Mechoui (Moroccan roast lamb)

Roast lamb with spinach and saffron riceIt’s Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, the second-most-important holiday for Muslims. Not being Muslim, I know little about the holiday and have never celebrated it before, but apparently it commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail upon Allah’s command. At the last minute, Allah intervened and gave him a lamb to sacrifice instead. Pretty much the same story occurs in the Bible, though the names of the main characters are Abraham, Isaac, and God, and instead of a lamb, God offers up a ram.

Um, yeeeaahhh. Much as I respect people’s religious freedom, to me, either version of the story seems frankly barbaric. However… I do like the idea of roast lamb. So putting aside the squickiness of the idea of the lamb standing in for a son, we “celebrated” with a delicious Moroccan-spiced roast lamb. I served it with a simple saffron rice (I cooked basmati rice with saffron, mustard seeds, and just a little asafoetida and turmeric, then stirred in chopped coriander once the rice was cooked) and a spinach dish similar to sabzi, except that I garnished it with olives.

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An Ethiopian feast (doro wat, misir wat, gomen wat, and injera)

Berbere spices before mixingI used to love Ethiopian food. At one time it was one of my go-to cuisines when I ate out, which I used to do much more regularly. Sadly, until last weekend, it had been a long time since I’d had it. To my knowledge there’s no Ethiopian restaurant in the English city I’m currently living in and even where I used to live in Canada, none of the Ethiopian restaurants made their injera with 100 percent tef – they all used a mix of tef and wheat, meaning I haven’t been able to eat it for the last few years. I tried making injera once but it didn’t turn out well so I was scared to do it again. Also, my kids won’t eat more than very mildly spicy food, so I didn’t think I would be able to make food that tasted reasonably Ethiopian without having to make them a separate meal.

Finally, though, the craving got to me. I had to make Ethiopian food. Thanks to some shortcuts, it was easier and quicker than I expected (though still not a speedy meal considering the doro wat is a slow-simmered stew). Continue reading

Afghan-style kale and spinach curry (sabzi)

Chopped greens in a pan with a wooden spoonWhen I lived in Toronto years ago, my place was right near an Afghan restaurant where the stars of the menu were kebabs, mantu dumplings with yogurt sauce, bolani stuffed flatbread, and kabuli pulao, a biryani-like rice and meat dish. I alternated between the mains but I usually ended up also getting a spinach side dish. I liked it but once I moved away from the area, I didn’t think about it again until I decided to make Afghan food last weekend. Then the spinach… er… I hesitate to call it a curry because the sauce is quite light, but I suppose that’s what it is – popped back into my mind.

Partly it was because I figured it would be easier than trying to figure out gluten-free versions of mantu or bolani. Partly it was because I thought it would be a nice healthy complement to the kabuli pulao I also planned to make. But suddenly I missed it. It was light and mildly spiced and went with any dish at the restaurant. But I hadn’t had it in years and I didn’t remember enough about it to try to recreate it from memory. Continue reading