When out shopping – especially in ethnic food shops – I’m a demon for picking up new and unusual ingredients that I’ve no idea how to use. I just see something in Dublin’s Asian Market, say, or – very especially – Middle Eastern shop Spiceland that looks interesting and, before I know it, it’s in my basket and I’m thinking: “didn’t I see a recipe for that somewhere recently?”
Hence my food cupboards are filled with lots of things that keep getting pushed to the back and never used. Just a few of the unused items that are taking up space in the cupboard at the moment include:
Sheets of dried Apricots: for making Claudia Roden’s Amardine desert
Miso paste: I like the idea of miso soup but, after the first experiment, not so much the reality…
Rosewater and orange blossom water: for other A New Book of Middle Eastern Food recipes. Claudia Roden has a lot to answer for!
Tom Yum paste: for making the addictive hot and sour Thai soup. Sometime.
Dried verbena leaves: I loved the cup of verbena tea that I got at a Vegetarian Society demonstration in Christchurch but I’ve yet to try infusing these leaves for myself.
Ebly: still waiting to be turned into salads.
Sumac: brought back to Ireland after it spent most of last year sitting in my NZ pantry. It’s still sitting.
Mung dal: it’s not really the time of the year for cooking dal, is it?
Pistacchio halva: for eating with coffee, except I don’t drink coffee at home in the evenings.
Anchovies: because Nigel keeps telling me that I’ll like them. This is my second jar. The first remained, unopened, behind me in NZ.
After reading a Middle Eastern edition of Cuisine magazine, I also stocked my NZ pantry with a spur-of-the-moment pomegranate molasses buy which sat there…and sat there…and sat there…until I had to return to Ireland and abandon it. But, newly invigorated by my reading of A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, this was an ingredient that I was determined to find uses for.
Its first outing in my house was when I cooked a Moroccan Lamb Tagine dinner for the then very pregnant Writer and her husband. Wine wasn’t on the menu for her that night so I took a tip from Cuisine (their What to do with…… ingredients guide series is invaluable) and made a refreshing Pomegranate Cordial by mixing the pomegranate molasses with some sugar, lemon juice and diluting it with water and lots of ice cubes. So far, so successful. But one idea doesn’t necessarily make an ingredient useful and the elegant bottle of dark brown, sweet and sour syrup sat there, ready to catch my eye every time I opened the door of the cupboard. There’s only so much cordial a girl can drink.
Further investigation into A New Book of Middle Eastern Food and a recipe from Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark gave me inspiration one night this week. I had wanted to use the molasses in a salad dressing but previous attempts in New Zealand had not been particularly memorable. But I did like the look of the Clark’s pomegranate molasses dressing -and the idea of trying raw cauliflower! Accompanied with Claudia Roden’s Spicy Carrot Dip (a pile of carrots at the bottom of the fridge needed to be used up), some crisply toasted pita breads and a bowl of natural yoghurt this salad made a lovely light supper and an even nicer following-day lunch. Bulgur can sometimes be a little bland but the dressing was pleasantly tangy while the cauliflower and chickpeas added some different enjoyable textures to the salad. Some toasted pumpkin seeds or walnuts sprinkled over next time, as in Roden’s Bulgur Salad With Pomegranate Dressing and Toasted Nuts, would also add a good crunchy counterpoint to the other ingredients. Pomegranate molasses experiments a triumphant success. Now, time to turn my attention to some of the other ingredients bulging out of my food cupboards.
Bulgur and Cauliflower Salad with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
Medium-coarse bulgur – 150g
Cauliflower – ½ head, separated into small, bitesize florets
Red onion – ½, finely sliced
Ripe tomatoes – 3, chopped roughly
Chickpeas – 250g cooked chickpeas or 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed
For the pomegranate molasses dressing:
Garlic – 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
Dried mint – ½ teaspoon
Ground cinnamon – ¼ teaspoon
Pomegranate molasses – 2 tablespoons
Extra virgin olive oil – 4 tablespoons
Lemon – ½, zested and juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soak the bulgur in warm water and allow to swell for 10-15 minutes. Drain in a sieve, pressing out excess water and place in a serving bowl. Add the cauliflower florets, red onion slices and chopped tomatoes.
To make the dressing, mix the garlic, mint, cinnamon and pomegranate molasses. Whisk in the olive oil, lemon zest and juice and season to taste.
Pour the dressing over the bulgur and vegetables. Toss well and check the seasoning. Serve with Spicy Carrot Dip, yoghurt and pita or Arabic flatbreads. Serves 4.
Adapted from Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clarke.