Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions

Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions
Spring time always inspires me...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bread and Salt @ Makan

This week we welcome Italian food back to the Motto family!
Chef Barbara Massaad teams up with fellow slow-foodie Veronica Pecorella for a spectacular seasonal Italian menu at Makan, from Thursday to Saturday, 22-24 October. Here Veronica tells us the story of how her friendship with Barbara has brought them to Makan, and beyond:
I was 16, maybe 17, when I read an article about Beirut and Lebanon after the civil war. I was sitting at a wooden table of the old Osteria of my parents in Cormons (a small rural village in a wine region of Italy, on the border with Slovenia). 
“One day I will live there,” I thought. 

“My cooking is always different and I am inspired by the people I am cooking for!” – Veronica Pecorella
Twenty years later, after working for a certification organization to develop organic agriculture in Mediterranean countries, the time came. Four years ago I moved to Beirut with my family because of work (but feel not only for that reason).
For me the first place to go when you move into a new city (after a good restaurant) is a bookstore. So I did. After grabbing a new edition of Beirut Home (the Beirut guide with all useful addresses for just-in city movers), I went to the cooking/food books section. And there it happened. The book that would have made the difference in my life called me. Mouneh by Barbara Abdeni Massad. (Now I would say that this is a must-read volume to understand the real rural spirit of the country.)
I spent all that afternoon reading and looking at the pictures, the details of the book. In that afternoon, even though it was not my first time in Lebanon, I felt the real meaning of za’tar. “No way! I must meet her.” And thanks to Zuckerberg, I asked her friendship on Facebook. 
Three days later we were sitting together in Barbara’s kitchen eating goat’s cheese with thyme and olive oil. We both grew up in restaurants, both food – slow food – cooking lovers, interested in the stories behind products and producers, plenty of ideas to share. For the first time we met, we felt one day we would do something together. 

‘From the first time we met, I knew we’d do something together.’
In July, after four  years, I left my previous job in the organic sector (even still eating it!) to stay in Beirut and to develop a new project that will connect Italian and Lebanese arts to wines, beers and of course food. Meanwhile, I’ll be finally cooking together with Barbara at Makan, sharing our passions. As she would say, the Lebanese me.  Bread and salt.

A perfect partnership in the kitchen
To book for Veronica and Barbara’s Italian dinner at Makan, SMS 70954057.  As always, pay what you think is fair.
The full menu will be announced on Wednesday via our Facebook page – or email us at mottomarmikhael@gmail.com to get all the week’s menus first, in your inbox every Monday.

Barbara and Vero sharing bread and salt at their favourite Motto table

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Motto - Angela's blog post

Chef, cookbook writer and food photographer Barbara Massaad has big, bubbly red hair and a big, bubbly personality.  Already well known in foodie circles as the author of cookbook bibles Manoushe, Mezze and Mouneh, she is also President of Slow Food Beirut.  Barbara came first to Motto for lunch one spring afternoon, and was inspired by the homey atmosphere and Nimal’s cooking, to return as a chef with her son and culinary student Albert.
This week Barbara returns with a selection of Lebanese Mezze from her cookbook, ‘Mezze: A Labor of Love’.  We caught up with her, in between shopping for Motto, TV interviews and preparations for the fundraising reception for her latest book, Soup for Syria.  She is truly a chef on a mission.
How did you choose this week’s menu at Motto, among all the delicious dishes in the book?
I chose the recipes according to what I felt like having my family eat on this special weekend. My husband and his brother are celebrating their birthday and so the whole family will come and dine to celebrate. You see Motto is my second home away from home…
How did you first come across Motto, and what were your first impressions?
I heard about it through friends, and was intrigued about the concept because it goes with the philosophy I adhere to… I think it’s nice that customers who come decide on the fee they want to pay. It also breaks down social barriers and people who could not afford to eat in a restaurant are more apt to do so with this formula.

How do you think Motto reflects the principles of Slow Food?
It’s fair… and the philosophy of Slow Food is based on good, clean and fair. The food varies at Motto, some days are better than others – but that is part of its charm too… It’s also clean because it’s not commercial, therefore guest chefs come and use good wholesome ingredients to cook as if they were cooking at home. Nimal also treats cooking personally and with care, and you can tell the difference…

We’ve heard so much about your current project, Soup for Syria. All the proceeds from the sales are going to the refugee food appeal. That is an incredible feat! What do you hope the book will achieve?
Awareness!  I hope it will break barriers of animosity among Lebanese and Syrians and create a bond that would enable Lebanese to help those who are fleeing Syria because of war.
Soup for Syria is on sale this week at Motto, and you’re holding a fundraising reception on 20 October.  

Will you come and cook soup at Motto this winter?
Of course.

What are your top tips for aspiring young food writers and photographers?
JUST DO IT. Don’t think too much about it. Just follow your ideas, no matter how crazy they may be. Everyone made fun of me when I spoke of doing a book on the man’oushe – including friends. The book became a bestseller and is still selling all over the world.

You can meet Barbara this week at Motto, where she is serving her Mezze menu on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (8-10 October).  To book, SMS 70954057.  Full details and updates on our Facebook page.  As always – pay what you think is fair.

Barbara Massaad, author Soup for Syria at refugee camp Bekaa Valley

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Soup for Syria Invite

We have finally set the date. Actually it took some time for the books to get out of the port of Beirut. Don't ask me why? And frankly I don't want to know why. All I know is with the help of Library Antoine and their partners, it was done. The day I got the books, which I stocked in a room in the garage of my house. I confirmed the date of the fundraiser. We are two groups working on the launching. My friend Tina is taking care of the volunteers who will be cooking soups on that day and I am handling the photo exhibit, invitations and the drinks. Station Beirut were so generous to give up their space for that night and I am very grateful. Hopefully we will have enough people to sell all the books. This will ensure that 100% of sales will be donated for food fund relief and medical assistance. Crossing my fingers!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Syrian Refugees Don't Matter!

Syrian Refugees don't Matter! That is what I am getting lately from peers, colleagues, friends ...

A portrait of Syrian child in the Bekaa
I have started to show the book Soup for Syria and advertise the launching of the book . The whole world is talking about the refugee crisis these days. It leaves me perplexed! This situation is not new, yet it took the photo of one dead boy on a beach to manipulate the media to make it a headline story ... His death will not go in vain, I know it!

I am often criticized by people in Lebanon for helping Syrian refugees. They say to me “Why don’t you help Lebanese children instead?” I totally understand this. Refugees are a burden on a society; they bring hardship, chaos, and often drain a county’s resources. They are are unwanted in host countries. But are these reasons not to help people who have been displaced, lost everything, and have no place to go and no one to help them? In my view “no” because this could happen to us one day as a result of a natural disaster or an unnatural political disaster. Tragedy has no nationality or borders. Today the Syrians are facing a humanitarian crisis of unthinkable proportions and magnitude. I will always do what I can to help people in need, regardless of whether they happen to be Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Nepalese, Filipino, or Sudanese.

What makes a person more worthy for aid is what I am asking myself... Is it his nationality, his sex, creed, ... Humanity is filled with hatred. We fight wars, kill innocent people in the name of God. Hypocrisy at its best. We have become totally blind!
Remember the song of John Lennon? ... The song you listen to when chilling with your friends over a glass of wine....

I will publish it to refresh your memory. I think Mr. Lennon had the right idea. The moment we brand a person is the moment we start filling our hearts with hatred - we become Godless. We become raw. I am not a philosopher but I can feel what matters (the essential: food, love, shelter, sense of belonging) which sometimes even intellectuals, powerful people, men of nations cannot perceive or acknowledge. They are caught up in their own egocentric bubble - one idea - one path, closed to empathy.
Exerts of the song Imagine...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Lennon, John

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


And finally thank God for the simple things in life!


fade to black

And why do I have a feeling that in Lebanon we are heading towards this bleak black pit too.... Today we are experiencing a suffocating sand storm, isn't that how we all feel today with the garbage crisis, political crisis, economic crisis, refugee crisis, civic crisis .... Nature today is depicting how Lebanese are feeling today living in Lebanon. Will we have a wave of Lebanese refugees soon in Europe and the United States? ... I wouldn't be surprised at all...

Helwa Ya Baladi - Dalida (Cover by Lina Sleibi) حلوة يا بلدي - لينا صليبي

This songs speaks to me... What happened to Lebanon? I don't recognize it anymore. It breaks my heart.

Albert ... Bocusse... Lyon

Bon voyage my boy ... Till we meet again around a table and share memories and stories of food. Fly like an eagle and learn from the best . Make the world your oyster, yet always stay true to your roots. — with Albert Massaad at Taylor's Port Cellars.

Website Soup for Syria

Soup for Syria The website is up and running. It explains it all. Take a few minutes to read it.

Tina and I eating soup for Fitr / filming for Al Hura
photo credit Mustafa Assi

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"soup for syria" cookbook to help syrian refugees in lebanon ".حساء من ...

 This is a report that was made by Alhura TV to introduce our book project Soup for Syria. I invite you to watch it. Cristina and I cooked soup for an Iftar during Ramandan at Aya's family tent.