In Switzerland, were I live, fresh humus or pita bread are not easy to find. Commercially made pita bread usually comes in plastic bags and probably contains a good amount of preservatives and additives, but most of all, it will never beat the great aroma and warmth of the bread you can bake at home in your own oven.
Pita bread may seem challenging to make, but after making it couple of times and after following some simple rules for bread making it is pretty easy. Bake your own bread and you will get of “points” from family and friends for being a great cook.
After visiting Jelmoli, a gourmet store in Zurich and spotting tahini I decided to make my own little Middle Eastern feast.
My menu consisted of homemade humus, pita bread, kaftas, cucumber soup and simple tomato salad. This refreshing cucumber soup goes great with grilled meat as well as tomatoes and adds more colour to the prevailing earthy tones of the other dishes.
- 500g minced lamb / 1.1lb
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1 egg
- Soak the wooden skewers for one hour.
- Mix meat, onion, herbs and seasoning. Don’t add all the onion if you think it is too much.
- Add little bit of egg. This will help binding as well as make shaping easier.
- Incorporate well by hand. Put for some time, around 30 min in the refrigerator to improve the taste and make shaping easier.
- Preheat a griddle pan and lightly oil it. Take a piece of prepared meat and fry. Cool it and taste to see is your seasoning correct.
- Form small sausage shapes and tread onto skewers.
- Cook, turn until brown, but still slightly pink inside. Cook in batches. Serve warm.
150g dried chick peas (garbanzos)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of one lemon
ground paprika (optional)
- Soak dried chick peas in water overnight with baking soda.
- Rinse well.
- Put chick peas in a saucepan and cover with double the volume of water.
- Bring to boil, then simmer gently for an hour, or until they are very soft.
- Drain the chick peas, but retain the cooking liquid.
- Put the beans in food processor and add the reserved liquid, tahini, garlic, some lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Process.
- You have to keep tasting it and adjusting lemon juice, reserved liquid and salt to taste. You should have soft pure.
- Spread over a platter. Pour some olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
- 1 cucumber
- 350g / 1 1/2cup plain yogurt
- 100ml /1/2 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
- white pepper
- 1/2 minced garlic
- pinch of ground cumin (optional)
- Wash the cucumber, peel and half lengthwise.
- Scoop out and discard seeds.
- Grate the cucumber, transfer into a bow, add yogurt, garlic and mint.
- Add cold water, but make sure soup is not too thin.
- Add pinch of salt, pinch of white pepper and pinch of cumin.
- Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
- Refrigerate. Serve cold garnished with mint leaves.
- 4 medium sized tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt, pepper
- Mix olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.
- Slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate.
- Pour dressing over tomatoes.
- 500g white flour / 3.5 cups
- 5g dry instant yeast / 1teaspoon
- lukewarm water 350ml / 1cup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1.5 teaspoon salt.
- Sift flour and salt into a bowl.
- In a cup put the yeast and 100 ml lukewarm water and leave for 10-15min.
- Make a well in a flour, pour the yeast mixture and the rest of water. Pour everything at once and mix until you have formed soft dough. Add one tablespoon of oil.
- If your dough is too dry add a little bit more water.
- Put little bit of flour on a table and kneed for about 10min. At first dough will stick. With time will become less sticky. Kneed until elastic.
- Place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a lightly oiled cling film.
- Leave dough to rice in a worm place until double in size, around one hour. It is important to mention that too high temperature is not good for rise.
- Transfer it out on lightly floured surface.
- Press the dough with your fingers, term used for it is”knock it back”.
- Turn your oven to 220C.
- Divide your dough as even as you can. Use a scale for it.
- Shape into balls and let them rest, covered with cling film for 10 min.
- With a rolling pin make a little disk about 10cm / 4 in. Keep the rest covered with a dishtowel, don’t let them dry.
- Let dough rest again for about 30min covered with lightly oiled cling film. This stage is called”proving”.
- Put two disks on a baking sheet and place them on the low shelf in the oven.
- Bake for 5-6 min. They will puff and form little pockets.
A couple of weeks after moving to Switzerland my attention was drawn to a beautiful, rustic looking , Romertopf clay pot.
Cooking in clay is one of the oldest methods of preparing food and I am a big fan of slow cooking, so i decided to buy it and try-it-out, because it wasn’t that expensive.
The one I bought is partially glazed. It is recommended to soak the pot in water 10 -15 min before each use.
My first experiment was with chicken, later I will try with other meals. I like it served with a crunchy kohlrabi salad.
I tried a lot of different temperature variations and I achieved the best results with following recipe:
- 1×1.35kg / 3lb
- 12 baby carrots
- 12 baby potatoes
- 2 springs of fresh thyme
- batter softende
- salt and pepper
- vegetable oil
- Soak the clay pot in water for 10-15min.
- Season inside of the chicken with salt and pepper and put two springs of thyme.
- Smear a little butter all over the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
- Put the potatoes and the carrots in a bowl and cover lightly with oil and season.
- Place chicken in the clay pot and surround with the carrots and potatoes. You don’t need to add any liquid.
- Close the lid and put in a cold oven.
- Turn the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook for one hour and fifty minutes.
- Check is it done by making a small cut to see if the juices run clear. If not cook for an additional couple minutes.
Do not place the hot clay pot on a cold surface, I place it on a wooden board. Don’t tie the legs, the chicken will cook more evenly, you can tie them later for presentation.
You can cook the baby carrots separately. It will add better color to the dish.
- Trim the ends.
- Put the carrots into cold water and cover. Slowly bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
- Cook until tender 7-8 min and pierce with a knife to check if ready.
- Drain and serve with chicken and potatoes.
- 2 kohlrabi
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- ground pepper
- Make the dressing. Whisk olive oil with little bit of salt and pepper.
- Peel the kohlrabi. Use a mandolin to get thin slices, and then cut them into matchsticks.
- Lightly spoon dressing over kohlrabi, and toss to coat well.