So what’s a bit of garlic breath between friends?
Notwithstanding the fact that I’m sure I reeked of garlic after lunch yesterday, nobody seemed to mind. Or, if they did, at least they didn’t let on. They’re a generally polite and friendly crowd, food bloggers. And, of course, they had been eating lovely garlic-laden food too.
The venue was Levant, a Lebanese restaurant in London and the occasion was Food Blogger Connect. I am still recovering from the whirlwind but worthwhile trip over and back to the UK yesterday for the event, though I can at least confirm that I don’t smell so much of garlic anymore. I can also vouch for the fact that, next time I haul ass over to London for this, I’m staying. Well, for a few days at least. I say next time, because the appetite for FBC round two is there, of that I’m sure.
It had all come about because Bethany from Dirty Kitchen Secrets, Jamie from Life’s a Feast, Mowie from Mowielicious and Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry witnessed the buzz around this year’s plethora of US-based food blogger events, took matters into their own hands and organised an event of their own. Good on them I say. Food bloggers on this side of the Atlantic are just as interested in meeting, eating and having a chat about the art and craft of bloggery. They also, it has to be said, like receiving food-filled goody bags.
And so it came to pass. A great big sharable spread of Lebanese food, followed by presentations from people with information and thoughts to share: Meeta from What’s For Lunch Honey and Kang from London Eater with their own particular angles on picturing your food, Jamie from Life’s a Feast and Jeanne from Cook Sister on the written word and Kang again on
social networking life in the internet fish tank. A lot to pack into one afternoon and certainly scope to do more next time. It was interesting to hear other bloggers’ perspectives on these matters, of course, but, more than that, it was a joy simply to meet the people there and, in the case of Jamie, greet someone I’d never physically met before like an old friend.
There were many more bloggers and otherwise interested parties there besides, only a fraction of whom I got to talk to. ‘Twas a pleasure to meet Paul from Get Me Cooking, Alessio from Recipe Taster, Mowie from Mowielicious, Bethany from Dirty Kitchen Secrets, Ozoz from Kitchen Butterfly, Katrina from Around the World in 80 Markets, Christina from The Thorngrove Table, Greedy Diva and a host of Sarahs – Food For Think, Maison Cupcake and Meals With Sarah among them.
So many bloggers to meet, so little time. As Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, “I’ll be back”.
Potato Pie with Lebanese Flavours
Admittedly I don’t automatically think of potatoes with I think of Lebanese cuisine. In fact, after yesterday’s buffet at Levant, I would say that, yes, Lebanese food mostly makes me
think stink of garlic. And I mean that in a good, if occasionally smelly, way.
Lebanon does, however, appear to be home to some rather large potatoes, so a potato pie with Lebanese flavours is not such an outrageous proposition. I adapted the recipe below from one I came across on the Daily Mail site here, but which contained no garlic to speak of. I soon fixed that.
For the pie:
- 500g potatoes, preferably a floury variety
- 125g coarse bulgar wheat
- 25g plain flour
- 0.25 tsp cinnamon
- 250g onion (2 small-ish specimens), finely sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 50g pine nuts
- 50g flat leaf parsley (leaves + thin stems), finely chopped (or substitute fresh coriander)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sumac (optional)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1.5 tblsp olive oil plus more for coating dish and frying
- 150g natural yoghurt
- 3 tblsp finely chopped mint leaves
- small pinch of sugar
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- coarse salt to taste
- 3-4 spring onions, white and light green parts finely sliced
You’ll also need:
- An ovenproof dish – mine was 20cm x 20cm x 5cm
- Rinse the bulgar in several changes of water, then place in a small bowl and add cold water to cover by a few cm. Leave aside to soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse them under cold water.
- Bring about 1l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 1 tsp salt and the potato slices. Bring back to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 12-15 minutes or until just fork-tender. Alternatively, you can steam the potatoes until they reach the same stage.
- You can now go ahead and preheat your oven to 220C
- While the potatoes are cooking, place a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot add enough oil to coat the pan and add the onions. Stir and fry for around 8-10 minutes, until soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and pine nuts and stir and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped parsley, stir and fry for about a minute, then remove from the heat and season with the lemon juice, sumac (if using) plus salt and black pepper to taste.
- When the potatoes are done, drain well and return them to the saucepan. Then either let them sit, covered by a tea-towel, for about 5 minutes or place the pan over a low heat and stir the potatoes gently for a minute or so, so that they dry out.
- Put the dried and still-warm potatoes through a potato ricer and into a large bowl, or mash gently in the bowl using a masher or a fork.
- In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, about 0.5 tsp salt and a couple of twists of black pepper.
- Drain the bulgar and, placing the drained bulgar in a clean tea-towel, squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Add the bulgar and flour to the mashed potato and mix gently to combine. Taste for salt and add more if needed.
- Brush the base of your ovenproof dish with oil and spread with half of the potato mixture. Add the onions in a single layer next, then top with the remaining potato, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Brush about 1.5 tblsp of olive oil over the potato and, using the tip of a sharp knife, make shallow diagonal cuts in the top of the pie, with about 2-3cm between cuts, so that it marks out a diamond pattern.
- Bake at 220C for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190C and bake for about another 30 minutes or until golden on top.
- Serve pieces of the pie, warm or at room temperature, scattered with sliced spring onions and a couple of spoonfuls of mint yoghurt, made by mixing together the yoghurt, mint and sugar, with salt and cayenne to taste. This would also be nice with some grilled or roasted courgettes.
- Crumble some goats cheese or feta between the onion and top potato layer or perhaps add some tomatoes to the onion mix or maybe some fried courgette slices.
- Serves 4, as long as nobody gets greedy