Monday, February 19, 2007

tarty much?

I have been thinking lately that if I was the marrying kind maybe I would start a campaign to marry Greg Malouf. Marry Me Mister Malouf I would call it.

You see, I'm not much for celebrity chefs - those books with pictures of Bill, Jamie, Nigella or whoever hanging out o so casual with their good looking children eating boring stolen recipes. Nah. But the Malouf's cookbooks are wonderful and completely sans photos of people. Greg writes them with Lucy Malouf, now his ex-wife. I mean, the fact that he can still travel through Lebanon and Syria with her and collaborate on beautiful books like Saha makes me think what a lovely fellow he must be.

And then...
well then I saw him on SBS's food [porn] safari and he was the sweetest thing ever. Trundling around a Lebanese nut shop extoling the virtues of yoghurt, modestly preparing some outrageous looking fish for his family. Yup. food love.

So Wednesday I'm thinkin, hey I'm gonna cook me some dinner from Arabesque for my ladyfriend. Maybe it's Feb 14th, maybe it ain't - still gotta eat no matter how cheesy it seems. Suffice to say, Wednesday didn't turn out to be a cooking day but Friday was and the food got made and sometimes nice things are even nicer when they're not on officially sanctioned nice thing days.

Arabesque is the Maloufs' first book and organised around little essays about key Middle Eastern ingredients. No lush pictures but some excellent recipes and good enthusiastic descriptions that make me wanna actually cook them. All of them. But it was a hot day and I only got home at 6:30 so here's what we had:

  • Fattouche - a crunchy salad with fried lebanese bread and sumac
  • Green beans - from the garden, in tahini yoghurt sauce
  • Soused zucchini & eggplant - I dunno what he means by soused but damn good.
  • Goats cheese grilled in fresh vine leaves
and dessert of course. Maybe the silly picture doesn't show just how ridiculously decadent this was. Sticky, crunchy, drenched in syrup and inducing a sugar rush like only middle eastern sweets can. Hard to eat elegantly though. Maybe scoring the pastry would help?

Toffeed fig tart
This tart was dead easy to make and impressive. I made two but this recipe makes 4. I should add though that mine was delicious because I used the homemade filo which is my best best friend. Yes maybe I'm a snob but I find supermarket filo really gross, hard to work with and unappetising. It does that horrible overly crunchy thing in the roof of my mouth.

The homemade stuff is available from the fridge at the Sydney Rd IGA or from the Turkish shop on Smith St as well as around Brunswick shops. If you're not in Melbourne try asking at a Greek or Turkish sweets shop?
  • 10 sheets of filo pastry
  • 200g butter, melted
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 100ml water
  • a splash of rosewater (optional)
  • 12 fresh figs (thanks to the ranch)
  • 2 extra tablespoons castor sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 100g hazelnuts, toasted, peels rubbed off and then roughly crushed
Layer the sheets of filo on a tray, brushing each one with butter as you go. Cut around a bowl to give you 4 circular stacks about 8cm across. Or maybe make 8 mini ones using a cup? Bake in a 180C oven until browning on top - about 10 minutes or more. When you remove them from the oven drizzle them with syrup before they cool.

What syrup? This one - while they're baking place the sugar and water in a pot and bring to the boil making sure all the sugar dissolves. Simmer it for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and add your rosewater if you want it.

Cut your figs in half. Now get a large heavy frypan and melt the tablespoon of butter and extra sugar in it. Wait for the sugar to caramelise. I started getting very nervous - something about bad history with caramel and toffee. 'It's not working' I cried in a sooky fashion. But after doing some strange cloud formation things for a long time caramelise it did. So when this happens add the fig halves and stir to coat. As the fig juice hits the caramel it'll start to toffee so get them all good and coated.

To serve you just need to stick the pastry circles on a plate and top with the figs. Greg says in 2 layers of 3 halves each but I wasn't quite that neat. Top with the nuts and serve with creme fraiche. Or if you ain't that organised, ice cream.



Cindy said...

I've never tried home-made filo pastry. :-P Thanks for the info! Will have to get myself to one of the shops you mentioned.

joni said...

your first paragraph is totally hilarious and i laughed so much it was great.