Bamia w Riz / Lamb and Okra Stew

MayaOryan-Okra with Rice

The Taste of Marjeyoun is a cookbook by Dina Bayoud Kohl and published by Tamyras. I was lucky enough to meet the author last October and purchase my signed copy of her book.

My dad’s lifelong love was his hometown Marjeyoun where he was born. Despite the fact that he moved to Beirut with his parents at a very young age, he always speaks fondly about his town, the people, the culture and the food.

Dina’s recipes are so authentic and easy to apply. They are like many Lebanese recipes exquisite and rich with healthy ingredients from pulses to vegetables to aromatic herbs like thyme, parsley and mint. I enjoyed trying many of them and results were always successful.

I particularly felt in love with the beef and okra stew recipe, healthy, refined and simply delicious. I may have changed a couple of steps on how Dina Bayoud Kohl makes it, but stayed loyal to the ingredients.

I’m reliving my dad’s tasty food with every bite I take! Live Love Marjeyoun:)

Ingredients:

• 2 tbsp vermicelli
• 2 cups long grain rice
• 800g Frozen Baby Okra
• 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
• 2 tbsp sunflower oil
• 2 medium Onions, finely chopped
• 5-6 Garlic cloves, crushed
• 500g Lamb meat, cubes
• 1tsp ground cinnamon
• 450g tomatoes, crushed
• 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
• ¼ tsp allspice
• Salt, to taste

Preparation:
1. Sauté the vermicelli in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil then add the rice and cook according to package instructions.
2. In a large bowl drizzle lemon juice over okra and set aside.
3. In a large pot, heat oil and sauté onions and garlic for about 5 minutes or until wilted and golden, stirring constantly. Add the meat and cinnamon and brown for about 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes over low-medium heat and 1 liter of water and let it simmer.
5. Add the okra, tomato paste, allspice and salt and cook covered for about 20 minutes or until the okra is cooked through. Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes and until the sauce slightly thickens. Serve with vermicelli rice.

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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 fiber and double the amount of protein as rice. 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.

 

Honey Tahini Cookies -(feat.video tutorial)

IMG_5765

I always wanted to post one of my recipe videos but kept on postponing thinking that it might be boring; until today, I was watching this recipe with my little daughter when she told me “this looks super easy, lets make some straight away!”

Not only I was happy that it took her only once to watch the video and wanting to try the recipe out, but also I was encouraged to upload my video and not to be nervous anymore about it.

If you love Halawa (Halva) you will love these cookies. They are both crisp and chewy and totally easy to make. The combination of Tahini and honey tastes like Halawa and who wants to resist this flavor.

These cookies will be your new favorite!

Honey Tahini Cookies

Makes 30

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick / 100g butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup tahini (I used Al Wadi Al Akhdar tahini)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually add the tahini, honey and orange blossom water.
  3. In a medium size bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour to tahini mixture, combining well until forming a dough.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 170°C or 350°
  6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands, take a walnut size of dough and shape into balls. Arrange them on the cookie sheet at least 2 inches / 5cm apart. Dip the tines of a fork in flour and gently press a crisscross pattern into each ball. Dip fork in flour after every cookie to avoid sticking.
  7. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 13-15 minutes or until the cookies begin to show cracks.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Raheb Salad or Grilled Eggplant Salad

BatenjenRaheb

My husband has been away for the past 10 days, so little action since he’s gone. Taking it easy, sleeping more, working out more, (cooking less), playing with the kids and drawing together, volunteering for school where I can see my girls in class and all the things I love and I miss doing.

Next week is going to be a busy week for me more photo shoots and more food styling.

LIVE Broadcasting from the gym, writing this post after my 5km run and feeling proud!

I present you “Batenjein Raheb”!  A vegetarian Lebanese dish, made of grilled eggplant mixed with olive oil and lemon juice, seasoned with salt and topped with fresh parsley, tomatoes, cucumber and pepper.

I don’t remember when did I shot this picture with Serge but am happy to find it because it’s one of my favorite salads especially during Lent, which is starting on Monday.

I love this time of the year, a time of prayer and reflection for many, and a period when people are closer to God. During their fast they abstain from eating meat and vegetarian meals come more in fashion. The Raheb salad for me is easily a main course especially when eaten with bread. I sure prefer to grill my eggplants at home and eat them fresh, but for those who have little time in the kitchen, grilled eggplants come also in jars and are very tasty.

Raheb Salad or Grilled Eggplant Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 kg eggplant
  • ½ cup Olive oil
  • ½ cup Lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped

Preparation

1.Pierce the eggplant with a fork, cover with foil and char grill over the stove burner on all sides. This will take around 15-20 minutes pending on how large is the eggplant. Alternatively, it can be grilled inside the oven on a baking tray for about 30 minutes.

2.Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3.Peel and scoop out the grilled pulp and discard charred skin. The pulp can be sieved to reduce the water.

4.Place the pulp in a bowl and mix with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

5.Layer with peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley and serve.