Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

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

Friday, April 30, 2010

3rd Day at Horeca

Last night with the collaboration of IBSAR - The AUB project, the food animation dealt with recipes and food of the Lebanese "terroir" cooked in different villages.

Halimeh, from the village of Aarssal in the Bekaa, whom I know very well, produced for the audience kebbet battata balls. The recipe is simple ... Prepare two large bowls. In one, add 1 1/2 kilo of burghul + 1/2 cup of  flour + water to make a thick dough. Knead the dough to have an even texture. Leave to rest. In the second bowl, add 1 1/2 kilo of boiled potatoes. Crush them with a potato masher. Leave to cool. When cool, add 1/4 cup of dried mint, 1 tbs. cumin powder, 1 tsp. of sweet pepper, salt to taste. Add about 4 tbs.of olive oil. Cut 2 medium onions finely, fry in a mixture of olive and vegetable oil until brown. Add to the potatoes. The stuffing is ready. To make the kebbeh balls, wet your hands with a few drops of water and place one heaping tbs. of stuffing in the palm of your hand. Roll into the shape of a long cylinder. Hold the dough in one hand and make an indentation with the index finger of your opposite hand in one end of the cylinder to create an opening. Open only one end. Stuff each shell with 1-2 tsp. of the stuffing. Seal the open end of the cylinder by pinching it closed. Cook in the oven at a temperature of 200 for 20 minutes or deep-fry in vegetable oil.

Another group of women from Batloun in the  Shouf made delicious kaak sweetened with homemade grape molasses. These small delights were quickly consumed by everyone. Grape molasses is a great substitute for sugar and is best for one's health. The secret is to melt down the molasses before using, as the molasses tend to be very hard and thick. Iqbal mixed 1 kilo of whole wheat flour with 1/2 kilo of grape molasses (warm). She added 1/2 kilo oil (50% olive, 50% sunflower), one tablespoon of anise powder, one tsp. baking powder. The dough was shaped into finger-like shapes and dipped in sesame seeds. The kaak was put to bake in the hot oven at a temperature of 180 for 15 minutes. They were really delicious.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2nd Day at Horeca

Yesterday was indeed special for everyone, especially for me! I was introduced to the fine cuisine of LePhonecian , a restaurant founded by Mr. Habib located in the city of Tyre in the South of Lebanon, with its second branch in Horsh Tabet in the suburbs of  Beirut. I sat with Mr. Habib discussing his passion for food and how the restaurant came to life many years back. According to Habib, his father loved to entertain. As a child, he would see celebrities, including the late President Camille Chamoun, sit and eat at the family house in Tyre. He would stay endless hours with his mother in the kitchen and learn the secrets of fine Lebanese cuisine. Because of the proximity of Habib's natal city to the sea, Habib was exposed to many recipes which included seafood. Based on many years of experience, he founded his restaurant. At Horeca, we got a glimpse of the food including shrimp croquettes, seafood pastry, fish kebbeh balls, cabbage tabbouleh, exotic salad, fish sausages, and finally smoked wheat “frikeh" served with fish. The tabbouleh was really delicious, flavored with grated lemon rinds and a pinch of cumin. The salad included finely chopped cabbage, parsley, tomatoes, burghul, and the whole was mixed with lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. I have often noticed that indeed the simple things in life are often the best things in life, thus this simple but delicious dressing! I particularly liked this innovative tabbouleh because it was very refreshing and light. Habib also mentioned that his shrimp croquettes recipe was derived from a Belgium recipe he had tasted on one of his trips to Belgium. He stated, “The owner of the Belgian restaurant refused to give me the recipe of his croquettes! “. Habib determined, figured it out by tasting and testing out the recipe in his kitchen. He now serves these seafood croquettes to all his clients. I intend to go back to see Mr. Habib and his crew. They have really inspired me and I intend to learn a lot about Lebanese recipes which include seafood - a rich asset in our culinary heritage.
 The second part of our demonstration included the new restaurant / Lebanese fast food with a twist, Semsom.A  group of chefs arrived, full of energy, with many dishes to showcase to the crowd passing through the halls.Dishes included pink and green colored hummus, feta salad served in the heart of a tomato, fish kebbeh stuffed with dried fruits and nuts, kebbeh from Jezzine stuffed with goat labneh, smoked wheat served with fish, and the whole was served with an array of delicious and colorful desserts. The crowds pushed and shoved to get a share of these sweet delights.. The ambiance was very cordial and friendly, as Chef Richard animated with humor and laughter. Arak Faqra served the crowd glasses of cold arak, a perfect drink to accompany all these fine Lebanese dishes. 
 Today, IBSAR, a project dealing with sustainability, part of  the AUB project, will demonstrate favorite recipes dealing with Mouneh items. I am looking forward to this, obviously!

My new culinary friend, Chef Richard El Khoury at the Atelier Gourmand at Horeca 2010.
Photo: Anthony Rahayel - www.beirutnightlife.com

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

1st Day at Horeca

The first day of my 4-days at Horeca was certainly interesting. Chef Richard El Khoury is definitely very fun to be around. He is simply a riot. He loves to entertain, talk, and share his knowledge with passer byes. Chef Richard and I hosted two guests last night: Keyrouz Bakery and Boutros Bakery. Chef Bechara Rahal of Keyrouz Bakery made some very remarkable recipes including a sweet sushi a la Libanaise.This creation is a sandwich wrap glazed with honey, curd cheese (ashta), and a sheet of dried fruit (fig, apple, apricot). The crowds really loved the taste of the wrap / sushi. Chef Bechara also discussed an old recipe for bread called mishtah revived with different flavors including dried tomatoes, garbanzo beans, glazed fennel seeds, and my favorite, rose petal. What is interesting about the rose petal mishtah is that the petals have been soaked in water overnight and this scented and perfumed water has been used to make the bread. This insight, for me, made the night all worth while. It gave me many ideas for further testing.

I took a break to visit the stands in the halls which displayed many products, machinery, and looked around to see the various competitions taking place. The place was certainly full of life and animated.

The next guess was Mr. Boutros, of Boutros Bakery. They are specialized in producing paper-thin bread, better known as marquq. A full demonstration of the bread making process was showcased. The bread was very delicious. Suddenly, I hear the sound of a big explosion - I frantically tried to jump above the counter, the hose of the gas bottle attached to the saj exploded and started a small fire. It was very scary but thank God nothing happened. The man who was working on the saj got a mild burn on his hand, all the hairs of his arm burnt off. I stood there shaking for a bit. Chef Richard joked and laughed and all was forgotten. Oh, I forgot to mention that at a certain period, when walking around, I tasted Jean-Paul Khoury's new white wine. It relaxed me at bit so back at the stand, Chef Richard and I sang a duet, "It's Now or Never" - Elvis song.... Definitely weird but so much fun! I am looking forward to tonight because we have very interesting guests coming: Le Phonecien restaurant and Semsom. They will demonstrate their mezze-making skills. Hope to see you all there!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Horeca - Atelelier Gourmand - Today's Focus is on BREAD

Cooking Classes @Tawlet

Producers, cooks and chefs offer a 2 hours cooking class at Tawlet every day, from Monday to Thursday, from 4 to 6 pm … enjoy a hands on cooking class, and finish by tasting what you prepared !

Classes’ themes depend on the producer of the day … and so must be tailored and booked in advance.
Choose between “101 Lebanese cuisine” (tabouleh, moutabal, kebbeh) – “all about kebbeh” with Suzanne Doueihy, “Chouf mountain food” with Siham Ghanem (hrisseh & co), “southern taste” with Oum Ali (frikeh & co), “forgotten west Beqaa” with Jamileh Nohra (zenkol, reshta & co) and any other theme that can be tailor made.

Join us on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 for a class with Suzanne from Zghorta-Ehden, Suzanne will be teaching you how to make Kebbet batata, Kebbeh nayeh, Kebbeh bassalyieh, Mjadret fassolia, and Mehsheh selee' aatee'

Classes from 4 to 6 pm – for 40 $ per person
Tawlet – 01 448 129 – www.tawlet.com
Beirut, sector 79
naher street, n˚ 12 (Jisr el hadid)
Chalhoub building, n˚ 22 - Ground floor
facing Spoiler Center, dead end street at the corner of Maher flower shop
left side, corner bldg

Friday, April 23, 2010

Horeca 2010 - Atelier Gourmand

I have been invited by Hospitality Services to take part in its Atelier Gourmand. I will be animating the Atelier with Chef Richard, a new culinary friend, who has a Cooking TV show on NBN. This event is held in conjunction with HORECA 2010, one of the largest exhibitions that gathers professionals from the hospitality industry in the Middle East, from Tues. April 27 to Fri. April 30 2010 at BIEL in Beirut - Lebanon.
The theme of the 2010 Atelier Gourmand will be the Culinary Treasures of Lebanon, preserving yet reinventing traditional dishes for today's palate.
This event, spread over 48 m2 in Hall 3, is a “must attend” for leading chefs, corporate menu decision-makers and professionals.
8 Chefs from the most renowned establishments in town (restaurants, hotels, patisseries and bakeries) will demonstrate from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. over the 4 days.
Day 1: Lebanese breads from all over the region
Day 2: Reinvented Lebanese cuisine: Cold Mezza, Hot Mezza, Main Course, and Cheese
Day 3: Mouneh (my favorite subject these days)
Day 4: Lebanese desert
I am very excited to live through this event while discovering new recipes from our "terroir". Please come and join us, it will be very interesting and also lots of fun!
 For more information on the fair, visit their website: HORECA 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Alice Waters

I met Alice Waters a few years ago in Puebla Mexico at a Slow Food event. I had heard of her vaguely before my trip and read her profile hours before heading to the airport. I was captured by the essence of her work. One night, as we were treated to a lavish dinner, I came up to her and handed her my book. I told her that I came from Beirut and would like to give her a token of my appreciation. When one meets Alice, you are immediately mesmerized by her charm, her smile, and her way of speaking. I walked back to my table. The next day, running to a conference, I bumped into her again. I asked her what she thought of my book, no words came out of her mouth, she simply came up to me and gave me a huge hug, then she said, "I really loved it!" Since then, I have become a fervent follower of Alice and her work. She has left a trace, both in my heart and in my mind. I intend to use her experience as a base to work on tracing my own path, the journey I am actually living each day in Lebanon. I intend to make a difference in my country for our children - for the future generation who will become the parents of tomorrow. I intend to feed many spiritually and physically in the process.

Please take the time to view Alice's video. You can follow her work on Facebook on the Alice Waters fan page!


A photo I took of Alice the night we all ate and danced in Mexico - What an unforgettable evening!

"To me, food is the one central thing about human experience which can open up both our senses and our consciences to our place in the world. Consider this: Eating is something we all have in common. It’s something we all have to do every day and it’s something we can all share. Food and nourishment are right at the point where human rights and the environment intersect. Everyone should have the right to wholesome, affordable food." 

  "What could be a more delicious revolution than to start committing our best resources to teaching this to children?—by feeding them and giving them pleasure; by teaching them how to grow food responsibly; and by teaching them how to cook it and eat it, together, around the table? When you start to open up a child’s senses—when you invite children to engage, physically, with gardening and food—there is a set of values that is instilled effortlessly, that just washes over them, as part of the process of offering good food to other people. Children become so rapt—so enraptured, even—by being engaged in learning in a sensual, kinesthetic way. And food seduces you by its very nature—the sme smell of baking, for example: It makes you hungry! Who could
resist the aroma of fresh bread, or the smell of warm tortillas coming off the comál?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quote of the Day

Do not follow where the path may lead,go instead where there is no path and leave a trail ... Thanks Sami! I think Emerson would like this...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Michael Pollan - Farmer in Chief

Let us eat food that is organic, local, pasture-based, and humane…
Take the time to read this article, it's very interesting! It makes me wonder how we are ever going to regulate our food system in Lebanon. Who will be the Michael Pollan in our country? How will we educate farmers and producers to use the right system to provide good quality foods for our citizens. We don't hear about resolutions that have been taken to resolve the existing problems. The planet earth is going through many natural disasters lately, is this a warning from Mother nature? What can one person do, that another can follow, that another can learn from, that another can carry out, that another can initiate? I think we are taking many things for granted... the human race has destroyed the planet with their greed,  while  looking down on the animal kingdom (who by the way has never participated in this destruction) ... What can one person do?