HAPPY NEW YEAR from the CYPRUS GOURMET
In this volatile world it would be unwise to consider “New Year “perhaps is a better word. At this time I am reminded of Woody Allen’s quip: “How do you make God laugh? – Tell Him your plans”.
The hopes I have for my family, friends and myself simply centre round that of good health for the next 12 months. I hope to have another year of my page here each week and that it may interest and entertain a few readers in 2016! So, to you all, I wish happiness, peace and prosperity for the year to come. And, of course,
Our 2015 Christmas lunch was with friends – the traditional British turkey. It’s one of those traditions that took hold in Cyprus in the years we lived there, although I can’t think why. For me it doesn’t have a great flavour and there’s a lot of it. Unless you’re a big family, the wretched bird hangs around for ages, coming up in guise after guise. Roasted. Cold, sliced. Fricassee. Risotto. With ham in a pie. So, I have only had to face it once this year. On Boxing Day (last Saturday) I roasted a chicken stuffed with a cooked mixture of finely chopped lamb flavoured with cinnamon, cumin and turmeric, plus onions, garlic, pine nuts, chopped mint and red wine. Much better!
This is how such a dish should look (it’s actually the jacket photo of a wonderful book published in 1982, by Arto der Haroutunian, called “Middle Eastern Cookery”. (
To keep juices in, I cover the chicken with foil for about 40 minutes of the total cooking time of between 60 and 80 minutes (at 200C)
When you’ve had your main meal, cut all the remaining meat off the bird, not forgetting the two lovely “chicken oysters” on the flat part (top). Keep this for another main dish.
Then, break up the carcass, put in a large pot with some mixed herbs (fresh and/or dried), add some bits of ham or bacon, a carrot or two, some pieces of other root vegetables such as swede, turnip or celeriac, and an onion or leek or two. Cover with water, season and simmer for about three hours. You will then have the basis for some excellent soup or stock in which to cook rice, pasta, bulgar wheat our cous-cous.
All this talk of what to do with a chicken was prompted by my looking through a new and decidedly original book about food, with recipes, sent to me for review.
“by Sherine Ben Halim Jafar, has been published by Nicosiabased Rimal Publications, at US$55. It is a substantial hard-back book, with more than 300 pages, printed in colour on art paper. More than 200 pages concern food, in terms of ingredients, cooking and recipes.
Throughout, there is a feeling of family. Their story, encompassing departure from Libya in 1969, to escape the Gadaffi regime, to the present is redolent of several written of the Palestinian following the 1948 creation of Israel.
Here, though, we do not have a narrative about one nation’s food – the author, Sherine Ben Halim Jafar, found settling anywhere other than her homeland, Libya, most difficult. This searching for a home and indeed her own self, led her through Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, then beyond the Arab world into Iran. Everywhere she absorbed the individual culinary cultures. Now, she presents not only her family story, but her experiences with each cuisine. The dedication tells you a lot about the feeling of this work: “To my loves”, it reads.
The recipes are accompanied by atmospheric colour photographs, often in soft-focus and looking like they’ve been taken at home (in some you can almost smell the food). This is all to the good.
I have travelled in most of the countries represented here, eaten the food and cooked some of it, too. Their similar but different cuisines have been well documented and a number of dishes have joined the repertories of international chefs. But Madame Jafar has produced many recipes you don’t find in most Middle Eastern cook books or magazines. And, there is more than this. There is a feeling throughout of love and of It is a book to read, enjoy, I keep my copy on a little table near my work desk and every now and then dip into it for a few minutes. In the depths of an English winter it takes me back many years, to another world, of sunshine, friendship and hospitality. I can recommend this as a gift for someone you love – or for yourself.
Said by some to be the seminal work on the food of the Middle East, Mr. der Haroutunian’s book remains available (current edition is pictured left). It offers a lucid exposition of the diversity, substance and style of Middle Eastern and North African cooking.
Born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1940, he grew up in the Levant, but went to England with his parents as a child, remaining there for most of his life. He studied architecture at Manchester University and embarked upon a career designing restaurants, clubs and hotels. In 1970, in partnership with his brother, he opened the first Armenian restaurant in Manchester which eventually became a successful chain of six restaurants and two hotels. It was logical that he should widen his horizons to include cookery books – 12 of them – because they combined his love of food with his great interest in the history and culture of the region. Sadly he died before his time at the age of 47, in 1987.