An evening around the cinema

This evening it was good to get back to some cooking after the food funk of yesterday.

Lunch was a sandwich made out out the mixture of ricotta, smoked salmon, dill and lemon zest that had been made for New Years Eve and never got eaten and was found early this morning in a bowl at the back of the fridge.

The children are away for the night. Ordinarily this would be an opportunity to indulge with something that would go well with a good bottle of red wine but not tonight. It was going to have to be quick as we we were going to the cinema. For me my first film since War Horse of which the best that can be said is that there were lots of nice sunsets.

Food had to be bought from Sainsbury’s on the way home. I remembered a recipe I had seen in the new Ottolenghi book for salmon steaks. I was fairly sure that if i bought a couple of good salmon fillets I would have the rest of the ingredients at home.

The recipe was salmon steaks in chraimeh sauce. The sauce is the lynchpin, a thick, sweet, hot, pungent tomato paste that is apparently the ‘queen’ of all dishes for Tripolitan (Libyan) Jews.

To keep it simple and quick I did not follow all of Ottolenghi’s instructions but it was still delicious. A teaspoon each of cumin and caraway seeds were crushed to a powder in my small hard metal pestle and mortar. Then using the heavy green stone pestle and mortar I crushed five cloves of garlic with half a chopped red chilli. I then added the cumin and caraway powder together sweet paprika, cayenne and ground cinnamon.

Having done all that I put on some moghrabieh to cook in salted boiling water.

I then cooked the salmon fillets in hot oil, skin side down first so it crisped up. Once they were starting to cook through I turn them over for another few minutes and then took them out to rest. Into the pan I scraped the garlic/spice mixture from the mortar. It spat and sizzled in the hot oil. I stirred it round with a wooden spoon as the kitchen filled with the heady sharp oil from the cooking chilli. Just before it started to burn I squeezed in some tomato puree and stirred that round before pouring in some water and seasoning it all with the juice of half a lemon, sugar, salt and pepper.

The sauce was left to seethe for a minute before I turned down the heat and retuned the salmon to the pan, skin side up.

By this time the moghrabieh was cooked. I drained it returned it to the pan loosening it with olive oil.

Some rocket salad was put on two plates with pieces of tomato and quartered lemon. The salmon fillets and their sauce and the moghrabieh were then arranged neatly around the salad and decorated with some finely chopped coriander.

The film was McCullin at FACT. It was not cheerful but was very good. A lot of questions were asked and a few of them answered as Don McCullin found his peace in photographing the English countryside in stark, haunting black and white, occasionally pulled up short as he did so by the sound of a distant shotgun.

Back at home the kitchen was still filled with the smell of the chraimeh sauce.

Listening now to Kristin Hersh on vinyl singing Your Ghost with Michael Stipe. I can remember watching the video on The Chart Show on a Saturday morning. You don’t get that anymore. Earlier in the evening I had listen to Vision’s of Joanna just in from work, loud, the only person in the house.

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