Words & Photography: Maria Shebets
The time has come for me to share another recipe with you, a new one using wonderful products from THE WHITE SHEEP. Now imagine the flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East… Imagine the aromas of the Levant in your kitchen. I am often inspired by the traditional recipes of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine… If you are like me, then you wouldn’t remain indifferent to all the spicy aromas and oriental flavours, and you would really enjoy THE WHITE SHEEP’s wide range of spices, herbs and other products of THE ARABICA FOOD & SPICE CO.
I have a pantry stocked with all sorts of products from dried spices to pickles. I have a selection of aromatics which do little wonders in the kitchen with anything you add them to. I add the ROSEWATER to salad dressings and summer drinks and it gives them such a delicate and elegant aroma of Damask rose petals! I love to add ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER to cakes and lamb stews to give them a floral exotic fragrance. TAHINI and POMEGRANATE MOLASSES are used in dips, salad dressings and marinades. If I am feeling a little lazy, I take a ready-made POMEGRANATE DRESSING – an exotic mixture of peppery extra virgin olive oil, fruity pomegranate molasses and wild Jordanian thyme. The collection of herbs and spices from THE WHITE SHEEP is my very own Eastern Spice Market.
ARABICA FOOD & SPICE’s blends are roasted and ground in small batches for optimum freshness and it makes a huge difference to other products available on the market. A few pinches of spice blend transforms any dish, making it so aromatic and so appetizing! I use ZA’ATAR or DUKKA over yoghurt or home-made labneh, in salads and, of course, mixed with olive oil for dipping warm bread. COUSCOUS SPICES, LEBANESE 7 SPICE, ROASTED CUMIN bring an Eastern flavour to any dish from soups and stews to cakes and biscuits. You definitely must try the WILD SUMAC, known as ‘Lemons from God’ which are prepared by grinding wild berries. It is truly a unique spice with a sharp lemony taste, which is divine with chicken or in salad dressings. Having all these in my kitchen I can turn even a simple dish into a little feast like I did this time. In addition to all my favourite products I used something new – FREEKEH – a product that was recently added to the ARABICA FOOD & SPICE range at THE WHITE SHEEP. Freekeh is an ancient grain used for centuries in Levantine cuisine, a durum wheat which is harvested when still young and green. It is then sun-dried and roasted. It has an earthy, smokey flavour and makes an excellent addition to soups and stews. You can use it as a substitute in any dish requiring rice or bulgur.
Our wonderful Levantine lunch started with The White Sheep’s warmed up PIADINA ROMAGNOLA [which doubled up as the Middle Eastern flatbread] dipped in a mixture of olive oil and ZA’ATAR. Honestly, it tasted so good that I could be happy having only this for lunch or dinner, even for breakfast! Then we had a delicious FREEKEH and Grilled Peach Salad with gorgeous barrel-aged FETA and simply grilled lamb chops rubbed with the absolutely divine KABSA SPICE! Open a small jar of it and you will smell the feast! This spice mixture is traditionally used to prepare Kabsa – a classic Bedouin dish [think paella style] made with rice and meat. But, the Kabsa spice mix works equally well when simply rubbed in meat, as a marinade, especially with lamb. Try it, I am sure you won’t be disappointed!
PIADINA with ZA’ATAR
Simply warm PIADINA in a hot pan for a minute or so on each side, slice it and dip in olive oil mixed with a generous addition of ZA’ATAR.
FREEKEH and Roast Peaches with FETA
serves 4 to 6
150 g FREEKEH
20 g PISTACCHIOS
1 large shallot
a bunch of fresh mint
a bunch of fresh coriander
a bunch of fresh parsley
150 g barrel-aged FETA
3 ripe but still firm peaches
3 Tbsp of freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tbsp of POMEGRANTE MOLASSES
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER
1 Tsp of ZA’ATAR
¼ - ½ tsp URFA CHILLI FLAKES
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
You can either soak FREEKEH overnight to shorten the cooking time or cook it without soaking. It will take approximately 20-25 minutes simmering, you don’t want it to go too soft. It should be firm to the bite. Rinse it well and add to the salted boiling water. Use one part FREEKEH to three parts water. Drain it once cooked and let it cool to room temperature. Toast the PISTACCHIOS in a hot dry pan, transfer to a chopping board, let them cool and chop roughly. Very finely slice the shallot. Wash and dry herbs. I strongly recommend a salad spinner to dry leaves as nothing can be more sad than wet herbs. When dry, pick out the leaves and discard the stalks. Cut FETA in small cubes. Cut peaches in halves, remove pits and cut in quarters. Slightly brush the peach slices with olive oil and cook on a very hot grill or griddle pan until slightly charred. For the dressing, mix lemon juice, POMEGRANATE MOLASSES, olive oil, ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER, ZA’ATAR, URFA CHILLI FLAKES, ginger and salt. Mix everything very well. The best way to do this is to shake all the ingredients well, in a jar with a tightly closed lid. In a large bowl, mix FREEKEH, PISTACCHIOS, shallot, herbs, FETA and drizzle with the dressing. Toss well. Transfer it to a serving dish and top with peaches.
Sprinkle the lamb chops generously with KABSA SPICES add some salt and drizzle with just a little bit of olive oil and let to marinate for 30-40 minutes. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Cook it to your liking on a very hot grill, on the bbq or under the broiler. For medium-sized chops, you need about 3 – 3 ½ minutes per side, but it largely depends on the thickness of chops. Enjoy your lunch, full of the beautiful and rich flavours of the Levant!