Middle Eastern lunch

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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.

Kafta

  • 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
  1. Soak the wooden skewers for one hour.
  2. Mix meat, onion, herbs and seasoning. Don’t add all the onion if you think it is too much.
  3. Add little bit of egg. This will help binding as well as make shaping easier.
  4. Incorporate well by hand. Put for some time, around 30 min in the refrigerator to improve the taste  and make shaping easier.
  5. 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.
  6. Form small sausage shapes and tread onto skewers.
  7. Cook, turn until brown, but still slightly pink inside. Cook in batches. Serve warm.
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Humus

150g dried chick peas (garbanzos)

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/2 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

80ml tahini

juice of one lemon

olive oil

ground paprika (optional)

  1. Soak dried chick peas in water overnight with baking soda.
  2. Rinse well.
  3. Put chick peas in a saucepan and cover with double the volume of water.
  4. Bring to boil, then simmer gently for an hour, or until they are very soft.
  5. Drain the chick peas, but retain the cooking liquid.
  6. Put the beans in food processor and add the reserved liquid, tahini, garlic, some lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Process.
  7. You have to keep tasting it and adjusting lemon juice, reserved liquid and salt to taste. You should have soft pure.
  8. Spread over a platter. Pour some olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
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Cucumber soup

  • 1 cucumber
  • 350g / 1 1/2cup plain yogurt
  • 100ml /1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • 1/2 minced garlic
  • pinch of ground cumin (optional)
  1. Wash the cucumber, peel and half lengthwise.
  2. Scoop out and discard seeds.
  3. Grate the cucumber, transfer into a bow, add yogurt, garlic and mint.
  4. Add cold water, but make sure soup is not too thin.
  5. Add pinch of salt, pinch of white pepper and pinch of cumin.
  6. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Refrigerate. Serve cold garnished with mint leaves.
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Tomato salad
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt, pepper
  1. Mix olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper.
  2. Slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate.
  3. Pour dressing over tomatoes.

Pita bread

  • 500g white flour / 3.5 cups
  • 5g dry instant yeast / 1teaspoon
  • lukewarm water 350ml / 1cup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt.
  1. Sift flour and salt into a bowl.
  2. In a cup put the yeast and 100 ml lukewarm water and leave for 10-15min.
  3. 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.
  4. If your dough is too dry add a little bit more water.
  5. 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.
  6. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a lightly oiled cling film.
  7. 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.
  8. Transfer it out on lightly floured surface.
  9. Press the dough with your fingers, term used for it is”knock it back”.
  10. Turn your oven to 220C.
  11. Divide your dough as even as you can. Use a scale for it.
  12. Shape into balls and let them rest, covered with cling film for 10 min.
  13. With a rolling pin make a little disk about 10cm / 4 in. Keep the rest covered with a dishtowel, don’t let them dry.
  14. Let dough rest again for about 30min covered with lightly oiled cling film. This stage is called”proving”.
  15. Put two disks on a baking sheet and place them on the low shelf in the oven.
  16. Bake for 5-6 min. They will puff and form little pockets.

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