While I've had this cookbook since last July, I have been hesitant to give it a try for a few reasons. For starters, the recipes are unlike other dishes I've made before. Additionally, the lists of ingredients often call for spices I did not yet have on hand (whole cardamom pods, cumin seeds, star anise, garam marsala, the list goes on.)
Thankfully Penzey's has a broad selection of excellent spices at wonderful prices, and after slowly amassing such treasures as saffron, whole vanilla beans, and shallot pepper, our spice cabinet is armed and ready for nearly any recipe from this book. The time seemed right tonight to take a crack at the South East Asian/East African/Middle Eastern delicacies described in this book.
For our first exploration of the flavor combinations traditional to this style of cooking, we chose Sirloin Steak with Cinnamon and Pepper from Oman accompanied by a Rice Pilau with Coriander from Zanzibar.
In addition to exploring new flavors and spice combinations, tonight was one of a few evenings in which we both spent a couple hours together in the kitchen. Ken managed the rice pilau dish from start to finish (including chopping onions and garlic) and I was in charge of the steaks.
We were amazed at the outcome of these recipes. Ken deemed the steak the best steak I've made yet (and I've twice made Julia Child's butter sauteed steaks!) The rice had a wonderful subtle flavor of cardamom, curry, and cinnamon complimented with the spice of whole black peppercorns, even though we substituted brown rice for basmati rice.
Sirloin with Pepper and Cinnamon
2 sirloin steaks 1 inch thick
fresh ground sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
coarsely grated cinnamon; about a 1/2" stick
1/2 tablespoon butter (optional)
Season steaks with salt, pepper, and grated cinnamon. Rub the spices into the meat before quickly searing them in a hot cast-iron pan. Add the butter after a minute, and flip the steaks. Let rest five minutes before serving.
The recipe for the rice pilau was a bit more complicated, so I'll leave it up to the author of the cookbook to explain it. However, it included a whole cardamom pod, a cinnamon stick, whole pepper corns, coriander, garlic, onions, cloves, and curry all sauteed together and simmered with the rice.
These dishes will absolutely be added to our menu for having friends over for dinner, and we are already planning our next dinner-at-home date.
Be bold, readers! Try new flavors and dishes without fear- they might be some of the best you've made yet!
-Domestic in the District