There is a common saying that you cannot be a Bangladeshi without the spices, herbs and masalas! Extensively used in Southeast Asian cooking, a deshi meal is never complete without the use of spices. Masalas have been used in this region to flavour food for eons.
This distinct characteristic of the masala has hooked many foreigners into our food. The very aroma of masalas puts Bangladeshi food in a league of its own.
MEATBALL WITH COUSCOUS — MEDITERRANEAN STYLE
500g lamb mince
35g (½ cup) fresh whole meal breadcrumbs (made from day-old bread)
1 small brown onion, coarsely grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander
1½ tbsp Mediterranean seasoning (spice mix of 2 tbsp ground cumin, 2 tbsp ground coriander, 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp salt. Store the remaining mix for later use)
3 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g chopped tomatoes
125ml (½ cup) chicken stock
290g (1½ cups) couscous
375ml (1½ cups) boiling water
Fresh coriander leaves, to serve
Salt, to season
Combine lamb mince, breadcrumbs, onion, chopped coriander and Mediterranean seasoning in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Roll tablespoonful of the mixture into balls. Place on a plate.
Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook half the meatballs, turning for 5 minutes, or until browned. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat down to medium, add the meatballs and simmer for 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, combine couscous and water and a little oil in a pot, bring to boil just once, immediately remove from stove and set aside for 5 minutes. Use a fork to separate the grains.
Divide the couscous among serving plates. Top with the meatball mixture. Sprinkle with coriander leaves to serve.
MONGOLIAN BEEF STIR FRY
2 tsp vegetable oil
½ tsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup water
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
1lb flank steak (large piece of belly meat)
¼ cup cornstarch
2 large onions, sliced on the diagonal into one-inch lengths
Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over med/low heat. Don't get the oil too hot. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, and then raise the heat to about medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat. Slice the meat into 1/4" thick bite-size slice pieces, and dip into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks.
As the beef sits, heat up one cup of oil in a wok or skillet for the beef needs to be mostly covered with oil. Heat the oil over medium heat until it's nice and hot, but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and sauté for just two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges.
After a couple of minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then pour the oil out of the wok or skillet. You don't need a thorough cooking here since the beef is going to go back on the heat later.
Put the sauce onto the remaining oil on your wok and put it back over the heat, get the meat back into it and simmer for one minute. Cook for one minute while stirring, and then add all the green onions. Cook for one more minute, and then remove the beef and onions with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving plate.
Pour some of the sauce over the meat, leaving the extra sauce behind in the pan. Serve hot with rice of your choice.
ROAST LAMB LEG WITH MINT SALSA
1 lamb leg (about 2 kg)
2 large pieces of garlic
½ orange (mosambi)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Some fresh rosemary
Handful of fresh mint
Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6 and place a roasting dish for the potatoes at the bottom.
Break the garlic bulbs up into cloves, and peel three, leaving the rest whole. Pick and roughly chop half the rosemary leaves. Now peel and halve the potatoes.
Crush the peeled garlic into a bowl, add the chopped rosemary; finely grate in the lemon and the orange zest and drizzle in a good lug of oil and mix. Season the lamb with sea salt and black pepper; drizzle with the marinade and rub all over the meat. Place on the hot bars of the oven above the tray.
Parboil the potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, then drain and allow it to steam dry. Gently toss the potatoes in the colander to scuff up the edges and tip back into the pan. Add the remaining rosemary sprigs and whole garlic cloves to the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle over a good lug of oil. Tip the potatoes into the hot tray and place back under the lamb to catch all the lovely juices.
Cook the lamb for an hour and 15 minutes if you want it pink, or 1 hour 30 minutes if you like it well done. Meanwhile, prepare the mint salsa. Chop the onions and mint leaves as finely as you can. You may use a blender for the mint, but the onions need to be chopped.
Mix in the mint, sugar, a good pinch of salt, lemon juice and vinegar and add onions. When the lamb is cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes or so. Carve and serve with the roast potatoes and the mint salsa.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Food preparation and styling: RBR