Variety being the spice of life, why get stuck in a rut with dull lunchbox options, boring weeknight dinners, and a weekend binge of biryani.
With a host of ingredients available to us, why not experiment with different ingredients and flavours to create some delightful entrees from diverse cultures and cuisines.
Indonesian food is one of the most vibrant and colourful cuisines in the world and here we have a meatball dish with intense flavour.
Palestinian cuisine shares many dishes in common with other countries in the region, including Lebanon, Syria and Egypt but one of the most popular Palestinian dishes is Maqluba which is easy to prepare upside down chicken and rice.
To round off the spread, there is an aromatic and rich Dolmeh yeh barg-i-mow or stuffed vine leave wraps which pivot around the flavours of saffron, cinnamon and lime. Bon apetit!
The following recipes are from my book From My Table to Yours.
BAK SO KUAH — INDONESIA
Ingredients for meat balls
1 kg, beef and mutton minced (1/2 and 1/2)
3 teaspoons cornflour
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cube of beef stock, crumbled
4 cloves garlic crushed
A pinch of clove (laung) powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt (since stock cube is also added, add salt only if needed)
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Let it rest for an hour. Make small balls and keep them aside.
Ingredients for soup
1/2 kg bones of beef/mutton
1 bunch celery
1 cube beef stock
1 pear (if not in season, leave out)
1 clove garlic
1 large onion, sliced
A pinch of nutmeg powder
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 litre water
Pepper and salt to taste
In a pan add butter, onion and bones. After five minutes add all other ingredients (except salt, pepper and celery) and water. Let it cook — covered — on slow heat for 15 minutes. Remove cover and add the prepared meat balls. Let it cook 15 — 20 minutes more. If need be add more water. Add celery, salt and pepper. Boil for five more minutes. Remove bones before serving.
Serve hot with bread.
Note: The soup may be strained and served with meatballs.
MAQLUBA — PALESTINE
The meaning of Maqluba is upside down.
3/4 kg mutton, boneless
2 big and round, eggplants
2 cups rice
1/2 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying, plus 2 tbsp
First and foremost, wash the meat. Take a pan and add two tablespoons of oil, ginger-garlic paste, salt and pepper. Stir fry. Add six cups of water, and let it boil, till the meat is tender. Remove meat from the stock, and keep aside. Preserve the stock. Wash and cut the eggplants in rounds, and put in salted water to avoid change of colour. Wash and soak rice in separate bowl for 15 minutes.
Pat dry the eggplants, heat oil in a pan and fry till light golden. Keep them aside.
Put meat in a deep pan to cover the base. Arrange eggplants all over the meat. Now put the strained rice on top. Pour in the reserved stock — it should be enough so that all items are submerged. If stock is less add a bit more water. Cover and cook till all stock is absorbed and rice is done. Remove the cover. Take a round platter; turn the pot upside down on the platter — so that it comes out as a whole — rice at the bottom, meat at the top. (That’s what the dish is about — like an upside down cake.)
Garnish according to taste and serve hot with raita if so desired.
Note: The original recipe calls for just boiled meat with salt and pepper; I added oil and ginger garlic paste to suit our palate.
DOLMEH YEH BARG-I-MOW — IRAN
250 gm, fresh vine leaves (preferably fresh). Bottled vine leaves are available in big super markets. You can substitute with cabbage leaves.
250 gm, minced meat (beef or mutton)
100 gm, long grain rice (basmati)
1 tablespoon, parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon, dill (soya saag)
200 gm spring onion
1 large onion, sliced
A pinch of saffron
A pinch of cinnamon powder
1/4 cup cooking oil, plus 3 tbsp for brushing the base of the pot
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
In a pan, fry onions till golden, then add spring onions and sauté. Add ground meat, stir fry until oil separates. Then add dill, salt, pepper and lastly water. Cook till the water dries out and ground meat is done.
In a separate pan boil rice with salt and water till done. Drain the rice, add saffron, parsley and cinnamon powder. In a large bowl mix the rice and the meat mixture.
Remove stems from the vine leaves and wash. Boil these leaves in water (or steam until softened) drain and cool. If you are using cabbage, remove the leaves carefully one by one, and soften them the same way.
In a small bowl, mix lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Add half of this to the rice mixture, and keep half aside.
Save some leaves to put in the pot. To make dolmeh, take a plate and place a leaf on it.
Then place one tablespoon of dolmeh mixture in the centre. Fold bottom of leaf over the filling, and fold in the sides. Roll out tightly to a cylinder shape. Make all the dolmeh in this way.
In a deep pan, cover the base with leaves. Arrange the dolmeh seam side down on the leaves, add a tablespoon of oil and half a cup of hot water. Pour over the preserved lime and sugar mixture. Cover the pot tightly and cook on low heat for 30-35 minutes. Remove on to a platter. Allow to cool completely.
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, August 19th, 2018