Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cherried and Chickpea'd Couscous (Actually Farro) by Nigella & Ground Lamb Patties w/ Tahini Sauce: A Delicious Middle Eastern Dinner

I lied...I said I would have a normal Tuesday "Things I Am Loving This Week" post today but alas, life got the best of me last week and although I had things I loved, I didn't have time to get it all together for a post. I shall strive to get one up next week. Still, there is a lot to love with my easy and delicious Middle Eastern meal below--a Cherried and Chickpea'd Farro Salad adapted from Nigella for this week's "Great Grains" theme at IHCC. The salad makes a wonderful side dish for some Ground Lamb Patties or "Kefta" from Claudia Roden that are topped with some Tahini Dressing from Jill Dupleix. The entire meal is going to Regional Recipes, a monthly event hosted by one of my very favorite blogging friends, Joanne from Eats Well With Others. Regional Recipes is stopping in the Middle East this month and since it is some of my favorite food to make and eat, (and I love Joanne!), I had to join in. Two fun events, three recipes from three great cooks--never let it be said that I can't multitask!

First up the Cherried and Chickpea'd Farro was meant by Nigella to be couscous, and although couscous, technically a pasta made from semolina or the middlings of durum wheat is great, I decided to go with a greater grain--farro. Farro is an ancient grain, a cousin of wheat and closely related to spelt. It is a complex carbohydrate and for roughly the same calories as couscous it has more than twice the fiber and more protein too. Sure, it takes longer to make than couscous, but really no more effort--just a bit of time. If you have not tasted it, it has a great slightly nutty taste and a chewy texture.

The recipe can be found in "How to Eat" by Nigella Lawson on page 186. My changes and cooking instructions for the farro are in red below.

Nigella says, "Now, normally I hate fruit in savory concoctions, but the sour cherries here really do work. There is an authenticity to the mixture of sweet dried fruit and waxy nut and fragrant buttery grain. But if you don't like the idea of sour cherries, just leave them out. The couscous will taste better if it has been steeped in stock rather than water, but by making stock I don't mean anything more arduous than stirring half a stock cube into boiling water."

Cherried and Chickpea'd Couscous Farro
Adapted from "How to Eat" by Nigella Lawson
(Serves 6)

1/2 vegetable boullion cube (Used 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock)
2 cups quick-cooking couscous (Used 1 cup farro)
1/4 cup sour dried cherries
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 can (14 oz) chickpeas
2 Tbsp unsalted butter (Used 1 Tbsp olive oil)
3 scallions (white and green parts), cut into thin rings
harissa, for serving (optional)

Pour boiling water into a measuring cup to get 2 cups, add the half boullion cube, crumbled, then pour into a saucepan and bring to the boil again. Add salt to taste. Put the couscous in a bowl and mix in the cherries, cumin, and cinnamon, and then turn into the saucepan of boiling water. Wait until it starts to boil again, put the lid on, and take the pan off the heat.
(For farro: Place stock, cumin, cinnamon and rinsed and drained farro into a medium size saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover pot, turn down heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Add the dried cherries and continue to cook covered another 10 minutes or until most all of the stock is absorbed and the farro is tender. Taste and add salt as needed)

Meanwhile, put a heavy frying pan on the stove and, when it's hot, toast the pine nuts. When they are beginning to turn golden, remove them.

Heat the chickpeas with their liquid in a saucepan. When the couscous (farro) is tender and has absorbed the liquid, about 10 minutes, add the drained warm chickpeas, stir in the butter (olive oil) , then half the pine nuts, and turn out onto a large heated plate and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. You will probably have more couscous than you need here, but I feel that making less than this looks so miserable and unwelcoming. Anyway, it tastes good the next day. The best way of reheating it is either by steaming it (a strainer suspended over a saucepan of boiling water will do it) or a quick burst in the microwave. Stir in the scallions and eat hot with the harissa to the side.

Notes/Results: Yum! I love the hearty, chewy texture of the farro in this salad/side dish--it really stands up to the chickpeas. The tart cherries and toasted pine nuts both add good texture and flavor to the dish. A great combination of ingredients and a tasty, healthy salad--I would make this again, most likely with the farro.

I bought some ground lamb and since I was headed to the Middle East with the side dish, I thought some spiced lamb patties would be a good choice. I pulled out "Arabesque" by Claudia Roden, one of my favorite cookbooks and one that should be in your collection if you want to learn more about Middle Eastern foods, (Actually any Claudia Roden book is a must-have addition to your collection--she is amazing). Although I could have made these more traditional on skewers, I took the easy way out (Claudia says it is fine), and just formed the mixture into small patties, that I cooked on the stove top in a pan lightly brushed with olive oil. I made a half-batch with one pound of the lamb, but doubled the dried spices (I like big flavor). With the half batch, I got six small patties.

This recipe can be found in "Arabesque" by Claudia Roden on page 99.

Claudia Roden says, "In Morocco, men are masters of the fire, in charge of the brochettes, the small kebabs threaded on little wood or metal skewers, which are traditional street food. The ground meat kebabs are deliciously aromatic--full of fresh herbs and spices. The meat is usually pressed around skewers and cooked over dying embers, but it is easier simply to pat the meat into sausage or burger shapes and cook them under the broiler or on a griddle. There should be a good amount of fat (it melts away under the fierce heat), enough to keep the meat moist and soft. otherwise work 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil into the paste. Bite-size keftas can be served as appetizers at a party, but en famille burger-size ones, accompanied by a salad, represent a main dish."

Ground Lamb Patties (Ground Meat Kebab or Kefta Kebab)
"Arabesque" by Claudia Roden
(Serves 4-6)

2 pounds fatty ground lamb or beef
1 small onion, finely chopped or grated
large handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
large handful of chopped coriander
handful of chopped mint
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
good pinch of ground chili pepper

Put all the ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well and work with your hands into a soft paste. Wash your hands and rub them with oil. Take lumps of paste the size of a tangerine and roll them into sausage shapes about 3/4 inch thick, then press them around flat wooden skewers. Alternatively, shape the meat into burgers.

Place the keftas on a heat-proof serving dish or on a piece of foil on a baking tray and cook under the preheated broiler for 10 minutes, turning them over once, until browned on the outside but still pink inside.

Serve hot with good bread and a salad of cucumber. tomato and red onion, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Notes/Results: Excellent! A nice combination of herbs and spices that give the lamb wonderful flavor. Although I didn't find my lamb to be very fatty, I didn't add any extra oil and they were still juicy and delicious. This is a simple, quick recipe that tastes great and I would make it again.

Finally, I was craving some tahini sauce with my kefta so I used a simple recipe from Jill Dupleix that is one of my go-to sauce and salad dressings. (It is excellent on tomatoes--see that post here).

Tahini Sauce
"Good Cooking" by Jill Dupleix

In a blender, work 2 crushed garlic cloves with 1 tsp sea salt, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 3 Tbsp tahini paste, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, and 2 Tbsp water. Add a little extra water until creamy.

Notes/Results: Creamy and good. I like the roasted tahini rather than the raw in this recipe, as it has more of a toasted nutty taste and is less bitter. It was great on the lamb patties and it is also wonderful for veggies or as a salad dressing--you can add additional water to get it to the consistency you want it.

A delicious Middle Eastern Meal for Regional Recipes and a delicious salad/side dish made up of some "Great Grains" for IHCC. Joanne will be doing the RR round-up at the end of the month and you can see the grain dishes the other IHCC participants made this week by going to the website (here) and following the links to their posts.


  1. I love this middle eastern combo!

  2. sounds like all the flavors I love!

  3. Thank you so much the entry chica! I appreciate it so much :D

    This is an absolutely amazing meal! First of all that pilaf (is it still a pilaf if it's not rice...I've decided yes) has so many good things in it...I've wanted to try farro for FOREVER.

    And those lamb patties are just amazing! Claudia Roden is a genius. That's for sure.

  4. I absolutely love Middle Eastern food too. Yum kefta!
    Claudia is getting moved to high priority on my wishlist.
    Love the farro salad - I guess it is a form of wheat berry? So much more satisfying than couscous.
    It all looks so wonderful.

  5. Well, my goodness a whole meal full of recipes! Everything looks good!

  6. What a glorious meal! You've put me in the mood for hummus and tabbouleh and all things Middle Eastern and savoury! Nigella's lamb kofta thingies from the Summer book are awesome too.

  7. I've never tried the farro, but I definitely want to! I love the lamb patties and the toasted tahini sauce. I borrowed quite a few of Claudia's books from the library for RR and she is a genius! I'm cooking my Middle Eastern meal up tonight. Yours looks delish!

  8. Deb, what a beautiful dinner! The combination of sour cherries and chickpeas are something I would never had thought of. But I bet the cherries add a fantastic twist.

    I definitely want to give this salad a try. Thanks...

  9. I love ground lamb patties but I think I would prefer the couscous in the salad.

  10. The addition of dried cherries is fantastic, I would love this dish!

  11. What a gorgeous plate of food! I love the flavors in the farro. And the lamb patties look absolutely delicious!

  12. The salad looks wonderful but the ground lamb patties really have my attention!

  13. What a beautiful meal, Deb. I love Middle Eastern food.

  14. My hubby would be all over those ground lamb patties....this is going on the to-do list!

    You have very pretty plates by the way.

  15. The cherried chickpea'd farro salad looks delicious!

  16. wow looks great I need to get me some farro I always learn so much from you Deb

  17. This is delight full and Joanne being ur fren too, am inviting u here for her little party which is a suprise party for her ...do leave her a wish in the sprinkles ok.....my feeds arent working so am trying my best to find all her pals to leave her a wish in the sprinkles before she gets there or even after....will ya help too to make it a little sucess....and leave her a wish too?


  18. This looks delicious! Thanks for sharing and great combo by the way!

  19. That looks amazing! I love Israeli couscous, but I have never tried farro. I've heard you can cook it in place of arborio rice in rissoto recipes and I can't wait to try it!

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