Friday, 20 July 2012

The little recipe that could: Sultana, walnut and yogurt salad

Sultana, walnut & yogurt salad
This is shaping up to be my recipe rave of the year. It's a real find!

Imagine savory fried onions stirred into strained yogurt. A generous portion of broken walnuts for crunch, some lime to jazz things up, a big splash of hot garlic-mint oil and a crowning of  more walnuts and luscious, sweet sultanas (golden raisins) or dates, as in the original.

It's a mosaic of flavours and textures in the mouth. A truly extraordinary delight.

I pinched the idea from Irish food diva Diana Henry's Cook Simple: Effortless Cooking Every Day. Diana pinched it from the late Armenian polymath Arto Der Haroutunian's Middle Eastern Cookery, and Arto pinched it from any one of a multitude of ways that dates, walnuts and yogurt (or whey) are combined traditionally in dishes called kaleh joosh in Iran. Good food travels; across continents and down through time!

Amazingly, Diana's recipe is merely an accompaniment to a lamb dish. It is one of many great recipes in Cook Simple, a fabulous cookbook for the greedy cook with a bent for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours and very little weeknight cooking time on her hands. And one that can easily take centre stage on a meze table.

For those interested, the kaleh joosh recipe in Middle Eastern Cookery sprinkles flour over the fried onions, adds the yogurt and brings it almost to the boil. Dried mint (rather than the fresh in Diana's take) is used in the oil and the whole thing is topped with saffron water, dates and walnuts. Other versions you can find on the Net include soup-like concoctions, some even with meatballs in them!

Since Greek yogurt is not readily available in Japan, I strain a tub of plain yogurt and use that instead. You can do this by putting the yogurt in a sieve lined with kitchen paper over a bowl, or, to speed things up,  twisting the top of the kitchen paper closed and putting the package in the sieve with a light weight (say, a tin of tomatoes on a side plate) on top. The liquor that strains off makes a lovely thirst-quenching drink.

Sultana, walnut and yogurt salad

Serves 4-6 as part of a meze table

1 large onion, finely chopped
5 tbsp olive oil
125 g Greek yogurt (or 450 g plain yogurt, strained)
40 g walnut pieces
juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
small handful mint leaves, chopped
75 g sultanas

1 If using plain yogurt, strain some of the liquid out of it in a kitchen paper-lined sieve over a bowl.

2 Fry the onion gently in 2 tbsp of the olive oil until soft and golden, Stir in the yogurt, two-thirds of the walnuts, and the lime juice. Spread this in a shallow bowl.

3 Heat the remaining olive oil and quickly fry the garlic until just golden. Add the mint and cook for another 20 sec. Drizzle over the yogurt and onion mixture.

4 Scatter on the sultanas and the remaining walnuts.



Kate said...

Gosh, this sounds amazing! How are you keeping the yogurt from curdling in the hot oil? Is it stirred in gradually? Thanks!

Saffron said...

Hi Kate!

I remember worrying about the same thing the first time I made this. I can't say I've had any problems with the strained yogurt. You could let the onions and oil cool a bit before proceeding if you're worried.

M S said...

Hi, I love this blog. I too live in Jspan and strive to enjoy this style of dishes, especially from Ottolenghi.

This dish, I will try with almonds instead of walnuts...

Saffron said...

Thanks for the thumbs up, M S!

I've done this with almonds and it was great! Let us know what you think.

Ottolenghi is my hero. I just love the layers and layers of flavour he conjures up! i made the roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs in his latest book for a picnic and it went down a storm. Can't wait to try more : )