Jasmine and Fire by Salma Abdelnoor – Giveaway

Last June, I was offered 2 copies of the memoir Jasmine and Fire, one book for me and one book to giveaway.  I read my copy in few days and got busy all summer with trips and food styling jobs leaving blogging behind.

The book is about a Lebanese/American food and travel writer Salma Abdelnoor who decides to leave her New York life style for a year to live in Lebanon and reconnect with her roots. The book captivated me with every single word. I never thought that seeing Lebanon through Salma’s eyes would make me love this country more than I do. She opened my eyes on many Lebanese exclusive details, which I forgot how unique they were, and touched my heart with her stories on our long-lasting beautiful traditions, particularly our extraordinary food culture.

This is a book for all Lebanese and Lebanese originated to read and enjoy.

I’m so excited to offer you one copy. To enter the draw, send a message to my facebook inbox and include your name and country of residence. The deadline to enter the draw is Wednesday October 10, 2012 at 11:00am local time. The winner will be notified through his Facebook account.

All the best

Kishik porridge or Kishk

I came back from the gym to find out my handsome man making breakfast! Isn’t it great to have someone cooking for you! I’m so blessed I know! Not only the pictures he takes for my blog are amazing but he also loves cooking!!

My beautiful girl and petite adorée Kaia is back to school, and this means longer mornings for me to finish all those piled up tasks and to take pictures of food right before I eat it:)

Thursday, September 20, 2012. The Oryans breakfast menu is Kishik soup.

Lebanese Kishik powder is made from wheat (burghul) fermented with yogurt (laban). It’s a 10-days-process, that till now many of the Lebanese, especially living in the village including my mom-in-law Laure, prepare it every year in September as part of their pantry (mouneh) ingredients for winter. It’s cooked in many ways, my favorite is Kishik samosa style or Kishik porridge.

My share of kishik was delivered yesterday and Serge couldn’t wait to cook some. It’s one of his favorite food! It’s another staple in our house. He only makes it for breakfast, but many will eat it for lunch or dinner. I love it without the meat since it has always been a breakfast meal for me. A true delight!

Thankfully, my hubby is finally sharing his recipe!

Much love, Maya xx

Kishik porridge

Ingredients

▪    2 tbsp olive oil
▪    1 tbsp butter
▪    1 medium onion, chopped
▪    2 cloves garlic, crushed
▪    ½ kg lamb, ground (optional)
▪    2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
▪    1 potato, peeled and diced small
▪    1 cup kishik (found at stores who sell Mediterranean food)
▪    4 cups water
▪    Salt to taste
▪    ½ tsp white pepper

 Preparation

  1. In a pan, heat olive oil then melt the butter. Add the onions and sauté until soft and golden. Add chopped garlic and cook for another 3-5mn.
  2. If you’re cooking kishik with meat this is when you have to add it. Add meat to the pan and cook for 10mn. Add pine nuts. Stir. Add potatoes and sauté until tender.
  3. Lower the heat, add Kishik and water and stir well. Season with salt and white pepper.
  4. Stir thoroughly. Cook until the soup is thickened.

Artichoke ragoût with Rice

I opened my freezer to put some ice cream inside and realized that I can’t because it’s packed with Al Wadi Al Akhdar frozen vegetables. I recently was offered the whole range of their products and worked on more than 60 recipes for the re-launch of their website. I’m lucky I know to work on such a quality and tasty brand, but here’s what I encountered: food jam in my freezer!

I wasn’t planning to cook dinner! I was up at 7am, went to the gym, got back with full energy and worked like a happy busy bee, thinking of finishing my day with a nice warm bath and watching TV series in bed. So I stared at my freezer wondering either I eat the entire ice cream and work out an additional hour the next morning (Nope!) or forget about watching TV and cook something easy using some of those veggies.

It didn’t really take me time to decide, I’ve immediately chosen 2 bags of artichokes bottoms, one bag of baby carrots and some frozen coriander. In my recipe here below, I recommend using fresh vegetables, but if you were like me looking for a simple recipe that can be ready in no time, frozen vegetables are always my choice after fresh, especially on busy evenings.

My mom cooks this yakhne – like we Lebanese call a stew– with meat cubes and no coriander in it. It is also delicious, but since I prefer vegetarian meals, this is my version with an extra squeeze of lemon juice just before removing from heat.

“The food was ready in 45 minutes and Serge enjoyed a homemade dinner when he arrived! It just really can’t get any better than this!”.

Ingredients:

  • 500g frozen artichokes bottoms
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • ½ cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • Juice of one little lemon

Preparation

  1. In a bowl combine artichokes, potatoes and carrots. Dilute the flour in the water and pour in.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the onions, until golden.
  3. Add the garlic and the coriander, stirring frequently.
  4. Stir in the vegetables coated with flour. Season with salt and peppers. Cover with water and simmer on low heat until cooked well.
  5. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve with short grain rice and Lebanese flat bread.

Lebanese Classic Rice pudding or Riz Bi Haleeb

Image

Rice pudding was Kaia’s first favorite food. I used to cook it more when my girls were teething☺ I consider it more of a baby food than a dessert, because it reminds me of them sitting in their high chair enjoying eating Riz bi Haleeb.

It is an easy and simple recipe to prepare for the whole family. Every country around the world has its own version of rice pudding. I find the Lebanese recipe the best I’ve ever tasted. Perhaps, because of the use of the mastic gum that gives it a little of a light chewy feel and the aromatic fragrance of the orange blossom water.

Hope you and your kids enjoy this great old-fashioned dessert!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups full fat milk
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup short grain white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp mastic powder, pound
  • 1tbsp orange blossom water
  • Unsalted whole pistachios, to decorate
  • Unsalted ground pistachios, to decorate
  • Pine nuts, to decorate

Preparation

  1. Pour milk in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add sugar and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the rice and water. Stir well.
  3. Cook over medium heat for about 30mn or until the mixture is creamy, stirring constantly, making sure the rice doesn’t stick at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the mastic powder and the orange blossom water and cook for another 15mn until thickened.
  5. Remove from heat. Spoon the rice evenly among serving bowls.
  6. Decorate with pistachios and pine nuts. Served chilled.

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.

Mama’s Sfouf

I’m back to my kitchen, to my bed and most importantly to my family. Gosh! I missed my hubby and daughters. Four weeks away from home felt very long and slow. I felt the time freezing, as if the Earth was not rotating, but Thanks God, there’s a bright side for every story, because I was working with a wonderful team, on a very big brand, learning splendid recipes from a gifted chef.

I came back a week ago! I miss cooking so much that we had different menu everyday for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert. My family and I are overwhelmed.

The first item I want to share with you after my return is Sfouf cake.

Sfouf are fun! It’s a Lebanese dessert known for its distinctive yellow color coming from the addition of turmeric. Sfouf can be enjoyed with milk, tea or coffee. It contains no eggs or no butter, mix the ingredients the way you like and make sure you will get a superb cake flavored with aniseed and turmeric spices; two of the healthiest spices available. Like many recipes, the quantities varies from a kitchen to another, but my mom’s recipe is simply the best☺

Sfouf (Sfoof)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Semolina Flour
  • 3 cup Flour
  • 1cup Vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric (a.k.a Curcuma)
  • 2 tsp Baking powder
  • 2 tsp Aniseed (ground)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 21/2 cups Milk (or water)
  • 2 tbsp Tahina (sesame paste)
  • Sesame seeds, Slivered almonds or Pine nuts, to garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. In a bowl, mix semolina, flour, turmeric, baking powder, aniseed and vanilla. Add oil and stir to make a paste.

3. In a separate bowl, melt sugar in cold milk. Add gradually to the flour and spices paste and mix using an electric cake mixer.

4. Grease the baking dish with Tahina and pour batter. Make sure it’s flat and even. Sprinkle with sesame, pine nuts or decorate with almonds.

5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden-brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Cut in pieces like you do for brownies and serve.

Please note, this same recipe can be done without milk. Just dilute sugar and aniseed in water and add it to the flour and spices mixture.

 

Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto

My sister Hala, who also loves cooking and dinner parties, was telling me that Risotto is not a popular dish in Lebanon. I don’t know how true is this, but I know that I only love it when served immediately. This is one of the dishes that can’t be successfully cooked in advance, which makes it difficult to consider serving when I have guests for dinner.

It’s so easy to make a good risotto, but make sure that you choose short-grained plump rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano.

The only way to make risotto is to stand over it until cooked. DO NOTHING else! Not really evident in my case where Axel is shoving her head between my knees to carry her and Kaia is constantly asking me to come and play with her and Polly Pockets. The hot stock is added little by little until rice is soft and creamy. This will take you around 20 – 25 minutes, for this amount of time at a hot stove, it’s really worth to use the appropriate rice.

Risotto can be combined with any vegetables you like or also seafood. The best risotto I ever had was cooked with champagne instead of wine, and used asparagus instead of zucchinis. I didn’t have any asparagus today and didn’t want to open my pricey bottle of champagne:), but I do recommend that you try it.

Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 large yellow zucchini
  • 250g fresh mushrooms sliced
  • Pinch of Sea Salt

To make the rice

  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 25g Unsalted butter
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 750ml Vegetable stock, hot (preferably home made)
  • 25g Parmesan, shaved
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

 1. In a medium saucepan, place the mushrooms and the zucchinis with olive oil and sweat until cooked. Season with salt.

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

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

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

5. If the rice is still hard do not add water. It has to be cooked with additional stock.

6.Once the rice is cooked, mix in the vegetables and add Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

7. To finish drizzle with olive oil (optional)

A Fishy Story

When I crave for meat, it’s fish. I lived in Dubai for 10 years where the fish is fresh and abundant. My husband, who loves to eat healthy food (and you will hear this a lot!), fancies a baked fish at least once a week. So along the years we unintentionally became pescetarian. [Seriously? No!]

For those of you who are not familiar with the word; Pescetarian is a vegetarian who will eat fish.

The true version behind my story is that meat and chicken (with the exception of the Christmas Turkey) were aliens to my kitchen. They never made it to my fridge until I had my first daughter Kaia. Before that I almost never stopped by the butcher. Hamburgers, tenderloin, chicken fahita, … were gourmet dinners to treat ourselves when we go out to restaurants:)

I baked fish, steamed fish, barbecued fish and trust me, as complicated as it seems, fish is one of the quickest meals to prepare. ONE, It’s healthy (this one goes for you babe). TWO, impressive if you have friends over. THREE, delicious!

One of my favorite kinds of fish is the SEA BREAM, because of their mild and white meat. It can be found in various parts of the world and is ideal for grilling. One of these fish weighs around 350gms and can be grilled whole, head and all.

For me it’s enough to rub my fish with salt and pepper, and then stuff it with sliced onions and tomatoes. Lay it in a baking pan with lemon wedges and bay leaves, drizzle it with oil, and cook for 35mn. Tasty!

Baked Fish

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh Sea Bream fish (cleaned, gutted and scaled)
  • Sea Salt and coarse pepper
  • 2 onions, cut in circles
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut in circles
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Olive oil, to drizzle
  • 1/2 cup of White Wine

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C
  2. Wash fish, pat dry and place in oven dish.
  3. Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper over all parts of the fish and inside the body cavity.
  4. Top with onions, tomatoes, rosemary and surround with lemon, bay leaves and cinnamon. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Pour the wine inside the pan and cook for about 45mn or until fish flakes easily with a fork.