I love middle eastern food. The balance of spices – cinnamon, cumin, cardamon and fresh ginger, the sweet stickiness of apricots, currants and soft buttered onion, the crunch of pine nuts, roasted almonds, pistachios and coriander, the tang of tangine and the smooth tahini yoghurt and persian goats feta.
Many years ago I visited Turkey on a last minute whim. My first foray into the middle east, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul opened up before me like an Aladdin’s cave of rugs, hand painted ceramics bowls and tiles, coloured glass lanterns, curious aphrodisiacs and row upon row of gold jewellery cases and silverware. Apple tea, dried fruits and rose flavoured sweets beckoned under each archway as each shop owner anxiously awaited my attention.
By sunrise I was awoken by the soothing sounds of prayer emanating from the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace and by night I floated down the Bosphorous, taking in the lights and sounds of Istanbul where Asia and the middle east collided. Later we headed south to Olympos where the mountain breathed fire, explored lost cities that the jungle had long ago swallowed up and the sea had reclaimed. But that my friends, is where the romance abruptly ended…..
Lets just say that the remainder of this travel story is one I promise to tell you another day and preferrably when I am not posting a new recipe, as not to ruin it for you as your imagination runs free. Its does however, involve my body being taken over by Satan after eating a kebab but lets keep things nice here for today shall we?
Fortunately my love of middle eastern food was not tarnished by this colourful experience, and the dish Ive posted here was inspired by my recent birthday dinner at local Melbourne institution, Kamel. We ordered a banquet and during we were served a plate of beautiful spicy/sweet green beans topped with feta and roasted dukkah. It was divine! This dish is perfect as a side or main and can be eaten hot or cold. It would also be great to include for a picnic outing with friends so don’t forget to pack your Turkish rug! Enjoy!
Middle Eastern Green Beans
- 500g green beans
- 1 red onion
- 1 tbl balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/4 cup of pinenuts
- 1/4 cup of pistachios
- 1/4 cup of slivered almonds
- 100g persian goats feta ( or regular feta)
- olive oil
- Dry roast pistachios and almonds in small fry pan for 5 minutes then set aside.
- Pan fry beans with a little olive oil for 10 minutes until slightly browned and cooked through to your desired crunchiness. Set aside
- Add onion to the frypan with a little oil and sweat (cover with lid) on a low heat until the onion is soft. Then add balsamic vinegar, pinenuts and currants. Pan fry all ingredients until pinenuts are slighly toasted then take off the heat and set aside.
- Assemble beans first, top with onion/pinenut/currant mixture, then spoon goats feta over the mixture, spinkle roasted nuts over the feta and serve. Can be served as a main or side.
*NB – Persian Feta is marinated in olive oil, thyme, garlic, bay leaf and black peppercorns and is available from deli’s & some supermarkets