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Mighty kofte


This week's dinner guest was an old friend who has recently relocated to Paris. When we met up for a drink last month, he was after some advice about a decent bottle of wine to take to a supper party later that night. He admitted he was feeling the pressure to buy something good because 'she always blows the cooking out of the water'. Of course this IMMEDIATELY goaded me into asking him and his fiancé over to ours. I don't think I've ever cooked for him before this, as we haven't hung out much since our student days, spent mostly stuffed full of bad canteen food. He was delighted to accept the invitation, especially as they are living in a classic, oven-less, Parisian apartment. Their own cooking options are limited.

So, an informal supper for four, with a medium showoff level to subtly assert my 'blowing it out of the water' skills in a casual and no-fuss manner. No dietary requirements to speak of (RARE). I didn't have masses of time to spend in the kitchen, so I wanted something reasonably quick to put together. Homemade kofte seemed like the thing: simple, convivial, delicately spiced and a little unusual. Plus, one of DS' all-time favourites, which I haven't made in a while. A couple of Eastern-looking salads completed the spring-time feast and made for a pretty table. Phew.

If you're looking to add something sweet, I'd go for my light and citrusy orange and pistachio cake here. And perhaps a casual homemade hummus to start. Sorted.

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Et en français...

Best beef and lamb kofte with tahini sauce

Serves 4, takes 30 minutes

main / perennial / quietly smug / easy peasy / gluten free / dairy free / party / date night / picnic

JS told me these were the best kofte he's ever had. Considering he's lived in Berlin's Kreuzberg and the Marais, Paris, I'm taking that as high praise indeed. As promised, here's the recipe for him to recreate in his own, oven-less, home.

* Onion - 1, large, peeled and diced

* Vegetable oil - a generous glug

* Ground cumin - 1 tsp

* Ground coriander - 1 tsp

* Ground cinnamon - 1 tsp

* Parsley - a big handful, chopped (stalks and leaves)

* Coriander - a big handful, chopped (stalks and leaves)

* Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled and diced

* Minced beef - 300g

* Minced lamb - 300g

* Egg - 1

* Salt - 1 tsp

In a large saucepan, fry the onion on a medium high heat with the oil, spices and the chopped stalks of the fresh herbs. Add a splash of water, cover the frying pan and leave to steam for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the garlic and fry for a couple more minutes. Set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, along with plenty of fresh black pepper. Add the onion mixture and mix well with your hands. You'll reuse the frying pan so don't worry about washing up just yet.

Lay out a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray. Using your hands, make torpedo shaped meatballs, about 8cm long, and lay them on the baking sheet. Heat a generous glug of oil in the frying pan over a medium to high heat. Arrange the kofte in the pan (you should be able to get them all in) and leave to sizzle for a couple of minutes. Then turn them one by one and leave to sizzle again. Repeat twice more, in order to brown all four 'sides' of the kofte. It may seem fiddly but it will give you a nice even browning. I like mine nice and juicy, so I don't cook them for too long.You can serve them immediately, or at room temperature. You can also reheat them in a hot oven (if you have one) for a few minutes if you're making them in advance.

Simple tahini sauce

Makes a small jar, takes 5 minutes

* Tahini - 4 tbsp

* Water - 4 tbsp

* Lemon - juice of 1/4

* Salt - 1/4 tsp

Whisk the tahini and water together in a jar. The mixture will thicken at first and should then even out. Add a touch more water once mixed if needed - you're aiming for the consistency of honey. Add the lemon juice and salt and mix to combine.

Roasted cauliflower, celery and cranberry salad

Serves 4, takes 25 minutes

salad / side / vegetarian / vegan / detox / date night / gluten free / dairy free / perennial / party / quietly smug / easy peasy / on a budget / picnic

This salad has evolved over the years from an original Ottolenghi recipe. It never gets old. JS, if you're making this without an oven, you could griddle the cauliflower instead of baking it.

Cauliflower - 1, chopped into florets, leaves discarded

Olive oil - a few glugs

Zataar - 1 tbsp

Celery - 2 sticks

Dried cranberries - a handful

Toasted hazelnuts - a handful, chopped

Parsley - a handful, chopped

Pomegranate molasses (optional) - 1 tbsp

Allspice - 1/4 tsp

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Lay the cauliflower out on a large baking tray. Toss in olive oil and season generously with salt, pepper and zataar. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Combine the cauliflower, celery, cranberries, parsley and hazelnuts in a serving bowl and mix to combine.

In a glass, whisk together a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil with the pomegranate molasses (if you don't have pomegranate molasses, cider vinegar with a dash of honey works well here). Dress the salad when you're ready to serve.

Preserved lemon and orange bulgur

Serves 4, takes 10 minutes

salad / side / vegetarian / vegan / dairy free / perennial / hands free / party / nothing fancy / easy peasy / on a budget

Bulgur wheat is a chewy, nutty and vitamin rich grain. This is just an idea for how to dress it up a bit. Add slivered almonds or dried fruits for a richer side dish.

Dark bulgur - 1 cup

Salt - 1/2 tsp

Preserved lemon - 1/4, finely diced

Orange - zest of half

Lemon - juice of half

Olive oil - a generous glug

Parsley - a handful, chopped

Coriander - a handful, chopped

Bring the bulgur, salt and 2 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Cover and leave to simmer for ten minutes. Remove from the heat, with the lid still on, and leave to steam for a couple more minutes.

Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl and mix well.


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