Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Al Nahar Writes...


For those who read Arabic, this text was written yesterday in Al Nahar newspaper:
"حرصا على التراث
بربارة في "حلوة ومرة" على شاشة LBC تقدم أسبوعياً تقريراً مصوراً تجول من خلاله المناطق اللبنانية لإطلاع المشاهد على بعض المأكولات والطبخات اللبنانية المنسية. ومن خلال طريقة التصوير العفوية والغنية بالحياة ينتقل المشاهد إلى بساطة تلك الأيام. تفاجئنا بربارة في "حلوة ومرة" كل أسبوع بزياراتها الجميلة التي تعرّفنا من خلالها الى أطيب المأكولات اللبنانية التي يتم طبخها مباشرة على الهواء... وفي ذلك خدمة كبيرة للمطبخ اللبناني إذ إن بعض الطبخات اللبنانية  القديمة بدأت تندثر

HELWE W MOURRA
--"
 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Earth and co. at Souk el Tayeb



Earth and co. is Nelly and Oum Ali - two wonderful women who have proved that friendship and business can go a long way. I have learned a lot from both women who, against all odds, have continued to make their small business flourish. They are always among the food producers at Souk el Tayeb and the Slow Food Earth Market in Hamra. Come and join them, you will be amazed!

Ayadina - Amal Harb



Amal Harb is a darling woman who has helped me a lot to discover the basis of mouneh-making. I started the mouneh adventure in her workshop where she patiently taught me all the details to pickling and jam production, among many other lessons... life included. It was a real pleasure to visit her again lately and to shoot this document with her. Her food is truly made with tender loving care and lots of creativity. She remains forever in my heart. Thanks my dear Amal...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mayrig Restaurant





I have a weakness for Armenian food, guess it must be in the blood as my grandmother was Armenian. I posted this video of an Armenian restaurant in Beirut called Mayrig - meaning little mother in Armenian. I am going to visit them soon and make my LBC reportage on their story and their FOOD! I have a lot to learn and I think we, as Lebanese, can gain a lot from their way of cooking. I will write more on the subject in a few weeks ...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Carlo Petrini: It's a Way of Life



If you want to listen to Carlo Petrini's words, based on the Slow Food philosophy of which he is the founder, watch this amazing series of documents posted on You Tube where he explains how man has slowly but surely destroyed our planet. I agree with everything that he says and listening to him makes me even more convinced of going back to the country and living as a farmer...

Lots of people ask me why I have not opened my restaurant yet, and what Carlo said about his friend the cook is exactly how I feel presently... I have three children to raise ... There is a time for everything... My time will come...

It is not so important where we stand, but the direction in which we are moving. Goethe.

He states, "Something has to change in our philosophy of life... WHEN DID MAN DETACH HIMSELF FROM NATURE...You have to listen to the breath of life...Eating is an agricultural act..."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In Qsaybeh with a Carob Molasses Producer


Bassam and I walking through the forest
Paper-thin bread in the making
 This week I went to Qsaybeh, the home of Bassam Naimeh, the carob molasses producer. The LBC team showed up in the morning at my house, this time with a new crew. We introduced ourselves and drove to our destination. The cameraman filmed the road up the village filled with pine forests as he sat on the hood of the car. We arrived to greed Bassam who had been working since early morning on his carob molasses production. He produces about 50 tons per year, yet he complained that this year the financial output was poor compared to the past. He went through the whole process with us and explained each procedure carefully. Hours later, we went to visit two lovely women who were baking bread on the saj. We had a delicious breakfast made of man'oushe and discussed Bassam's life. We strolled through the forest as the team filmed us from afar. Bassam offered each one of us a jar of carob molasses among other treats to take home. He gave me two bottles of wine, produced in his workshop. It is always a treat to visit him. He remains one of my favorite encounters during my mouneh research. Bassam suffers from a genetic skin disorder. I wish I could make a difference in his life, at least to bring him some sort of happiness. He will be rewarded for his generosity and kindness one day. I know it!

The sound man
Show business is fun!

In Kfar Katra with Maysoon and Walid




Roula, the film director, with the cameraman
Last week, I went to visit Maysoon and Walid Nasreddine of Coara in their village with the LBC crew. Their story is featured in the Mouneh book. It is always special to spend time with them. They have a food philosophy which condemns the eating of animal products while favoring consumption of lots of vegetarian foods, including beans and tofu. We started the day with a visit to a local organic farm where we met up with Roula Fares, an organic food specialist. Walid and Maysoon purchase their fruits and vegetables from this farm to make their products which they sell at the Souk el Tayeb Farmers' Market. We walked through the estate and sat on the edge of the land discussing Maysoon and Walid's life. We drove to their house contemplating the majestic scenery of the area then went home for a full demonstration on how to make tofu. We tasted different types of mouajanet (pastries) filled with seaweed and other toppings. Once again, the day was a success! Here is a glimpse...
 
Welcome sign at the beginning of the village


Walid showing my cousin Bernard the land
Roula Fares, organic expert discussing the art of planting organic fruit and vegetables

Can you taste the fresh lettuce?

Shooting and eating for the reportage

Lovely!
Walid producing the tofu cheese meticulously

The finished tofu wrapped in a bundle

Monday, February 7, 2011

Fern el Sabaya - A Woman's Bakery in Aamchit





I don't know if you had the chance to see Helweh wa Moorah on LBC this week. The journey led us to the bakery of the Zgheib sisters in Aamchit, Furn el Sabaya. Adorable women, all sisters, working hand in hand to create a warm atmosphere with delicious food. On the menu, their famous recipe called muwaraka and a regional recipe for man'oushe bi beyd. The muwaraka is absolutely delicious. It is dough stuffed with chopped walnuts and almonds, sugar, perfumed with orange blossom water and rose water. The skillful hands of Lorenza shapes the dough into an escargot-shaped pastry. On camera, I was able to reproduce this authentic recipe. Once finished, eating of course! We worked on the recipe for the man'oushe bi beyd. I will post these videos for you to get an idea on how to make these recipes.
A talented basket weaver, Lorenza's aunt

Lorenza and Martha Zgheib
Muwaraka, absolutely delicious!

man'oushe bi beyd ma awarma

Ramlieh in Sawsan's Kitchen : Part 1




for the continuation select .... Ramlieh Part II

I was asked by the television LBC to participate on a weekly basis to help produce a segment dealing with food traditions for a show called Helweh w Moora. I accepted their proposition, yet I feared that my Arabic may be a problem... but I always say that if you don't try, you will never know what you are missing. So here I am jumping into a world of acting! The night before I was very nervous thinking to myself, "girl what did you get yourself into?"

Khaled the cameraman
 Next morning I woke up early to fix my makeup (makeup me?!?!) yes indeed I purchased a new set of makeup especially for the TV shooting. May I say that it cost me a fortune! The team arrived on time, which left a positive impression on me. I introduced myself to the director, sound man, cameraman, and driver (who is also a student in production). I spoke to them about our subject as we drove to Ramlieh, the village of Sawsan Shabban.

The beauty of Ramlieh
I chose Sawsan to be the first contestant of my food adventures on film because I felt secured and at home in her kitchen before and needed to feel the same way during my first shooting. What happened next was magical! The team worked very professionally. I was very much at ease, and the camera did not make me nervous because I simply ignored it. Sawsan and I went through many recipes together, tasted all of them of course, and had a great time. I loved doing this kind of reportage and felt I was really made for it. Could this be the start of something wonderful?

Sweet Sawsan working diligently in her kitchen
We left Sawsan with hugs and kisses with a full stomach of course! On the way down to Beirut, we met a farmer and finished the shooting with him surrounded by a beautiful garden. In life, I cherish nature and the people that live in line with nature... It was truly a memorable day!


The farmer on the side of the road

The farmer teaching me how to plant fava beans

Friday, February 4, 2011

My 50 kg Bag of Flour

Bread-making is an act of love
A week ago, I went to Crown Flour, one of the biggest distributor of flour in Lebanon. I have been toying with this idea for a long time and finally I have made up my mind. I am going to make bread at home! Bread is an essential part of my family's diet. I think for most of us, it is the quintessential food for school lunches of our children. A thought ran through my head for quite a while, "what is exactly going into this bread that we buy in the supermarket?" God knows. I've decided that I want to know exactly what goes into our bread. I love making bread. It makes me feel great. It's a maternal act—right from the heart. "Good bread needs more than just flour, water and milk. It requires nurture and care." wrote Edward Espe Brown in his famous book The Tassajara Bread Book. He also wrote, " I do not bake to be great. I bake because it is wholesome. I feel renewed, and I am renewing the world, my friends and neighbors. Most of us bake in this way." That is exactly how I feel about baking bread.

When I bought the 50 kg bag of flour, my children declared that their mom is crazy. They joked for half an hour about my excessive way of being. I was a bit sad that they could not understand that this was for their own benefit, as they were demanding fresh bread every day. Kids don't calculate the work or preparations it takes to accomplish such a task. Later, each one went in their rooms to study. My eldest daughter came to me an hour later stating that she liked the fact that I have bought this huge bag. She said it gave her a sense of comfort,  a safety net. She emphasized that it made me even "crazier" because the bag was stored next to me in my tiny office next to the kitchen.

Making bread is an art, but it is very much a passion too. It is not a true science where you mix ingredients and have precise results. It is of putting of one's heart and soul into this dough to make bread—the symbol of life. It is experimenting with yeast, flours, testing one's patience and many other factors.In winter especially, I love baking bread because it warms my kitchen with the temperature of the oven and the smell of homemade bread takes my breath away. It's comforting to know that you can create this type of ambiance in your own home to finally eat the fruit of your labor. Experimenting with different flavors and textures gives you the power to make your own piece of art, like painting. You can do this by adding different herbs to your bread. I add flavored olive oil to the dough to give it the right flavor according to my mood. The bread feels and knows if you are happy or sad... If you don't believe me, try it for yourself. 

I will stop writing now, for I'm going to work on my  olive bread. My father-in-law gave me olives in brine that he picked from his garden. I will take out the core and mix the olives in my dough. I will mix two types of flours to give a robust feel to my bread. I might add a tablespoon of olive oil to accentuate the taste of the olives. I will leave the dough to rest, tucked in carefully in my oven, away from drafts. Hours later, because it's so cold, I will place the dough on a tray to rise again according to the shape that I desire. I'm into a great big ball of bread these days. Once risen, I will cook the bread and enjoy it with my family. I think I will make pumpkin soup tonight too. I'm getting hungry!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No Reservations - Special - Anthony Bourdain in Beirut (2/3)

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This is the continuation ...

No Reservations - Special - Anthony Bourdain in Beirut (1/3)



Anthony Bourdain came to Beirut for the first time in 2006, I need not say what happened then! Take a look.

Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations - Back to Beirut (2/3)



OK, so I'm a big fan of Anthony Bourdain (celebrity chef, world traveler, bestselling author, and host of The Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations ). I have read all his books, definitely a good read for those who have worked in a kitchen restaurant and who are nostalgic of the excess adrenaline that one gets in that environment. He depicts it like it is, crudely sometimes! My favorite remains Kitchen Confidential .My only disappointment is that I did not get to meet him while he was here. I can relate to what he is living and going through. I guess it was not part of our destiny YET! I think it's wonderful that he has a chance to make a living out of traveling around the world and telling his food stories on TV. I am presently doing it on LBC on a different level, guess it makes me lucky too... Hope to meet up with you one day, should our path cross through the channels of food.