Regular readers of Belleau Kitchen will know that the proprietor, Dom, has been unwell recently. Rather than let a bout of illness put him off the boil, he's gone and given this month's Random Recipe challenge a 'happy and healthy' theme, extolling participants to rummage through their diet or health-related cookbooks in order to come up with something nourishing to share.
Given that I don't own any diet books, unless you count Victoria Moore's 'How to Drink' (a sort of guidebook for those who wish to pursue an alcoholic liquids diet), I instead turned to my latest find - a battered paperback called 'Wild Blackberry Cobbler And Other Old-Fashioned Recipes' - that I found at a charity shop for 50 cents. This book, first published in 1985, has recipes from Greek and Roman times through to American dishes of the 18th and 19th centuries. It's written by Katie Stewart, one-time 'cookery editor' of The Times and it's a brilliant read.
I wasn't sure a random flick through would turn up anything that Dom would consider 'happy and healthy', but I was wrong. According to Katie Stewart, the old Persian recipe from which this dish comes described it as "an excellent relish which both awakens and stimulates the appetite". If that's not happy and healthy, I'm not sure what is.
Shiraz bi buqal
You have to admit, 'shiraz bi buqal' sounds a bit more exotic than plain old 'cottage cheese with fresh herbs' - and whatever you might think of cottage cheese, it sounds more enticing than the ancient Persian equivalent of 'coagulated milk'. It's all in how you describe it, isn't it? So this then, is a mix of fresh, onion-y leeks and celery, fragrant mint, crunchy nuts and soft curds. It's good on a slice of hearty bread or with some decent crackers and perhaps a dried fig or two.
250g cottage cheese (the best sort you can get, and most emphatically NOT the 'lite' version
3 thick slices of the white part of a leek
a handful of celery leaves
6 mint leaves
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
salt and pepper
12 walnut halves, roughly chopped
Finely chop the leek, celery leaves and mint leaves together - if you have a processor with a mini-bowl, now is one of the rare times it comes in handy. Stir into the cottage cheese with the mustard and salt and pepper. Pile this mixture into a small serving bowl and top with the walnuts. Serves two as a lunch accompaniment or four as part of a platter of delectable titbits.