An Arabic Feast – Part 1: Dips

The first part of this mini-series by our metho-correspondent, Stephen.

Sitting in the marina at Mooloolaba on a 27 foot Spacesailer in summer wondering what to do for a family of four coming for dinner – two adults, two teenagers (one a vegetarian) – and thinking about  the challenge of how to satisfy all tastes without resorting to the good ol’ barbecue. Just me and Maxie, a two burner kero stove, and Oskar, the food processor.

I’ve known Oskar for many years now, and brought him along for the holiday as I knew we’d have mains power. Maxie is a new friend that I’m still getting to know. She seems to like nothing better than to lazily get warm, so frying things in hot fat has been a problem in the past. However, she tells me that the best way to cook on her is to poach things, or, if you really need to fry, use lots of butter rather than oil.

So what to cook? What to make that would be not too hot and not too cold?

For no particular reason I thought Arabic. I could utilise the food processor for dips, and there are some easy vegetarian options on offer.

As with much of what I cook, I don’t try for authenticity. Really, if you want authentic, go to a specialty restaurant. I don’t see any point in me trying to be Mrs Fatima or Streetfood  Chang or  Barcelona Alfonso. I like to characterise my food as Anglomediterrasian, so when I think of a certain cuisine I also think: what sort of spin can I put on it that allows me to express some creative part of myself rather than trying to be oh so Thai, Vietnamese, Italian or Mexican? And, being a lazy bugger, I always look for short cuts, as long as it doesn’t compromise taste. Therefore, for example, when I think hommous, I think canned chickpeas – no way am I going to soak chickpeas overnight and sort through good and bad ones and rinse in litre after litre of water and then boil them to softhood.  More importantly I think: what can I use as a substitute?

Loaded plate 2For dips I went for:

Butter bean hommous:

1 tin of butter beans, drained
2 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons of tahini (or more, depending on taste)
2 Teaspoons of ground cumin
Juice of half a lemon (or one lemon, depending on taste)
1 teaspoon paprika
some water to help the blending process

Toss all except the paprika into the food processor and blitz it to your heart’s content. Do some taste testing and add more of what you fancy and blitz it until you have what you want.

It turns into a lovely, creamy, white dip. Sprinkle some paprika on top.

Baba ganouj

Ever tried roasting an eggplant (or do you prefer aubergine?) on a boat? You can try it, but I prefer to find some shortcuts.

1 jar of roasted eggplant
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons of tahini
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon of oil from the jar of eggplant

Blitz it all up in a food processor and adjust to your own tastes.

Muhammarah

This has become a bit of a specialty dish of mine and is forever evolving.  I’m afraid the measurements are a bit approximate, but that’s the nature of evolution:

A good measure of walnuts, say two handfuls
2 chillis – I use milder sorts, but also add a dose of hot stuff like sambal oelek
1  jar of whole pequillos (or you can use a roasted capsicum
1 slice of bread or half a Lebanese flat bread
Juice of 1 pomegranate (or lemon, or 2 limes or bottled pomegranate juice)
2 teaspoons of mixed spice (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and any other of those sorts of spices)
About 75mls of olive oil – enough to give the mixture  a dip consistency.

Blitz it all up and adjust for taste.

Parts 2 and 3 of Stephen’s Arabic feast are here and here.

2 thoughts on “An Arabic Feast – Part 1: Dips

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