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Zaitoun - Hyderabad

A week before we had this meet, someone from The Hindu asked if she could speak with me. Now, my speech isn't back to normal, someone who talks to me for the first time, think I usually speak slowly and with a lisp. In fact, they might even think it's impolite to ask me to repeat myself.

I don't even like telling people that I've had neuritis and that I can repeat myself if they don't understand me.

That said I found Shriya, through a friend and discovered she stays two floors below me. She's a lawyer and recently married and loves cooking. She baked Arabic flatbreads and served them with a spicy Tomato and Prawn Stew that evening. Swapnil, who is on keto presently, made the chicken with red onions and sumac. Suraj made a tapenade and did some labneh three ways - one with za'atar and olive oil, one with sumac and olive oil and one rolled in thyme and with grilled grapes (because we couldn't fine peaches).

I made kashk a few days before - by hanging out some yoghurt and souring it and then cooking it dry. Instead of sun drying it like the Bedouin's possibly do, I slow cooked it until it was dry and crumbly. I used it to make Bedouin lamb with kashk and spiced rice.

I also made a herbed focaccia to go with the labneh and the tapenade.

Overall, we had a good evening and lots of leftovers. The cooking times seemed fairly accurate and I didn't really think the bread to water ratios were off, as Amita did in Pune. We might need to try the recipe more closely to be able to validate this. All that said, the food was brilliant. Not mad spicy like a lot of South Indian fare, very flavourful and quite up there among my favourites - South East Asian food (Vietnamese and Thai have my heart) and now Middle Eastern.

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