Ottoman-inspired food. Not something that you might come across everyday, but what a treat. There is something quite magical about the blending of sweet with sour, hints of honey, sprinkles of sumac, cinnamon, cumin, za’atar. Street markets offering marinated meats, shawarma, garlic sauce, tahini, preserved chillis. Mezze tables with olives, hummus, freshly baked flat bread. Fresh flavours of parsley, mint, lemon. Sweet figs, orange blossom, pistachio, pomegranate, rose petals. My dream feast, my inspired table.
This month’s Random Recipe challenge set by Dom at Belleau Kitchen was to go back to basics, to pick a book, any book and cook from it. Bulgarian-born Chef Silvena Rowe’s Orient Express has been sitting on my shelf for many months. Fast food from the eastern Mediterranean. Small dishes, lightness, hints of Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume; the brilliant book she wrote before this one.
I openend the book at page 19, a chapter named Za’atar and Saffron, and my challenge was simple; Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad with Feta, Almond and Za’atar Crumble.
I followed Silvena’s recipe in the book, making one simple addition of a chopped white peach. The sweetness is already there in the watermelon, the peach just added an extra flavour hit. I also used one whole ripe tomato in place of cherry tomatoes. Fresh mint, feta cheese, flaked almonds, a sprinkle of za’atar – a spice blend made up of sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and ground sumac. You can blend your own following Silvena’s recipe here or buy it in the shops now. A few pretty white, nasturtiums to decorate. This salad is full of summer, an explosion of fresh, bold flavour.
Watermelons remind Silvena Rowe of her upbringing in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, within the Ottoman Empire. She remembers piles of watermelon at the market, ripe and ready for a hot sunny afternoon. This salad reminded me to book a holiday abroad, to go an explore the street food and street markets of the eastern Mediterranean.
I’m sending this recipe across to three wonderful blog events and also linking it up to Simple and in Season, too, here at Fabulicious Food.
1. Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen – Challenge #19 Let’s start at the very beginning.
Other recipes in Orient Express I’d like to cook are:
Za’atar Crispy Fried Calamari
Orange and Za’atar Marinated Haloumi
Chilli Chickpea Street Pilaf
Lamb Moussaka Rolls
Where would your ultimate food adventures take you? To the Ottoman Empire, or beyond?