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Cooking Middle Eastern fare is never a bad idea and the folk in Pune cooked out of yet another Yasmin Khan release. A bunch of us got this at a discounted rate and went right ahead and bought it.

Pune had two meets in early August - one at Taruna's just hours short of Pune's Tapped Beer Fest, which most of the members were attending and the other at Varun and Shubra's where a much larger group of folk met.

Joravar and Priyanka were first time attendees and wanted to get a feel of things and the people before they opted to host themselves, which is not entirely unfair I think.

Taruna stuck to her title of Roast Chicken Queen and dished up a whole chicken stuffed with rice, raisins, pine nuts, cashews and almonds. She also made a simple yet scrumptious accompaniment using lentils, red peppers, feta and tomato as a salad.

Jahnavi shuffled work meetings and lunch and brought in a roast Romanesco cauliflower salad with Tahini and pomegranate and some lemon and chilli roast potatoes.

Adit made some chicken shawarma with black sesame tahini.

Amita got caught in the rains and the traffic slowdown that ensued afterwards and she couldn't make it to the lunch. She did, however, atttend the following weekend. So all was not lost.

Priyanki ended the afternoon with a pomegranate passion cake. She made it twice, it was that good. She served it with a yoghurt and mascarpone glaze.

The following weekend, Varun made some Mussakhan - roast chicken with sumac and red onions. Ravi brought in some chicken shawarma (again). Spices sourced from Middle Eastern countries, deliver in terms of flavour far better than their Indian counterparts, Ravi thought. The quantities mentioned in recipes are for extremely good quality, potent ingredients and may need to be scaled up when using local ingredients.

While Keya made spinach and feta parcels, she did think the dough didn't rise as much. The Pune monsoons can play spoilsport really. Amita made some herbed focaccia and Za'atar flat bread and pretty much ran out of her house so that her family wouldn't devour what she had baked. Amita bakes a lot of breads herself, so she thought that the bread doughs were too dry. So she had to use her intuition and add enough water to match the dough description. She also brought in a Mutabal to go with her breads and thinks that a baba ghanouj would've worked far better. She used the ice cube trick stated in the book to make her hummus, and it resulted is a very smooth texture.

Husein kept it simple with a Gazan Salad. The addition of dill seemed to elevate the salad to a whole nother level. And Taruna showed up again with a couple of salads and the a dessert. She did an aubergine, tomato & pomegranate salad and also the Everyday Palestinian Salad. She brought in some coconut bites which were freakishly similar to the Coconut Tops recipe from Downtime. She syas the aubergine salad was awesome and complained that she burnt her coconut bites. But everyone seemed to love them.

Dhanashree got a slow-roasted lamb shoulder with Palestinian spices and drove across the city to make it lunch in good time. Priyanka Sachdev made some lamb meatballs with Tahini.

Joravar made a chocolate and coconut cake for dessert and to re-bake a fresh cake because his dog liked it just as much as the humans (later) did. Shubhra ended the meal for a dozen with her molten chocolate, coffee and cardamom pots.

When there's 10+ people meeting over a meal, there's a good chance there is a good chance there will be leftovers. So everyone showed up with "dabbas" to take leftovers home. But there were none. So, I'm guessing all is welll that ends well.

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