Good Bye 2012 and New Resolutions for 2013

Just as 2012 is about to end, 2013 comes brimming with promises and dreams.

For us at Libaliano, 2012 was filled with exciting news and events. In February Maria published her book La cucina del buon gusto. Co-written with Simonetta Agnello Hornby the Italian best selling novelist living in London, La cucina del buon gusto explores the importance of food in our lives. It was soon to be a big success and Maria travelled around Italy to sign it and present it at various events including schools and prisons.

Back in London we continued with our cooking workshops. We always enjoy these mornings where people come to unwind and learn about new foods and new recipes. We are proud to say that many students have become friends who stay in touch and share ideas. And even though it is old news, we are still proud that we have been chosen as one of the 10 best cooking-school experience in Europe!

We are also delighted with the success of our book ‘Lentils:traditional and contemporary recipes from the Mediterranean’. Out in October 2012, it was first launched at the Salon du Livre Francophone in Beirut. With two editions, French and English the book is packed with information, tips and illustrated with colour photographs. After two weeks in Beirut, we launched the book in London during an event at Books for Cooks. We were grateful to see so many people turning out in support, and happy to find that the book was selling out at Books for Cooks!

Now on the cooking front, 2012 has been filled with new ideas; we perfected old recipes and experimented with new ones. Our two favourite recipes for this year are: ‘Jerusalem Lentil Stew’ or Habbet Rumman a delicious mix of aubergines, lentils and pomegranate molasses and ‘Lentil Soup with Rice Dumplings’, a cream of lentils with green pea and rice gnochetti. Both these recipes can be found in our book and at the end of this blog.

What are our dreams and goals for 2013? Our goals are simple and dreams are by definition infinite, so here are some of our 2013 resolutions:  
  • ·       Research another book to follow ‘Lentils: traditional and contemporary recipes from the Mediterranean’
  • ·       Look for old and forgotten recipes
  • ·       Be inspired by the most familiar ingredients
  • ·       Remember to cook and eat seasonally
  • ·       Buy from local producers
  • ·       Exercise daily!

Happy New Year!

Jerusalem Lentil Stew
Habbet rumman

When not busy lobbying, this Palestinian lawyer likes to cook. She gave me the Habbet Rumman  (pomegranate seed) recipe while we were attending a conference dinner in Jordan. It sounded delicious and doubly exciting, as I had never come across a lentil and aubergine recipe in Lebanon. From Jerusalem, this simple dish uses pomegranate molasses and aubergines, two basic home grown ingredients. Serve it at room temperature with bread.

250 brown lentils
4/5 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cornflour
2 medium sized aubergine
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
 Pomegranate seeds to garnish

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time:  35 minutes
Serves 6

Gently fry the garlic in a little olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add the lentils and about 1.2 litres of water. Add the spices but not the pomegranate molasses. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Slice the aubergines lengthwise and then cut across into small 1 cm cubes. Heat some olive oil in a heavy based pan and gently sauté the aubergines until brown and soft.

Take about two ladleful of cooking liquid from the lentils and add to the aubergines together with the pomegranate molasses and corn flour. Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes before transferring to the lentil pot, stir and cook for a few more minutes. Adjust the seasoning.

You will know that the lentils are cooked when they become soft but not mushy.
Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Lentil soup with rice gnocchetti
Minestra di lenticchie con gnocchetti di riso

Combining lentils with cereals is an age-old Mediterranean tradition. In this delicate version of the soup, we have added rice and baked green pea gnocchetti and drizzled aromatic oil.

For the soup
100 g cubed pancetta
1 large onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, quartered and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, peeled and finely chopped
250 g small brown lentils, Pardina, Umbria, Thalia
1.5 litres vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

For the gnocchetti
20 g butter
20 g plain white flour
50 g boiled rice
50 g boiled green pea
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Parmesan

For the aromatic oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: from 55 minutes to 1 hour 
Serves 6

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and sauté pancetta over medium heat for 5 minutes until golden, stirring frequently.
Add onion with a pinch of salt and soften for 5 minutes, over low heat, until translucent.
Add carrot and celery and soften for another 5 minutes.
Rinse, strain and incorporate lentils, stir well and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Cover with boiling sock.
Add the bay leaves. Simmer with the lid on for 40 minutes. Blend half of the cooked lentils in a food processor and return the purée to the pan.

Meanwhile, cook the rice separately with a pinch of salt for 15 minutes. Add peas, bring back to the boil and cook for another 5 minutes. Drain and keep in a bowl.

In a medium pan, melt butter and add flour. Whisk vigorously and cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Add rice and peas, season with salt and cook for 3 to 5 minutes stirring continuously. Blend until you get a smooth and compact mixture. Stir in the grated Parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 180º C.
Line an oven tray with parchment.
Take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and with your hands roll lightly into a ball the size of a small marble. Arrange on the tray.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until they turn a light golden colour. Remove from the oven.
In a frying pan, heat the oil and allow the herbs to infuse in the hot oil for a few minutes.
Drizzle the aromatic oil over the lentil soup and top with dumplings.

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