I've just noticed that this is my 200th post for Something Else to Eat. Not quite one a week since it began in early 2010, but close! And I'm very happy that it happens to feature Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food - in my memoir, I write about how important this book was to me.
I meant to post this sooner, as promised last week, but life got away on me. I first had it in London at Jimmy the Greek's, the huge, cheap, delicious basement restaurant in Soho where we went after work on Fridays with other teachers from our Oxford Street language school. We spent our days teaching English to everyone from Afghans to Zaireois - and a lone Tongan, who made me feel homesick for Auckland. He had originally been taught by missionaries, who seemed to have left out all the verbs.
In the Courtenay Place fish shops I found smoked roe, and started
making my own taramasalata from the recipe in Claudia Roden's
Book of Middle Eastern Food. It's very simple, costs no more than a good commercial dip, and is one of my top favourite fishy things to eat.
3 thick slices of good white bread
Milk for soaking bread
100g smoked roe (tarama)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of 1-2 lemons
4 Tbsp olive oil
Remove crusts from bread and soak slices in a little milk.
Skin the lump of roe and whizz it in a food processor until smooth. (Or you can make it the traditional way, by pounding it with a pestle and mortar.)
Squeeze the bread dry and add the bread and the garlic to the roe, and whizz again until smooth. Gradually add lemon juice and olive oil, and a little more milk if required, tasting until you get the taste and texture you want. The mixture will be smooth and pale pink, nothing like the hectic pink commercial kind.
Serve as a first course, or part of a spread of mixed Middle Eastern dips, salads, etc., with thin triangles of lightly toasted bread (Vogel's extra thin is good, and so is pita bread) or sesame crackers - but toast is better. Black olives go well with this.