16 October 2016

Muhammara

On my trip to Sweden in October, I met up with some of my dear friends at a Lebanese restaurant, which was new to me and turned out to be a fantastic experience. The food was fabulous, and the chef/owner was well aware about it, so on the first page of the menu there were two taster options - one with 16 small dishes, one with even more.

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I'd made sure not to eat too much during the day, but I was still not able to do my order of 16 dishes justice. There were 8 cold dishes and 8 hot dishes. The waiter brought the cold ones first, along with pieces of toasted pita bread and promised to return with the warm dishes in 20 minutes. Well, he didn't come back for perhaps an hour and we were still dipping away, asking ourselves how on Earth would we be able to fit in 8 more dishes. The only dish I didn't go for was the one with prawns, there's no way I'll eat those things.

One of the dishes that I particularly enjoyed was "mhmhmhmhmh-a" as I managed to explain to my parents the next day. Some research corrected this into Muhammara, a mixture based on roasted peppers that hasn't been adopted in Bulgaria. After some clicking around, I settled on Ottolengi's version, original found here.

Sadly I wasn't able to get hold of Aleppo peppers as he recommends, but I did manage to get hold of pomegranate molasses. I've bought this before and tasted and hated and thrown away. Turns out, I just didn't know what to do with it. It's not to be eaten straight from the bottle.

Ingredients

Makes not enough, it's that tasty.

3 large red bell peppers
50 g large breadcrumbs, preferably panko
½ tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 clove of garlic
50 g walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

Method

  1. Pre-heat the grill on medium-high. Wash the bell peppers and place on a tray.
  2. Bake the peppers under the grill until the skins blacken and the peppers go soft and collapse in. Turn to get them roasted evenly. This can take about an hour.
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  3. In the meantime,mix together the breadcrumbs, molasses, cumin and chilli flakes together in a large bowl.
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  4. Peel and press in the garlic. Chop and add the walnuts along with the olive oil and salt.
  5. When the peppers are roasted, place in a lidded, heat-proof dish and let cool for a few minutes, so they can be handled.
  6. Peel the pepper skin and remove stalks and seeds. Rinse the peppers if needed and pat dry with some kitchen tissue.
  7. Finely chop the peppers and stir into the walnut mixture.
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    Add more salt and molasses if needed.
  8. To make it easier for dipping, process to make smoother.

Next time I'll add more walnuts. I liked the texture when everything was chopped, but the flavours mixed a lot better once I'd run the muhammara through the processor. It wasn't the same as at the restaurant, but it was very yummy indeed. I hadn't realised that roasting the peppers would take so long in the oven. I'll use my pepper roaster next time, it's much quicker. Here's what a Bulgarian pepper roaster (чушкопек, chushkopek) looks like.

9 October 2016

Sea buckthorn

While watching Den Store Bagedyst (Danish Bake Off) a few years ago, it seemed that there is a bright orange berry that was highly appreciated by the Danes. I'd not come across it previously, but some looking up on the various language versions of Wikipedia gave the impression that this is a berry used in Sweden too. It's called havtorn in both Swedish and Danish, which would translate to sea thorn. But the English common name appears to be sea buckthorn or sea berry.

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As the berry picking season in the Stockholm area seemed to be coming to a close, my Mum mentioned that she'd seen people picking some orange berries from the shrubs along the promenade and wondered if I knew what they were. She'd taken a somewhat fuzzy photo of them, but they were quite easy to recognise as sea buckthorn and I got excited. How about that - the promenade is part of the estate and the shrubs were planted as decoration, not for picking. So I asked her if she could pick a few so we could try them out. And not only did she do that, she even got my Dad to help out and they picked over a kilo of these and froze. My Mum even tried them fresh and said they were extremely tart.

So when I went to visit them in October, I took the opportunity to try one of the Danish Bake Off recipes that I'd saved - Macarons with curd from sea buckthorn. For the macarons, I used my usual recipe, but swapped the almonds with sesame seeds.

Ingredients

1 leaf of gelatine
100 g juice from sea buckthorn (~150 g whole berries)
4 yolks
150 g granulated sugar
75 g unsalted butter, diced

Method

  1. Place the gelatine in some water to soften it up.
  2. Make the sea buckthorn juice by placing the berries in a sieve over a bowl, then with a fork or a spoon mash them and squeeze out the juice.
  3. Place the juice with the yolks, sugar and butter in a saucepan and heat up at a medium heat, while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
  4. Remove from the heat when the cream is thick enough to stick to the spoon when you try to pour it out.
  5. Squeeze out the water from the gelatine and stir into the cream.Let cool completely.
  6. Pair up the macaron halves to matching sizes, place the curd into a piping bag with a small round nozzle, then sandwich each pair with the curd and serve.

The sea buckthorn was interesting, but not entirely to my taste, there was something about it that gave the feeling that I'd used a flavouring usually used in savoury dishes. Admittedly, the berries I used had been frozen and I'm not sure in what state they were when my parents picked them. But they have this wonderful, vivid orange colour, which just makes you smile when you see them. Once the juice has been squeezed out, it looks like carrot juice.

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The all sesame macarons were a bit in the hard side, freshly made, but I think sandwiching them and leaving overnight would have made the texture quite good. The sesame flavour was a bit intensive, I think I'll try a mixture of sesame and sunflower seeds next to make it more neutral and get more focus on the filling.

I now have a large bag of sea buckthorn in the freezer and I might try it as stuffing for a roast bird of some sort. Or maybe one of my muffin recipes. The Swedish Wikipedia states the berries are used for juice, jelly, marmalade and liqueur. The last one of which I'm tempted to explore, that might work rather nicely.

24 September 2016

GBBO Jaffa Cakes

I'm aware of Jaffa cakes and what they mean to a lot of people in the UK. I've eaten them and failed to understand this meaning. But watching this year's version of the Great British Bake-Off, I started looking at them in a somewhat different light - the home-made ones look so much nicer and inviting, so I decided to move them high up on my to-bake list.

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I watched the GBBO episode carefully and noticed that the recipe seemed quite wasteful with regards to the jelly, something I think is a bit out of character for Mary Berry. I also thought the amounts for the sponge were so tiny, I'd struggle to actually make it, so I doubled the sponge, but kept the jelly as per the recipe.

Not everything worked out as seen on TV, so I've tried to adjust for this in the recipe below:

Ingredients

Makes around 24

Jelly
2 x 135 packets orange jelly
150 ml boiling water
juice and zest from half an orange

Sponge
unsalted butter for greasing
2 large egg
50 g caster sugar
50 g self-raising flour

Topping
200 g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Starting with the jelly, break up the jelly. Bring the water to the boil and remove from the heat, then add the jelly and stir until it's completely dissolved. Stir in the orange juice and zest.
  2. Line a shallow 30 x 20 cm tin with aluminium foil, taking care to keep it as flat as possible. Pour in the jelly liquid, it should form a layer of about ½ cm. Place the tin in the fridge until it has set.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 160 °C fan and grease very generously a 12-hole mini tartlet/mince pie tin. Very generously!
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk for 4 - 5 minutes until it's really light and fluffy, almost on its way to a meringue.
  5. Sift in the flour and fold it in gently, then pour about 10 ml (2 tsp) into each hole. Smooth the tops, then bake for 7 - 9 minutes, until they have risen nicely and are pale golden brown.
  6. When the cakes are done, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes. Then carefully remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  7. Wipe the tin clean and grease well once more for the remaining batter, then repeat the procedure.
  8. When the cakes have cooled down, break up the chocolate and melt over a water bath. Place a piece of baking paper under the wire rack with the cakes.
  9. Take the orange jelly out of the fridge. Take a round cookie cutter with diameter about 1 cm smaller than the cakes and cut out circles from the jelly.
  10. Place a jelly circle in the middle of each cake, then carefully spoon some chocolate over, up to the edges of the cakes. Use a knife to spread the chocolate, so the layer stays as thin as possible.
  11. Place the cakes in the fridge so the chocolate sets. Once it's set transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge.

Well, this was a very pleasant surprise, these home-made jaffa cakes were scrumptious. Unfortunately I over-filled the first bake a bit, so they were a bit too big to eat, I thought. The second bake was a better size. I thought I'd been generous with greasing the tin, but there were still a few bits that stuck. Again, I did better in the second round, by greasing the tin almost to the point where I couldn't see the colour of the tin.

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Also another "unfortunately" - the jelly didn't set throughout the pan, so only about half of it could be cut into neat circles with the cookie cutter. The other half, I had to sort of scrape off and spoon onto some of the cakes. In hindsight, I should have tried to level it out - there's so much the chocolate can hide. So in the above list of ingredients, I've doubled the jelly packets.

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A third "unfortunately" was that I spooned the chocolate too thickly at the start. But I rescued the situation in that I completed two of the cakes only and served one to Lundulph. He's the one that established that the chocolate was too thick. Thus, all the other cakes were done with a thin layer of chocolate. I think also it's probably worth tempering the chocolate, even if Mary Berry doesn't specify this. And when I finally suss how to temper chocolate, I'll give it a try. As it was, some of the jaffa cakes stayed in the fridge all night and there were still spots of melted chocolate, i. e. not set, the next day. Bah!

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Finally, Mary Berry says to cross over the chocolate with the back of a fork. I tried this on a few of the jaffa cakes lucky enough to get a jelly circle. It didn't look pretty at all, so I recommend skipping this bit.

13 September 2016

Lundulph's Birthday Cake 2016

We were away for Lundulph's birthday this year, so his cake couldn't be anything fancy at all. I've been wanting to make lemon drizzle cake for some time now and after fining Mary Berry's recipe here, I thought it was simple enough to do while coping with a massively outdated and insufficiently furnished kitchen in the holiday flat where we stayed.

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There were no scales available, so I went to my trusty website for cookery conversions and converted as much as I could into volume. There were no spoon/decilitre measures either, so I sort of guessed at those as well using the mad selection of odd cutlery available. We even had to buy a baking tin, luckily these come cheap. So below are the amounts I believe I used.

Also to add, Mary's recipe called for one and a half large eggs. I find this to be an unreasonable thing to state. Although this was briefly mentioned by Ghalid Assyb at the patisserie master class I attended a few years ago, if a recipe calls for half an egg, use just the yolk. I disagree, not good enough. But the eggs we had were medium size, so I guessed that 2 medium eggs would correspond to one and a half large ones, so problem solved.

Ingredients

2 medium eggs
12 tbsp self-raising flour
7 tbsp caster sugar
6 ¼ tbsp salted butter at room temperature + butter for greasing
¾ tsp baking powder
finely grated zest from one small lemon
4 ½ tbsp caster sugar
juice from one small lemon

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and grease a 1-pound loaf tin and line with baking paper.
  2. Beat together eggs, flour, caster sugar, butter, baking powder and lemon zest until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Pour into the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden brown on top and shrinking away from the sides.
  4. While the cake is still baking, make the lemon drizzle by mixing the second lot of caster sugar with the lemon juice.
  5. when the cake is done, remove from the oven and use a fork to make holes over the top surface.
  6. Give the drizzle a stir, as the sugar will sink to the bottom, then spoon as evenly as possible over the cake and leave to soak in.
  7. Once the liquid has soaked in, lift the cake out with the baking paper and once completely cooled, remove the paper as well and serve.

In addition to not having ways to reliably measure the ingredients, there was also another thing missing - an electric whisk or mixer. Luckily Lundulph very kindly volunteered and whisked the whole caboodle by hand and did a massively fine job of it too! The cake turned out really fluffy and light, wonderful texture. Annoyingly the lemon drizzle didn't quite work. Perhaps I poured it too soon after removing the cake from the oven, I don't know, but it was very sour and I don't think the syrup was enough, it didn't feel like it anyway. In fact, I think an orange drizzle cake would work a lot better. Lundulph and his Mum both reckon there should have been additional icing on top - the slightly see-through thin stuff. We didn't have icing sugar, so skipped this and it wasn't mentioned in Mary Berry's recipe. Perhaps it would have made a difference, I'll have to do more research. But would be great if I can achieve this level of fluffiness in the future too, it was so nice.

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I'm not sure what that slightly darker spot in the middle is, it didn't taste differently to the rest of the cake and I'm pretty sure the cake was thoroughly baked through. Still, I must have hit the measurements relatively well, because I did end up with a cake.

9 September 2016

Caramella Cooks is 10!

Gosh, is it really that long ago? How time flies in some respects. I've been recording my recipes and bits of my life for a decade.

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And the Great British Bake Off has kicked off with another series and there are lots of new ideas to inspire, but 10th anniversary requires a cake I think. However I've been making so many sweet things lately, I think it's time for something savoury - so I decided on a Smörgåstårta, i. e. a Swedish sandwich cake. But with a bit of a twist, after I caught up on the Green Kitchen Stories blog, where I found their recipe for the wonderfully colourful vegetable flat-breads. They use them as a snack, but I thought they'd look really pretty inside the smörgåstårta, with white filling for contrast. I was thinking of perhaps halving the recipes, but as it's a flat-bread, that would work out quite thin, so I'd need two layers of each colour to get the right proportions in the cake. Thus the full amounts it'd have to be. This meant a lot of eggs, since the breads are flour-less. Therefore, I skipped the eggs in the decorations.

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Looking at my original blog post on smörgåstårta, as it was for a large party, the amounts are quite large scale and also seemed very unhealthy with the cream and all. I've also found out that my Mum has gone and made some changes to the mixture recipe she gave me all those years ago, so I've had to put together a new one, without the cream in the hopes that it'll be slightly less unhealthy. I bought another tub of the very sour tasting yoghurt and I strained it - it should be thick enough to work as a cake covering. I guessed the breads would be somewhat on the sweet side, what with carrots and beetroot as ingredients, so I thought the sourness of the yoghurt would off-set things a bit.

Ingredients

Green bread

570 g broccoli florets
140 g ground almonds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
4 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

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Orange bread

730 g cauliflower florets and carrots
140 g ground almonds
4 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

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Red bread

705 g cauliflower florets and beetroot
140 g ground almonds
4 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Sadly, after baking, some of the beetroot colour had disappeared, so I'll need to use more beetroot and less cauliflower next time:

IMG_5129 Creamy filling and covering

586 g strained Greek-style yoghurt
300 ml créme fraîche
180 g mayonnaise
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

IMG_5132 Decorations

sliced gravlax/cold-smoked salmon
1 lemon with good skin
cucumber
colourful small sweet peppers
stripey beetroot
ready to eat king prawns
chives
dill
cherry tomatoes
radishes
avocado
curly lettuce

Method

  1. There is a very good video for making the breads on the page. I followed the instructions, but also weighted the ingredients. Unfortunately I forgot to weigh the carrots/cauliflower and the beetroot/cauliflower proportions respectively.But basically it was to process each vegetable as finely as possible, mix with the eggs, ground almonds and season. It should be possible to shape and not ooze any liquid.
  2. The broccoli bread was the "driest" mixture, then the carrot mixture turned out wetter and the beetroot was so wet, that I had to drain it until it was about the same consistency as the carrot mixture.
  3. Bake in a pre-heated oven t 200 °C.
  4. Baking times: 30 min for the green broccoli bread, 40 min for the yellow carrot bread and 45 min for the red beetroot bread.
  5. Once each bread has been baked, it needs to cool down to room temperature. Place a clean piece of baking paper over the flat bread and flip over from the baking sheet onto a wire rack. Remove the paper the breads were baked on as soon as possible, taking care not to tear the breads. Make sure the breads have cooled down completely.
  6. For a round cake, I set up my extendable cake ring to the size I wanted and cut out 2 circles from each of the breads. Left-over off-cuts, can be cut into smaller pieces and frozen for later. The cake rounds went into an air-tight container and in the fridge until the day of construction.

I actually had a further problem when making the beetroot bread. The cauliflower for the beetroot bread had started rotting and I had to cut off most of it and throw away, not sure if it was like this when I bought it, I forgot to check sadly. So there wasn't enough and I ended up adding the very pale core of the broccoli stems I had left, as well as the core of the cauliflower stems, after peeling them. This might have caused the whole thing to go more orange-yellow, rather than red and it paled a bit in during the bake as well, so I think more beetroot next time to get a stronger colour. Also, I'll need to squeeze a lot of the liquid out before mixing with some cauliflower.

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One thing that was wrong in the recipe was the amount of ground almonds - I measured 1 cup of it, and it weighted 140 g, not 100 g. This is significant for the overall texture, which although visibly nowhere near like bread, certainly felt like it when eating. Shaping the breads and having them no more than 1 cm thick is also key to this deception. Preferably the breads should be even thinner, but for my cake, this was OK.

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I made the breads 3 days before I needed the cake. Now usually, when using regular bread, it is important to construct the cake on the day before, to allow the bread to soak up some of the moisture from the fillings. But these vegetable flatbreads are quite moist to begin with, so I decided to construct the cake just a few hours before it needed to be served. I had the two green circles at the bottom, then the two yellow circles and finally the two red circles on top. The cream in the middle was about half the thickness of the flatbreads.

There was more than enough left from the white cream, to cover the outside of the cake.

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Then on with the decorating. This time, I went a bit silly and took photos after almost every item had been placed on the cake:

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It was very tasty, very much like I'd imagined it, but also, thanks to the eggs in the breads, extremely filling, so small pieces is a must here and the cake should be dished out by a person who's aware of this. Otherwise, I suspect people might be tempted to cut nice large pieces and not be able to eat them.

The guests for this celebration were Lundulph's parents, so we had quite a bit of cake left over. There are two ways to handle left-over sandwich cake - if it's likely to be eaten in the coming couple of days, store in the fridge. If not, remove all decorations, then freeze the cake for later. It can be defrosted and the cream covering will likely require some touch-up and a new lot of decorations.

Lundulph's comment was that the bread was too heavy for the cake, i. e. the wrong type of bread for the job. The shop-bought, sliced bread, which is light and fluffy is the way forward as a conveyance of the other ingredients. I quite liked it, but perhaps rather than making a regular sized cake, some miniature cakes for individual starters perhaps. Certainly I liked the look of the slices when cutting them.

4 September 2016

Low-fat Chicken Korma

This is from my book Fat Free Indian Cookery, which I've not looked in for a very long time. I made this recipe several times when I first got the book as I quite like korma, it's usually what I'll order in a restaurant and it's a good recipe too. I was surprised to find that it's not in the blog already.

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Unfortunately I wasn't able to get to the supermarket this week-end, so ended up improvising a lot, which sort of ruined the recipe a bit, though it was still edible, if not wow-y, like I remember it. It also requires some preparations - this is part of the book's first chapter on "basic recipes" - i. e. ingredients that can be prepared in a larger batch and kept in the fridge or even frozen for when required. When I got the book and made the Arunachal Fish Curry, I was so in love with the book, I went ahead and made a lot of these basic recipes and had some in the freezer, at the recommended amounts ready to whip up an Indian dish at a moment's notice. I've not kept up my stock of these very well, so I had no browned onion purée, and just about enough minced fresh ginger in the freezer.

Ingredients

Browned onion mince

4 large onions - 550 g after peeling and washing
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp water

The korma

60 g raw cashew nuts
a pinch of saffron threads
150 ml boiling water
500 g chicken breasts
150 g ricotta cheese or strained Greek yoghurt
12 green cardamom pods
2 x 5 cm pieces of cinnamon
8 whole cloves
2 tbsp minced ginger
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp hot chilli powder or a couple of fresh hot chillies
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground roasted coriander
2 handfuls of frozen garden vegetables
300 ml chicken stock
all of the browned onion purée
2 tbsp single cream
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sweet paprika
a handful of beansprouts

Method

  1. Peel and wash the onions, then slice thinly.
  2. Place in a large saucepan, sprinkle the sugar and salt and cook over low heat, stirring every now and then until the onions begin to sizzle.
  3. Pour over the water, cover the saucepan and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Increase the heat to medium, remove the lid and cook for a further 12 - 15 minutes stirring constantly, until the liquid released from the onions has evaporated and it starts to brown.
  5. Remove from the heat and leave to cool somewhat, then place in a food processor and whizz to get a "mince" or even a purée. I got 260 g out of it.
  6. When the purée is ready, place the cashew nuts and the saffron in a bowl and pour over the boling water. Leave to stand for 20 minutes.
  7. Trim the chicken breasts and cut into bite-sized chunks. Place in a large non-stick deep pan and add the ricotta, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Press in the garlic.
  8. Mix through well, then cover and cook on medium for 5 - 6 minutes.
  9. Stir, reduce the heat somewhat and continue to cook for a further 6 - 7 minutes.
  10. Remove the lid, increase the heat to high and cook, stirring frequently, for 7 - 8 minutes until the chicken pieces begin to brown and the liquid evaporates to form a thick paste.
  11. Stir in the salt, turmeric, chilli powder/fresh chillies, black pepper and coriander and continue to cook for a couple of more minutes, then stir in the frozen vegetables, the chicken stock and the onion purée, cover again, turn down the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  12. In the meantime blitz the cashews and saffron in the water as smoothly as possible, then once the 10 minutes are up, pour into the pan and sprinkle over the garam masala.
  13. Finally stir in a handful of bean sprouts just before serving and a little sweet paprika.

As carbs for the chicken korma, I cooked some orzo - pasta shaped like rice. As I was nearing completion, Lundulph's brother Roger called, wondering if he and Falbala could pop in for a while. Falbala is learning to drive at the moment, so they were in the neighbourhood. This was such a lovely surprise, we all sat down to a late lunch.

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The chicken korma didn't turn out as nice as I seem to remember, I'm not sure why, possibly I added the frozen vegetables a bit late and they didn't get enough time to cook through properly, they were way too crunchy for my liking. I'll have to repeat the basic recipe which doesn't have any of the vegetables or sprouts, and see if I can work out the problems.

The orzo, was quite nice, though. I'd spotted it in the Turkish shop I frequent when we visit my Parents-in-Law and it seemed such a curious thing, I bought a packet, but hadn't tried it out for ages. Shame on me, it was really nice and it works well as a salad ingredient too.

Given that it is a bit time consuming to do the browned onion purée, I recommend making a larger batch and freezing in portions.