THREE kitchen ingredients say “Easter” in Australian like no other: seafood, lamb and chocolate.
This year a plethora of fresh takes on that trio is offered in Spice Journey, the printed accompaniment to Shane Delia’s SBS TV series of the same name. In this beautifully illustrated book Melbourne restaurateur Delia documents his travels through the regions whose people played crucial roles in the creation of Easter as we know it today.
Delia starts his exploration in Malta, his parents’ country and an island with a culinary style coloured in the centuries immediately before Jesus’ time by its Phoenician heritage.
Heading east, he visits Lebanon (the ancestral home of his wife Maha’s family), Turkey and Iran. At the other end of the Mediterranean Delia finishes with tours through Morocco and Andalusian Spain.
All six cultures contribute dishes to Spice Journey, some of the most inventive of which have seafood, lamb or chocolate as their hero.
On the seafood front there’s cured salmon with beetroot mayonnaise, pumpkin puree and fennel vinaigrette; cornbread-and-fennel-seed-crusted sardines; and scallop-filled zucchini flowers with smoked-eel dressing and orange and coriander crumb.
Lamb comes in an array of incarnations: as kofte with eggplant yoghurt and a black bread garnish; braised with saltbush and caramelised rockmelon; and slow-roasted with garlic and Lebanese seven-spice powder and served with berry and toasted pumpkin seed yoghurt and nigella-seed bread.
What better to these mains than hot chips sprinkled with flaked almonds, Aleppo pepper, coriander and sumac?
The desserts too combine the best of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours: mastic pudding with chocolate soil, blackberry sorbet and rosemary pearls; chocolate and pistachio m’hencha (coiled pastry); and smoked chipotle and chocolate fondant with Pedro Ximenez sherry and almond milk icecream.
Thanks to Delia, adventurous Easter dining at home this year is well within reach.