Maamoul With Pistachios or Walnuts

Maamool-MayaOryan

It’s this time of the year where the neighborhood smells sweet. Housewives and women of the family would be traditionally gathering right now to bake batches of Maamool. The aroma sneaks out of the oven to reach every sense of smell around and makes one desire to eat Maamool instantly. Hopefully this ritual will never go out of style, as it adds excitement to this beautiful occasion.

Maamool is very popular in Lebanon during Easter and I’ve been asked for the recipe hundreds of times. I hope you will love it as much as I do and appreciate the artist behind this elegant treat. I think who ever invented it, did care about each of his taste buds. Who would have thought about the mix of this fragrant dough coming from the combination of the rose water and the orange blossom water. The result is a delicious cookie that melts in your mouth and the pistachio filling gives it a soft chomp. Impressive!

Maamoul With Pistachios or Walnuts

For 30 pieces

Ingredients

Maamoul Dough

  • 3 cups coarse semolina (ferkha)
  • 2 cups fine semolina (smeed naim)
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 3 sticks/300g of butter, melted (and let cool down) I use Lurpak blocks
  • 100ml of rose water
  • 30ml/2 tbsp of orange blossom water
  • ⅙ teaspoon instant yeast

Nut Filling

  • 200g of unsalted pistachio nuts or unsalted walnuts
  • ¾ cup of regular sugar
  • 2tbsp of rose water
  • 3tbsp of orange blossom water
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Preparation

  1. Mix coarse semolina, fine semolina and sugar together.
  2. Add yeast and melted butter and rub with hands until well combined.
  3. Gradually pour WARM orange blossom water and rose water, kneading the dough gently with hands. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a wet kitchen towel. Let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
  4. To make the filling, combine all ingredients.
  5. Divide the dough in 2. Scoop walnut size of maamoul dough and flatten it on the palm of your hand, fill it with pistachios or walnut filling and make a ball. Repeat this step until you finish the dough.
  6. Press gently each ball into a traditional “Maamoul” mold to take shape and tap out on the baking sheet to drop out of the mould. If the dough is sticky, lightly flour the mold.
  7. In a preheated oven 200C/400F bake the maamoul cookies for about 15-20mn or until the sides are slightly golden.
  8. Sprinkle with icing sugar, while still hot. Let cool down and sprinkle again until fully covered.

My Valentine Red Velvet Cake

Valentine Red Velvet Cake

Kids had few days off school as part of their winter break and instead of taking them to a ski vacation we flew to sunny Dubai and stayed at one of our favorite resort Atlantis the Palm, where kids had an amazing time on the beach with mommy (myself hihihi)  and friends. We’re lucky to have so many friends living in Dubai, which always makes of our vacation an unforgettable one.

Back to my kitchen and to my baking passion, an old recipe of a red velvet cake shouted at me across the room to urgently make it; I was so powerless over its lusciousness and didn’t hesitate for a second.

I usually prefer dry cakes without any frosting on, but this combination of red velvet cake and vanilla cream cheese frosting is gorgeous and I’m sure once you try it you will stay hooked.

I had fun writing words with my children to top each slice of the cake, we wrote much more than we needed as some of them got broken while peeling them off the paper, but no one minded eating an extra piece of chocolate, they clearly have a sweet tooth like mommy.

Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp red food coloring
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 450g / 16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups icing sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate to make the toppers (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 185°C. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pan.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

Mix together cocoa powder and food coloring to form a paste and add it to the egg mixture.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, gradually to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk, beat until well incorporated, making sure to scrape down the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.

Mix baking soda and vinegar together and add.

Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake 30-40 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pressed with finger.

Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting: Whisk together cream cheese and butter until smooth.

Add, sugar, vanilla and salt and beat on medium-high speed until well combined.

Spread the cream cheese over the top of one of the cakes and on top (bottom up). Now spread the remaining cream cheese to cover the cakes from all sides, and decorate if desired.

To make the toppers: Melt chocolate over a bain-marie and fill it in a squeeze bottle or a piping bag. Write words (like love, kisses, hugs, xoxo, valentine) on a wax paper and wait few minutes to cool. Once the chocolate is hard, peel it off the paper and insert it gently in the cream.

Chocolate Stout Cake

Photography Serge Oryan

Photography Serge Oryan www.sergeoryan.com

I don’t remember having a cake with beer inside until few months back when I was in New York City. My friend insisted that I try some, telling me that it doesn’t taste like beer at all. She was right it doesn’t taste the beer, but the stout inside adds a twist that calls you for a second bite and more. It’s moist, unlike you might be thinking it’s not bitter, but does have a deep tang.

I browsed few recipes online, all very similar. Most use sour cream, but I prefer the fresh organic yogurt I get straight from the farm. I used Almaza Lebanese beer, which I love, but you can use Guinness or your favorite dark beer.

I baked this same cake twice this week, and every single bite was a true dose of happiness!

Ingredients:

  • 100g / 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 ½ cup dark beer
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of Salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 185°C. Grease and flour a cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat butter, beer, and milk. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla. Add yogurt and mix until incorporated.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Fold the dry flour mixture, gradually in the wet beer mixture, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 40-50 minutes, until cake springs back when gently pressed with finger.
  6. Let cool in pan on rack.

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.

 

Thai Coconut Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Noodles

MayaOryan-IMG_3894

It has been really cold outside the last couple of days; winter has definitely arrived, temperature has dropped, and the wind is whipping up rain, thunder and grey sky.

Since I have the cold, I feel that there’s nothing better than cocooning inside my home and cozying up to the fireplace while sipping home made hot chocolate or a hearty warm soup.

Being sick is not fun especially when your nose is so congested that all food seems tasteless. I was craving for spicy meals and intense flavors when this recipe came to my mind.

It was ready in no time mostly because I had all the ingredients available. I love this soup, it’s creamy, flavorful and easy to prepare. Add chicken and it will become a complete meal.

Enjoy!

Thai Coconut Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 thumbed-size piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced (green part only)
  • ½ cup shiitake mushrooms fresh or in a jar, sliced
  • 100g noodles
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation

  1. Heat oil and cook ginger and curry paste for 1 minute.
  2. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk, carrots, green onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add noodles and cook for further 2 minutes. Stir in lime juice and season with salt. Serve hot.

Creamy Hot Chocolate With Cinnamon

Hot Chocolate by Maya Oryan

My Christmas shopping started in Paris, I was there just 2 weeks before Christmas, it was the perfect time of the year to visit the city and enjoy its chic boutiques, festive decorations and fairy lights.

I stayed in the 16th arrondissement, not too far from Trocadero and Eiffel tower, despite the cold weather I made sure to walk every day outside and take a hot chocolate break in one of the Parisian gourmet cafés to warm my hands and satisfy my taste buds.

Paris is where the best hot chocolate is found! Enriched with a little cream or milk, Parisian hot chocolate is served thick, velvety and rich. The luxury comes from the excellent quality chocolate concoctions they add.

Cocoa contains flavonoids, antioxidant-rich pigments that relax blood vessels and promote cardiovascular health, but also if consumed in large quantities it can expand my waistline, therefore I like to flavor my drink with cinnamon or vanilla and drink it in an espresso-size cup.

Traveling with my lifetime friend Nidal!!

Time for a selfie with my lifetime friend Nidal!!

Creamy Hot Chocolate With Cinnamon 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or cow milk)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon (or more)
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt (preferably fleur de sel)

Preparation

  1. Bring milk and cinnamon to a boil. Let simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in vigorously cocoa powder, chocolate, sugar and salt, until mixture is frothy.
  3. Divide among 2 mugs and garnish with mini marshmallows or cinnamon sticks if desired.

Lebanese Lentil Soup – Aadass bi Hamod

MayaOryan-IMG_3904

Lebanese lentil soup is a meal in itself, packed with lentils and potatoes and often enjoyed with the addition of toasted bread. A hearty, healthy and warm bowl of this soup is the perfect solution on a rainy and cold day.

Lebanese Lentil Soup

Serves 4 • Preparation Time 20 minutes • Cooking Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups lentils, washed and rinsed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 450g / 1 bunch of fresh Swiss chard, washed and chopped coarsely
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ cup onions, chopped
  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil, to taste

Preparation

  1. Bring a medium size pot, of 1L, of salted water to a boil and add lentils to half cook.
  2. Add potatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add chards and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  4. Heat oil and sauté coriander and onions in a separate skillet until wilt. Add to lentils.
  5. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add lemon juice off heat and while soup is still hot. Serve.
  6. This is a healthy and tasty vegetarian soup that can be served with toasted Lebanese bread (pita), if desired.