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A middle eastern inspired dish with no name

September 18, 2009

middle east 2

On a dark desert highway….or a work/school night in Sydney anyway, this dish was “invented”. It started off with a plan to try out the idea of pretend fried rice made with cauliflower (as I had read on Sig’s blog). An interesting idea for those of us who are suffering through a low carb diet. Needing the protein boost I decided on some lamb mince and thought I would create a Chinese style of fried rice but with the lamb mince instead of the usual chinese sausage or similar. But the lamb mince had other ideas. It started off demanding some cinnamon…which then expanded to this middle eastern spice mix I have been experimenting with, some cumin and garlic. And before I knew it pine nuts also seemed essential At that stage I gave up on the idea of the Chinese style fried “rice” and went with the flow. I am sure no self respecting real middle eastern person would eat this but we thought it was pretty delicious (although rather unattractive). It does have lots of the major middle eastern elements like broad beans, cauliflower, lamb, eggplant, garlic. So I am not apologising for playing with the flavours and daring to call it “middle eastern”. Two words to any of you who are offended…”melting pot”!!

So here is how I made it…in a bit of a free flowing approach to recipe writing!

I cooked this whole dish in a wok. Brown 1 large onion that you have diced. When golden brown, add in the minced lamb (5oog) and stir continuously until well browned. Add in 1-2 large cloves of diced garlic and 1 cinnamon stick. Fry for another minute or two. Now add in 2 teaspoons of cumin powder (if you don’t have cinnamon sticks, add in a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon now), 2 teaspoons of middle eastern shwarma spice mix (the one I have has a fair amount of cardamon in it, cumin, cinnamon, etc – if you don’t have it just add in some more cumin and a tiny pinch of garam masala if you have it). Add a handful of pinenuts. No need to toast them first.  Add a quarter of or more cup of finely diced eggplant (finely diced to hide it from my kids. The eggplant adds a lovely velvety texture so if you don’t need to hide it, increase the quantity of eggplant you add). Fry for a further few minutes until the eggplant is cooked. Add in 1-2 large diced tomatoes and a handful of roughly chopped tomatoes. Cook on a moderate heat until you can no longer see the tomatoes (ie they have cooked into the  mixture).  The two pictures below shhow the two stages of before and after the tomatoes are added. middle east 3

middle east 4

This mixture is pretty delicious at this stage and you could just stop here and eat it with rice or in salad leaves.

If you are continuing on….roughly chop half a head of cauliflower into florets and then process into ‘rice like’ crumbs in the food processor. Be careful not to get it too fine. Add the cauliflower and some fresh shelled broad beans, a few finely sliced mushrooms and a little diced red capsicum to the wok and stir for a few minutes. You do not want to overcook the cauliflower or the texture will be pretty terrible. So just a few minutes to get it lightly cooked but still retaining some crunch. When it is just about done, throw in some asparagus. Add a handful of roughly chopped corriander leaves and parsley right at the end.

It was a quick, delicious and unusual meal…and cooked in one pot (wok) which is a good thing on a school night. I am not yet convinced about the whole cauliflower is like rice idea…but this is certainly a nice way to eat cauliflower if you are not a big fan of it (like most of our family). Tara even decided that it was worthy of being one of her “favourites”, on the list to be made again.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2009 6:37 AM

    This sounds delicious – I love dishes which evolve in an organic manner like that. Well, I love the idea, but you’re obviously better at it than I am – when I make up things along the way, I always end up with stuff that the family refuses to eat. 🙂

    Unlike the rest of my tribe, I love cauliflower, so I’ll have to pick one up at the markets to give this a go – thanks!


    • spiceandmore permalink*
      September 21, 2009 11:35 AM

      Ah plenty of disasterous experiments in our house too! 🙂

  2. September 19, 2009 5:05 PM

    What a great idea to use the cauliflower as “rice”. Sometimes recipes do take on a life of their own. A little bit of this, a little bit of that and then suddenly you’re eating North African instead of Spanish. I am slightly (?) obsessed by preserved lemons at the moment and can imagine some slivers of those stirred through as well.

    I’m new to your blog, can’t remember now how I got here, but am enjoying looking through your back catalogue.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      September 21, 2009 11:35 AM

      I can relate to your obsession with preserved lemons. For a few years I was so obsessed with them that I put them in just about everything I cooked – pasta dishes, marinades, etc, etc. My lemon tree died and I had some failures with making what used to be totally fool proof….so I haven’t used as much of them lately. Great suggestion of adding them to this dish – I will do that the next time I make it – thanks!
      Glad you are enjoying the blog…I am enjoying ‘wasting’ my time with it! 🙂 And I really like your site too – really interesting information about healthy, ethical eating, etc.

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