We read a modern classic this month for our reading group – a book of short stories called Carried Away by Alice Munro (Canadian Author, winner of the International Booker Prize for a body of work in 2009). Of course the title gave me permission to get a bit carried away with the food.
We switched from Friday night to Saturday this month and it meant that people could come earlier so I really needed to get a cheese plate happening to tide us over until dinner. Each Friday when I take Lola to the Central Market to do our weekly shop we stop to a try a range of cheeses offered for tasting by a very friendly woman at the Say Cheese stall. She seems to remember us and isn’t at all fussed that we only buy occasionally so it’s always a pleasure to buy a few special cheeses.
What got me started on the cheese buying this time was trying a caper berry at my friend Lucy’s fine food stall Jagger. These were a cut above others I’ve tried before – crisp and mild and quite delicious and crying out for cheese. So I bought the jar and moved on to choosing cheeses. Kolophon are a Barmera food company that produce exclusively caper products. The caper berries were a bit of a pricey treat (at $12 a jar) but they really were good and nice for a special dinner.
After the cheeses I made a little plate of fetta and roasted capsicum stuffed sardines, dusted in chilli flour and pan-fried just long enough for them to turn golden brown and the stuffing to start oozing. A squeeze of lime and they were heaven on a fork. Salty, intense flavours from the stuffing were a great match for the strong sardine meat. The fresh dill along with both dried and fresh mint seem to be the signature herbs in Turkish cooking and they lent a distinctive fresh lift to the stuffing. These are from Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf (you’ll notice from other posts that I am cooking my way through this book – I’ll do a post just on the book soon).
Once I had packed my little one off to bed I finished off the main course by making some couscous scattered with pomegranate seeds (suggestion from Delicious magazine) and chopped parsley . It was a gorgeous jewel like result – the colours were brilliant and the tartness of the pomegranate was just right alongside the main course of a Morrocan style dish with meat and dried fruit.
Slow cooked Turkish lamb with prunes, saffron and cinnamon was from this months Delicious magazine (July 2010). It was dark, rich, succulent, sweet/savoury winter loveliness.
I figured we’d all be pretty full after this so didn’t make dessert as such but opted for yet another recipe from Turquoise and made the yoghurt and pistachio biscuits which had an almost cake like texture. The mixture made a lot more than the 30 biscuits promised (according to the instructions to make little balls flattened out to the size of a 10 cent piece). I made 44 and mine were more like 50c pieces. Perfect with a cup of tea – like a semi sweet scone with a twist of sesame flavour – very moreish.
So back to the book –
I hadn’t heard of Alice Munro before but learned that she is a superstar of the literature world and Canada’s best ever export in this field. Carried Away is a collection of 17 of her stories, selected from across her 25 year writing career. Many of the stories were disturbing in one way or another and I definitely got the impression that there was a lot more gold to be mined if I had the right reading guidance (like university course notes). However the stories were also quite approachable and readable on an unscholarly level too. I really enjoyed it (and everyone else seemed to get a fair bit from it too). The stories are all set in South Western Ontario (or Sowesto) where Munro lives. The stories are about small town lives on one level but much more about the dark inner lives and strange workings of human beings generally. She’s a great find and I’ll be looking up more of her work.
Fetta and dill stuffed sardines fried in chilli flour (from Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf, reprinted with permission)
8 sardines, filleted and butterflied
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp hot paprika
50ml olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
Fetta and dill stuffing
180g fetta, crumbled
1 long red pepper, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried mint
2 Tbl finely chopped dill
2 Tbl shredded mint leaves
1 small red bullet chilli, seeded and finely diced
To make the stuffing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mash with a fork to a smooth, homogenous paste.
Open out the sardine fillets and lie them skin side down on your work surface. Make a 2cm long incision along the natural seam, cutting right through the skin. This will stop the fish bursting open when you fry it. Smear a tablespoon of the stuffing along one side of the fish. Close the fish and squeeze gently to seal. Repeat with the remaining sardines.
Mix the flour and spices together. heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Season the sardines with salt and pepper, then dust them lightly with the seasoned flour. Fry the sardines, four at a time, over a medium heat for around a minute on each side, or until golden brown.
The sardines I bought must have been much smaller than the ones intended in the recipe – I bought 9 and still had lots of stuffing left over.