A Sirocco Blows Through Toronto
Upon opening Sabrina Ghayour’s cookbook, I learned a few things. First, she cleared up what the title means (thank god, I hadn’t a clue). She defines a sirocco as a “hot, dry wind blowing from East to West, often carrying with it flavors of the Mediterranean.” Next I learned that although I couldn’t find some of the key flavors commonly found in the book, it would be okay because she designed the recipes to not be reliant on one main ingredient. Admittedly I was concerned when I did my initial flip-through because I knew I would have trouble finding sumac and other spices at my closest Loblaws. Knowing that we could carry on without them allowed me to keep my options open when selecting recipes.
I welcomed two of my close friends, Joella and Cailen, into my kitchen to prepare three recipes and share a meal together. Joella’s a pro now, this being her third book review on my site! And Cailen is pretty skilled in the kitchen as I came to learn.
We agreed that the aesthetic of the book is very “Instagram-y”, especially with the table of contents arranged like a grid and the photos altered with a hazy filter making them super grammable.
Lamb Lettuce Wraps
So we made a major substitution here and used beef tenderloin instead of lamb because Loblaws had a great sale and I couldn’t resist. The marinade tasted amazing and I know it would also have been fab on lamb. It consisted of soy sauce, honey, cumin, garlic, and a ton of cinnamon. We let the meat marinate while we put together the kale salad (below). Just before serving we made the peanut sauce, using sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter. There was a lot of sauce left over so I think in future I would maybe make half the recommended amount. The beef was so rich and juicy, and the cinnamon added the most amazing depth of flavor. We grilled it using a Persian style of metal kebab stick, although you could fry the meat as per the recipe. The lettuce cups and “peanut” sauce helped to round out and freshen up the aromatic marinade. This was such a wonderful dish and I would definitely make it again. It’s perfect for entertaining.
Marinated Kale Salad
The kale salad also had to sit and marinate so we worked on that right after dressing the raw beef. Kale is such a thick, tough green that absorbs dressing really well. After a few hours in the fridge it had soaked up the apple-based pureed vinaigrette while still having great texture and color. We all agreed that it wasn’t the right salad to accompany the beef, so that was poor menu curation on my part. But I would definitely make it again and serve with a simpler protein like grilled chicken or shrimp.
Being Italian, I’m no stranger to cooking with fennel or snacking on it raw, though I’ve never had it prepared like this. Jo coated the chunks of fennel in powdered sugar and then Cailen gave them a light fry in olive oil. Something went a little wrong with the herb sauce; it smelled great but it was a lot thicker than we figured it was supposed to be. It was about 10pm by the time we got around to the end of the meal prep and we decided to sacrifice the sauce so we could sit down and eat. The fennel was a close contender for best dish, really yummy and caramelized. The sugar wasn’t overpoweringly sweet like I thought it would be and actually gave it a nice creamy texture.
The next recipes I can’t wait to make
Marinated Scallops (pg. 100) – HUGE cravings for this one
Eastern-Style Salmon Tartare (pg. 103)
Nectarine Pavlova (pg. 222)
How it rated for allergy-friendliness
I’ll be honest and say this book has a lotta nuts, legumes, and dairy (mainly yoghurt). Every recipe had to be altered but as I’ve mentioned in the past that’s totally cool with me. Recipes are for inspiration, not following the steps with precision. The goal is to make wonderful food that you’ll enjoy and by using Ghayour’s recipes as a base I was able to make substitutions to suit my needs and everything turned out well.
You can pick up a copy of Sirocco at Indigo online or in store for $39.95 CAD
What a beautiful table (if I do say so myself)
And it looks much better with friends sitting around it!