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Working or practicing the piano seemed to require a lot of mental and physical energy that does not come easily to me when ill.. That’s what is fantastic about cooking, it just happens. I also had a lot of left over apples from my mom’s garden that looked pretty sad sitting unwanted on my kitchen table. I have made this pie before for my brother and sister in law and they loved it. It is quite a wholesome and satisfying desert that suits the winter months. I have taken the recipe from my dear friend Magda from My Little Expat Kitchen. In some ways, it resembles a crumble but with a wonderful caky exterior.
I have done one adjustment to the recipe and that is adding 40g of oat flour instead of all plain flour and instead of the bread crumbs I added toasted rolled oats to absorb the juices form the apples.
Most cities by the sea posses a certain kind of beauty. Beirut is one of those cities. Like a beautiful woman who is aware of her looks and awaits for no adoration, there is blue wherever you look; a clear sky that is adorned with the beautiful blue Mediterranean sea.
It was a brief trip we took- luckily there was enough time to visit a mountain area an hour outside Beirut called Jbeil. The latter was really the high light of our trip. Jbeil had an exciting street life with bars scattered around and little churches placed in various areas.
What was striking about the food we had in Lebanon was how fresh the fruits and vegetables were. Unglamorous pool side dishes like fatoush salad and grilled shishtaouk were excellent. We tried a fusion restaurant called Casablanca– I had a shiitake spring roll dipped with minted soya sauce with grilled Asparagus. Last day in Beirut my daughter, dad and myslef decided to venture into down town- riding in a taxi in Beirut is fun- sometimes taxi drivers can be moody and rude- but the guy that we rode with was witty and we laughed a lot at his jokes- of course he completely ignored our request to not light up a cigarette in the car because we had a child with us. All in all it was a happy and short trip and i have to say it felt safe to be there- even though it was empty of tourists.
April was a busy month with part of it spent in Jordan. Spring in Jordan is a wonderful time of the year when the air is cool, gentle sun and most places you look at are carpeted with a beautiful green. As soon as we arrived, my good friend Lara told me of a picnic they are arranging forty minutes outside Amman in Madaba. On our little picnic I met a fellow food blogger from Chef Sally Jane– Image of Sally on the barbecue below, cooking her meats. She just moved to Amman and you can visit and see her own view/perspective and experiences of Jordan. One of the heighlights of our Picnic is the Syrian Sheperd we met. The children loved his flock of Sheep.
Even though our trip was a short one we still managed to do lots and cook more than we do in Dubai as we get more people stopping by to eat. Below are images of the organic market on Fridays in Wild Jordan Cafe. It is a fun gathering for the children. We get our organic eggs and vegetables from the north mountains of Ajloun. I cooked a few things that week like Magda’s Greek Rivani cake. We also got to buy strained goat yoghurt. We roll them into balls, dry them in the fridge and preserve them in olive oil. Labneh balls are a daily staple for us. We smudge it on morning toast or spread inside sandwiches.
Then we cooked few extra things like Greek Vegetable Briam, my grand mother’s Circassian Gash Bitt which I will post about later. Both vegetarian dishes and both delicious. The Gash Bitt is basically lentils cooked into a paste then garnished with hot chilli pepper oil. Very warming and spicy, suitable in the winter months. There were also wild rice stuffed peppers with potatos and foul medames and tuna salad with sausages for dinner one night. Deserts were the fruit crunch and banoffee pie. We visited a newly opened Palestinian Embroidery Museum in Jordan called Tiraz- it was fascinating to learn about the stitches women wove into their dresses to mark the different stages of their lives. Each village and town had its own distinctive design, colors and textures.
FFinally few items in my kitchen this month are three, each 3 kg Valrhona chocolates from my supplier in Jordan. These go into all sorts of deserts and in particular the chocolate scotch bars from Celia’s recipe. Even since my grand mother past away I’ve wanted to take/keep some of her kitchen items so finally gathered the courage to go into her home and take them. And last but not least I leave you with some images from walking around Amman on a friday morning. If you are wondering about other kitchens around the world please visit Celia’s.
I love cooking and posting simple recipes that are so quick to cook and yet savoury and wholesome. Foul Medames aka Ful is an Egyptian vegetarian dish made of fava beans and is the epitome of wholesomeness. The most common way to cook these beans is to find the canned variety. I find that the Ma Ling chinese canned Foul to be great in taste and texture. After rinsing, just boil in half a cup of water on medium heat for 5-10 minutes. What makes this dish special is all the stuff that you will add inside and on top of it once it is cooked. I usually boil it with one crushed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder and once I feel the beans are soft, I remove off the heat add salt, crushed black peppers and mush half the beans with a fork. I pour in one cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil and mix it all up. I start layering the cut up vegetables on top: chopped onions, baby ripe tomatoes, parsley, green peppers and green thai chillies (heat from the cooked beans soften the vegetables ever so slightly yet remaining raw and crunchy. I did not write up a specific measurement as you really should add what suits your taste. When I make this I usually use two canned beans and therefore one crushed garlic per can and half teaspoon cumin per can. So the whole lemon is for two cans. Again what brings out the flavour of the beans is the lemon, olive oil and fresh vegetables you add. It is usually dipped and eaten with pitta bread, using your hands! Bon Appetit.
There are certain cooking steps I do when a simple pasta pomodoro is in order. Water has to be salted, oiled and boiling before I drop my spaggheti in. My friend Eugenia used to tell me that the water has to taste like the sea. I know that this will not be waisted as the same water will be used to thicken the sauce. When you cook a pasta as simple as this one, ingredients must speak for themselves. Freshly picked quality ingredients. Yes there are times where I would use tinned tomatoes but not today.I wanted a sweet and light tomato sauce. Not too red but rather pink and viscously mixed with the finest olive oil and wine. So I boiled the tomatoes briefly and sieved through a food mill. I got a light sauce that resembles Gazpacho in consistency. I crushed 3 small garlics and sliced three more very thinly. Placed them in the pan with the cold olive oil and some fresh dried chili flakes. Usually I fry the garlic lightly and as soon as a whiff of it comes out I drop in my tinned tomatoes. Today I simply infused the oil with the garlic and chillies and brought it to a gentle heat. I used some sun dried tomatopaste and a cube of brown sugar to bring all the tastes together. Once the base of the sauce was concocted I dropped the freshly milled tomato juice, dried oregano, red wine, one cup of salted pasta water and the pasta. The latter was hardly cooked as I wanted it to cook in the sauce. It was the lightest and tastiest pasta I have eaten!. Bon Appetit.
Everything comes out of something right? We get inspired by people, some of us even copy each other (you know who you are). Basically it is rare for someone to simply invent something out of nothing..So Sally in My Custard Pie has inspired me to get back to souping few times a week! She took part in a London Foodie blogger #Jump15. Basically they follow this healthy plan of having soup for lunch everyday. With this inspired healthy foodie plan, one is meant to get into juicing fruits and veggies in the morning, soup for lunch and dinner is what ever you have cooked. I guess it is a way of thinking about what you are eating and increasing greens and fruits. I lasted on it for five minutes. It just didn’t work for me I have to say. I was very hungry way too early in the morning just after my juice and right after my lunch of soup. So I think it suits people whose blood sugar level are stable and have the discipline to wait for supper to have a proper meal. So even though it didn’t fully work for me I loved that I got to make soup few times a week and think of all the things one can do with fruits and vegetables. Method Boil the corn cobs after washing, in salted water for 30/40 minutes. I used that water for the soup later. Fry the onions, cubed red peppers, cubed celery stalks, celery leaves for 10 minutes in one table spoon half olive oil half grape seed oil. Once everything has softened and cooked scrape the kernels off the cobs and fry with the rest of the vegetables for another 10 minutes , until all cooked and tender. This is when I like to add some seasoning like salt/pepper, half a vegetable cube and add boiled water. Let it all boil for a good 40 minutes ad let it sit and cool down before you liquidate it into soup. I garnished the whole thing with diced red peppers, toasted corn and Plain large doritos and parsley.
Every new year and at around this time, I like to prepare Muhallabiya. I don’t know if it has become a tradition as such but it is possibly the easiest and most delicious of ‘white’ deserts to make. Cooking and eating something white is meant to bring good luck to the start of a year. The only challenge of presenting Muhallabiya, repetitively, yearly is how to present it differently? There’s a brilliant blogger account that I follow on instagram; when sheikha cooks who uses this same mould for cake. So when I saw this five finger (Khamsa) hand symbol in the shops, I had to get it and try to mould my milk pudding inside it. After many attempts and half a dozen eaten bowls of pudding that didn’t exactly set, it worked.Hamsa is the hand of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima. It is the symbol of patience, loyalty, faith and resistance against difficulties. According to common belief, it tells of the Fatima’s struggle for dignity and her tough life. Thereby, purity, goodness and truth are blessed. For centuries, Fatima’s Hand has been a powerful talisman for good luck and one of the most popular amulets in the world of Islam for protection. It is hung on the walls of the house as engraving in silver or gold or it is painted in red. It is believed that a house protected by the Hand of Fatima will not catch fire.
This time round, I doubled the recipe to fill up this very large mould. I also added some honey and crushed pistachio to the top of the pudding, once it set.
Lentil soup is nourishing for both the soul and the body. It is a favourite at winter time in the Middle East. And what gives it its wonderful flavour is the tiqlaye at the end of the souping. What I mean by that is the final step of frying the garlic and coriander in butter or olive oil and adding to the soup, sizzling hot. It is really the piece de resistance of this soup. This final touch gives a lot of Arabic dishes like Molokhia and many stews that distinctive salty, earthy flavour. Method
Fry the onion in half and half rape seed oil/olive oil. I always add some salt at this point so the onions don’t brown. Once soft (5-10 minutes) Add the chopped carrot and potato. Saute another 10 minutes. Add the lentils and water and veg cube and boil for 20 minutes (this is when I add the cumin seed powder and leave some till the end too) until all is cooked and tender. Liquidate in food processor or hand-held piece. On the side, fry the garlic and chopped coriander in 1 tsp butter and dash of olive oil until cooked- coriander becomes dark and garlic cooked but not burn. Add to the soup with the fat it’s cooked in. Bon Apetit
P.S if you want to increase amount just double everything. Although I always like to not add too big a quantity of lentils to vegetable ratio- in roder to taste the other vegetables- keep ratio of lentils to 1.5 cup if you are to double everything.
1 cup orange lentils
1 large onion finely chopped
1 large carrot cubed
1 large potato cubed
1/2 cup coriander leaves chopped
3 cloves garlic mashed with tsp sea salt
1.3 litre water
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 organic vegetable cube stock
table-spoon half/half rape seed oil +olive oil (for the actual soup)
tsp butter +tsp olive oil for the coriander garlic.
Salt/Pepper to taste
Every year and at around Christmas time my friend’s friend Kri arranges a wonderful get together for children and parents around her neighbourhood area. The kids build and decorate ginger bread houses. The pictures she would post look so wonderful and the activity immensely fun for children and adults alike. I decided that this year would be the year to try it out for children. With a little bit of research, pre baking and buying lots of sweets-the activity took place smoothly at our home. My favourite part to all this is seeing the kids’ uninterrupted focus, developing new skills in piping icing and thinking carefully of how they wanted to decorate those houses. I had to try it out myself few days before the invite, which of course was tremendous help- This is what I found out:The biscuit parts to the house need to be baked at least 4/5 days before. I knew that the icing had to be thicker than the one I initially tried- thicker icing meant the biscuits would hold together easier- so do stick to the measurements listed in the recipe. I also found out that after sticking together few walls, the pieces needed to dry completely before adding on the roof bits as they were the heaviest. The biscuits really need to be baked straight in order to hold up the houses properly.