Strawberry Jam

MayaOryanStrawberryJam

Who among us has never stopped in front of a street vendor mouth-watering over fresh oranges, roasted chestnuts, fluffy cotton candy, and the list is endless!

I love the way in Lebanon, street food merchants display their goods. When a fruit or a vegetable is in season, here they are, conveniently scattered everywhere, making sure you bump into one of them before you reach home. No matter what direction you’re driving in! And the best part about it, Sweet Heaven, you don’t have to leave your vehicle; Free Car Delivery!

I think best sellers in Lebanon are fresh fava beans (a.k.a. broad beans)!

Fresh peas, Greengage plums (janerik), loquat (akidinye), are quite popular as well, and very dear to every Lebanese’s heart:)

As for me I felt for strawberries yesterday. Small, aromatic and intensely sweet! The smaller ones are more tasteful than the large ones. I let my nose be my guide and look for fragrance rather than color. A sweet aroma is the best indication of good flavor. And at this really affordable price, why not buy a large quantity to make some jam that kids can enjoy and mommy can show off with her super easy recipe without using a pectin;-)

Ingredients

  • 1 kg fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 600g / 2½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation

Place the hulled strawberries in a big salad bowl and cover with sugar. Let it rest for 10 hours, preferably in the fridge if the weather is hot.

In a heavy based saucepan transfer the syrup without the strawberries and bring to boil for 10mn on a low flame.

Add the strawberries and the lemon juice and cook for about 25mn or until a small amount of the juice gels on a chilled plate.

Pour carefully in jars and keep refrigerated. Consume within a month.

Yield: 3 to 4 jars, 370g each

Tip: If desired, one extra cup of sugar can be added to increase the quantity and sweeten the flavor.

Awwamaat on Saint Barbara’s Day

AwwammatbyMayaOryanOn Saint Barbara’s day or Eid-il-Berbara, Lebanese children disguised in costumes roam the streets, knocking on the doors, collecting candies and treats and singing Heyshleh Barbara. A yearly celebration very similar to Halloween, but celebrated on the 3rd of December.

The Lebanese story says that Saint Barbara escaped her pagan father who refused to let her convert to Christianity. She disguised herself in different costumes (thus the tradition of dressing up and wearing masks) to hide from her father who was persecuting her.

I grew up in a neighborhood where they gave coins on Saint Barbara’s day instead of sweets. Can you imagine what a happy child I was on that day!

My dad used to cook “awwamaat” (or ouwaymet) as a traditional food for the occasion. A true delish!

Awwamaat are small balls of dough, the size of a walnut, deep-fried to a golden browned crisp and then soaked in sugar syrup.

I fondly remember my dad in the kitchen frying these doughnuts, while I’m waiting for him to finish to gobble it all up. There’s no way to eat just one!

Other sweets for the occasion include Atayef, they’re like pancakes stuffed with walnut and a rich cream called Ashta, and sweetened boiled barley.

Awwamaat are also part of the traditional celebration of Ghtas, Christ’s baptismal night, but were mostly famous at our house on Barbara’s feast. The perfect treat to enjoy on that day!

And this is how my dad made them:

Middle Eastern Awwamaat on Saint Barbara’s Day

Ingredients:

Donuts

  • 3 cups flour
  • ¼ tsp dry yeast
  • 2 ½ cups water, lukewarm
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Oil for deep frying

Syrup

  • 2 ½ cup of white sugar
  • 1½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2tsp rose water

Preparation

1.To make the syrup, dissolve sugar in water, add the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Remove the foam on the top. Simmer for 10mn while gently stirring and until it becomes thick. Add rose water and set aside to cold.

2.To make the dough, mix flour and sugar in a large bowl. Dissolve yeast in warm water and slowly add it until dough forms. Knead well. Cover the dough with a wet cloth and leave to rise 1 to 2 hours.

3.Heat oil and drop mixture using a wet teaspoon or form ball shape with hands and drop in oil. Remove from oil when golden brown and drain on absorbent paper. Dip with syrup when still warm. Serve hot or cold.

Traditional Style Meghleh

For Chloe and Ella

My close friends Carole and Elie recently have been blessed with two beautiful girls! Newborn babies are like angels with their tiny fingers and tiny everything:) What an amazing feeling, incapable of expressing in words. I know, because I’m a mother of 2 girls too. My love for Kaia and Axel is growing bigger every day. They are my whole world! They make my heart melt away especially in the morning when they come to our bed with their messy hair on their faces and cute nightdresses.

“I’m so happy for you Carole, your heart will melt away too when Chloe will hold to your pinky and when Ella will start squeezing you tightly. I wish them a happy life, God bless them and let them always be healthy, safe and sound”.

Now back to our Lebanese heritage, Meghleh is the dessert we offer when relatives and friends are over to congratulate parents for the birth of their baby. It is also served on Christmas to celebrate the glorious birth of Jesus Christ.

A powder rice based treat spiced with cinnamon, caraway and aniseed powder. A very special taste different from any other dessert I know and full with flavor sensations. I love it more when topped with nuts, it makes it look more appealing and taste delish.

My kitchen today is a far better place with the smell of Meghleh cooking!

Welcome Chloe and Ella, this one goes for you!

Traditional Lebanese Meghleh

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powder rice
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 7 to 8 cups water
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon ground
  • 1 tbsp aniseed powder
  • 1 tbsp caraway powder

To garnish 

  • Coconut powder
  • Walnuts (soaked)
  • Almonds (soaked)
  • Pine nuts (soaked and peeled)
  • Pistachios (soaked and peeled)

Preparation

  1. In a large saucepan dissolve rice powder and sugar in water, add spices and bring to a boil stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens or about 15 to 10 minutes.
  2. Spoon the mixture evenly in serving cups.
  3. Serve cold, covered with grated coconut and nuts. (It’s better to garnish just before serving)

Another Lebanese Dessert, the Snayniyeh!

Lebanese are very special when it comes to languages. I, like many Lebanese, speak to my daughter in French, send her to a school where she learns English and Arabic and lives in a country where the spoken language is Lebanese.

Gulf countries have a translation for every foreign word while we Lebanese have our own mishmash of languages, we don’t mind speaking 3 languages in one sentence; if it’s a computer then let’s call it a computer and not “hassoub”, and if French call it Filet, don’t think hard, everybody knows what Filet de boeuf is. I love this! It’s not complicated!

So when Kaia, asks me: “Mom what is cheese in Arabic?”, I proudly answer: “Jibneh”, but if she asks: “What is Cheese Cake?”. I answer: “It’s Cheese Cake!” Who knows what Gateau jibin is!

This morning she asked: “What is Snayniyeh in French?” I said: “It’s Snayniyeh!”. “And in English?” I answered: “Also Snayniyeh!”. She smiled and said: “It’s funny!

Fair enough, no? Italians have Tiramisu and Panna cotta we Lebanese have Snayniyeh and Meghleh. Why try calling it anything else!

Every name hides a little story behind. Snayniyeh is derived from “snan”, which means teeth in Lebanese and this scrumptious dessert is usually prepared to celebrate the appearance of a child’s first tooth. A sure phenomenal event for every mom!

I love our traditions! Meghleh to celebrate the birth of a child, Snayniyeh for teething, Maamoul for Easter and Awwamat for Ghtas (Christ’s baptismal night), isn’t it sweet☺

The name Snayniyeh put a smile on many faces as it brings back sweet memories! It’s simple and healthy and this is how I make it.

Ingredients

  • 1cup hulled wheat, washed and rinsed (in Arabic ameh ma’chour)
  • 1lt water
  • 1 large pomegranate, peeled and seeded
  • 3/4cup icing sugar
  • 1/2cup orange-blossom water
  • 1/2cup pistachios, soaked in water for about 1 hour
  • 1/2cup almonds, soaked in water for about 1 hour
  • 1/2cup walnuts, soaked in water for about 1 hour
  • 1/2cup sugared chick peas

Preparation

  1. Cook the wheat in boiling water for an hour or until tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in icing sugar and orange-blossom water.
  3. Mix with the pomegranate seeds.
  4. Scatter the rest of the ingredients on the top and serve hot or cold.