I was in New York last month for the screening of Sex and The City 2. Hewlett-Packard (HP) hosted journalists from around the world for the screening; they collaborated with Warner Bros on the chick-flick which is in line with their strategy of focusing on their women clientele. Journalists were introduced to HP’s stylish netbooks, which were designed by Vivienne Tam and the latest is their ‘Butterfly Lovers’ series.
Everyone was of course more excited about the movie screening at the Paris Theatre, only a day after its premiere in New York. No, we didn’t meet the SATC cast as they were all in Tokyo, Japan for the Asian premiere.
Still, HP hosted us in style – chauffeuring us to the screening from our hotel in Time Square in a stretch limo. By now, everyone would have seen the movie, so I’ll not go into that – let’s just say that I am more a fan of SATC the tv show than the movies. Still, I am in New York… and two and a half hours of watching beautiful people in beautiful clothes is no hardship.
After the movie screening, there was an after party at the Bergdorf Goodman store. The window dressing all had SATC themes, and they were gorgeous. There were loads of fashionable and beautiful people at the party. Willie Garson (Standford Blatch) and Mario Cantone (Anthony Marantino) were there – they had the best scenes in the movie; the gay wedding scene was the blast. Malaysian supermodel Ling Tan was there. Ivanka Trump was sitting a few rows in front of us, but she didn’t stay for the party.
I was starving by the end of the movie, and was looking forward to the party (for the food….of course). And I was pleasantly surprised to find the Middle Eastern buffet – because of the Abu Dhabi getaway, I guess. There were lamb kebab with yoghurt sauce, couscous, lamb stew with olives, red pepper salad, bread and hummus. I ate my share, but didn’t eat all that much. It was a little hard to eat as there were loads of people milling about.
My New York trip wasn’t an eating trip. I walked a lot, and only stopped to eat whenever I was hungry. And as I was on my own, I didn’t eat in restaurant but only grabbed pizzas and nachos and burritos.
Anyway, I have been craving Middle Eastern food on and off since that party. In New York I was drawn more to the falafel and kebab stalls than I was to the hot dog stands; I just never got around to eating from the stalls because the hawkers were either not ready yet or I was too stuffed from another meal or rushing somewhere.
And at the Whole Foods Market at Columbus Circus, I love the selection of olives – a tub of gorgeous mixed olives and they cost less than they do in Malaysia. I thought of lamb stew with olives, but mostly I just wanted to snack on them.
So, when we were doing the column for StarTwo this month with the theme of preserving food, I immediately thought of making preserved lemons. And when it comes to Middle Eastern food, my most trusted cookbook author is Claudia Roden.
(Adapted from Claudia Roden’s recipe in
4 tbsp salt
Wash and scrub the lemons. Quarter the lemons right to the end of the stem, but not right through.
Stuff each lemon with a tablespoon of salt.
Put the lemons in a sterilised jar, pressing them down as much as possible. Close the jar, and leave for 3-4 days. In that
time, the lemons would have disgorged some of their juices and the skins would have softened.
Open the jar, and press down the lemons. Then, add fresh lemon juice to cover the lemons in the jar.
Close the jar and leave in a cool place for at least a month.
To use, discard the pulp and rinse the lemon peel to rid it of the salt.
With the preserved lemons, I made Claudia’s Moroccan Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives. It’s easy to make, and absolutely delicious – the preserved lemon lends aroma, depth and its distinct flavours. The olives are of course delicious; wash them a few times if you don’t them too salty.
3 tablespoons of extra virgin oil
2 onions, grated or chopped finely
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon of crushed saffron threads or powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 chicken, jointed
salt and black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
peel of 1 large or 2 small preserved lemons
In a wide casserole, heat the oil and put in the onions. Saute, stirring over low heat, until they soften and add the garlic, saffron and ginger.
Put in the chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper, and pour in about 300ml of water. Simmer, covered, turning a few times and adding a little water if it becomes dry. Lift out the breasts after 20 minutes, and set aside. Continue to cook the remaining pieces for another 25 minutes, after which time return the breasts to the casserole.
Stir the lemon juice, coriander, parsley, the preserved lemon peel (cut into strips) and the olives into the sauce. Simmer, uncovered for 5-10 minutes, until the reduced sauce is thick and unctuous.