x 400 g can cherry tomatoes



Simple couscous

350 g couscous

1 tbs olive oil



To serve

Bunch of corriander

Handful of pinenuts

1. Prepare a tagine or heavy-based casserole over medium-high heat with olive oil. Add the onion, rosemary, ginger, chilli, cinnamon and corriander seeds and stir until fragrant.

2. Add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown.

3. Add the honey, dried apricots, rosemary sprigs, cherry tomatoes and salt and stir to combine. Cover your tagine/pot with the lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until chicken has cooked through.

4. Remove lid and continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced to a sticky glaze (around 20 minutes).

5. To prepare the couscous pour grains into a heat proof bowl and (just barely) cover with boiling water. Add oil, salt and quickly cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the water. Remove plastic and fluff the grains with a fork.

6. To serve place chicken tagine and couscous in separate, large dishes. Adorn with chopped coriander and pine nuts


Chicken + Apricot + Ginger + Rosemary Tagine

Thank you, Morocco – where would our tastebuds be without you?

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