Invite your neighbours

Living abroad for 1 year and getting more familiar with the language, it’s the right time to invite a few neighbours for a dinner. It’s not easy to decide what to cook for people who you do not really know well, but Ottolenghi’s cookbooks never disappoint to create a colorful buffet. The advantage of a buffet is that it ‘s not so important to know the right number of people. Leftovers will be used in next day’s blog posts.

A little MEZZE buffet to start is easy to eat in the sofa

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  • Beetroot puree topped up with chopped spring onion and crushed hazelnuts :

Boil or prebake approx 900 grams of fresh beetroot (500 grams left after peeling) or take 500 grams of ready made boiled beetroot. Mix the beetroot with 2 garlic cloves, 250 grams of Greek yoghurt, 1 ½ table spoon of agave, 1 small chili pepper and 1 table spoon of dried thyme. Add some salt and olive oil. Garnish this beautiful puree with chopped spring onion and some grinded roasted hazelnuts. Serve at room temperature and impress Stefano;-)!

  • Smoked eggplant topped up with pomegranate

Make a few incisions in 2 medium sized eggplants (approx 1 kilo). Oil them and bake in the oven at 220° on baking paper. Turn now and again. Don’t  remove them from the oven before they are well done. Drain the eggplant for a few hours to remove most of the liquid. Remove the burned skin. Mix the eggplant with 1 finely chopped garlic clove, zeste and juice of 1 lemon, a handful of chopped fresh parsley and mint, pepper and salt. Serve with the seeds of ½ of a pomegranate.

  • Humus

Soak 250 grams of dried chickpeas (I used black ones which I found locally) in a large volume of water with 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate for at least 12h. Drain and boil them in again a large volume of water for approx 1 ½-2h until they are al dente.

Drain and put in the foodprocessor with 2-4 garlic cloves, 250 grams of tahini paste, juice of 1 lemon and some water. Add some extra water to obtain a smooth mixture. Taste and add pepper and salt. Store the humus in the fridge. Taste again before serving, add a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh chopped coriander. (Leftover of humus? Follow the blog during the following days to get inspiration!)

  • CARROT SOUP, small portion, but enough to start the dinner around the table

Chop and fry 2 onions, 1 kilo of carrot, 5 cm of ginger. Add 1 table spoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of curcuma (for extra color) and 1 table spoon of cumin. Curry powder has to be baked before adding the chicken stock (2 liter appox). Boil long enough and mix the soup.

MIDDLE EASTERN BUFFET

Kibbeh is a traditional Levantine dish made of bulgur, onions, minced meat (originally lamb, beef, goat or camel) seasoned with typical Middle Eastern spices served as mezze in the shape of a ball  with the typical  tahini sauce. Open kibbeh is based on the original kibbeh. In a buffet like this I use the original recipe of Ottelenghi’s and Sami Tahimi’s  book ‘Jeruzalem’ (probably the number 1 of my cookbooks, not only for the recipes, but also for the story). Prepare 125 grams of bulgur. Mix the bulgur with 2 table spoons of self-raising flower, 1 table spoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Press the bulgur on some baking paper in a springform (size 20-24 cm). Fry 2 chopped garlic cloves, 2 chopped onions, 1 chopped small chili pepper with 500 grams of minced meat of your choice ( my choice, mixed chicken and pork), seasoned with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teasoon of grinded coriander. Bake until the meat is cooked. Add 3 table spoons of pine nuts, 4 table spoons of chopped fresh coriander/parsley. Add pepper and salt. Put the mixture on top of the bulgur. Bake the springform in the oven at 180° for 20 mins. In the meanwhile mix 3 table spoons of tahini with 1-2 table spoons of lemon juice, 50 ml of water and a pinch of salt. Spread the tahini sauce on the meat after the first 20 mins of baking. Finish with 2 table spoons of pine nuts and chopped parsley. Bake for another 15-20 mins and serve hot or, store and serve at room temperature. Sumak and some olive oil are a possible extra final finishing touch! One of my favorites.

  • Cheesy eggplant pie

Put thick slices of  eggplant (900 grams )- oiled and baked in the oven on baking paper- on baking paper in a springform of approx 20-25 cm. Fill the holes with halved cherry tomatoes (+/- 100 grams). Mix 3 eggs, 60 ml of cream, 50 grams of crumbled feta, 200 grams of light philadelphia cheese, pepper, salt, 3 chopped garlic cloves, pepper and salt. The finishing touch is normally  done by za’atar in some olive oil. Za’atar is hysop or a mixture of herbs which I decided to substitute by dried thyme and sesame seeds. Put the dish in the oven at 180° for approx 40 mins and serve at room temperature or preheat shortly before serving.

  • Vongole, shrimps and salmon with a tomato feta sauce

Clean 1 kilo of vongole. Boil them in 2,5 dl of white wine until they open. Remove and take them out of their shells (keep a few as decoration). Boil the liquid until reduced to 1/3. Chop 4 garlic cloves and fry in some olive oil. Add 2 cans of tomato puree, the reduced liquid, a pinch of sugar, 2 table spoons of fresh oregan leafs, the zeste of 1 lemon. Simmer for 20-25 mins. Cool down and put aside until dinner time. Before serving the soup, add the vongole, 200 grams of unpeeled shrimps, 400 grams of fresh salmon (in pieces), 150 grams of feta in cubes. Put the dish in the oven at 180°. Count 20-25 mins to be ready.

  • Mixed couscous, fregola

125 grams of cooked couscous, 125 grams of boiled fregola (= moghrabieh) together with a handful of a mixture of chopped coriander, mint and parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil is a perfect side dish

DESSERT in Italy is often a present from the invited people. Whatever it will be (and it was a fluffy, delicious dolce, thanks neighbours) fresh mint tea, coffee and the awesome Moroccan almond biscots will be ready (cfr blogpost 16/5/2017 ).

What a nice evening in our wonderful home in Siena!

 


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