Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Less you think all is always rosy and smooth-sailing in the kitchen of Life is Great, allow me to let you in on a piece of heartache. While this wasn't a completely sunken ship (the only reason why I can still show you something now), it gave me enough grief to rain endless barrage of expletives at myself while everything seemed to be falling apart and further away from what I imagined to be a foolproof adaptation. It all began with two forlorn looking bottles of sumac and zatar brought all the way from Dubai from a good friend. Before the prized reddish and green herbs threaten to go brown on me, I got a pound of minced lamb to attempt some sausage rolls from the mince recipe of an ancient Islamic manuscript (thanks to my friend Ibrahim of the tom yam kung fame) instead of the tired old burger, meatballs or patties.
The mince ended up hibernating in the freezer for months. It's not that I forgot about it. Something else always came up. As February rolled over and I finally found some time to breathe, one night I finally got to the past-its-prime minced meat and hunkered down to prepare the spiced filling. The plan was to chill it overnight and roll them the next day for dinner. Only when next day came, we had too much for lunch and decided to skip dinner, so the filling got rolled and stuck into the freezer instead of being cooked. They were retrieved the following morning to thaw way too long after a brunch and a manicure-pedicure date. While the rolls fell apart in my hot skillet, my puff pastry was also softening at warp speed in the surrounding heat. By the time I got to the rolling bit, I was beside myself in panic - filling not cooled completely, melting pastry and un-floured rolling surface.
Despite all that, I championed the cause, wrestling with puff sticking all over the place, picking up crumbly meat, getting pastry into the filling and shaping up questionable looking rolls before slapping on some eggwash and sticking them into the oven, hoping at least for flavor if not looks. But if all these years of being in the kitchen had taught me anything, it was this - if you feel bad about something, normally it will be bad. So the rolls came out with slightly under-seasoned (I was worried about overdoing the salt), flat textured (readymade frozen for months mince, what did I expect?) and missing the mint (I mistakenly thought I could get away with parsley). Shop-bought puff didn't help my cause either, but Vijay was kind and we finished the rolls by the next day. If anything were to pull me out of being such a chicken shit about making my own puff, it's eating readymade ones.
Now that you've glimpsed into another one of my bad kitchen moments and perhaps was involuntarily reminded of your own hiccups, be rest assured that this has passed and would in no way deter me from another attempt, once I get around to that homemade puff, next month, maybe.
Maqluba Lamb Roll
Filling recipe adapted from Maqluba in a 13th century Arabic manuscript of Al-Baghdadi, compiled in Cariadoc's Miscellany. Roll instruction adapted from The Australian Gourmet Traveller's Bangalow pork sausage rolls with caramelised apple and thyme.
Serves 4 to 6.
Prep time 20 minutes, stand time 3 hours, cook time approximately 20 minutes.
Note: I believe with proper application and less laziness, this adaptation of the Maqluba should be flawless. Get a fresh cut and mincing your own meat, be it beef, lamb or pork. Replacing the mint with parsley was a desperate move on my part which I don't recommend - nothing beats the refreshing hit of mint if you are using lamb. Needless to say, if you make your own puff pastry, I will bow to you in awe and wish we are neighbors.
- 10 ounces red meat (I used lamb mince)
- 2 tablespoons dried sumac
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoons dry mint (I didn't have this and used dry parsley)
- 1 1/4 cups walnuts, ground coarsely
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- salt to taste
- 1 sheet/375grams butter puff pastry
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- black and white sesame seeds, for garnish
Either use ground lamb or take lamb meat, chop it with a knife, then pound in a mortar. (I highly suggest mincing your own meat.) Both ways work but give different textures. In a frying pan, boil sumac in water about for about 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add in the meat and simmer on medium low heat about 15 minutes. Drain the meat over a fine sieve, sprinkle it with lemon juice and let dry for about 1 hour. Mix meat with all the spices. Add in walnuts, salt and eggs. Shape mince into logs, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 220°C. Heat up a frying pan or skillet and add in the sesame oil. Unwrap the cold sausage rolls and fry each meat roll on medium heat for about 3 minutes evenly. Set aside to cool.
Place puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Place the cooled meat roll along one long edge, leaving a 1cm border, brush with eggwash and roll to just enclose the meat. Cut along edge, press with a fork to seal then cut into three rolls. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and repeat with remaining pastry and sausage roll. Brush tops with eggwash, scatter with sesame seeds and bake until golden and cooked through, about 15-17 minutes. Serve warm with a side salad or tart chutney.
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“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. The you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
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