Israeli-born chef Michael Rantissi, and his partner and "balaboosta", Canberra girl Kristy Frawley, drill down to what we all love about the ingredients and flavours of the Middle East - grains and greens, generosity, pungency, sweetness, sharing. This is food that brings everyone to the table, and won't let them leave.
Dukkah lamb cutlets with mint and pomegranate salad
It is so easy to put this dish together, and yet it makes such a big impact with its sharp, clean flavours.
3 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp hazelnut dukkah
8 large lamb cutlets (or lamb chops or noisettes)
Mint and pomegranate salad
1 handful mint leaves
4 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 preserved lemon, skin only, julienned
juice of ½ a lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
Put the olive oil and dukkah in a large bowl and mix together. Add the lamb and rub the dukkah mixture into the meat. Cover the bowl and transfer to the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.
To make the salad, put the mint, pomegranate seeds and preserved lemon in a bowl. Shake together the lemon juice and olive oil in a small jar. Pour over the salad, toss gently and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, taking care not to use too much salt, as there is salt in the dukkah on the cutlets.
Heat the barbecue to high or heat a chargrill pan over high heat on your stovetop. Cook the lamb cutlets for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the pan from the heat and rest the lamb for 5 minutes before serving with the mint and pomegranate salad.
1¾ cups hazelnuts
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1¼ cups sesame seeds
2 tsp sea salt flakes
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160C. Put the hazelnuts on one baking tray, and the coriander and cumin seeds on a separate tray, and bake until toasted, approximately 15 minutes.
After the hazelnuts and seeds have been in the oven for 10 minutes, add the sesame seeds on a separate tray and toast for the remaining 5 minutes, or until lightly coloured. Remove all the trays from the oven and allow the nuts and seeds to cool to room temperature.
Put the hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse to a coarse breadcrumb size. (You could also crush the hazelnuts the traditional way using a mortar and pestle – good exercise for the biceps!) Transfer the hazelnuts to a large mixing bowl.
Put the cumin and coriander seeds in the food processor and process until almost a powder. (Use a mortar and pestle to do this if you prefer.)
Add this powder to the bowl along with the toasted sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Mix well using a wooden spoon.
Dukkah can be kept for up to a year – but I am sure you will eat it all before then! It is best stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
It takes time to make good falafel so you'll need to start this recipe 24 hours in advance. To shape the falafel you can use a traditional falafel spoon, available at most Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Alternatively, you can use two tablespoons, or do it the Egyptian way and make small patties with your hands. (If using either of the latter shaping methods, adding 2 egg whites when seasoning the mixture will make it firmer – although, because it is not traditional, I prefer not to add egg whites.)
200g dried chickpeas
100g dried split broad beans
1 large handful coriander, leaves picked
2 large handfuls flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 long red chillies, seeds removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp sesame seeds
rice bran oil, for deep-frying
In a large bowl, soak the chickpeas and broad beans overnight in cold water, changing the water at least twice during this time.
Drain the chickpeas and broad beans and put them in a food processor with the coriander, parsley, onion, chilli and garlic. Whiz until grainy (not a smooth puree).
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the baking powder, cumin and sesame seeds. Mix together and, using a falafel spoon or two tablespoons, quenelle the mixture or roll it by hand into 20 patties.
Pour enough rice bran oil for deep-frying into a large deep saucepan and heat to 170C. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop in a cube of bread and if it turns golden brown in 20 seconds, you are good to start cooking. (If the oil is not hot enough, the falafel will break up.)
Working in batches, drop the falafel into the oil and deep-fry for 3 minutes, or until golden. Remove the falafel with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Serve with green tahini or hummus.
My green tahini is a take on the classic tahini – which is whiter in colour – and is used as a dressing, dip or a complement to hummus. The addition of more herbs in my version gives it a vibrant green colour, as well as a grassier flavour and fragrance that works well with many dishes.
2 cups coriander, leaves coarsely chopped
125ml lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp sea salt flakes
In a food processor, blend the coriander with 100ml water until you have a smooth green paste; don't overblend as the coriander will go black. Add the lemon juice, garlic and tahini and blend until smooth. Stir through the sea salt flakes.
Muhalbiyah with rosewater
There was a food stand close to my childhood home that sold nothing but muhalbiyah. We kids loved the sugar rush we'd get from the cheap and tacky syrup with its artificial colouring, while the adults had a version made with grenadine syrup. Mine is a more sophisticated adult version, but still based on this childhood memory.
1 litre full-cream milk
80g caster sugar
2 tbsp rosewater
100g pistachio nut kernels, toasted and coarsely chopped, to serve
fresh raspberries, to serve
300g fresh or frozen raspberries
50g castor sugar
1 tbsp rosewater
Put the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, put the cornflour in a small bowl and add a few tablespoons of water, stirring until you have a gluggy, wet mixture. Slowly add the cornflour to the hot milk, stirring with a wooden spoon, and reduce the temperature to low. Continue stirring for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has the consistency of a thick custard. Add the rosewater, stir and remove from the heat.
Pour the mixture into 4-6 serving glasses and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to the fridge and set overnight.
To make the sauce, put the raspberries and sugar in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Put the liquid in a small saucepan over low heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the rosewater, stir and allow to cool.
When you are ready to serve, pour the sauce over the puddings and scatter with the pistachios and raspberries.
Falafel For Breakfast: Modern Middle Eastern Recipes for the Shared Table from Kepos Street Kitchen. By Michael Rantissi and Kristy Frawley. Murdoch Books. $49.99.