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.

 

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.

Chicory salad – Hindbeh bi Zeit

MayaOryan-Hindbeh Bi Zeit

Lebanese meze is rich in vegetarian dishes. It is an array of sampling size dishes, mostly falling into the same “healthy” bracket, as most recipes contain vegetables, nuts, olive oil, fresh herbs and seeds.

The most popular dish is hummus, but there are also fattoosh, tabouleh, baba ghanouj, fateh, falafel, shankleesh, goat labneh, grilled halloum and many more. So if you prefer vegetables over meat, it’s definitely worth visiting a Lebanese restaurant where vegetarian dishes are served in abundance.

Hindbeh bi zeit is one typical example of salad also falling in the meze category and using simple fresh ingredients. It can be quickly prepared at home. If you can’t find chicory in your region try to look for dandelions, both will result a light and simple salad, tangy with lemon juice and garnished with crisp onions.

Chicory salad – Hindbeh bi Zeit

Serves 4 – Preparation Time 20 minutes – Cooking Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of fresh green chicory, washed and chopped coarsely
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil, to taste

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, heat oil and add onions to fry. Let cook until golden. Reserve some for garnishing.
  2. Add the chicory and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Season with salt. Let cook, on low heat, for about 10 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and drizzle with lemon juice.
  5. Serve at room temperature with olive oil and lemon wedges.

Another variation of the recipe  you can add sugar while frying the onions or make caramelized onions instead. You will love this salad with toasted pine nuts as well; sprinkle a handful at the end of your preparation.

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.