I have just finished leftovers of my Easter lamb roast and I wish I’d cooked twice as much. Without question, leftovers are often better than the original dish. But what was so particularly wonderful about this lamb, was the spicing and flavours that made the meat taste so heavenly.
I broke off with tradition this time. Instead of seasoning my leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, and serving it with new potatoes and the usual trimmings, I made lamb shawarma.
I’d marinated it in 12 Levantine spices (recipe will be coming forth so watch the space) and we had it with flatbreads, dips, marinated peppers and labneh. It was the best Easter lunch by far.
It’s all born from necessity, as in warmer climes food spoils quicker so it has to be spiced and seasoned, but North European cooking is just utterly bland compared to Middle Eastern. The flavours are so vibrant they make everything taste special. As if cooked by a flamboyant, moustachioed Lebanese chef rather than a Polish-English blogger.
Personal taste allegedly changes every seven years (not really) so my fascination with Middle Eastern cooking is relatively new. I never used to like allspice and I hated cumin. These days I dust everything with Baharat and season my meat with cinnamon all the time.
I still have some reservations towards hummus (boring) and tabbouleh (too much parsley) but bulgur wheat is my current obsession. Bulgur with red peppers, with chorizo or as a base for ricotta and oregano meatballs – all my favourites.
I’m also a recent convert to fresh herbs used in abundance as an ingredient, like in the radish, cucumber and herb sabzi khordan salad. And tahini: with fish or mixed with butter to dress a baked potato, but you can also put it in a carrot cake with excellent results.
I adore Persian baked rice, especially when it comes with lamb koftas or a chicken tagine. And next on my list of foods to explore are Middle Eastern sweets, with all the halva, filo pastry layers and rose water. Something to look forward to. Happy cooking!