Va­ri­ety is the spice of life for Jor­dan’s wildlife

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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

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