Mrs Ergül had just returned from her 3-week Turkey break with her Turk husband a couple of days ago. Of course a dinner gathering must be fixed. I can’t wait to see her photos and listen to her colourful (food) stories. :)
This girl brought back quite a bit of stuff. In total, she and her husband lugged back 100kg worth of goodies. Power or what? And i thought i was one mad fella lugging back 40kg baggage from my Shanghai trip. HEHE.
For our dinner, we decided on Turkish theme dinner – why, of course!
The girls picked their courses first (the downside of not being active online all the time :P) and i was left with the mains. And nope, i’m not complaining lah, or was i? *grin* But really, i’m not and i can’t because the girls whipped up their respective courses so damn well! Pei Lin, with her excellent Ekmek, Lavash, Hummus and Lentil Peasant Soup, and Pick Yin with her delicious Lime Curd Tartlets with Raspberries and Red Currants.
Left with main, i had zero idea on what to prepare. After all, i’m not at all familiar with Turkish food apart from Hummus which i eat weekly. So off to the library (we are so very blessed in this aspect *smile*) i went and home i came with 2 books in the bag. After flipping the books for 15 minutes, it wasn’t difficult to decide what to whip up for our 6 hour dinner, yup, again.. 6 hours!
Pistachio Pilav with Spinach and Herbs
- 200g long grain or basmati rice
- 380g Chicken Stock or water
- 80g butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 470g spinach leaves (i used half Chinese spinach & 1/2 English Spinach), washed and shredded
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 80g unsalted shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup shredded flat leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped dill (i used the whole packet from Cold Storage)
Put the rice into a large bowl and rinse well under cold running water, working your fingers through it to loosen the starch. Drain off the milky water and repeat until the water runs clear. Cover the rice with cold water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse a final time.
Bring the stock to the boil, then lower the heat and keep at a simmer.
Melt half the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion and sauté over a low medium heat, stirring continuously until it starts to soften. Increase the heat, then add the spinach and stir well until any moisture has evaporated. Add the rice to the pan, then season with salt and pepper and pour in the simmering stock. Return to the boil, stir briefly, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a very low heat for 12 minutes.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the pistachios and sauté over a medium heat, stirring continuously until the butter foams and the nuts start to color. Put the browned nuts into the pan of rice with the herbs. Don’t stir! Replace the lid and return the pan to a very low heat for 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and use a fork to fluff up the grains and stir through the herbs and nuts. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover the pan with a clean, folded tea towel, then replace the lid and leave it to stand for 15-20 minutes. To serve, put the rice onto a serving platter and fluff the grain up with a fork.
*adapted from Turquoise, Greg and Lucy Malouf
I didn’t just serve the pilav to the friends of course. But i know if i had, they wouldn’t have minded too because it was just so darn tasty! Pei Lin had some leftovers and apparently, it tasted even better the next day. :)
Personally, i love the absolutely bewitching vibrant green and the fact that it’s got so much spinach and herb in it. Also, the crunchy pistachio is definitely plus point. All in all, there’s nothing to hate about this pilav.. except, ermm.. well, the amount of preparation work that comes with it. Heh.
Next up, the fish.
The truth is, i picked this as our main first. The pilav came into the picture later when i felt the fish just won’t do as a standalone main. I cook a lot of fish on weekly basis. We eat fish almost 4-5 times a week but the fishes are always either steamed, fried, or once a while, grilled, never stewed.
I was a teeny bit excited when i saw this recipe. Fish stew! Whoaa.. something that i can’t quite whip up at home because i’ll most likely get scrunched up noses from the oh-so-boring-ones. That thought itself puts me off from trying new food at home sadly.
When it comes to serving the foodie friends.. it’s an entirely different story altogether. They are as adventurous as i am if not more. So, any strange, odd, never been tried before food, i can just cook/bake it and they’ll welcome my food with open arms. Aaahhhhh… isn’t that wonderful? *smile* But in another not so nice term, these friends are really just my guinea pigs! :P
The Fish Doctor’s Stew – with black pepper, lemon peel and lemon thyme.
1 baby snapper, cleaned, around 600-800 g whole weight
1 sea bass, cleaned, around 800 g whole weight
salt and pepper
50 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, very finely diced
2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
½ teaspoon oregano
2 dried bay leaves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
peel of 1/4 lemon
few sprigs of lemon thyme
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
250ml chicken stock
chives, to serve
from left : sea bass, snapper
Preheat your oven to its very highest temperature. To prepare the snapper and sea bass, trim away the fins, remove the head and cut in half, crosswise through the bone. Season all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil gently in a heavy-based, oven-proof pan. Add the onion and garlic and sweat very gently for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add the oregano, bay leaves, pepper and lemon peel. Continue to cook over a low heat for another 5 minutes. Lie the pieces of fish on top of the mixture, sprinkle on the sprigs of thyme and transfer to the very hot oven. Cook for 8 minutes, which should be long enough to colour the fish and just cook it through. Remove from the oven and take the pan to the table to serve.
*adapted from Turquoise, Greg and Lucy Malouf
We loved the fish stew!
The combination of the herbs, lemon peel, sauteed onions and chicken stock simply blew me away. Personally, i feel the addition of red pepper flakes is a must, to lend its wake-me-up flavour to the wholesome dish if you ask me. Cooking the fish on the bone adds incomparably to the palatableness of the finished dish.
Because of its simplicity and incredible flavour, you can be sure that i’d be whipping this up soon at home, together with some freshly homemade dinner roll to soak in all the goodness in the gravy.
Apparently, this fish dish is served a wonderful restaurant in Istanbul called Doga Balik, where the chef-owner is nicknamed “The Fish Doctor” for his knowledge of and skill in cooking seafood – as well as for his habit of wearing green surgeon’s scrubs. :)
Oh, besides the mains, i brought along some chewy chocolate chip cookies too, which i’m now perfecting. Uh huh, i’m currently in the midst of baking these cookies again. Talk about multi-tasking… ;)
ps : pardon the photos that got styled the same way. it was madness in the kitchen, preparing the 2 mains only at about 4ish (was out running errands earlier!), and at the same time, cooking dinner for the family too -> Cracking burger, again, because they think it’s the best burger in the whole world. with compliment like that, i can’t turn down the request, can i? Heh.