Tired of cooking the same handful of meals each week, I enrolled on an international cookery course.
The course may have ended, but it's just whetted my appetite....

Join me on a weekly visit to the cuisines of the world, countries from A to Z, and back again!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Q is for Qatar

Where we're going this evening - Qatar

Now given that it was only a couple of weeks ago that we were in the Middle East when we visited Oman, you may be wondering why we're back in the area so soon.  And the answer to that, is how many countries can you think of beginning with Q?  This is it, folks.  Of course, I could have anticipated this and had a different 'O', but I think that we all know by now my ability to plan ahead.  Or not.

I think that it also goes without saying that I know about the same about Qatar as I did about Oman (i.e. not much) just that it's in the Middle East, it's not likely to be overly democratic, and it's probably very rich indeed - let's see if I'm right...

...firstly, Qatar is a small sovereign state sticking into the Persian Gulf with just one border to the south with Saudi Arabia.  It has a ruling family which accounts for all the top posts (Emir, Crown Prince, Prime Minister etc etc) and until 1971 was considered rather poor - until they developed the vast oil and natural gas  reserves, and so they are now very rich.

Looks like my assumptions were all pretty spot on then.

The Qatar peninsular is flat and consists of mainly desert. The average daytime temperature is a sweltering 32 degrees, and there is less than 3" rainfall per year.  The capital, Doha, is sensibly on the east coast, and before the oil became the major source of income, pearl hunting and fishing were the two big industries.

The native population is only 250,000, but the country's wealth has resulted in a huge explosion in building and development, the labour of which has been supplied by huge numbers of immigrant workers - bringing the total population up to just less than 2 million.  A regular melting pot!

So let's say salam wa aleikum to the people of Qatar and see what's on the menu for tonight...

Tonight's Menu...

As you might imagine, with a tradition of fishing, seafood is quite a big deal in Qatar.  Also the many varieties of dates (which you can stick, as far as I am concerned, I'm afraid) and hummus too is part of the national cuisine.

With so many migrant workers, the food is influenced accordingly - by those from Iran, India and north Africa.  Qatar is a Muslim country, so all meat is halal (prepared according Islamic practise), and you aren't going to get pork scratchings round here any time soon.

The most important traditional Qatari dish is machbous, a stew of richly spiced rice with either seafood or meat, so we'll give that a whirl, and I'm going to team that up with pitta bread.

Machbous (Spiced lamb with rice) - recipe from food.com
Saute diced lamb with chopped onion, then add chopped tomatoes, parsley, baharat spice, grouund limes, turmeric and stock and simmer for half an hour.  Add rice and simmer for a futher 20minutes.

Pitta bread - recipe from allrecipes.co.uk
Add plain flour, salt, a little olive oil, a little sgar and yeast in the bread maker pan with water and set to 'dough' (yes, what a cheat I am!).Split the resulting dough into pieces then roll each ball of dough out into a 6" circle.  Cover and leave to rise for half an hour or so.

Sprinkle with sesame and onion seeds then cook in a hot over for 5 minutes until they start to brown.  Revmove from oven and cover immediately with a damp cloth until they go soft.  Split & eat (with lots of butter too, if you are me)

The Result

And what have we learnt?

  • Changing the spices makes for a total change of flavour - this lamb stew was transformed by adding baharat spices and turmeric.
  • In culinary terms, nigella, love-in-a-mist and black onion seeds are all the same thing.  In gardening terms they most certainly are not - I wonder what would come up if I sowed some of them?
  • Pitta bread is easy if you have a breadmaker to take that tedious kneading business out of the process.
  • Like the ensaymada (sweet bread rolls) last week, the pittas really didn't make it further than the cooling rack once I'd got the butter out of the fridge.  Must work on that will power thing.

And out of 10?

  • for the machbous - a tasty 7/10 - this really was jolly good, and being an all in one recipe, for once the dishwasher wasn't left groaning with overuse.
  • for the pitta bread - a delicious 8/10 - the sesame and black onion seeds really made these very tasty indeed.  I am a fiend for white bread - always have been.

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