Thursday, 29 October 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #26 – Date Syrup

Dee - The featured ingredient from August 2014 was Date Syrup.  It is dark, thick and sweet, and resembles treacle or molasses but with a more subtle taste.
It’s not an ingredient I use very often, so I was interested to see which recipes it featured in.  There were two which attracted my interest: The Butternut Squash and Tahini Spread on page 69, and the Chunky Courgette and Tomato Salad on page 84.  In the end I chose the salad, for the simple reason that we had more of the ingredients to hand, but rest assured the spread will be making an appearance as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

Chunky Courgette and Tomato Salad
The inspiration for this recipe was a Palestinian dish called Mafghoussa, meaning ‘mashed’, which is made by cooking tomato, courgette and green chilli on a grill and then skinning and mashing them all together before finally mixing in a tangy yoghurt sauce.  The version presented in the book adds a lot more ingredients and the vegetables are not mashed together.
The tomatoes and courgettes in both the original recipe and the version in the book are supposed to be cooked on a grill or barbeque but as I don’t currently have access to either I had to roast them in the oven.  I also added leek and potato to turn the dish into a main course rather than a salad.
I am very fond of slow roasted vegetables and this was a great way to serve them.  The softness and slightly charred edges made for a great taste experience and retained at least some of the spirit of the original recipe.
The Date Syrup was used as a key ingredient in the yoghurt sauce, where it was joined with lemon zest and juice, chilli and chopped walnuts.  I decided to lightly toast the walnuts, though this is not specified in the recipe.
The vegetables and the sauce were carefully stirred together and finally garnished with chopped mint.
As the photo above shows, this isn’t a photogenic dish.  In fact it looks a bit of a mess, but what it lacked in finesse it more than made up for in flavour.  The sweetness and richness from the Date Syrup and tanginess of the lemon juice in the sauce were perfect partners to the roasted vegetables.
Jay commented, without seeing the write-up for the recipe which said the same thing, that it would be good with bread, but if I was doing this I would leave out the potato as it may make the dish too heavy.
The recipe as it appears in the book is somewhat hidden, as there is a two-page photograph before it and Tabbouleh, a better known recipe, after it.  Without a photograph of the finished dish it could be an easy one to miss, but I am glad I made it and both Jay and me enjoyed it very much.

Footnote:  Date Syrup can also be mixed with porridge.  Drizzling is recommended, but I stirred a teaspoon’s worth into the bowl, which gave it a bit more richness and depth of flavour.  I think something closer to a tablespoon of the syrup would be needed to add sweetness.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)

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