The Bride of Amman (click through to read my review) is set in Jordan and looks at the lives and loves of a small group of women (and men), including Rana, embarking on a forbidden love with Janty who is Muslim while she is Christian. In this passage, there is a mention of an exotic dish that had me racing to google to find out more.
p112 "A year had passed since we first got to know each other and we decided to celebrate our anniversary. As a surprise for me, Janty prepared a candle-lit dinner at his apartment, creating a magical romantic atmosphere the likes of which I'd only ever seen in Hollywood movies and soap operas : soft lighting, candles, flickering, music playing quietly in the background. Our favourite song, Wael Kfoury's "If Our Love's A Mistake (Law Hobna Ghalta)", came on the iPod and it felt like he was singing it especially for us, as if we were telling the world to leave us in peace, even if everyone saw our love as a mistake.
Janty had cooked dinner and set the table. For ages he had been promising me he would cook me his favourite Circassian dish, shipsu pasta.
"Ah, so this is shipsu pasta ! Finally I get to try it !"
"Yes, darling, this is it ! Go on then, habibti, try some. What do you think?""
Wikipedia explained the origins of the dish : "Circassian Cuisine is an ethnic cuisine, based on the cooking style and traditions of the Circassian People of the North Caucasus. This region lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, within European Russia." It is a popular dish in Turkey and, in the book, is cooked in Jordan. I found numerous variations on the recipe online but this one on A Village Pantry caught my eye because it sounds like a simplified version of an Iranian dish called Fesenjoon that I recently saw on Nigel Slater's Eating Together and wanted to try too. (I'll undoubtedly be coming back to Fesenjoon at a later date.) Both dishes use a walnut sauce (but as I had a bag of almonds, that was what I used !) and they have nothing to do with pasta ! I've tweaked the recipe in other ways so make sure you click through to see the original.
5 chicken fillets
200g shelled walnuts (I used almonds)
1 clove garlic
1 large onion, finely chopped
300ml chicken stock approximately
2 tsp paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Fry the chicken until it is nicely browned on all sides and cooked through. Reserve. (This is also a great dish for using up leftovers after the Sunday roast.)
Blitz the nuts in a food processer then add the breadcrumbs and garlic and blitz again.
Melt the butter over a low heat and cook the onion for 5-10 minutes until it softens and starts to caramelise.
Add the nut, garlic and breadcrumb mix and fry for a minute or two with the onion.
Add 200ml of the chicken stock and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
If you have some pomegranate molasses, it gives it a nice tart topnote, but this can be left out. I had just enough left in a bottle that had been lurking at the back of the cupboard ! (#KitchenClearout !)
Stir, season with salt and pepper, add the paprika and Cayenne pepper, and if the sauce is still too thick, add another 100 ml of stock.
Return the chicken to the pot and heat for 10 minutes. Feel free to add a little more stock if needed.
Serve on a bed of rice and scatter with pomegranate seeds. I was expecting this to have a gritty texture but it is actually a very smooth sauce - it's not at all spicy so would be a hit with the whole family.
*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***
Fancy having a look to see what's lurking in the back of your larder? Join in with this month's #KitchenClearout linkie !
Fancy cooking the books? Join in with the #readcookeat linkie over at Chez Maximka