As the world becomes a global village, we are lucky to be part of a multitude of festivities, be it Eid after Ramazan, Eid after Hajj, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, or the much-awaited Christmas. When you think about it, what is a festival if not an excuse to feast? We dress up, celebrate our traditions and engage in preparing, hosting, or being invited to, a meal with family and friends. Breaking bread together is perhaps the ONE way we all break down our barriers and simply get together to have a good time!
With the feast comes the initial unease of meeting large groups of family, friends and acquaintances – some familiar faces, some new ones, and some we might meet after a long time apart.
Sharing food is an incredible way to turn unease into inexplicable intimacy. The orderly, organised, and decorated dining room swiftly transforms into a charming chaos: children run amok, clutching presents or bits of food, the spotless table cloth invites ineveitable spills and food accidents, yet the smiles grow wider, and the laughter, louder. There is just no stopping it – the chattering, the nodding of heads and the constant nibbling of food. Then comes the point where our appetites simply cannot take it any more. Everyone has eaten way too much. A sense of sluggish satisfaction takes over, after which, all one really wants to do is slip into deep slumber and be awakened with a cup of strong tea or coffee, and of course, the left over desserts from the festivities!
Putting together such a feast takes time and preparation. I suggest to start at least 3 days in advance. The recipes I share today allow for easy and quick preparation. (Any one of them can also pass off as a one-off potluck contribution if you’re planning to take something over to your hosts).
I have found hummus with bread to be a perfect starter. This recipe is warm and homely and is sure to put yours guests at ease.
Hummus With Fried Lamb (or Beef)
Hummus topped with fried lamb can be part of a small meal (served in individual bowls) or a starter served up on a generous platter. Pair it with pita bread and salad. For your vegetarian friends, skip the lamb, the recipe tastes delicious with just the Hummus and lemon sauce. Add nuts prior to serving for sensational flavour. Pine nuts and/or pistachios work best.
250 g dried chickpeas
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250 g tahini paste
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves, crushed garlic
100 ml ice cold water
1 1/2 tsp salt
Roast Chicken With Orange And Pomegranate
I prefer serving a roast chicken as part of the mains for my dinner menu. Served in a stylish platter with a lovely dinner table arrangement, it has a stunning effect on the guests.
I have noticed a recent trend of using smaller birds likes poussins in a large festive platter and they look delish.
This recipe works well either way.
For Marination, You Will Need:
1 large chicken, whole about 1.5 -1.8 kg or (4 poussins (about 500g each))
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
4 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
200ml orange juice (about 3-4 oranges), plus 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
2½ tbsp pomegranate molasses ( this is Pomegranate juice, reduced to a simmer over heat, to yield a thickened syrup)
2 large cinnamon sticks, broken in half or 1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
2-4 red or green chillies, cut in half lengthways but with stems intact and seeds in or 1 tsp red chilli flakes
20g thyme sprigs or 1 tsp dry mix herbs
Chocolate Tart With Sea Salt And Pomegranate Seeds
This a versatile recipe. It was by accident that I discovered that pomegranate tastes heavenly with dark chocolate. The bitter-creaminess of the chocolate with the crunchy-sweetness of pomegranate is something that can only be experienced with your taste buds. You may replace the pomegranate with strawberries, raspberries or a mix of the two. It tastes equally good without any fruit.
For The Tart Base, You Will Need:
50g dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
50g unsalted butter (melted)
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
For the Tart Filling, You Will Need:
100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
25g corn flour
60 ml full-fat milk
500ml double cream
50g cocoa powder, sieved
2 tsp instant coffee or espresso powder
75g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract (good quality)
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp sea salt flakes
1 pomegranate (seeds) for garnish