Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Honoring Lebanese Chefs at AUT University


The American University of Technology which is a leading University in Lebanon, is organizing a major event on November 28th 2010 in the Fidar Campus. This Major event is to Honor major Lebanese chefs and  chefs of Lebanese descendents that had an impact in international culinary activities. This event will be under the hospices of the Ministry of Tourism and in collaboration of the syndicate of Hotels and Syndicate of restaurants.

Local and international chefs will include: Joe Barza: Greg Maalouf, Clovis Khoury, Philipe Massoud, and Alex Atallah among others.I really look forward to meeting them.
Joe Barza will receive a special award for all his achievements both in Lebanon and abroad. 
I am really proud of him, keep walking my friend!

Mouneh Reviews

This is what happens when you google your own book: I want to thank Peter Bouckaert for taking the time to do this review and Ed from California! Fouad  Kassab, of the Food Blog and finally Mama's Lebanese Kitchen. Choucran.
5.0 out of 5 stars
An excellent, inspirational book, July 21, 2011
By Peter Bouckaert – This review is from: Mouneh (Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry, Volume 1) (Hardcover)


I came across this book on a recent visit to Lebanon, and it has quickly become a favorite. It isn’t a cookbook, so don’t expect to find recipes for Lebanese food inside. But it is a great work, documenting Lebanon’s fascinating traditions of food preservation through pickling, brining, drying, and various other procedures. If you like having food in the pantry, this is a work for you. In Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian culture, almost every household still preserves much of its foodstuffs, harvesting or buying produce at the height of the season and processing them for the rest of the year–whether it is vegetable pickles or mulberry syrup. One of the more exciting developments in recent times in Lebanon is how a new generation of chefs have embraced this, and started incorporating more traditional Lebanese products into their modern cuisine, championing their national diversity. This is an important work of documenting that unique national diversity, and an inspiration to read and use.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Tradition Documentation, September 27, 2011 By Ed “Ed” (Santa Clara, CA) – This review is from: Mouneh (Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry, Volume 1) (Hardcover)

I got this book as a gift and was very happy and impressed with it. It documents in details, and in a very cool and smooth writing style old Lebanese traditions of keeping “Mouneh”, ie preserving food. It goes through produce and foods by seasons, and documents places, people, and procedures used to preserve those foods the traditional way. It is such a gift to the Lebanese culture and is a well written book! I highly recommend it.
The Food Blog:
This is my first ever book review. My intention is to introduce you, dear reader, to books that inspire me to cook, ones that teach me new things, or ones that contain extremely valuable information. It so happens that this first book, Mouneh, does these things all at once.

Book Highlights

  • A comprehensive work
  • Contains recipes for lesser-known aspects of Lebanese food
  • A one-of-a-kind book which has, for the first time, made these recipes publicly available
  • Chefs and cooks will be inspired and educated about old techniques and obscure dishes that are absolutely stunning
  • Has beautiful photography
  • A must have for anyone serious or even slightly interested about Lebanese food

Book Review

To call the task of putting together a book like Mouneh daunting would be a gross understatement. Mouneh is the Lebanese word for the larder, the supplies and provisions that saw village people through the rough Lebanese winters. Weighing in at 592 pages, Mouneh is a comprehensive work, encompassing recipes for pretty much all Lebanese pantry items, from the well-known to the obscure. Author Barbara Abdeni Massaad is an American born of Lebanese parents and she is more than passionate about preserving both pantry items and Lebanese traditions. It takes individuals like Barbara who feel a connection to a country but see it through an outsider’s perspective to fully appreciate the value and need to document its fragile traditions. This work is the result of years of research and experimentation to produce accurate, authentic recipes categorized by month to give the reader an idea of what can be preserved at that time of year. Many of the recipes contained in Mouneh have never been previously documented or made this easily available.
In the style of her first book Man’oushé, which is dedicated in its entirety to manakish, the Levantine pizza, Barbara has written Mouneh in a personal tone. The recipes, it becomes obvious, are not her own, but belong to the farmers and artisan producers she introduces us to. She relays her stories and encounters with heart, and shares the recipes she has gathered from numerous people living all over Lebanon.
In addition to doing all the writing, Barbara has also done most of the photography. Her portrayal of wonderful and often exotic ingredients largely contributes to the pleasure of reading Mouneh. The book explodes with colour and the images of farmers in their fields or producers preparing their recipes speak a thousand words.
I aim to provide honest, balanced reviews, so here’s some dwelling on the negatives. In my opinion, the book could have used an editor to give it the once over as sometimes, the sentences could be better structured and there are some minor, infrequent spelling mistakes. My second criticism is common to most books I’ve seen come out of Lebanon, though it is observed less with Mouneh. Here, the layout and the typography could be better handled. A more suitable font could have been selected, the images are sometimes placed in awkward positions on the page, and in some cases the text clashes with its background and becomes difficult to read.
All in all, these are minor issues that would not stand in the way of Mouneh becoming a true classic. To me, Mouneh has become my first reference for Lebanese preserves. No other book has gone to such lengths to describe these recipes in such a serious, well-researched manner. Non-Lebanese readers will truly enter a new and colourful world of Lebanese food, one that is very distinct from any other Lebanese cook book, as it relates to a completely different facet of our cuisine. You won’t find a recipe for hummus here, but instead, you will learn how to make orange blossom petal jam, pickled green almonds, candied pumpkin and a plethora of other Lebanese classics that until now have been known mostly to a handful of the Lebanese. Barbara has done the Lebanese people a great service in producing Mouneh, and I, for one, am very grateful.
You can buy the book here: http://www.buylebanese.com/browse.asp?pr=596&x=2&y=4

Book Score

Content: 7.5/10
Recipes: 10/10
Layout: 7/10
Total: 24.5/30

Additional Information

  • I heard about Barbara when she left a comment on my Manakish post
  • Barbara is also a blogger. Her blog can be found here: http://myculinaryjourneythroughlebanon.blogspot.com
  • In the interest of full disclosure, Barbara is one of my Facebook contacts, but I personally purchased the book and have written this review with no bias or favouritism.
Mama's Lebanese Kitchen Mouneh Review:

A few days ago our mother arrived from Lebanon for a visit.  Aside from the many edible delights that she brought with her including her freshly made Zaatar, Baklava from AbdulRahman Hallab Sweets, fresh batches of Lebanese 7-spices and Sumac spice, she brought us something unique this time, Barbara Massaad’s recent book titled “Mouneh, Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry.”

Background:

“Mouneh” is a Lebanese slang word coming from the Arabic word “Mana” which means to preserve food. Mouneh is a living Lebanese tradition refined through the generations by culture and creativity. And what makes the Lebanese Mouneh specifically so special is the rich mixture and inheritance of civilizations that Lebanon and its surroundings have had over thousands of years, including but not limited to the civilizations of the Phoenicians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Byzantine, Islamic Caliphates, Ottoman and up to the recent French colonization.With that in mind, the people of Lebanon learned to preserve hundreds of food items and staples across seasons, and this is what Barbara’s book is meant to archive.

Barbara's Mouneh:

Barbara took over 5 years to write and publish this book. She moved from one Lebanese village to the other, sat down with the old and the young, and she took her time in not only listening to and writing their stories, but also in actually helping out the villagers in their processes of preserving their local foods. Hence, her experience is practical and is first hand.
So this is not a typical “recipes” cookbook. “Mouneh” documents the stories of the people and the traditions behind its recipes as well.

Content and Style:

The book “Mouneh” is organized into sections according to the 4 seasons that Lebanon enjoys. Each section contains recipes and methods of naturally preserving vegetables, fruits, grains, crops, spices and dairy products according to seasonal availability. The book has about 590 pages, is full color, and features hundreds of Barbara’s professionally taken photographs, along with photographs by other professional photographers. The book’s images are quite vivid and impressive, and give the book another dimension by helping the reader get fully immersed in the story.
Typically villagers in Lebanon tend to focus on preserving their own local crops and foods, with some exceptions. So it’s not  common to find one village that aced it all since nature, weather and even history play a big role in dictating what type of produce or food products each village grows.  And that is why Barbara’s work is quite important: it gathers all those precious methods from hundreds of Lebanese villages and people and puts its all in one place. The content is rich.
In terms of writing style, “Mouneh” is a very easy and lively read, despite its intimidating volume. Barbara overviews vividly the personal experiences she’s had in many villages.  She talks about people, and their stories, and she talks about their own traditions in preserving local foods, and in some case she talks about villages and their history. From this perspective, the book is quite a piece of cultural archive.

Conclusion:

As a final word on Barbara, she is a founding member of Slow Food Beirut, a delegate of the International Terra Madre Community, and Slow Food Italy. She is a contributing editor to local and international publications. She has also worked on an extensive portfolio dealing with children’s portraiture. She lives in Beirut with her husband and three children who are very much involved in her culinary journey.
We found Barbara’s work to be quite impressive and in our opinion, her book is a service to Lebanon’s future generations as it preserves a slowly fading aspect of their culture in such a beautiful and detailed way.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Barbara Preparing Olive Oil "Helwe Beirut"



    Yussef Fares is a boy at heart with a lot of knowledge about olive oil production. This line of business has been passed on from generations starting with his grandfather. Yussef has taken modern technology to make the highest quality virgin olive oil with his brand name Jezd, made in Lebanon. He prides himself on the olive trees in his native village in Bayno, Akkar - north Lebanon. I have visited the village many times for different reasons and occasions and find it quite charming. I hope you enjoy this trip with me in Yussef's world.

    OK, we are both like children!

    Beautiful harvest

    Uncle Fares, Yussef's guiding light

    Simply awesome!

    Barbara with Mexican Ambassador "Helwe Beirut"



    This is really special! You all know how much I love Mexican food, top it with the most enthusiastic and very cute (if I may say that!) ambassador who loves to portray Mexican food, a renewed friendship with a dear friend from the past - Patricia Kebbeh, Chef Fernando and the Gou team cooking up a storm, good music and good friends... My Happiness!

    And finally, a great bonus, my husband Serge was captured on film ...!

    Enjoy!











    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Barbara With Aline and Serge Armenian Food "Helwe Beirut"



    I don't need to tell you how much I love Armenian food. Aline and Serge Manoukian of Mayrig were so kind to show me around their restaurant. I really admire this dream that became a reality. Now the name Mayrig is growing into an international name with franchises all over the world. The great news too is that Aline and her friend Barbara (not me) have written a recipe book on Armenian cuisine which will be launched next week, more details will follow. I had a look at it already and I can hardly wait to start cooking. Notice the Armenian music background in the video too...

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Barbara Preparing Pumpkin Jam "Helwe Beirut"



    This is one of my favorite traditional Lebanese recipes using pumpkins in season (of course). Siham and Hani Ghanem, a couple from Warhanieh whom have become wonderful friends have taught me many recipes throughout my culinary journey from their region. Hani is a hearty farmer who always has something funny to say. He takes life as it goes, while Siham—is a busy homemaker who worries a lot and spends most of her time in the kitchen cooking up delicious food. They have two adorable daughters who seem to grow so fast and have become little women in no time at all. This recipe needs to be planned ahead, as the pumpkin pieces need to be soaked in limestone for one night. This enables the pumpkin to stay crispy during cooking. Serve this confection at the end of a meal, your guests will certainly appreciate it.