How about cooking Iraqi?
Posted by Lamees Ibrahim Tuesday 19 May 2009 08.00 BST
The Iraqi Cookbook aims to bring the rich culture of Iraq to the tables of Britain. Here are four recipes to get you started - or do you already cook Iraqi?
For many years now, and especially since 2003, the media have been bombarding us with news, images and reports from Iraq which paint a very negative picture. To me, as someone born and raised in Baghdad and with deep roots in the country, the Iraq that I know has never been visible in this coverage.
I miss people talking about the history of an ancient civilisation and the rich contemporary culture - the way of life I was lucky enough to have experienced in my time living there - so I was very happy to have the opportunity to write the first Iraqi cookbook to be published in the UK.
Iraqi dishes are delicious, healthy and easy to cook. Most of the more unusual or exotic ingredients are either now available in the UK, or can be successfully substituted.
Although the book started as a collection of recipes for my children and our guests at various dinner parties, it quickly turned into my way of sharing the Iraq that I know and love with the the world. As is well known, modern Iraq arose from ancient Mesopotamian civilisation. Many empires have passed through over the centuries and left their mark on the cuisine, creating links between Iraqi history, culture and food.
I have included personal memories of national dishes that have relevance to cultural celebrations - annual, seasonal, and familial. Again, this was initially for the benefit of my children, who were never able to experience any of this first-hand.
Recipes for four dishes are here for you to try:
1. Kubbat Mousel is one of the most famous and authentic Iraqi dishes. It was created in the city of Mousel (240km north of Baghdad). The size is a matter of great pride to the Mouselites and a way of showing guests a warm welcome.
2. Fasangoon is most probably Iranian in origin and became part of Iraqi cuisine through Iranian visitors to the shrines in the cities of Najaf and Karbala (150km south of Baghdad) and the close relations and marriages that resulted.
3. Sheikh Mahshi is one of the most loved stew dishes in Iraq and usually served with white rice fortified with roasted almonds and raisins. Great as a starter or a full meal, it can be easily transformed into a vegetarian dish by replacing the minced meat with a vegetarian version or leaving it out all together.
4. Timman Jazar is one of my favourite dishes, delicious, aromatic and very easy to make. The vegetarian alternative is as delicious if not more so - omit the minced meat (add a cube of vegetarian stock, if you so wish) or replace it with vegetarian mince.
If you don't live near shops that stock some of the ingredients listed and need some suggestions for alternatives, or you'd like to substitute the meat in these or any other Iraqi recipes, leave a question in the comments box and I'll do my best to suggest something. Has anyone already tried Iraqi cooking at home? Or do you have some bright new ideas for turning dishes involving mince into vegetarian delights?