If you’re tired trying to find something unique for your Christmas dinner, try stepping off the beaten track and conjuring up something local with an international twist. That’s exactly what even celebrity chefs the world over are doing – drawing inspiration from local traditional cuisine and giving it an offbeat spin.
When you shop for fresh produce in the local markets in Oman, for cooking up a wonderful surprise for the family, avoid setting eyes on branded producer that have flown in from around the globe and made available for a premium. Instead, buy local meat, poultry, vegetables and add your own creative slant to time-tested recipes and what you have would be purely original.
Celebrated chefs Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton, Gerald Hirigoyen and Martin Yan are known and active the world over, but they all call California home. For their award-winning restaurants, product lines, cookbooks and TV shows, they draw inspiration from the bountiful fresh ingredients the Golden State has to offer.
“California is my favorite place in the world to cook,” says Puck. “The climate is such that we can get the best ingredients – the freshest produce, fish, nuts – with so much flavour.”
It’s this same culinary opportunity that drew French-born Hirigoyen, the chef and owner of Piperade in San Francisco, to California. “The food revolution – knowing where food comes from, how nutritious it is, and supporting the people who grow it – was happening in California, so I came to progress, and with all we have available, continue to progress.”
One California crop that has captured these chefs’ collective imagination of late? Pistachios. And they are available aplenty in Oman.
“I find their flavour and crunch irresistible and I love the colour,” said LA-based chef Silverton. “It’s really easy to add pistachios to almost anything you make. Their flavour enhances other ingredients so well, but they can also be the star of a dish. The great thing about pistachios is they are just the right size, and they add flavour, colour and texture to your dish, on top of all the nutritional benefits,” adds Yan.
The trend of using pistachios for cooking appears to be spreading beyond California as sales of this cute little nut has been rising all over the world. Culinary researchers say the reason for this is a combination of the increase in people preparing meals at home since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the desire for healthy ingredients.
Pistachios are nutrient-dense and high in protein. With the world’s top chefs adding more pistachio-inspired dishes to their menus, the little green nut is suddenly red hot. But don’t worry about there being a shortage. Just go ahead and create you Christmas meal with a generous helping of pistachios as a key ingredient in your recipe. Here is Wolfgang Puck’s take on a roasted rack of lamb:
For *pistachio butter
2 cups pistachios – roasted
½ cup grapeseed oil
¼tsp sea salt – optional
Scoop pistachios into a food processor and run for 60 to 90 seconds. Open the processor and scrape the sides. Run for another 60 to 90 seconds. Scrape down the sides and continue processing. Slowly drizzle oil, as needed, into the butter as it’s processing until you achieve the texture and consistency you prefer. Add optional sea salt and pulse to combine.
Transfer butter to a container with a snap-on lid. Refrigerate if holding the butter for more than a few days.
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup *pistachio butter
1tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup cilantro
¼ cup minced green onions
2tsp minced chillies
In a small saucepan combine coconut milk and lime juice. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly until coconut milk is hot and aromatic. Transfer to a blender and add remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste and set aside.
2 lamb racks
Frenched olive oil – as needed
Kosher salt – as needed
Black pepper – as needed
½ cup pomegranate syrup
Rub all sides of lamb racks with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle pomegranate syrup across the top of each rack and even out across surface with a pastry brush. Roast in a preheated 230°C oven for 15 to 20 minutes for rare/medium rare, or longer depending on preferred doneness. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Cut lamb racks between the bones into individual chops. You can plate the lamb on individual plates or a platter. Using your own presentation style, place grilled sweet potatoes or other vegetable on both sides of plates and arrange 2 chops per person. Drizzle pistachio sauce onto plate, drizzle pomegranate syrup on top of the vegetable and sprinkle with a generous amount of pistachios. Finish with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.