Jonathan and Lyndsey were coming for an evening meal on Good Friday. I’d been thinking of trying a baccala – Italian for salt cod – dish for some time, having eaten wonderful creamy mantecato in Venice. Mantecato is an emulsion of salt cod (first soaked for a day or two) with olive oil. It’s mixed much like making a mayonnaise and beaten into a fantastically creamy mound of fish delight. In Venice it is typically served as a cicchetti – a Venetian canape – to have with a glass of chilled sparkling prosecco or wine early evening. It was a favourite on my last trip to Venice a year ago.
Versions are common elsewhere: brandade de morue in France, brandada de bacalao in Spain. However, I was distracted from my mantecato intentions when I saw a salt cod salad recipe in Casa Moro by Sam & Sam Clark that appealed. I’ve used this book less than my other two Moro books but only because I’ve had it for less time. I got it at Moro last year when I interviewed Samuel Clark for my Top Ten Cookery Books series. At last spending a bit more time with it, I was soon drawn in, seeing fantastic recipes that I wanted to try. I abandoned the idea of a traditional 3-course meal for Good Friday evening and instead planned more of a meze-tapas affair with a number of dishes.
I bought some salt cod at the local fishmonger a couple of days ahead. This is definitely not a last-minute thing to cook as it had to be soaked in water – that’s frequently changed – for 48 hours. The Casa Moro salad was simple to put together: the cod is prepared then flaked and mixed with sliced boiled new potatoes, orange segments, chopped parsley, sliced red onion and black olives.
Then a dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar is poured over, everything well mixed and the salad left to rest for an hour or so before serving so all the flavours come together. The dish – Remojon – is traditionally made with sour Seville oranges but they’re not in season and so I used some lovely sweet blood oranges. It was a stunning dish. But before I put all the dishes on the table there was a plate of Spanish meats, nuts, cornichons and some prosecco to have first (it should have been cava for the Spanish effect but the Italian version of fizz was in my fridge).
And I also served the gozleme I’d made. These are Anatolian stuffed flatbreads and the Sams describe in wonderful detail how they are made in a restaurant near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. With a trip to Istanbul booked for September (one of my New Destination Bucket List), I couldn’t resist trying these. Of the dishes I made for the meal, this was the last one I got round to preparing. I wasn’t sure that the bread-making was going well; my dough didn’t seem to rise much. And I wished my lovely daughter were in my kitchen rather than on a plane to Amsterdam as she’d made some wonderful pitta when I visited her for Mother’s Day recently. I almost ran out and bought flatbread but am glad I didn’t as they turned out really well in the end. I made one of the two fillings the Sams give: a spinach filling flavoured with allspice and sumac.
You divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll each piece out into a big circle of thin dough then put it in a pan with some hot butter frothing up. Once the bread blisters underneath, turn over, adding another knob of butter, and cook till both sides are nicely done. The stuffing is then divided, a mound put in the middle and the bread folded over. They should be served hot so either serve straight away as you cook each one (a bit like cooking pancakes!) or keep warm in the oven till ready to serve. They tasted delicious. The bread was light and buttery, reminding me of an Indian paratha. After this, all the rest of the dishes went on to the table. The star meat course was another Turkish dish: Spiced Beef Salad with Fenugreek and Hummus. Thick sirloin steaks had been dry marinated in a spice mix of crushed fenugreek seeds, nigella seed, coriander seeds, chilli flakes, sweet paprika and sea salt for a couple of hours.
I made some hummus and then at the last minute the steaks are griddled. This was a job handed to Jonathan as he has excellent griddling (and barbecuing) skills and sure enough, the steaks were nicely browned on the outside and juicy pink in the middle.
You spread the hummus across the bottom of a serving dish. Lay some flat parsley leaves on top, then slice the steak (allow to rest for a few minutes after cooking before slicing) and lay on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil. I’d also made a Grilled Aubergine Salad.
Similar to baba ganoush, the aubergines are grilled till soft, and the soft flesh extracted. It is then fried in some olive oil with garlic, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, sweet paprika, chopped tomato and some chopped fresh parsley and coriander. Finally it’s seasoned with some lemon juice, salt and pepper. I just love aubergine cooked anyway and this was gorgeous. My final dish for the main part of the meal was Winter Tabbouleh. I liked the idea of this as I mainly cook tabbouleh in the summer. The Sams’ recipe has white chicory, fennel bulb, cauliflower, walnuts, parsley and mint and some chopped walnuts mixed into the bulgur wheat with pomegranate seeds. A dressing is made with pomegranate molasses.
What a wonderful mix of flavours and it tasted fantastic. It was so good! The flavour of the pomegranate molasses rippled through the dish giving it a really lovely flavour. We all loved each dish. As you can imagine, it took me a large part of the day to prepare it all, but cooking is one of the things I love doing most and when you know you have a super appreciative audience coming for dinner, then it’s all the more fun. We had a little ‘rest’ time before I made dessert. I’d promised to make the zabaione (from last weekend) again as I hadn’t made it yet for Jonathan and Lyndsey.
This was much appreciated too: its warm, creamy froth making an excellent end to the meal. Well, it wasn’t a very traditional Good Friday meal … but it was a very good one!! I realise I haven’t given you any of the recipes here but there are so many dishes that’s a step too far for one blog post. But if you like the sound of this meal then you will love Casa Moro by Sam & Sam Clark.