Stuffed Vine Leaves

MayaOryanIMG_8508-RPhotography Serge Oryan

Stuffed vine leaves are as easy as a salad to make! It has to be easy since this recipe was among the first ones I learned. In fact you combine all the ingredients same as you do for a salad, drizzle the olive oil and the lemon juice and start the stuffing. The rolling is not that complicated!

An authentic traditional recipe, prepared just like my mom and her mom before her. Stuffed vine leaves are really moreish, these juicy little bites, melting soft in the mouth are best consumed as an appetizer or as a main dish.This dish is one of the essential plates in Lebanese mezze. Because it’s vegetarian, it makes it a popular staple during the Lent period.

Full with nutritious ingredients, this meal is a heart-healthy choice for almost anyone. According to the nutrition data, Grape leaves are low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacin and Iron, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6 and Folate. They can provide your body with beneficial nutrients, from Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese to omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. What’s not to like about that!

 One last note, if using canned grape leaves, rinse the leaves gently with warm water and use, while fresh grape leaves have to be soaked in hot water for 10-15 minutes before using.

Ingredients

  • 250g grape vine leaves
  • 1½ cup uncooked short grain rice
  • 4 cups parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup chickpeas, canned or cooked
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sweet pepper
  • 1-2 Potatoes, sliced in circles
  • Water
  • 2-3 tomatoes slices in circles

Preparation

To prepare the stuffing, combine uncooked rice, parsley, mint, onions, tomatoes and chickpeas in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, layer the potatoes slices as one layer.

Open flat the grape vine leaf, shiny side down, spoon inside the parsley rice mixture and roll tightly, closing the sides first. Arrange in pan placing the rolls closely one to the other. To finish, top with a layer of tomato slices and strain the reserve stuffing liquid over all.

Place a large plate on the top of the rolls to keep them holding together. Cover with water and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes.

Let cool and serve with yogurt. Garnish with lemon slices and mint leaves.

Note: You might finish the stuffing before the leaves, or the leaves before the stuffing. I tried to be as close as possible to the quantity of the ingredients, but it varies from one size of leaf to other and depends on the amount of stuffing you use in each roll.

 

Freekeh, A Festive Recipe

Freekeh-MayaOryan

Just when I finally learned how to regularly incorporate quinoa in my cuisine, another new grain starts surging in popularity, loaded with nutritional and healthy benefits, containing more protein and double the amount of fiber as quinoa. I’m talking about FREEKEH!

Freekeh, (frikeh, fah-reek or farik) is obtained from wheat that is harvested while the grains are still green, soft and immature. They are gently roasted so only the chaff burn and not the seeds. After roasting the wheat is thrashed and rubbed -thus the name in Arabic fareek, which means rubbed. Grains inside are too moist to burn and the result is a smoky, nutty wheat with a distinct taste.

Recipes passed from one generation to another, have always a special place in our hearts especially if it brings along all the wonderful souvenirs from our childhood.

My dad’s hometown is Jdeidet Marjeyoun, located in the south of Lebanon, where freekeh is part of the town’s culinary heritage. He cooked us meals using Freekeh only on special occasions. For a long time I somehow forgot about this grain, until recently I started to use it more often, and just like my dad “on special occasions”!

This festive recipe brings joy to my guests and family, tasting delicious and looking outstanding. Can easily combined with your favorite chicken recipe, beef or lamb. I chose today to cook it with vegetables and top it with salmon.

The wait is over, time to knock out old recipes and try something different and bedazzling, this Christmas!

Vegetables and Smoked Salmon Freekeh

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium size white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups frikeh, washed and soaked at least 1 hour
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced
  • ¾ cup carrots, diced
  • ½ cup artichoke bottoms, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Thyme leaves (optional)
  • Smoked Salmon, to garnish

Directions:

1.In a medium saucepan, heat oil and sauté the zucchinis, the carrots and the artichokes until cooked. Season with salt.

2.In a separate heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and transparent. Add in the freekeh and cook, for 2 minutes.

3.Add wine to the softened onions and cook until the liquid has evaporated off.

4.Pour in 1 cup of boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat this process until freekeh is thick and creamy; the freekeh should still have some chew to it. Season to taste.

5.If the freekeh is still hard. It has to be cooked with additional boiling water.

6.Once the freekeh is cooked, mix in the vegetables and finish with 1 cup of stock. Let simmer a couple of minutes until it is entirely absorbed.

7.To transfer this meal into a festive dish, put freekeh in a small serving bowl and top it with thyme leaves. Cover the bowl with a dinner plate and flip it swiftly upside down. Decorate it with smoked salmon and lemon wedges and serve immediately.

 

Meatballs, Potatoes and Rice – Daoud Bacha w Riz

Daoud Bacha and Rice - Photo by Serge Oryan

Daoud Bacha and Rice – Photo by Serge Oryan

If I were ever granted one superpower, I’d want the ability to manipulate time. Forward. Stop. Rewind.

It would come in helpful to forward insignificant days, zap undesirable phases, lap disappointing circumstances.

If I can stop time it will enable me to do all the things I want and I will never miss a deadline. How many times you wished for a moment to never end, for a pleasure to prolong in measures you never reached before, for those thrilling feelings to last longer.

If I can rewind time, I will have perfect control over my destiny. Not only I’d use this ability to catch back opportunities I never thought they were important, but also to run through again memories and time that touched my heart.

If you were granted one superpower, what would it be?

Last time I did meatballs, my friend Carole who lives in Dubai came over for lunch with her beautiful daughters, we sat all around the table and enjoyed a meal together and laughed. How I wish right now to rewind this day and live it as is all over again:)

Meatballs, Potatoes and Rice

Ingredients

  • 450g beef ground meat
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumb
  • 3 tbsp Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups potatoes, diced
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Pine nuts, toasted (optional)

Directions

In a small bowl, sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper and parsley, add the egg, flour and breadcrumbs and mix. Make small balls.

Heat oil in a large pot and add the meatballs to cook until browned on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside.

In same pot, add oil and drop in the onions and garlic to fry until golden. Add potatoes and tomatoes and mix gently. Cover with water and let it simmer on medium heat. Spoon the tomato paste in and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 20-25 minutes.

Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with rice on the side.

Two-Potato Gratin

Two-Potato Gratin IMG_4645

Hello storm, you’re wild and angry, violent and reckless and I don’t seem to like you! I’m nothing like ready for cold obviously; a powerful storm with violent winds and heavy hail and rainfall is ripping through Lebanon leaving me with limited desire to step out.

Meantime schools are shut and my daughters are, with all the kids of the neighborhood, celebrating the happy occasion. My doorbell kept on ringing, kids in kids out, …well if I look at it from the bright side, it was a good exercise for me especially that I skipped gym this morning;-)

So it was almost lunchtime and I still haven’t decided on what to cook! I went roaming in the kitchen when my sight fell on potatoes. Since I didn’t have enough of gold potatoes to make a large dish of gratin enough for guests and us, I added sweet potatoes! Results were gorgeous and crunchy. Yummm!

I have decided to eat more vegetarian food during January and I proudly add this recipe to my meat-free repertoire. I added a dash of curry to it while the cream was simmering and some parmesan cheese on the top before baking, that I don’t mention in below recipe, but now that I reveal it you may want to try it with curry or even chili for some spicy flavor.

Two-Potato Gratin 

Ingredients

  • 2 kg potatoes (half sweet potatoes and half gold), sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup Emmenthal cheese

Preparation

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Butter a shallow ceramic baking dish.
  2. Pour the cream in a large saucepan, add salt, pepper, nutmeg and heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and drizzle with olive oil and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from the heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half of the potatoes, layer them and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Top with the remaining potatoes; pour the cream mixture and sprinkle with the Emmenthal cheese.
  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes until gorgeous and golden on the top.

Makhlouta

Food Styling by Maya Oryan - Photography by Serge Oryan

Food Styling by Maya Oryan – Photography by Serge Oryan

Mornings are the worst when one is sick. I still have the cold and waking up in the morning with a persistent cough and a very dry throat.

My beloved husband came to bed this morning, with some freshly squeezed OJ and told me: “I cooked Makhlouta for the kids and you”.

I guessed he was cooking Makhlouta as I heard the pressure cooker whistling;-) It’s still awesome news, no! He knew I was too sick to enter the kitchen. How sweet of him!

I love how he didn’t say lunch or dinner, he said Makhlouta his favorite meal -and mine- on a cold winter day like today.

Makhlouta is a Lebanese traditional stew that means “mixed” because it consists of a mixture of pulses and beans. There’s no straight recipe, it can be any kind of 5 to 7 pulses and grains. Open your kitchen cabinet or check your pantry and take a handful of every grain you have there.

I grew in the heart of the city and my parents never cooked Makhlouta for us, while my husband grew in a Lebanese village called Baskinta situated at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level. The winter in Baskinta is cold and snowy, so many dishes are pulses based and Makhlouta is a meal you can eat twice a week. Now that we are married, anytime I ask him what to cook, his answer would be anything with whole grains.

Makhlouta is loaded with fibers and protein, its simple ingredients makes of it a very easy vegetarian thick soup.

This recipe uses pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, whole wheat, brown rice and cracked wheat but feel free to use any 5 to 6 variety of your choice like broad beans, white beans, red kidney bean. The most common is to use brown lentils, but this recipe uses a mix of 3 colors lentils as we had an organic mix in our pantry.

NOT ONLY HE COOKED FOR ME, BUT HE ALSO TOOK THIS BEAUTIFUL, MOUTH-WATERING PHOTO! SERGE YOU’RE A TREASURE!

Makhlouta

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup mixed 3 colors lentils, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup brown rice, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup Burghul or cracked wheat, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup whole wheat
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 cup pinto beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked in water overnight
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin (optional)
  • Extra virgin Olive oil, to drizzle

 Preparation

  1. Drain and rinse the beans and the chickpeas. Place it in a pressure cook, cover with water and let cook.
  2. In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the onion until wilt and brown.
  3. Add lentils, rice, burghul, whole wheat and water and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the cooked beans and chickpeas, with their water, stir in tomato paste. Season with salt, and cumin if desired, and simmer until everything is tender.
  5. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Tip 1: If you’re not using a pressure cook, place the beans in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer. Let it cook until tender; this might take a little over an hour, depends on how fresh are the dried beans.

Tip 2: While soaking the beans, you may rinse and change the water after a couple of hours, if you want. Use a lot of water as the beans will grow in size and volume.

 

Lahm Bi Aajeen Bouchée or Meat Pie

LahemBi Aajeen

Last Christmas, during our annual family party, my dad, who worked closely with chef Antoine Hajj, offered for each one of us, a copy of his book: Maa’kool Al Hana.

A quick note for my western readers; Chef Antoine is a Lebanese celebrity chef who has a TV show and the author of the cooking book Maa’kool Al Hana; an approximate of 600 pages cooking book!!

We all loved dad’s Christmas gift. Especially that it had a personalized dedication inside from Chef Antoine himself.

Mom, sisters and I (second one from left) holding our Christmas gift

Mom, sisters and I (second one from left) holding our Christmas gift

During this past year I tried many recipes from the book, but the one I want to share with you today is a recipe that several readers have requested. It is The Lebanese Meat Pie or Lahm Bi Aajeen.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose-flour (+ 3tbsp extra to flour the surface)
  • 1 cup / 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ tbsp (7g) instant yeast
  • ½ tsp (5g) salt
  • ½ cup water

Filling

  • 350g lamb minced meat (I used beef)
  • 100g onion, finely minced
  • 2 (300g) tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp (30g) pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp (30g) pomegranate molasses (I used Al Wadi Al Akhdar)
  • 1 tsp (10g) salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Preparation

  1. In a bowl, pour butter over flour, add yeast and salt and mix using your hands or a food processor.
  2. Add water gradually and knead until the dough is consistent. Cover with a tea towel and let it rest for half an hour.
  3. In a deep bowl add meat, onion, tomatoes, pine nuts and pomegranate molasses, season with salt, pepper and cinnamon and combine well.
  4. Flour your work surface and flatten the dough to 5mm (1/3 inch) thickness. Cut in into 10cm circles. You can use a cup if desired or take balls of dough the size of eggs and press each into a round by hand.
  5. Place the dough on a floured baking tray and spread two tablespoons of meat mixture into the centre of every circle.
  6. Pinch together the two opposing ends of the circle and then the two opposing other ends, to make square shapes, leaving the top open.
  7. Heat the oven at 200°C. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until meat is fully cooked and the dough turns crisp and golden.

 

 

 

 

 

Figs and Brie Cheese Quiche

 

Picture taken by my talented daughter Kaia:)

Picture taken by my talented daughter Kaia:)

One of my clients sent me a pack full of pastries; shortcrust ready rolled, puff cases, filo sheets, … asking me to give him my feedback about the quality of the product.

So I spent the week, eating tarts, quiches and samosas! Not that I’m complaining. I guess you should know by now that my love for baking is unconditional.

Ready rolled pie pastries are one of my much-loved ingredients, especially after a long day at work. I often line my pie dish, flute edges and then open the fridge and think about the filling. Recipes with shortcrust pastries are versatile and trouble-free. I don’t think it is said easy as pie for nothing;-)

I wanted to break away from routine ingredients so I started with a pesto rosso spread, topped it with some blue cheese, slices of brie, sprigs of thyme, and dried figs. The outcome was a hit through! I served it for some friends visiting in the evening and as soon as I saw their heads nodding I knew I had the green light to share the recipe with you all.

KaiaOnSet-LR

Ingredients

  • 1 Pack of Shortcrust Pastry or “Pâte Brisée”
  • 2 tbsp pesto rosso
  • 2 tbsp blue cheese, crumbled
  • 150g Brie cheese, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 5 dried figs, sliced
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup low-fat milk
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Maple syrup to drizzle

Preparation

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Roll out dough on floured surface. Transfer to pie dish. Trim and flute the sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.
  3. Start by spreading the pesto on the crust.
  4. Distribute the blue cheese and decorate crust with slices of brie in a fan shape.
  5. Add thyme and figs.
  6. Beat eggs well. Add milk, pepper and salt. Pour over the filling and place pie dish on the middle oven rack.
  7. After 20mn, drizzle with maple syrup and place it back in the oven for another 10 to 15mn.
  8. Transfer tart to rack; cool 5 minutes.