Variety is the spice of life for Jordan’s wildlife
MY sister, Laraine, who lives in Ingleton, North Yorkshire, has just come back from a week in Jordan and given me the biggest selection of spices I’ve ever seen. It’s a Spice fest.
Pictured here is her husband, Ralph, with a grin like the Cheshire Cat, and who can blame him? The Laughing Badger kitchen smells like I imagine Heaven does – divine, with a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, cumin, cardamom, orange sumac, yellow turmeric and green haeel – a veritable rainbow of flavour.
The arrival of the spice coincided with me cooking a hot chicken curry, so I dropped a handful of the spices into the pot and let them do their work for 24 hours. It was complete guesswork, but the taste was wonderful, with a stunning aromatic slant to it.
The influx of the exotic also aroused my curiosity.
Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, is a rich meal of saffron rice and lamb topped with a thick dried yoghurt called jameed.
Another typical dish is musakhan, which is bread topped with sweet onions and sumac, saffron and baharat, Jordan’s version of an allspice – and basically a crushed version of my ‘curry handful’. Mahshi is another popular Arabic dish composed of squash or courgette stuffed with rice and meat in a tomato-based broth seasoned with cinnamon and caraway seed.
Appetites hopefully tempted, you can now try a few recipes of your own, and don’t forget to Google and learn about Petra, Wadi Dana the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.
At the junction of three continents – Asia, Africa and Europe – Jordan is a place where almost any bird can turn up, and it will either be a resident, or passing through in any one of four directions.
Desert lark, Temminck’s horned lark, hoopoe lark, trumpeter finch and desert wheatear.
Birds of prey include Bonelli’s eagle, black kites, steppe eagles and steppe buzzard.
My sister visited Petra, the amazing ‘Rose City’ carved out of the hillside, which is also an excellent place for birds: Hume’s tawny owl, Sinai rosefinch, pallid swift and fan-tailed raven.
So far, 78 species of mammals have been recorded in Jordan, belonging to seven orders and 26 families.
Some of these mammals are carnivores, such as striped hyena, wolf, golden jackal, and a number of foxes and wildcats.
Others are herbivores, including the Nubian ibex and Arabian oryx, the latter being the rarest of the rare, almost extinct until a reintroduction programme saved the day. Recent influxes of refugees, and their livestock, from other nations in the region have hampered the programme because of competition for scarce vegetation.
Apart from the Nubian ibex and oryx, there are several other globallythreatened species of mammals existing in Jordan: the Dorcas gazelle, Arabian oryx and Blandford’s fox.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●● Sean Wood’s brother-in-law, Ralph with some spices from Jordan