“To eat copiously” is what the Yiddish word “Fress” means. And what a wonderfully appealing title for a cookery book that is. Masterchef finalist Emma Spitzer’s book mergers the food of the Middle-East with that of Eastern Europe, incorporating her Polish and Russian heritage in a combination that is both homely and exciting. Spiced up comfort food, if you will. The recipes are appealing too, with Emma’s aim to get as much flavour as possible from a simple recipe without spending hours in the kitchen.
The book includes recipes for sharing, soups, big plates with meat and fish dishes (the Sticky Pomegranate Salmon looks especially good), salads, and some sweet treats. There’s classics like Chicken Soup, which looks wonderfully comforting, something I’ll be sure to get W to make me the next time I’m under the weather. Of course, it helps that this book, this cover is the prettiest one to grace my bookshelves.
The recipe I’m reviewing today is aesthetically pleasing too. The cover recipe for the book, upon tasting it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as not only does it look good, it also tastes amazing. I’ve made the recipe as per the book several times, but the version I’m giving you today is my regular recipe – I generally cook it for lunchboxes, so I’ve made it even less complicated, using less pans, using less ingredients to make it a bit cost effective. I highly recommend you try the original version as the flavours are a lot more complex, but this basic salad is just as delicious.
Recipe – makes 3-4 lunch servings
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, sliced relatively finely
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- 1 large cauliflower, broken into small-ish florets with the smaller leaves kept
- 120g giant couscous, cooked as per pack instructions
- 3 tsp za’atar spice
- 100g blanched almonds
- 3-4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the onions with a little salt over a low heat until soft – around 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile toss the cauliflower florets in the remaining oil, spread out onto a baking tray and roast at 180C for 15 minutes – then add the za’tar and the cauliflower leaves, toss together (with some additional oil if it’s looking dry) and roast for another 10 minutes. Tip into a large bowl along with the cooked giant couscous.
When the onions are soft, turn up the heat to medium and turn in the sugar and balsamic vinegar, before cooking for around 5 minutes until sticky and caramelised. Add to the bowl along with a good grind of black pepper and toss everything together.
When ready to serve (at room temperature, not fridge cold), add 25g of almonds per serving, plus a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds. This is excellent on it’s own, alongside homemade pitta breads, or part of a Middle Eastern style spread (think hummus, falafel, spiced chicken, fesenjan…).
Have you tried any Middle Eastern recipes? What would you recommend?