Souk Kitchen

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When I go into a restaurant wielding a camera the size of a small dog, it can get some weird looks. I always feel the need to announce to the staff that I’m a food blogger, primarily so they don’t think I’m just some weirdo who has to obsessively photograph every meal I eat (although, this is also true). This announcement usually leads to a suspicious glance at the aforementioned camera, and some sort of half-joke along the lines of ‘please write something good’. I assure the staff that I recommend, rather than review, restaurants, so if I don’t have a good experience, I won’t write about it. Simple as. Needless to say, from the moment we sat down at Souk Kitchen, I knew it was going to make the cut.

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Middle Eastern food seems to be all the rage at the moment, with its wonderful combination of being relatively healthy yet full of exotic flavours. In Bristol, which likes to think of itself as nothing if not on trend, you can’t walk a hundred yards without bumping in to a falafel-stuffed pitta. However, Souk Kitchen was going long before hummus was as ubiquitous as it is now, and the restaurant has long been on my list of places to try. But the original Souk Kitchen is down in Bedminster, and therefore more than a five minute walk from my house, meaning that I’ve yet to venture there. However, the team has recently opened a second restaurant north of the river, so Paris and I went along to check it out.

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As I’ve got my finger so firmly on the pulse of Bristol’s food trends, I have recently acquired two new Middle Eastern ingredients: za’tar and sumac. Za’tar is a blend consisting primarily of dried thyme and sesame seeds, and sumac a lemony-tasting powder made from ground berries. I give them an occasional self-satisfied glance when I spot them lurking at the back of the cupboard, but don’t actually use them. Part of my reason for wanting to try Souk Kitchen was to give me some direction in this area. Luckily both ingredients, as I smugly pointed out to Paris, featured on the menu. The offerings consist of mezze type dishes to share (or not), as well as some more substantial options. We opted for an eclectic array of mezze dishes, from Syrian lentils with yoghurt and crispy onions, to falafel, the obligatory hummus and a rather incredible grilled halloumi topped with mango chutney. This was all mopped up with the most amazing freshly-made flatbread, sprinkled with, you guessed it, za’tar. All in all, Souk Kitchen was a thoroughly pleasant experience, not to mention being bang on trend.

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For the Paris perspective, click here.

 

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Beetroot and Cannellini Bean Dip

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I attempted Veganuary this year. I lasted three days. But the reason for my downfall was not the aching lack of bacon or creamy yoghurt, but milk. And, more specifically, milk in tea. Say what you will, almond milk just doesn’t taste the same. As I drink on average about five cups of tea a day, this was a bit of a problem. I have been trying to consume less dairy, so have almond milk on cereal, but I realised pretty quickly that completely cutting out dairy was going to be a challenge that I didn’t particularly want to deal with. Especially alongside dry January, which is going much better (apart from an ill-considered encounter with a boozy tiramisu, which I’m not sure counts).

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However, I am trying to eat more vegetables, and less meat. This seems to be more problematic for people to grasp than just saying you’re a vegetarian. I do eat meat, I’m just deliberately trying to eat less. I have recently found myself inadvertently cooking vegetarian and vegan food, as I’m focusing on vegetables as the centerpiece of the dish, rather than meat. This beetroot dip is laughably easy, and a great way to shoehorn lots of raw veg into an easily digestible form. It can be eaten as it is, with toasted pittas to scoop it up with, or as part of a salad with some grilled halloumi, maybe. The nigella seeds (not marketed by Ms. Lawson, they’re also known as ‘black onion seeds’) are optional, as they can be hard to get your hands on. We found some and thought they’d act as a brilliant colour contrast to the vibrant purple of the beetroot.

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Click here for Paris’ take on the subject.

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Roast Garlic Hummus & Olive Oil Crackers

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When browsing on one of the many food blogs I follow, I came across a suggestion that the only way to really smooth hummus is to peel the chickpeas. That’s right PEEL the chickpeas. Your first reaction, as mine was, might well be that life’s too short. I even considered just putting in the recipe that you should peel the chickpeas, but chucking them in whole myself. But then, I guess that would be cheating.

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So peel them I did (I’ve included a picture of my beautifully peeled chickpeas as proof of my efforts). You can actually get quite into the rhythm of squeezing the chickpeas and popping them out of their skins – although don’t do it when you’re in a rush, or you’ll probably just give up and bung them in whole.

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This is not only the first time I’ve peeled chickpeas when making hummus, it’s also the first time I’ve measured all the ingredients – usually I just blend random amounts until it looks about right. I’ve made a few amendments to the basic hummus recipe of chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste) and olive oil, to make the result slightly more interesting. I’ve added roasted garlic and honey for sweetness, and wine wine vinegar for a bit of a kick.

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I knocked up a batch of olive oil crackers to serve with the hummus. They are sprinkled with Nigella seeds – which, by the way, are also called kalonji black onion seeds. They are nothing whatsoever to do with Nigella Lawson, although she likes to pretend they are.

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