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  • Chloe Grabham

A taste of the Middle East with Executive Chef Ben Williamson

Middle Eastern food is adored across the world for its vibrant use of spices, fresh produce and flair for having its fair share of creative flavour combinations, something which Sydney restaurant Nour is famous for. We had a chat with Executive Chef Ben Williamson of Nour and share one of his favourite recipes.

There is something magical about the influence of travel, especially when it comes to cooking and being able to capture a piece of culture and transport half way across the world. Ben describes his overseas experiences as "travel giving perspective more than anything, giving you a point of reference to tie a dish to that has weight and is grounded in history."

"Most classic Middle Eastern dishes are simple in execution but make sense in respect to place and time.The first time I ate “Hamour machboos” was with an Omani friend at his place in the port of Bahrain.

I remember how excited he was to cook it for me. It was all about him sharing a dish he grew up with using the best fish picked up from the port and applied to a dish with a long history for him and the region.

Without applying that point of reference a dish has no soul.You can find that in a lot of the dishes on the menu for me."

With such an array of rich ingredients to choose from, Ben narrowed down his favourite Middle Eastern ingredients as "all the different kinds of dried chilis".

"From Turkish Maras to Aleppo pepper and Isot, the quality and depth is amazing.

If not that it would be Kishk which is a fermented powder made from burghul and yoghurt. when rehydrated it is deliciously fresh and nourishing. Perfect for the colder months".

Bring a little piece of Middle Eastern cuisine to your dining table with Ben's signature recipe for Hamour Machbous.

Hamour Machbous (Groper baked in rice with gulf spices)

(Serves four to six people)

1kg groper fillets, skinless

500g Aged basmati rice (India Gate classic is excellent)

500ml fish stock with 250ml water added

2 onions diced

3 cloves garlic crushed

50ml olive oil

1 bunch coriander, leaves picked, stems and roots chopped

2 tomatoes blanched, peeled and chopped

2 dried limes split into 8 pieces each

1 T ground ginger

2 cloves crushed

3 cinnamon quills broken in half

5 cardamom pods bruised

½ t crushed peppercorns

2 T toasted cumin seeds

pinch saffron crushed into a good pinch of salt

Portion fish into palm sized even pieces and seal quickly in a very hot pan with a little veg oil (keep rare)

Sweat onions and garlic in oil without color, add spices and chopped coriander root and stem and cook briefly until fragrant then add tomatoes and saffron and continue to cook out until tomatoes have collapsed.

Add stock and bring to the boil.

Place rice into a baking dish and cover with the fragrant stock and collected juices from the resting fish.

Cover tightly and bake at 180degrees for 12 minutes.

Remove from oven, fluff up the rice and carefully push the fish pieces into it covering them up with rice.

Cover again with tin foil or a lid and sit away from heat for 5 mins.

Serve garnished with crispy fried onions, coriander leaves and fresh lime.

*Photos provided by Cru Media 2019

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