The cookbook I’m relying on to banish the winter blues is Comptoir Libanais Express by Tony Kitous and Dan Lepard. A big fan of Kitous’ rebellious approach to food, the way he brings together a huge mezze of ideas based on what he wants to eat at that moment. Kitous and Lepard teach us to be brave, to try different things and to just go where your hunger takes you.
A dose of pure Lebanese sunshine is just what I need right now in the run up to Christmas. Just looking at the bold beautiful pictures that illustrate this cookbook makes me smile. Featuring pages on everyday key ingredients, like aubergine or yogurt, with ideas that transform them from their shopping-bag state into easily prepared components of a fantastic meal. Perfect for those times when you need to race around the kitchen and prepare great food in a hurry.
Recipes include Spiced stuffed tomatoes, Seabass with date puree, Fried eggs with cumin-spiced fried onions and pitta, Lentil and rainbow chard soup, Lemon marinated halloumi in pitta, Spicy roasted chickpeas, Blood orange mint granita and Banana, tahini & chocolate shake.
One of my favourite recipes from the book is Lamb chop & red lentil stew. I have adapted the recipe slightly by adding in a tablespoon of harrissa paste and half a teaspoon of cinnamon.
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 aubergine, chopped
1 courgette, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cinnamon
sprig of rosemary
1 tsp ground coriander
100g red lentils
400ml hot lamb stock
1 tbs tomato puree
1 tbsp harissa paste
4 lamb chops
salt and pepper to season
- Put the onion, pepper, aubergine and courgette into a pan with the oil. Season well and cook over a medium heat, stirring every now and then for about 10 minutes. By this stage the vegetables will be turning golden and caramelised.
- Sprinkle over the garlic, chilli, rosemary, coriander, cinnamon and stir in along with the red lentils. Pour the stock over the top then stir in the tomato puree and harissa paste. Tuck the lamb chops into the pan, pushing them underneath the stock. Season again.
- Cover the pan with a lid, bring to the boil then turn the heat down low and cook for around 50 minutes or until the chops are tender, adding more stock during the cooking if you think it needs more.
One-pot cooking is less funny that having lots of separate pans on the heat. Perfect when you are the busy mum of an eighteen month old little girl as I am. It also allows the meat to take on the aromas of the herbs and spices, while infusing the cooking liquid with flavour. It’s a homely but hearty style of cooking. Ideal when I want something soothing but filling to banish the winter blues. With the chops, vegetables and lentils, it can be a meal in itself, though to really up the comfort factor I would serve it with couscous to soak up all the rich, meaty juices. A bowl of this in front of an open fire and I promise you’ll forget all about the wintry weather outside.