Sumac grilled lamb chops with lemon pea mash

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (1 of 3)

After having disappeared mysteriously for a month (I got caught up with work amongst other things), the girl is back in the kitchen. This time, she is back experimenting with sumac and lamb chops. Some of you may be wondering “what the heck is sumac?”. So before I digress into the finer details of the recipe, let me give you a brief description of what sumac is, its origins, and more importantly, why you should have it in your spice cabinet!

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Sumac is one of the most ancient spices that one should readily have at their disposal

The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. While it’s less common, the berries may also be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish.

Sumac is a widely used, essential spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It’s used in everything from dry rubs, marinades, and dressing. But its best use is sprinkled over food before serving.

It’s great over vegetables, grilled lamb, chicken and fish. Ground sumac also makes a nice, flavorful topping on dips like hummus.

Thanks to the recommendation from my Iranian friend (who I highly respect when it comes to the culinary scene), I’ve decided to experiment with sumac and grilled lamb chops tonight. Given how busy I am, in order to save time, I opted to create a quick and simple lemon pea mash as a side. The two complement each other harmoniously, both in flavours and in colours.

INGREDIENTS: (serves one)

  • 2 lamb cutlets
  • 2 teaspoons of sumac
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Sea salt

METHOD:

  1. Place cutlets in a non-reactive bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and generously sprinkle sumac, garlic powder, and salt all over.
  2. Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (18 of 18)Cook the peas in a saucepan of boiling water (~1.5 cups) and boil for roughly 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the knob of butter, the lemon juice, and a dash of sea salt.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (16 of 18)3. With a potato masher or fork, lightly crush the pea mixture until it resembles a mash.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (13 of 18)4. Meanwhile, coat a cast iron pan with olive oil and turn the hob to a high heat. Pan-fry the lamb chops 2-3 minutes on both sides depending on how well done you like your lamb. Cover with foil and set aside for 5 minutes to rest.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (12 of 18)5. Layer the pea mash on a plate and stack the lamb chops neatly on top. Serve immediately.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (2 of 3)

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (3 of 18)

Avocado Tahini Sourdough With a Twist

Sourdough Toast with Tahini Spread and Avocado (2 of 8)

Avocado Toast with a Twist – Breakfast will never be quite the same again

Avocados – the creamy, delicious, nutrient-bomb. These little green gems are nutritional goldmines. Underneath the tough green exterior lies over 14 minerals; protein, complete, with all 18 essential amino acids; soluble fiber, to trap excess cholesterol and send it out of the system; phytosterols; polyphenols; carotenoids; omega 3s; vitamins B-complex, C, E and K, to name a few.

Interesting enough, did you know that avocados contains the potassium content of two to three bananas? So if you find yourself suffering from frequent mood swings or depression, time to try topping up on the potassium with avocados every morning (as low levels of potassium could affect you psychologically).

Worried about the fat content? Relax. While the fat content of an avocado is roughly 20 percent, they are packed full of the “good” type of fats – monounsaturated fats – not the type that clog your arteries. High in monosaturates (unsaturated fatty acids), the unsaturated oil content of avocados is second only to olives among fruits, and sometimes greater.

What’s more, those with cholesterol problems have more reason to chow down these creamy green gems. According to one study, a diet high in avocados have been proven to help lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad type) whilst increasing the percentage of healthy HDL cholesterol.

So what’s the best way to start your day with avocado? I’ve attempted to create what i believe to be the avocado breakfast masterpiece – tahini on sourdough topped with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of sumac (the twist). The richness of the avocado simply blends harmoniously with the creaminess of the tahini. Bonus: if you have fast hands, this will take you no longer than 10 minutes to make.

INGREDIENTS: (makes 1 serving)

  • 1 tablespoon of tahini
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sumac
  • slice of sourdough bread, toasted, to serve

METHOD:

1) Combine tahini with lemon juice, water, and pinch of salt. Whisk until well combined.

2) Toast sourdough. Spread tahini generously on toast. Layer the avocado slices on top. Sprinkle with sumac and serve.

Sourdough Toast with Tahini Spread and Avocado (4 of 8)

Eggplant with Buttermilk Greek Yoghurt Dressing and Pomegranate

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (6 of 18)

After a month of silence, I am finally back with the postings. Past month has been hectic. Got caught up with a multitude of tasks, then travelled to London and Sicily for a much needed and long-awaited break. Finally back and over my jet lag. Fell in love with Ottolenghi’s restaurants in London. In fact, I kept going to his pastry shop in Notting Hill almost every morning since it was just around the corner from where I was staying (hence I unavoidably stacked on the pounds but it was definitely worth every calorie). Bill Granger’s Granger and Co. was just around the corner too. How can one resist Bill’s breakfast, especially his signature ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter that brought him to fame (the scrambled eggs as well of course) in Sydney?

Now that I am back, the first dish I felt naturally compelled to make is an Ottolenghi inspired creation: the baked aubergines with a buttermilk greek yoghurt sauce from his book Plenty. Given the sloppy texture, I know aubergines may not be everyone’s favourite vegetable, but I personally love aubergines. There are so many ways you can dress them up with and they absorb flavours like a sponge. They are the perfect staple vegetable for several middle eastern dishes.

As for the dressing, the yoghurt sauce has the ability to round up so many flavours and textures like no other component does. The addition of buttermilk adds some acidity which works wonders with the slightly greasy nature of the aubergines and the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. The original recipe calls for Za’atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice blend of sumac, sesame seeds and herbs. I value efficiency so I simply just sprinkled sumac on top of the buttermilk dressing to add some contrast in colours and flavour. Finish off with some chopped fresh mint (again, original recipe calls for lemon thyme leaves but these are not so easy to find in Hong Kong).

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (2 of 2)

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 as a side dish):

  • 2 large long eggplants
  • 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of Za’atar or Sumac (or combination of dried thyme, oregano, and pepper)
  • 1/2 pomegranate
  • 3-4 tablespoon of pine nuts, roasted
  • Some fresh mint leaves, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt (Maldon sea salt is ideal)
  • Black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon of greek yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoon of buttermilk (alternative is to add 1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes and let it stand)
  • 3/4 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon of garlic past (about 1 small garlic clove)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cumin powder

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a roasting tray with parchment paper or aluminium foil.

2) Cut eggplants diagonally into rounds, almost an inch thick. Use a small sharp knife to make a criss-cross hash pattern on one side of the eggplant so that the flavours can absorb more readily.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (18 of 18)

3) Spray with olive oil cooking spray (or brush with olive oil). Sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper, sea salt and dried thyme.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (17 of 18)Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (16 of 18)4) Shove into the oven for ~20 minutes until flesh goes soft and turns into a nicely brown colour (NB: can check by inserting a skewer). Take out of the oven and let it cool completely.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (15 of 18)

5) Whilst eggplants are roasting you can start preparing the buttermilk sauce. Whisk together the buttermilk, yoghurt, cumin, olive oil, garlic paste, and salt. Feel free to adjust for taste according to your own liking (sometimes I like to add a squirt of lemon juice). Keep sauce chilled.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (11 of 18)6) Roast the pine nuts by heating up a pan on medium heat and pan-frying for 2-3 minutes.
Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (12 of 18)7) Cut pomegranate in half and remove the seeds with your fingers. Make sure that all the attached white skin or membrane has been removed apart from the seeds.

Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (1 of 18)

8) To serve, lay out the cooled aubergine rounds onto a dish and spoon plenty of the buttermilk dressing on top. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Za’atar or Sumac, and garnish with the pomegranate seeds, roasted pine nuts and some freshly diced mint leaves. Finish with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Ottolenghi's Grilled Aubergine with Buttermilk Dressing (3 of 18)