A Middle Eastern winner. Or was it Moroccan..?
Extra mile- 6
Budget – Medium
*Scores are out of 10
Mint: Overall rating – 40/50 on a medium budget
My geography knowledge is pretty average, and this lack of knowledge is often a source of amusement to MC. There is a game that he particularly likes which involves asking me if I have ever heard of a particular country, and if so, me then telling him where it is located.
More often than not I am waaayyyy wrong (but I’ll say it confidently even when I know I’m wrong – conviction outweighs truth sometimes). This game has made me feel so bad on occasion, that I actually downloaded an app to teach myself about countries and culture (I personally think that if he wants me to learn them, then he should just take me there).
So there we were on Sat night, sitting in this cute little restaurant Café Mint, with me exclaiming how much I loved Moroccan food, when MC asked the inevitable (and predictable) question…
“So Nardia, where is Morocco?” (Said with a smirk on his face).
“Well, it’s actually located in the Northern region of Africa” I replied, “which part of North Africa?”, “West”… and there it was, the first time I had ever been able to answer the geography question correctly.
A monumental victory for me, which made the dinner taste even better!
Café Mint, located in south Surry Hills, is one of those places that a lot of people know about, and suggest. As usual we were booked in for dinner at Nana o’clock (yes 6.30pm sitting), and thus it was empty. The wait staff was amazing and attentive, and made great suggestions on the menu. However, within half an hour the place was buzzing with people and noise, and the aromas that came from the kitchen were tantalising.
To start we ordered a Merguez Mezze plate, which was a spicy lamb sausage on a bed of eggplant and tomato served on flatbread, and their roasted beetroot, shaved fennel, spinach and feta salad. The flavours of each of the dish were perfectly balanced (yes I picked that up from My Kitchen Rules), and concentrated. Each mouthful was a taste explosion.
For Mains we ordered the Roast Chicken and the Lamb Shank. Again, each dish was bursting with wholesome, perfectly balanced flavours. For anyone who has tried cooking Middle Eastern foods at home, getting the balance of flavours right between all the spices can be tricky, and more often than not the home chef ends up with a dish with one dominating taste. Clearly, the chefs at Café Mint are well skilled in their art.
What I particularly like about Middle Eastern/Moroccan food is the variety of spices used. Spices equal flavour, but they also have unique medicinal properties which when added to the diet on a daily basis have numerous benefits. Typical Moroccan spices include Salt, Pepper, Ginger, Turmeric, Saffron, Paprika, Cinnamon, Anise, Cumin and Nutmeg.
MC and I indulge in Cinnamon and Turmeric on a daily basis and whilst we could write an essay on the benefits of each individual spice it is suffice to say that these powerful anti-oxidants need to become part of your dietary regime.
I’ll leave it to MC to explain….
I want to get my own back here, but it means I’ll sound like a cock…
But I can’t resist.
Yes NN nailed the Moroccan question, she was right, however, it’s not exactly the Middle East, is it… it’s Africa.
Anyway, I digress.
Regardless of our geeky and petty argument, she’s most definitely bang on about spices.
Spices are not only an awesome way to add flavour and excitement to a dish, but they are worth their weight in nutritional benefits, to the extent that many ‘vitamins’ are based on the contents of natural herbs.
I’ll give you the run down on my favourites:
- Turmeric: Has powerful natural anti-inflammatory properties as well as being an effective antioxidant. This alone makes turmeric a must have for every modern man. Used for centuries as a prized health food in the treatment and prevention of a number of illnesses and condition. Anything that will fight oxidative stress and systemic inflammation will help you with any health and body goal. Try using in smoothies, adding to marinades, or simple sprinkle on meat.
- Cinnamon: Another ancient powerhouse, cinnamon has been shown to regulate blood glucose, have a positive effect on cholesterol and inflammation. As well as being a tasty addition to many dishes, foods and recipes, cinnamon will move you closer to looking and feeling great.
- Cumin: Similar to the above, cumin has been linked with blood sugar regulation, fighting inflammation. Cumin also has anti-bacterial properties and aids in digestion by stimulating pancreatic enzyme secretion which assists in the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients.
- Chilli & Cayenne pepper: The potent ingredient capsaicin in these spicy powers act to improve health in a number of ways, combined with vitamin A they will help fight inflammation, stimulate the digestive tract and boot immunity.
- Paprika: An awesome flavour addition to many things, paprika is high in vitamin C which aids in healing, recovery and iron absorption. It also contains capsaicin and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Nutmeg: Another great addition to many dishes and meats, nutmeg also has a number of beneficial properties, including increasing circulation, calming muscle spasms, anxiety, lowering blood pressure and helping concentration.
- Fennel: A versatile vegetable with powerful seeds. Fennel seeds have been shown to help with the maintenance of bone, preventing breakdown of bone. It has also been used for centuries as a digestive aid, while having high iron content and potentially helping the body flush toxins.
- Rock salt or sea salt: Salt should have a colour to it, bland white table salt is processed rubbish like table sugar. These salts are not only crucial to the bodies normal functioning, but aid in optimal health. To go without is a slow death sentence, to have on cooked foods and small amounts in water means vital trave minerals can play their roles in aiding the body to work efficiently and effectively. Oh and it makes food taste awesome.
- Black pepper: As with natural salt, pepper is an awesome addition to most foods to enhance taste, however, it also aids in the uptake of other compounds into the body. As well as containing manganese and vitamin k to help bone strength, making it a great addition to any meal.
I think that just about covers it for this week. Cafe Mint = awesome food and dining experience with incredibly helpful staff- shit, the waitress even had impressive guns. You know, arms…
Yeah, I was happy to see Merguez sausages…
And on that, I’ll leave it.
Go eat some Middle Eastern food today- and start stocking and using spices every day.
MC & NN
p.s. Want a bunch of my own awesome recipes? Check out ‘The Alpha Cook Book’