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Saturday 22 March 2014

Pan Fried Salmon and a Syrian Potato Salad

So, apparently, Spring is here! Here in Scotland it still feels like winter with rain, wind and even some flurries of snow further north. We did have a few days of more spring -like weather and I wanted to make something fresh and light.
The salmon fillets were simply seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper and pan fried skin side down first until the salmon goes opaque about 2/3 of the way up the side of the fish. Then turn over and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side.

Syria is not a country I know much about and I wasn't aware that it also had its own cuisine. The book, Almond Bar, is named for the restaurant in Sydney, started by Sharon Salloum and her sister, Carol, to bring to life their mother's love of food. Sharon feared she might not be able to emulate the passion her mother puts into food but, after much blood, sweat and tears, she likes to believe that she has done her parents and family proud.

Almond Bar starts with a look into The Syrian Pantry, some ingredients are familiar, like chickpeas, Bulgar wheat and Haloumi. Others such as Baladieh, a semi-soft cheese, Freekeh, a green dried wheat grain and grey courgettes. There are also a couple of pages of Middle Eastern Food Suppliers to ensure you can make the recipes in the book.

Spice Blends are crucial to capturing Middle Eastern flavours and there are the instructions for four different blends. We then move on to a chapter of Sauces and Dips, I liked the Smoked Aubergine Dip, Mint and Walnut Sauce, a vibrant Beetroot Dip and the classic Labne, a dried yoghurt dip.

Finger food is a speciality of The Almond Bar and this chapter if full of tempting bites from Za'atar Pizzas to Scallops and Basturma Drizzled with Pomegranate Butter.

Learn how to make Arish Cheese and Shanklish in a step by step guide.

I think the Sharing Platters look amazing and are one of my favourite ways of eating. There were some delicious recipes like Lemony Lentil Soup, Crushed Chickpeas with Yoghurt Almonds and Pine nuts, Za'atar Prawns with Pumpkin Mash and a step by step photo guide to making Falafel.

On to Salads and Sides including one of my favourite salads, Fatoush or Toasted Bread Salad, Tabouli, Haloumi, Lentil and Watercress Salad and Salatet batata- a Syrian Potato Salad which Sharon's mother's recipe, a light fresh, well balanced salad.

Salatet batata (Potato Salad) serves 4
4 main crop or Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm cubes
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 brown onion, thinly sliced
Large handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Small handful of mint, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt flakes
1 tsp sweet paprika
60ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
60ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice

Rinse the potato cubes to remove any excess start, then place in a medium saucepan  and cover with enough cold water to come 2cm (3/4in) above the level of the potato.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 min until tender but not soft enough to fall apart.  Drain and leave to cool to room temperature.
To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together well.
Combine the potato, tomato, onion, parsley and mint in a bowl, pour over the dressing and gently toss to coat. This salad is best served while the potato is still lukewarm bu it can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and served cold as well. 

We are not finished with Almond Bar by any means, it's time for the 'Mains'.  There are some really luscious dishes such as Middle Eastern Lamb Dumplings, Stuffed Small Aubergines, Minced Lamb, Parsley and Onion Skewers, Chilli Fish, Spaghetti Cooked in Milk and Cannellini Bean, Tomato and Beef Stew to name just a few.

Syrian Desserts bring a delicious Middle Eastern twist to the usual favourites,  I was taken with Rosewater Ice-cream, Fig Sorbet, Sweet Semolina and Coconut Slice, Turkish Delight with Pistachio and a number of recipes using 'Middle Eastern Clotted Cream'.

Who is it for?
This is a book for the adventurous cook, someone who likes big flavours and likes to create food for sharing.

This is a beautiful book, the photographs, the styling and the graphics are stunning. There are over 100 classic and contemporary recipes with many suitable for vegetarians and plenty for meat eaters too. I loved the huge variety of small dishes in the sauces and dips section, finger food, shared plates, salads and sides.  These reflect the Middle Eastern way of eating, the importance of celebrating food and sharing.

Some of the ingredients could be a little difficult to source, most of the suppliers are in London and the South East although there are some online suppliers.

The Verdict
This is an excellent book to add to your collection, even if you already own some books of Middle Eastern cookery.  I will definitely be returning to make more of the recipes.

Book: Almond Bar
Author: Sharon Salloum
ISBN: 978-1-909342-57-6
Published by Jacqui Small Publishing
Cover: Hardback
RRP: Ā£25.99

Many thanks to Jacqui Small Publishing for providing me with a copy of Almond Bar, I was not paid for this review and all opinions are my own.


I'm entering this meal for three blog challenges:  Family Foodies challenge for March is Fab Fast Food and this was a quick meal to make. Family Foodies is run by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash and Lou at Eat your Veg.  The 'Salatet batata' is ideal for No Croutons Required, the vegetarian soup and salad challenge run by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen and Jac of Tinned Tomatoes.  Lou at Eat Your Veg is also hosting Four Seasons Food for Spring with the theme of 'Something Fishy', Four Seasons Food is alternately hosted by Anneli at Delicieux.

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At 22 March 2014 at 23:06 , Blogger Sylvia F. said...

I'm no the biggest fan of salmon (but I love smoked one, wierd I know!) but it looks like worth trying, syrian potato salad must taste superb! Sounds like a great cookbook! I love Middle Easter cuisine, will look for it in the shops :)

At 23 March 2014 at 08:03 , Anonymous Corina said...

It looks delicious and the book sounds like it had loads of recipes in I would love. I love all middle eastern flavours.

At 23 March 2014 at 08:12 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your salmon looks just beautifully cooked and the Syrian potato salad sounds like such a wonderful accompaniment - wonderfully fresh and tasty. A lovely entry for the Family Foodies Fab Fast Food challenge, thanks so much for taking part Janice.

At 23 March 2014 at 08:34 , Anonymous Kellie@foodtoglow said...

Love the sound of the Syrian salad. I adore pretty much all middle eastern foods (not too much meat though!) so my spice cupboard is full of most everything I need for it. Luckily I have a Turkish friend who keeps me week-supplied. Scotland ain't the best place to get the most specialised ingredients! Sunny here in Edinburgh. Hope it is for you too :-)

At 23 March 2014 at 10:28 , Blogger Unknown said...

oooh, the salmon looks so good, i've been eating a lot of salmon recently so this is nice to have an alternative way to cook it... I am also so lazy when it comes to salads like this so again, it's nice to have a simple recipe to spice up the humble potato x

At 23 March 2014 at 13:28 , Anonymous London Unattached said...

That does all look very good! And the potato salad is amazing - completely different to anything I've seen before

At 24 March 2014 at 09:22 , Anonymous Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry said...

I adore middle eastern food - I grew up with it in Sierra Leone. Sounds like a fab book and fab salad too.

At 24 March 2014 at 10:00 , Blogger Marmaduke Scarlet said...

I am reading this sitting at my study window - the back garden is bright with early morning sunshine and after reading this lovely post I think I can taste spring! Love your review, I think there is now room on my bookshelves for another middle eastern cookbook :)

At 24 March 2014 at 10:17 , Blogger Chris Half said...

The salmon with the salad on the side looks very fresh and delicious. For sure something I would like to try the next time I am having some salmon. I would also say the book is for me, since (obvious) I love to try things from all over the place and I haven' checked in into Syria yet. So the least I could do, is bookmark this.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:04 , Blogger Unknown said...

What a beautiful flavourful supper. I like all the spices and herbs in this dish.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:09 , Blogger Janice said...

You could use other fish, or not fish at all. The salad would go well with so many different recipes.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:10 , Blogger Janice said...

It is a lovely book, Corina.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:10 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Vanesther, you are welcome.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:11 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Kellie, if you have problems sourcing ingredients in Edinburgh, then I have little chance! Thank goodness for online shopping.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:12 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Dom, it was a nice fillet of salmon and cooked well in the pan. Normally I would cook it in the oven but I don't have one just now!

At 24 March 2014 at 11:12 , Blogger Janice said...

Do give it a go, Fiona. It was really good and definitely worth making again.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:13 , Blogger Janice said...

Oh wow, then you really know about this type of food. Thanks for your kind comment.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:13 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Rachel. Much as I love soup and stew, I'm ready for some fresh flavours.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:14 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Chris. Oh yes, I'll be able to take part if you 'choose' Syria for Cooking around the World. I also have Anise Helou's Lebanese cookbook, love those middle eastern flavours.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:15 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Tina

At 24 March 2014 at 15:43 , Blogger Unknown said...

Lovely review Janice, I love learning about new (to me) styles of cooking so really enjoyed it.
Janie x

At 24 March 2014 at 15:56 , Blogger GG said...

How strange, I picked this book up just this morning. I thought it looked very interesting and had some original innovative recipes. GG

At 25 March 2014 at 11:44 , Anonymous Lou, Eat Your Veg said...

Great review Janice, sounds like a lovely book. And a lovely salad recipe, a great idea to perk up a meal with a bit of flavour and colour. Thanks for linking up to Family Foodies and Four Seasons Food :)

At 25 March 2014 at 14:33 , Anonymous Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy said...

This sounds lovely. I have been eating a lot of salmon recently.

At 26 March 2014 at 21:01 , Blogger tinkertink2010 said...

Looks gorgeous - both the salmon and the salad! xoxo

At 26 March 2014 at 22:05 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Jane.

At 26 March 2014 at 22:06 , Blogger Janice said...

Well there you go! Did you buy it? I'd love to see what you make from it.

At 26 March 2014 at 22:06 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Lou. I love a new cookbook to review and the potato salad was really good.

At 26 March 2014 at 22:07 , Blogger Janice said...

Thanks Dannii, I tend to eat more salmon in the spring and summer than in winter.

At 26 March 2014 at 22:07 , Blogger Janice said...


At 27 March 2014 at 12:20 , Blogger Karen S Booth said...

I saw that potato salad recipe when I was looking through my copy of the book and it was bookmarked straight away! LOVE the look of the salmon too, I am a fish fanatic as you know!

At 28 March 2014 at 13:30 , Anonymous Alison said...

I didn't know you could get Syrian cookbooks. This looks lovely

At 7 May 2015 at 22:48 , Blogger Milk and Honey said...

Yum. I love potatoes, but I do find some potato salad a bit to mayo-heavy. I'm loving that this one has an oil and lemon juice based dressing. I saw your link on Carole's Chatter


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