December 12, 2010

Carrot Rice.

If you are new to my blog, please read my welcome note first.

We've discussed rice before. You can do a lot with rice. And I've already given you recipes for rice with lentils, rice with green fava beans, rice salad (see blog) and tonight it's going to be carrot rice.

There are two ways to prepare carrot rice, one with minced meat and one without. Will start without the meat, because I promised two friends on Twitter that I will give them the recipe tonight to go with the chicken liver (see chicken liver recipe)

In this rice dish, you can use either sliced carrots or shredded carrots. I prefer the latter with no meat. And will give you later the recipe with sliced carrots and meat

So let's stick with shredded for tonight.

For one cup of BASMATI rice. (not pre boiled, not pre cooked. REAL Basmati) you'll need one MUG of shredded carrots. So let's start ..

Preparation for two persons:

- wash 1 CUP of  rice thoroughly and let it soak in cold water
- heat about 1/2 tbs of cooking oil in a non stick saucepan
- stir in your shredded carrots
- add 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
- salt to taste
- 3 cardamom grains (optional but gives it a wonderful aroma)
- add the drained rice only when you smell the mixture of carrot and cinnamon whiffing up - a sign that it's time to add rice. (Do not overcook the carrots before. Just enough for them to take flavor of cinnamon and cardamom)
- add one cup of boiling water
- stir gently ONCE (otherwise rice gets gooey)
- let it boil ONCE only
- lower heat to a minimum and leave it to cook until all water is absorbed
- if you feel that the grain is still hard, just sprinkle a little more hot water.

To be served with the chicken liver recipe here.


Carrot rice with minced meat / to be continued...

November 30, 2010

The Underrated Pumpkin...

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first. Yes it's an order.

Why is Pumpkin so underrated ? It's a lovely vegetable, full of nutrients and after all you do call your loved one - pumpkin - don't you ?

People think Pumpkin when Halloween is around...that's a real insult to the Pumpkin.

It's in season now and the following recipe is sure to beat your late Autumn blues - Pumpkin soup.

For 2 you will need approximately - depending on how big of eaters you are.

- a quarter of a big pumpkin / half of a small pumpkin.
- 2 tbs of cream (I use half fat) If you're a vegetarian you can use soy cream instead or you can use no cream at all. But cream does give it that special edge.
- 1 cube of beef stock (skip it if you're a fanatic vegetarian and use vegetable stock instead)
- a pinch of grounded nutmeg
- a pinch of grounded ginger (optional but trust me worth trying)
- a pinch of cinnamon
- a tiny dash of black pepper
- a handful of freshly chopped parsley. If you're too lazy to chop use dried Parsley.


- peel pumpkin and cut in small chunks
- put pumpkin in saucepan, add your cube of stock, and cover with enough water (do not drown)
- stir until cube dissolves - leave your pumpkin to cook gently until very tender
- I don't have a blender but I have one of those electrical hand blenders that mashes stuff, I don't know what it's called. Anyway use anything that blends well.
- once your pumpkin is well cooked, mash it, blend it until it becomes thick soup like
- watch out for consistency. You don't want too liquid. but do add water if you feel it's too thick.
- add your pinch of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and dash of pepper (no need for salt as cubes are salty enough but optional)
- let it boil once on low fire and stir. You don't want it to get lumpy
- right before serving, add your 2 tbs of cream (make sure the orange stays orange and does not turn beige so take it easy on the cream), keep stirring and let it simmer a little more.
- if you opt for no cream, lessen the quantity of water to keep the soup nice and thick
- when serving throw some chopped parsley to decorate

Et voilà !

Now tell me - how can anyone stay blue with this full outburst of a glowing, wonderful, mouth watering orange?! Try it and let me know.

July 24, 2010

Salade de Couscous.

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

I love couscous. I like it prepared the traditional Maghrebin way (i.e North African) with either chicken, lamb or spicy beef sausages called Merguez or a combo of the three, all cooked in a nice juicy vegetable stew. And I don't even own a couscousier - the special perforated pot for the preparation of couscous.

But in the Summer, I avoid hot sauces and opt for salads instead. And what better way to still have couscous but served cold.

The recipe am about to give you is dead easy to prepare and is very tasty.

For 2 persons you will need the following ingredients :

- easy to cook couscous 2 cups (easy to cook couscous takes about 5 mn, doesn't require a couscousier and is as good)

- 2 cups of boiling salted water (as per the instructions on your couscous box - standard cooking instructions for easy to cook couscous)

- 1 large tin of Tuna fish in salted water (preferable to vegetable oil)

- 2 tins of sardines in olive oil

- 1/2 bell pepper red and 1/2 bell pepper yellow. Don't fret if you want to settle for green pepper bells alone but the red and yellow are preferable.

- 1 small can of corn

- 1 big tomato or two medium ones

- 1 spring onion

- 1 clove of fresh garlic (tastier than dried garlic)

- 1/4 tsp of ground cumin

- about half a pack of salad mix - roughly 250gr (lettuce, carrots, radish all chopped) alternatively you can chop your own - takes much longer)

- olive oil

- soya sauce or balsamic vinegar - I prefer soya with this.

Preparation :

- cook the couscous as indicated on your pack - usually 1 cup of boiling salted water for each cup of couscous. I add ground cumin to the water.

- once the couscous is tender and fluffy (use a fork to separate grains), I add a little olive oil instead of butter (I avoid butter in cooking)

- chop all your vegetables small (tomato, bell peppers, spring onion )

- fresh garlic finely minced.

- mix your tuna and sardines (small pieces not mashed)

- once your couscous is cold, add all the above, plus the salad mix, plus the corn. And mix well.

- the dressing consists of olive oil and soya sauce, or you may use balsamic vinegar. Soya is much nicer though with this.

- a dash of pepper to taste, no salt as the soya sauce is already quite salty.

Et voilà. Bon appétit

July 15, 2010

The Joy of Feeding...

Today I have a new recipe to share with you. This one will leave you full, satiated, fulfilled and it does not have many calories you need not worry about your weight...

The ingredients you will need are simple and inexpensive and they will make a difference in your life and that of others....

Allow me to share with you a mail I received from a friend Garda Ghista. This lady is one hell of a great cook. She feeds many...her idea for a recipe is very appealing to me. I believe we should all do the same as she does. I will share the recipe she sent me this morning:

dear friends,

last night i wrote here after a long time something below. there has been a lot of struggle - physical, financial, mental and spiritual. we came here to Siliguri, North Bengal on May 2nd. On May 27th we began to feed the hungry people here. they are everywhere. one has to sometimes go on the back roads into small hamlets and communities outside the city to find them. they throng in scores around our auto rickshaw. the adults are serious. the chldren are thrilled. it happens again and again. it is a lot of work to cook food for 150 people up to three times a week. two huge pots of rice, then another pot of vegetables, then another pot of lentils or beans. then mix it all together into what is locally called "khichree." but, when we give the food, when the people take the food, the hours of labor are forgtten. there is a great joy to be found in this work of giving food to hungry people. afterwards many of them sit on the ground in circles and quietly eat. we see this as we are driving away. it feels good inside,

i understad, and it is enunciated on WPA, that many things are wrong in the world. politically, economically, culturally, morally and spiritually. it will take some kind of massive revolution, some kind of accelerated acceleration of global activity, to bring vast and rapid change everywhere so that the oppressed of the world are no longer oppressed. the question is, what do we do in the meantime, brothers and sisters? i am suggesting to you, let's please feed the people. let's feed the hungry. it is something, isn't it? let us fill the gap between present oppression and future liberation by feeding the hungry and helping them to see the sun of another day.

brothers and sisters. perhaps in the larger scheme of things, like population boom, climate change, and economic genocide of millions arond the globe, what to speak of biodevastation, this tiny work may not mean much. after all, we are feeding just a handful, a tiny tiny handful of that great entity called humanity. but this doesn't change the fact that it feels good to feed that tiny handful. it doens't change the fact that some mental peace comes seeing them eat the food. it doesn't change the fact that we begin to smile internally seeing them smile externally. hence, the work has to go on. just suppose if everyone who could, did something like this. it would change the world, isn't it? if say one out of every ten persons did this work, it would cause a moral, cultural and physical revolution in the world. there would be no more hungry people! a higher morality called 'not allowing any of our brothers and sisters to go hungry or starve or be without the minimum necessities' would be in force, isn't it. a higher culture would emerge which says, 'leave no one behind. take care of every single person. do not allow even one person to suffer or be without.' so while doing this smalll, very insignificant work, brothers and sisters, i cannot help but encourage you to do the same where you live. as i said above, it can cause a revolution in the best possible sense.

many things are needed, as expressed below. cash is required here to buy huge bags (quintals) of rice, because rice is what the people love best here. cash is required to purchase hundreds of kilos of vegetables every week. cash is required to purchase the beans and lentils so that a soiid source of protein is in the food. cash is required to purchase a few spices and oil,. because they need those extra calories. cash is also required to pay the auto rickshaw driver who takes us to all the people and helps to distribute the food. i know these are hard times. but if it is at all possible for you to send cash, please send using the Donate button on the site. alternately, you can send to me directly to Siliguri, using Western Union.

if you prefer to send in kind, there are many things required here. i have to organize a list. but off the cuff, paper plates and cups would be so useful. plastic bags - the ones from the supermarket that you are throwing away when you come home - if you could stuff them into a box and ship them seamail over here it would be invaluable. soap, brothers and sisters. the people we are feeding have never used a bar of soap before. please send soap. it is just a dollar or two or three for a packet, isn't it? i want them to have soap for bathing. it is a small thing. help me to make it possible. we are adding powdered milk to the rice to make it more nutrious. we also add dessicated cocnut for the same reason. these are cheap to buy and easy to send, isn't it? tomatoes cost a fortune here. please send tomato paste, tomato sauce and tomato soup. it can all go right into the vegetables to brighten up the taste and the lives. canned vegetables and fruits would be a godsend. peanut butter, so cheap in america, would also go right into the vegetables because it's an immediate source of protein, right? jams, jellies, honey, all will help. instant coffee, tea bags, and especially powdered gator aid, kool aid and jellos are invaluable here when the people recover from flu, which comes often and unannounced.

non-food items are also there. blankets are needed. temperatures will go below 60 degrees in winter and there is no central heating over here anywhere./ sheets and towels are also needed. sweaters and socks would be invaluable. all these things are so cheap at K Mart, Target, Walmart and other stores, right? just a few dollars, and a trip to the post office is what i'm asking for here. you will feel good to send something, isn't it? so please, i am requesting you, help me to feed the people here, help me to provide them other very basic necessities of life that are all just completely taken for granted in the US and other western countries. this is just the beginning. these are just the ideas floating in my mind. please just think if you can help, brothers and sisters. if you like to send in kind, please write to me at i am waiting.


garda ghista

And here is another addendum to her mail :

Dear Readers,
Millions around the world today are struggling - for survival and maybe to do some work. We here at WPA are also struggling. We are struggling for survival, and we are also struggling to feed the hungry people here in India. There are millions of hungry people here. I do not know their names. I see their ramshackle houses, often made of nothing but pieces of tin or plastic. I see their serious faces as they take the food we offer them on sal leaves. I want to feed more and more people. Not only that, I want to provide other things for them also. I believe they have never seen or used a bar of soap. I would like to provide them bars of soap. It's a start, isn't it? I would like to provide them each with a set of new clothes. I wish I could build homes for them. But there are so many here without proper homes. I wish I knew the way to put them all in school and provide them regular medical checkups. Life is so easy in western countries. How to explain to you? Brothers and sisters, there is so much work to do here. If you can help, I would be very grateful. More than grateful. Cash is required. We need cash in order to buy huge bags (quintals) of rice, which is what they like to eat best. We need cash to buy fresh vegetables and different kinds of lentils and beans, which we cook and mix into the rice. We need cash to buy a few simple spices along with salt and oil. They need the oil because they are thin. But there are other things that can be mailed from outside India, either by airmail or seamail. We are adding powdered milk to the rice to make it more nutritious. We also add dessicated coconut fr the same reason. Cans of tomato paste, tomato sauce and tomato soup would be so welcome because fresh tomatoes cost a fortune here in India. All types of non-perishable goods, food and non-food, would be welcome here. Powdered kool aid or gator aid, powdered jello packages are especially good for recovering from flu, which comes often here without notice. There is no middleman in tihs project. There is you, me, and the hungry people here in north Bengal. We are distributing in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri districts, which are about three hours' train ride from Darjeeling and also from Sikkim and Bhutan. It is beautiful here, except for the hunger and poverty. Can't we try and fix that? Whatever you send goes from me straight to the people here. Please help me. I want to feed more and more people. I want to change the map here. I want to build a new world where nobody goes hungry, where everybody is clean and well fed. Can you help me, please, brothers and sisters? What else can I say. I am appealing to all of you for your help. If you can send cash, please use the Donate button on this site. Or send check to the address also give on this site. If you feel to send something in kind, to send food and other nonperishable items essential for life, please write to me at I am waiting to hear from you.
Garda Ghista

So, what are you going to do ? Cook for one or help cook for many ?  Feed others and you will be fed in return...
Thanks for helping Garda. Spread the message wide...and, start one yourself.

July 9, 2010

Summer Light

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

It's really hot, and when it's that hot, I like to eat light...
Salads are great, and grilled fish is even better...
Yesterday I had a friend over for dinner...I wanted  to serve something exotic, light, and does not take long to cook...
I found some nice pieces of fresh Tuna Fish...and this is what I prepared for supper, alongside a rice dish with a salad. I will give you the recipes for the me they were delicious.

Tuna Fish preparation for 2.

2 medium size chunks of fresh Tuna
2 cloves of Fresh garlic (if you can't find raw fresh garlic, use regular garlic)
1 tbs of fresh grated ginger
1 tsp of Thai mixed spices. If you don't have Thai mixed spices use standard fish spices mix (not condiments)
1 tbs of Thai fish sauce (alternatively you can use Soy Sauce)
1 tbs of Wok oil (wok oil = sunflower oil with aroma of ginger, garlic, coconut and pimentos) (if you can't find wok oil, use olive oil, but the taste will not be the same)

- make tiny incisions in the tuna chunks and place your chopped garlic inside, 1 clove for each piece of tuna
- mix grated ginger with oil, Thai spices and Thai fish sauce (or Soy Sauce) and pour over the fish.
-  leave to marinate for about 1/2 hour

Meanwhile prepare your rice with peas . For 2 you will need :

-  1 cup of Basmati rice or long grain. As agreed, anything para boiled is OUT of the question.
-  about 150g of frozen green peas
-  half an onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cube of vegetable stock (gives it added flavor)
- 1 cup of boiling water.
- about 1 tbs of cooking oil (not olive oil)

- wash your rice thoroughly to make sure all starch is gone
- fry the onions first, until tender (not brown) and add your rinsed frozen peas, leave to simmer for a little on a medium fire then add 1/2 cube of vegetable stock. It really enhances the flavor.
- once a little tender, drain your rice and add to the onion and peas, mixing it once..
- then add 1 cup of boiling water. Bring to boil once and turn down the heat to a minimum until fully cooked.

Just before the rice is fully cooked, heat a frying pan and grill your fish. Tuna cooks very quickly, make sure to lower the heat to medium otherwise it burns on the outside and remains raw inside...

Serve with a salad...I used a nice fresh mix of shredded celery, carrots, 1 large tomato sliced, 2 small cucumbers sliced, 2 branches (leaves) of fresh coriander/cilantro, a handful of chopped iceberg lettuce, and a generous pinch of Alfalfa sprouts. And I forgot - one spring onion finely chopped.

Salad dressing - approx :
                1tsp of lemon flavored Mayonnaise
                1/2 tsp of French Mustard with herbs ( plain mustard will do)
                1/4 tsp of ground Cumin
                1/4 tsp of Oregano
                 about 1/2 tbs of Apple vinegar
                 nearly 1 and 1/2 tbs of virgin olive oil
                 salt and pepper to taste.

With the above, nothing beats a crispy very chilled White Chardonnay.

Enjoy !

June 4, 2010

The Lady's Fingers (UPDATED)

If you are new to my blog, please read my welcome note first.

Bamya in Arabic, Okra or Ladies fingers...a beautiful fruit...yes believe it or not, it is a plant, and the okra itself is the fruit, but it is a vegetable fruit...hence its delicacy...

Now is the Okra season...and if anyone of you has ever met an Iraqi, you'd know that almost all Iraqis love Bamya. I personally haven't met one who doesn't...

For this post, I researched a little about the origins of Bamya. Interesting history to the plant...originated in Africa and was brought through Ethiopia  and the Red sea to the Middle East. It landed in the West with the slave trafficking and I guess that makes it a politically incorrect some circles.

I will give you tonight 2 versions of Bamya, the way I cook is a vegetarian version because am not much of a meat eater and am sure this version will make the average Iraqi cringe in horror and for the sake of Irraqi political correctness I will also give you the Iraqi way of preparing it with in a stew. I may not have time to do both tonight, but this post will be updated before they lynch this "lady"...

But since am the cook here, I will start with MY own vegetarian version first...

My vegetarian Okra. recipe
For two people you will need

- around 200 - 250 g of FRESH Okra. If you can't find fresh, use frozen but make sure it does not become a soup . In other words, watch out for the timing...
- about 5 gloves of garlic
- half a lemon juice FRESH
- 7 or so branches of FRESH coriander (leaves only)
- 1 1/2 tbs of Olive oil
- 1/4 tsp of curry
-1/4 tsp of black pepper
- 1 tbs of tomato paste
- about half a cup of boiling water
- salt to taste

Preparation is dead easy.

- cut the head of each Okra (see picture to know what I mean by "head" some cut a little bit of the tail end, I don't since I don't have time to do so)
- peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half or 4 quarters each
- chop the fresh coriander leaves
- heat oil in non stick pan and fry garlic a little, add your ladies fingers, plus the coriander, mix GENTLY and leave on a low fire while you prepare the sauce.
- dilute tomato paste in boiling water, add your black pepper and curry and pour over your okra.
- let it boil ONCE, the Lady's fingers are VERY sensitive and like do not like being stirred harshly otherwise they become all gooey.
- once cooked ( make sure not to overcook as Okra is quick to cook), add your lemon juice on top of the stew, stir gently once and leave these tender lady's fingers to rest...

I had this for dinner tonight and it was DELICIOUS. And being a spice lover, I prepared some white rice to go with it to which I added in the cooking  1 tbs of cinnamon powder and half a cube of beef stock.

A reminder for cooking rice. For 1 cup of Basmati rice

- wash rice thoroughly and let it soak as long as you can
- heat about 1 tbs of vegetable oil in a saucepan
- drain the rice and pour over the well heated oil
- add your cinnamon powder,
- add one cup of BOILING water in which you dilute your beef stock (optional),
- add salt to taste
- stir ONCE because you don't want your rice to be gooey as well...
- let it boil ONCE only, then lower heat to a MINIMUM until all liquid is absorbed.

Iraqi version - Bamia Stew. (to be updated later insha'Allah)

What an irresponsible Iraqi woman I am ! Finishing off this recipe and giving you the second part has taken me ages. Shame on me! Iraq is crying for it's meat version and here I am stuck with the vegetarian one. But not anymore. Because you're getting the second part - Bamia stew with meat --Iraqi style, all the way!

I don't like meat much, but I do eat it - I prefer beef to lamb. Long story, will not get into it right now.

So I use lean beef, no grease, no fat, cut up in chunks, (not small cubes OK?)

For 250 grms of Bamia you will need around 150 grms of beef (depending on how much of a meat eater you are).

Preparation :

- boil the beef chunks in hot water, adding the following
* 2 bay leaves
* some pepper corns (not too much just a little)
* 1 cinnamon stick broken in two
* 5 cloves
* 1/2 onion cut in 2
Do not add salt as the salt turns the meat hard when boiling

Since I hate anything rancid,  always when boiling any kind of meat, including chicken, I make sure to remove that whitish/grayish froth that comes to the surface. Discard that stuff, just scrap it off with a spoon and throw it away. You want a clear broth as you will be using it later.

- once the meat is well cooked and tender, heat a little vegetable oil, not more than half a tbs in a saucepan, add your meat and let it turn a light golden brown.

- add your Bamia (see above for initial preparation)
- add your gloves of garlic about 4 whole
- add 1 fresh tomato chopped
- do not stir at all - just pick the saucepan and give it a little shake. Ladies fingers when not fried beforehand get mushy and hate being stirred. You need to keep them whole.
- take a cup (or so) of the clear broth (i.e drained) enough to cover your beef and Bamia mix but not too much -- you don't want to drown the whole thing. In this cup dilute some tomato paste, a nice crimson red, not burgundy red. So I'd say about 1 Tbs of tomato paste (checking the color will indicate)
- add salt and a just a tiny bit of pepper and add it to the mix
- Bamia cooks very quickly.  Make sure it is neither overcooked nor al dente.
- just before it is totally cooked, add your freshly squeezed 1/2 a  lemon juice.

N.B : for Iraqi version do not add any other spices, no curry, no coriander.

To be served with White rice. See above but discard cinnamon in rice.

P.S : If there's anything unclear, you can email me or contact me on Twitter. You need to get the Iraqi stuff right, when cooking, at least !

May 6, 2010

Green Rice...

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

Well it's not actually Green Rice, but it's rice with green hues and is absolutely delicious.
The recipe am about to give you is a TYPICAL Iraqi rice dish. To my knowledge no other country in the Middle East prepares it except Iran.

In Iraqi it's called Teeman (rice) ala Bagela (broad beans) wi Shbint (fresh dill)

So you guessed right, it is rice with green broad beans and fresh dill. And I shall give you the simple version.

You will need for 2 persons

1 cup of Basmati rice (as usual paraboiled is FORBIDDEN)
250 grams frozen broad beans
a good 7-8 tbs of fresh dill
1 cup to 1.1/2 cup of boiling water.
1 tbs of vegetable cooking oil
salt to taste

-wash the rice thoroughly and let is soak in cold water
-frozen broad beans are easier to prepare than fresh ones. First you need them thawed. So you take the peeled bean (remember broad beans have two layers of skins - the outer green coarse one and another layer of skin covering the bean itself - you need to get to the green.)  So if your frozen broad beans have the second layer of skin, remove it.  And split the bean in two. Like this

- heat the oil and stir in your split green broad breans
- drain the rice and add it to the beans
- add the salt and the boiling water
- mix  gently.
- let the mix boil ONCEonly and then lower heat to a MINIMUM.
- meanwhile chop your dill leaves (do not use the stalks)
- once  half of the rice water is absorbed - add your dill. This is important because if you add your dill prematurely, it loses both it's color and it's flavor. So be patient add the dill until the rice is half way cooked.

I like to serve this rice with spicy chicken or lamb cutlets cooked in all spices and turmeric. If you're a vegetarian, this dish is perfectly fine by itself and you can serve it with yogurt on the side.

I could not find a picture for this Iraqi rice recipe....just close your eyes and imagine lovely hues of green mixed with white...

April 24, 2010

Mussakhan - Chicken and Onion Sumac Wrap.

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

Mussakhan or Chicken and Onion Sumac wrap is a typical Palestinian dish, also found in Jordan and ze Lebanon.

There are different ways of preparing it, but I will give you the simple way, easy to prepare provided you get the right ingredients - obviously. No cutting corners here.

The whole trick of Mussakhan lies in the Sumac. You  find Sumac in most Arabic shops.

What you need for 4 persons (assuming that 1 chicken is enough for 4)

- 1 chicken cut in 4 quarters.
- at least 8 medium size onions
- about  3 - 4 tbs of Sumac
- 2 - 3 tbs of pine nuts(I like pine nuts so I use 3tbs)
- gloves, cardamon whole, bay leaves, pepper corns, cinnamon sticks,
- 2 tbs of OLIVE oil
- 2 large flat Arabic bread - here I find the saj  bread, which looks like Iraqi bread and has like bubbles in it...this is the best to use but if you don't find that type of bread, use the LARGE Arabic "pitta" bread, small ones can also be used, but it don' t really work, unless you make sandwiches of the chicken/onion/sumac mix but then this is no longer Mussakhan.


-  I am always shocked when I see people using a chicken straight out a wrap without washing it. A BAD HABIT.  So wash your chicken. First I rub coarse salt all over the pieces, then rinse it off.

- place your chicken pieces in boiling water to which you will add the following

* 3 whole cardamons
* 1 stick of cinnamon cut in two
* 3 bay leaves
* 4 whole gloves
* a little pepper corns - you can also use  ground.

- Boil your chicken until well cooked. I usually take off any excess foam (it looks like some white froth) when it is boiling, otherwise the stock becomes too greasy and the taste is  rancid.

- meanwhile - slice your onions and you need to be GENEROUS with the onions, slice them into thin  rounds that you cut in 2 - i.e half rounds. The onions cannot be chopped they  must be in half rounds. so it will look like crescents/new moons. I am trying to find the best way to explain to you what I mean. So crescent is a good image.

- fry your onions with the sumac in olive oil - olive oil by the way should never be heated...just mix the whole thing together until the onions become tender, once tender add your pine nuts and keep frying until onions and pine take a slight golden hue  (not brown). You can always add a few spoons of your drained chicken stock to make the onions even more tender  and so the sumac mixes well with the rest without  it burning or turning too sour. Once cooked - leave to the side.

- get a Teflon oven dish, which you will wipe with some olive oil first, place your Arabic bread which you would have parted in 2 slices, (by slices I mean don't cut/slice the bread, just tear it into two parts - since Arabic bread looks like a thin sandwich, so just undo the sandwich)

- place two slices at the bottom of the tray, pour a little chicken stock on top so it won't dry out.

- use half of your onions/sumac/pine mix including the olive oil in which it was fried and place on top of the bread.

- arrange your chicken pieces and cover with the remaining onions/sumac/pine mix

- you can cover the chicken with an extra half of an Arabic bread but make sure to tuck the edges inside the tray so it won't burn. I don't usually use extra bread apart from the one at the bottom of the tray,

- place in a pre-heated oven, until the chicken takes on a gold brown color,

- tip 1 : if you feel that the whole thing is drying out, just use some of your chicken stock and sprinkle over.
- tip 2 : drain the remaining chicken stock, all flavored with the wonderful aromas of spices and use it for soup or instead of water when cooking rice. But that's for another recipe..

To be served hot and this is BEST eaten with your hands. Enjoy !

April 20, 2010

Oriental Rice Pudding....

If you are new to my blog , please read my Welcome Note first .

I woke up this morning with an incredible urge for Oriental rice pudding. I stress the word Oriental here because I remember in England you could buy those canned Ambrose rice pudding that tasted like plastic and glue.
If you have any of those tinned things do me a favor - give it to your cat...chances are that not even he will eat it.

I have an easy and sure recipe for a very tasty rice pudding, oriental style. No two people will give you the exact same recipe for the exact same dish....there will always be variations and through much experimenting, trial and error I found this one to be one of the easiest and tastiest - provided of course, that you like Rice Puddings.

For two people you will need the following

- 1/2 cup of SMALL grain rice (risotto rice is fine)
- 2 1/2 cups of full fat milk (if you don't like full fat, use skimmed but the result is not guaranteed)
- 1 tsp of ground cardamon (this is optional but a MUST for ME)
- 3 tbs of Orange Flower Water also called Orange Blossom water ( A MUST)
- 11/2 tsp of white Sugar ( I don't like it sweet, but you are free to use more sugar if you need to)

Now to work

- I have given you in the past some tips about cooking rice - in this instance you need to forget everything I told you about cooking rice. Because this time we will cook it differently.

1) Wash rice thoroughly and leave it to soak in cold water
2) bring to boil the milk
3) drain the rice and add it to the milk
4) add the cardamon, the sugar and the orange flower water
5)let the whole thing boil ONCE and
6) STIR and you will be doing much stirring
7) Keep stirring and lower HEAT TO A MINIMUM -
8) keep saucepan covered and let the liquid be absorbed
9) keep checking on it and stir and stir some more. You want to make sure that neither the rice nor the milk take on a brown hue. NO BROWN HUE . so keep stirring.
10) if you feel that the milk has been completely absorbed and the rice is still al dente -a) if you're using full fat milk, add a little water b) if you're using skimmed milk, use more milk, and KEEP STIRRING..... contrary to traditional Middle Eastern rice, this one must be stirred till sticky.
11) as the rice is fully cooked, keep stirring until you feel  it to thicken. You don't want a watery soup here so keep stirring.until you get the right texture
12) once the desired texture is reached pour your rice pudding into a bowl. (I use two separate bowls)
13) Leave it to cool completely only then can you keep it in the fridge. It is best served cold or at room temperature.

For the decoration 

Here people use crushed pistachios without the skin (obviously).
I decorate my rice pudding bowl slightly differently with the following

-  a mixture of dessicated coconut and cinnamon powder that I mix together and sprinkle over the bowl with one or two pistachios stuck in the middle (with no skin obviously)
- I sometimes also use half of an apple slice that I place on top and on top of the slice I put a tiny spoon of rose petal jam. Rose petal jam is a jam made in Heaven, And it goes very well with the rice pudding.

Try it and let me know. And if you reach Heaven, don't forget my name :-)

April 11, 2010

From Hyderabad....

If you are new to my blog, please read the Welcome Note first

I absolutely love Indian food. Indian is really one of my favorites alongside Middle Eastern food...

The recipe am about to give you is simple to make, but it does necessitate some preparation in terms of buying the ingredients - the spices in particular. For me that's the fun part of the whole experience.

I enjoy going to the Attar - the spice and perfume store....the scent and colors of these spices in big jute bags are just engages all of the senses and for me this is the essence of food preparation...

Tonight's dish is a vegetarian one. And by the way I never give a recipe if I don't try it first...and if you are like me  and love the aroma of spices, you will delight in this one...

You will need for 2.

1 small to medium size eggplant
1 big potato
1 medium size onion
3 gloves of garlic
1 tbs of fresh ginger grated
1/2 red pepper bell (or 2 pimentos if you like it extra hot - I don't)
1/2 green pepper bell
2-3 big tsp of dessicated coconut
2 big tsp of non roasted peanuts
2 big tsp of non grilled sesame seeds
about 1/4 tsp of fenugreek seeds
about 1/4 tsp of coriander seeds
about 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds
about 1/4 tsp of cumin seeds
1/2 cup of tamarind molasses. (see section on how to use tamarind *)
if you are not using pimento, use cayenne pepper, about 1/4 tsp
1/2 tsp of curcuma
salt to your liking
about 1/2 cup of water OR 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Preparing the vegetables

- slice aubergine/eggplant, in rounds not too thick, otherwise they soak up too much oil when fried
- peel potato and cut in nice medium size chunks
- heat vegetable oil and fry both until golden brown
- place the fried veggies on paper kitchen towel to absorb excess oil

Preparing the spice paste

mix together, the fenugreek, coriander, cumin, mustard, sesame, peanuts in a small non stick frying pan (do not use any oil) and roast them lightly until both sesame and peanuts start to take a color.

pour the mixture plus the dessicated coconut into a blender and add the water or the coconut milk and water mixture, you can keep adding water or coconut milk, you need to get the paste into the right thickness...not too liquid though. Keep it to the side.

now for the rest

*Tamarind: I dont know the kind of  Tamarind you have in your countries, but here it comes in molasses form and not syrup. So I cut about 1/2 cup worth of Tamarind and cover it with water and bring it to boil for about 5 mn. I then use the tamarind water and whatever is left of the fruit itself disregarding the seeds. If you can find Tamarind Syrup (no sugar added) then use 1/2 cup of it diluted in a little hot water.

- stir fry the chopped onion, the crushed garlic, and the grated ginger in about 2 tbs of vegetable oil, you can use the oil you fried the vegetables in.
- add your chopped green and red pepper and diluted tamarind  and cook a little more until  tender.
- pour your paste on top, the curcuma, the cayenne pepper and last  the fried vegetables
. Let it cook for about 5 mn. or so on a medium fire.
- if you see that the sauce is thickening too much, you can always add a little water or coconut milk or if you have some  tamarind water left you can use that too.
- salt to taste...

This is to be served with rice. I usually like to serve it with rice and sultanas as the taste of sultanas gives a balance to the piquant taste of the spices.

Rice preparation

2 cups of Basmati rice washed and soaked in cold water
about 1 1/2 tbs of sultanas
1 tbs of cooking oil
2 cups of BOILING water
salt to taste

Heat the cooking oil in a saucepan, add the sultanas and fry them a little, just a little otherwise they shrivel and dry up completely. Pour in your drained rice, add the salt and the boiling water, mix ONCE only.
Let it boil ONCE, then lower the heat to a MINIMUM until the water is completely absorbed and the rice cooked. If you want to make sure that the rice does not stick, just wrap the saucepan lid/cover with a clean kitchen cloth. This will absorb any excess moisture.

Bon Appetit.

April 10, 2010

Open Your Mind...

Here I am sitting with a cup of lavender tea. Lavender is known to have properties to open the soul and calm the spirit...

I have much to do today, but need to jot those few lines - they are related to cooking and food for sure.. but not only...

As I am preparing for this evening's recipe, I need to write down some thoughts about opening one's mind...

I noticed something and yes am getting on the West's case again....namely that most westerners are stuck in their own models....An image that comes vividly to mind is a bunch of American tourists in Cairo, sitting in a hotel whose restaurant overlooks the great Pyramid - smack in your face - and guess what they ordered ? Hamburgers and Steaks. They've crossed miles to experiment with hamburgers and steaks...and my did they complain about both orders !

I noticed the same trend amongst foreigners not only in food, but in everything, poetry, films, literature...

They stick to English /European/Western authors, be it in poetry or fiction. They listen to Western Music only. They watch Hollywood crap only. And they dare not venture into different foods, nor incorporate them in their daily menus...

Why is that ?

Each difference opens a whole new world for you. Be it in preparing a different kind of meal, be it in reading a different style of literature or poetry, be it in listening to a different rhythm and it in watching films from non western countries....

Each difference opens a window into the other...why do you keep imprisoning yourselves in your set ways, in your set thoughts, in your set beliefs....remaining stuck in your own -- makes you bigoted, myopic,limited, dumb, bland -- and as we have seen from your countries -- can turn you into criminals and murderers on a rampage.

Open yourselves, open your minds. It is a great exercise in humility too.

And No, going to an Italian or Indian restaurant does not count! And do try Lavender tea...

See you later with some real flavors away from blandness....

March 29, 2010

Let's Go Green...

Please read my Welcome Note first....

I don't know about you, but I love beans - all sorts of beans. Green and dried beans, red, brown, yellow...people don't eat enough beans, even though beans are a good source of protein and fiber.

Today's recipe is Green Beans. Now there are many kinds of Green Beans, but for today it's Broad beans also called Fava Beans.

In Arabic Broad beans are called Ful Akhdar  -- In Iraqi it's called Bagella. Bagella can also be dried and Iraqis love Bagella - bagella stew, bagella tashreeb or fatta (can't explain that now), and bagella with rice and dill. The Persians call it baghalli.

For this recipe I will use Green fresh broad beans with their skin. The picture above shows the skin and the bean inside. You will use both. If you can't find the whole bean in your market, just use the inside. I believe you can also find it frozen. If you use frozen, bear in mind that the cooking time is lessened.

So for about 500grs of fresh broad beans you will need the following

1 onion finely chopped
1 tbs of vegetable oil
2 tbs of olive oil
4 gloves of garlic
half a bouquet of fresh coriander -chopped
1 tbs (more or less) of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
a dash of cayenne pepper - optional.

I first cut the edges of the bean (I call it the head and tail) then slice each bean in 3 to 4 parts depending on how long it is. What you need is the whole beans in chunks.

fry the onion in  vegetable oil until tender
crush your garlic on top and fry a little more
add your cut beans and stir a little more until the whole thing sizzles
add enough hot water to cover the beans but do not drown them. You can always add more water later...
let it boil for about 3mn
now add your 2 tbs of  olive oil and chopped fresh coriander, salt and pepper
lower the heat and let it cook gently until tender.

Once cooked squeeze some lemon juice on top...Can be served hot or cold.

March 26, 2010


Please read Welcome Note first

Nothing makes me more nervous than news from Iraq, and American reactions to it...I am not sure really what is worse, the Iraqi circus or the endemic, genetic, structural, constitutional ignorance of the Americans -- I think it's the latter that is worse...

Anyways it literally makes my stomach tummy aches, I can't eat, I feel like an elephant has lodged itself on my diaphragm, I feel fire shooting out of my gut as in acidity and I tried all kind of over the counter stuff, none of it works with me...but this old medicinal plant recipe does.

It's powerful, instantaneous and magical...

For 3-4 cups of herbal tea you need the following

1 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoon of anis seeds
2 good size zests of orange peel/skin - like strips

add boiling water and let it boil for about 3 -4 mn.

Strain and drink at least 2 cups, use white sugar to sweeten, white sugar helps ease stomach colic.

If you feel sleepy afterward, that's normal...and much welcomed...

To enhance effect you can add 1 tsp of chamomile.

Of course if you can find all the above in teabags format then use teabags,  I prefer the real thing myself...except for American ignorance and Iraqi clowns.

March 22, 2010

A Flower in a Hot Pot...

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

Today's recipe is a Palestinian one, called Makloubeh. Makloubeh is basically a rice and vegetable mould. I said it's a Palestinian one, which means -- avoid sharing it with any Israeli, because in no time they will appropriate it too and turn it into a Jewish dish...As if there's something called a Jewish dish...but let's leave aside politics for  now...before my appetite and my cooking skills get spoiled at the mention of this despicable entity called the Jewish State.

Makloubeh can be prepared with aubergines/eggplants or cauliflower or both...I will be giving you the cauliflower version...

Cauliflower in Arabic is Qirnabeet in Iraqi, or Irnabeet as Ze oh la la Lebanese call it, they don't like pronouncing the Q, the Palestinians call it Zahra.

Zahra also means a flower...

For 2 persons you will need (more or less)

1 large onion chopped
1-2 tbs of cooking oil
250 grs of lamb or beef cubed (I prefer beef)
salt and pepper
1 small to medium cauliflower
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp powder cinnamon
1/4 cup of pine seeds (optional)
1 to 1.1/2 cup of rice (NOT PARABOILED - opt for long grain- WASHED and soaked in cold water)
1 medium sized saucepan

Now to work :

Fry chopped onion in oil until soft
add meat cubes until brown all over
cover with water (enough for the meat to cook - I also add 1-2 dried bay leaves that I remove later)
add your all spice and pepper (do not add salt because salt turns the meat HARD)
let it cook for about 1/2 hour to 1 hour depending on the meat you use, meat must be tender
separate the cauliflower into florets and fry them separately until golden
by now your meat is cooked
add your fried cauliflower, laying it on top of the meat
add your washed strained rice sprinkled with cinnamon and salt on top of cauliflower
add about 1 to 1.1/2 cups of boiling water
let is boil ONCE
then turn down the heat to a MINIMUM until all the liquid is absorbed.

now when you serve it it should come out as a mould. You need to grab that saucepan, place it on a cold cloth first, so you can get the mould intact. Place your serving plate on top of the saucepan, hold firmly and then flip it upside down - the Makloubeh should come out as a mould - if it does not, it's ok and it's not the end of the's still as tasty...

I decorate the plate with pine nuts that I quickly roast in a small frying pan and then sprinkle them over the Makloubeh...

And while you're preparing this wonderful Palestinian dish, what can be better than listening to a Palestine Dabkeh - folk song. Again don't share this one with the Israelis - they steal everything...

March 16, 2010

From a Fisherman's Daughter....

If you are new to this blog, please read my Welcome Note first...

Food recipes are like the people who share it with you...they each have a story...and some stories are way more touching than others...hence some of the recipes stick to my head...

And every time I cook this I remember Fatima...Fatima was a Tunisian woman I met ages ago in some mosque in Paris...she had an incredibly beautiful smile, she was kind, stood by my side when the world - the Dunya overtook me - and she also taught me this simple recipe...

She came from a very poor family from Tunisia, a family of Fishermen. Her dad was a fisherman, and she told me that on the days he did not manage to catch any fish, which were often, he'd just ask his wife to open a can of tuna and pretend their dad caught one for dinner...

Fatima knew all along that it was just a can of tuna...but she nonetheless congratulated her father for his great catch...

Fatima taught me this recipe...and I remember her telling me -- when you don't have anything to eat, make sure you have at least some pasta and a can of tuna...

Many years have passed since I met Fatima...I am not sure what happened to her...I heard that she got married to a fisherman and maybe she's still smiling that incredibly beautiful smile of hers and pretending like she used to...

This is Fatima's recipe.

Pasta in Tuna Fish sauce.

For 2 persons:

- about 250 - 300 grs of macaroni
- a big can of tuna fish, in salted water (preferable)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbs of tomato paste
- 1 tbs of olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 tsp of origano /Italian thyme (optional but preferable)
- 1/2 cube of vegetable stock

Tuna Fish sauce

- slice onions and crushed garlic and stir in olive oil
- add tomato paste, salt and pepper (if you use vegetable stock do not add salt)
- add about 1/3 cup of vegetable stock diluted in hot water and let it boil once until the sauce thickens
-strain your canned tuna and add it to your sauce, let it heat up to point of boiling ONCE.
- add your Origano herb. I like aroma, so I am generous with the Origano


- boil your macaroni, I usually add a cube of vegetable stock to the water and some olive oil

once macaroni are cooked to your liking, strain and add your tuna fish sauce on top...mix well.

Decorate with some chopped parsley.

March 5, 2010

From Beautiful Morocco...

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

I love Morocco and love Moroccan is one of the finest from Al-Maghreb Al-Arabi -the Arabic Maghreb also known as North Africa...

Moroccan food is delicate and I love the sweet and sour mix that you find in some of their recipes like beef tajine with dried plums and almonds...

But tonight's recipe is much simpler and very easy to's chicken with vermicelli presented like a dome...

For those who don't know what vermicelli is - it's a short hair like - pasta.

I have slightly modified the recipe for convenience's sake and instead of using a whole chicken, I prepare it with shredded chicken, also called emincé in French. Am not sure what the equivalent in English is. This is easier to cook and takes much less time.

So for 2 persons you will need the following :

- about 300-350 grms of shredded chicken strips (boneless and skinless obviously)
- 2 1/2 cups of vermicelli, the point is to have enough vermicelli to cover all the chicken...and am not so great with measurements as I hardly use them add more vermicelli if you think the quantity is not sufficient enough to cover your chicken.
- 1 medium size onion
- 1/4 tsp of saffron powder
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 2 tbs of olive oil
- fresh grated ginger (optional)
- salt
- pepper
- a knob of butter
- 1 cube of chicken stock
- caster sugar/powder sugar the one used for pastries (as far as I know it's not the same as icing sugar and regular white sugar WILL NOT DO you will see why, later..)

You will need a deep pan for the chicken

- chop onions finely and stir fry it in the olive oil until tender
- add your chicken strips, your cinnamon, saffron, and ginger, salt and pepper...I also grate some fresh ginger because I love ginger and the mix of saffron and ginger is just stupendous...
- the heat must be high, and your chicken must be brown and well cooked.

in the meantime you need to prepare the vermiccelli.

- boiling water with 1 cube of chicken stock and a drop of olive oil. Vermicelli cooks very fast, max 3 mn, but it should not be al dente, it must be soft but not gooey. so keep heat medium.
- this dish must be served HOT, so you need to heat your chicken, and use a tbs of your vermicelli water and sprinkle it on the chicken so it will not dry up.
- strain your vermicelli adding a knob of butter, use a fork
- place half of your pasta in a deep dish, add your chicken, then cover it with more pasta to make it look like a dome...

Sprinkle cinnamon powder and then some caster sugar on top of your dome...and that's it !

Best accompanied with a carrot salad, Moroccan style and I will give you the recipe for it.

Again for 2 persons.

- shredded carrots
- about 10 black olives
- half an orange
- half a lime or lemon
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tbs sesame seeds (optional but preferable)
- a touch of ground cumin
- olive oil (1/2 tbs to 1 tbs)

squeeze half an orange, squeeze half a lemon or lime (I prefer lime)
grate a bit of lime /lemon -- zest to add flavor
mix your orange juice and lemon juice and zest with the olive oil, add the cinnamon, a bit of cumin, salt and pepper and pour the dressing over your carrots and black olives. mix well

Black olives here are very salty so I hardly add salt myself.

Meanwhile roast in small frying pan till light brown your sesame seeds and then sprinkle them pver the salad mix.

Finish off with a nice glass of Moroccan tea (green tea plus lots of fresh mint)

And while preparing this very tasty dish, it is recommended to listen to some lovely music, like this traditional Moroccan song...

March 3, 2010

If it's Cracked it must be Bulgur

If you are new to my blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

I have decided to resume my cooking activities, hence this blog is open again. Now ain't I nice ?!

Bulgur or Borghol in Arabic, or Cracked Weat in English or Coarse Wheat Semolina, usually found in most Arabic and Turkish shops.

This is a very easy recipe to prepare, it's healthy and filling and not expensive.

For 2 persons you will need :

1 cup of Bulgur
1/2 to 2 cups of hot water
1/4 cup of frozen peas or half an eggplant
1/2 red pepper bell
1 onion
1/2 medium size tomato
1 clove of garlic
2 branches of parsley
2 branches of fresh coriander/cilantro
1 cube of beef stock
1/4 small tsp of paprika
1/4 small tsp of curcuma (optional - don't fret if you don't have it)
1/4 small tsp of ground cumin
1/4 small tsp of cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp of tomato paste
2 to 2 1/2 tbs of olive oil
a saucepan or a fairly deep frying pan

bear in mind the above spices are to enhance the flavor not kill it -- so easy does it.

First things first

1) rinse the bulgur and let it soak in cold water...that will make it fluffy when cooked

2) rinse frozen peas and soak them in cold salted water

3) if you're using aubergine/eggplant, chop into small dices

4) chop tomato into dices

5) chop coriander leaves

6) finely chop the onion

7) chop red pepper into small dices

mix onions and olive oil on medium fire, grate your glove of garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add your chopped pepper and again stir fry for a couple of minutes, then add your peas /or your aubergines and chopped coriander and tomato

let it all simmer on a medium fire for about 10 mn until half tender, if it dries out, just sprinkle a LIITLE water

add tomato paste, add spices and the beef stock... (I don't use salt as the beef stock cube is already salty) stir gently for a couple of minutes then add your Bulgur and the hot water..let it boil once then lower temperature and let it cook gently..if the water dries up and you feel the Bulgur is not well cooked yet (it should NOT be al dente) then just add a little more water...

Avoid stirring too much so as not to turn into a mash.

Use chopped parsley to decorate

Best served with grilled lamb chops or grilled spicy sausages. Yum!

February 11, 2010

A Poor Man's Meal...

If you are new to this blog, please read my Welcome Note first.

In my last recipe, we went refined and disgustingly bourgeois using a few expensive items.

Tonight it's the opposite. It's cheap and easily affordable for most. I did say most, because there are still millions of people who go to bed hungry every night. Hence all the more of a reason to feed a hungry person...

The recipe am about to give you is called Mudardara or Mujaddara, am never sure which is which, one is lentils only and the other is rice with lentils. Mine is Rice with Lentils.

This is a meal that you find mainly in Ze Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. The Egyptians have their own version of it and they call it Kosharee. However the Egyptians in addition to the rice and lentils, add pasta. A real carbs bomb!

Before I give you the recipe, we need to have a serious discussion about rice - what kind of rice you use.

There are several types of rice: short and long grain.

I use short grain for Risotto, soups and rice puddings and for long grain I always use BASMATI. This dish needs the long grain one.

Whatever rice you are going to use, do me a favor - DO NOT USE this plastic, tasteless, unhealthy, rubber, para-boiled stuff called Uncle Ben's. This thing is an insult to rice and to cooking. So para boiled rice is OUT.

The second thing you need to learn about Rice is to wash it, thoroughly wash it.

How many a times I have seen people just open a bag of rice and cook it just like that. Horror of horrors !

Rice needs to be washed more than once, because you need to get the starch out and the only way to do that is by washing it in cold water. And if you can soak the rice in cold water beforehand for at least 30 mn that is even better. Your rice will not stick and will come out fluffy.

So whenever I give a rice recipe the above two points are a must. To recapitulate 1) no Uncle Ben's and 2) wash several times and soak in cold water.

Now for tonight's main dish.

For two persons you will need

- 1 cup of long grain rice, preferably Basmati
- 1 cup of Green or Brown lentils. I go for brown myself.
- 2 large onions
- at least 1 cup of olive oil (for this recipe you really need to use OLIVE oil)
- salt, pepper
- Keemun (not Cumin)

Someone asked me what is the difference between Cumin and Keemun/ Kamoon ?
To my knowledge Cumin is cumin seeds and Keemun or Kamoon is a different spice. You can find the latter in Arabic or Indian grocery shops in powder form.

Boil the lentils until half tender. You need to keep the lentils in at least 1 to 1 1/2 cup of its water. Meaning that the water level must not go down below that because you will need that water to cook your rice in.

Once your lentils are half cooked, a little more than half cooked, you throw in your 1 cup of washed rice. you mix gently, you add your salt, pepper and a good dose of keemun at least 2 tsps.

Once you have mixed you do not touch it anymore, otherwise it goes all mushy.

You let it boil once and then you lower your heat to a minimum, until the rice absorbs all the remaining lentil water and is cooked. If you feel you need to add more water because the whole thing is drying up and your rice is not cooked yet, do so, but do not stir.

Now while your rice and lentils are gently cooking...

You chop the onions in rings, half rings preferably
you get a big frying pan
and one thing about olive oil, you do not heat it beforehand because it loses its properties.
so you pour your olive oil and your onions together and fry until your onions are golden brown.

You strain your onions and retain the olive oil.

By now your lentils and rice are well cooked. Pour the olive oil on top of your lentils and rice and mix gently it once, with a fork, you need to make sure the whole thing does not become too mushy.

Serve by topping your fried golden brown onions on top of the lentils and rice.

This is nicely accompanied by a green cabbage salad, dressing for which I will give you now

olive oil
fresh lemon juice
and 1 small garlic crushed
green cabbage is raw and chopped

I also serve yogurt in a separate bowl as it goes nicely with the lentils and rice.

Bon appétit or Sahtain as we say in Arabic.

February 7, 2010

Totally Refined....for Starters.

If you are new to my blog, please read my welcome note first.

I admit it, I like the good life...nothing ostentatious, but nonetheless delicately in that sense am a disgusting bourgeois woman...

Even in times of trouble and tight budgets, allow yourselves a refined treat...

Bearing that in mind, let me share with you today's recipe. A simple, easy, tasty, exotic starter which will highly impress your guests, if you are in need to make an impression.

In fact, it is 2 starters that go well together but not a must. This is not engraved in hard stone, more like in tender do stick to the two together for the ultimate effect.

Starter 1 for two.

2 good size pieces of smoked salmon
1 small onion
1 Tablespoon of capers (optional)
1 tablespoon of fresh Dill
coarse ground pepper
1/2 (a little less)of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
2 slices of lemons cut in half.
2 lettuce leaves

Cut the salmon in thin slices, do not chop,
slice onion into rings
mix lemon juice with sliced salmon, make sure you don't put too much lemon juice
place your salmon on lettuce leaves, cover with onion rings
top with a little bit of capers
grind some pepper on top
sprinkle your dill not chopped
and decorate with your lemon slices.

Starter 2 for two

water cress
grated fresh carrots
1 grapefruit
1 avocado
1 small tin of crab meat (optional)
a little salt
pepper a dash
olive oil
a tsp of lemon juice

mix your water cress and carrots
mix grapefruit (the inside obviously) with crab meat make sure to keep grapefruit juice you will, need it for the dressing
slice your avocado
place your watercress and carrot mix, top it with your crab and grapefruit mix, decorate with avocado slices
mix about 1tbs of olive oil with grapefruit and lemon juice, add pepper and salt and pour it over your salad...

Serve starter 1 and starter 2 with some hot toast.

If you are wine drinker, I am assuming you would have chilled your crisp dry white or rosé by now...Perrier will do too...not quite.

Et voilà.

Bon appétit.

February 1, 2010

A Great Sedative...

coldFirst you need to read my welcome note.

You will not believe it, but Aubergines have sedative properties and not only that -- they are damn too tasty too.
I know this is not the season for aubergines, or betinjan as we call them in Arabic, but aubergines are readily available throughout the year with all these green houses around.

I was debating as to which aubergine recipe I should share with you, I want to start with simple ones first, and maybe work my way to more complicated ones.

So today's recipe is Aubergines in Yogurt as a starter/hors d'oeuvre.

My God, just thinking about this dish makes me mellow as if I have received a good dose of tranquilizers or maybe a joint - alas I don't smoke weed or hashish...I opt for aubergines instead.

You will need for the full effect : for two persons :

- 1 big aubergine or two smaller ones.
- vegetable oil - sunflower or corn is best for this dish
- 1 big clove of garlic
- dried mint
- fresh mint to decorate
- salt and pepper
- 1 to 1/2 standard cans of yogurt and do spare me the low fat stuff.

1) Wash aubergines (obviously) and peel them in thick stripes. retain that lovely violet black skin. How to explain that now...hmm - make it look like a zebra with thick stripes.

Slice aubergines in rounds -- not too thick and not too thin . Too thick will drink up the oil and too thin will make them lose their taste and dry them out. Salt them and it is important to wrap them in a cloth. The cloth will absorb the humidity, because aubergines drink up whatever you give them. So wrapping them in a cloth will absorb that. Meanwhile...

2) Heat the oil in a big frying pan- aubergines when fried need space. And be generous with the oil and heat it well as aubergines are big drinkers. If you are not into frying, you can bake them in the oven and brush some oil on top, but the taste will not be the same...

3) keep the heat steady, you want those aubergines to become golden and not burn...

4) once that is done, place the aubergines on several layers of kitchen paper towels, to absorb excess oil

5) prepare your yogurt sauce. mix yogurt with crushed garlic and about 1 tsp of dried mint leaves and a bit of pepper.

6) place your aubergines in a deep dish and cover it with your yogurt sauce, decorate with fresh mint leaves.

Serve with hot Arabic bread.

Enjoy and  feel that chill out effect....

January 19, 2010

Crunchy Delicious Crackers.

I know, I know I am supposed to give you the recipe for how to cook decent rice...

But I thought since most of you out there are meat eaters, and enjoy barbecues, you may need to check out this ready made recipe here .

To accompany it, specially if you are on a diet, you know all those extra pounds and kilos from stuffing your faces into oblivion, I suggest you can do away with bread, baked potatoes, and the rest...just settle for some nice crunchy delicious crackers.

As for dessert, nothing beats the high of pure sugar, a ready made recipe can also be found here.

Enjoy !

January 15, 2010

Chicken Liver Grandma Style...

Before reading this, please read the Welcome Note on your left.

I don't know about other languages, but in Arabic, terms of endearment or anger at slights often involve allusions to human organs.

For example in love you'd hear - you are my heart, eyes, will serve you from the inside of my eyes, (meaning deep from my soul), or another one you the pupil of my eye, or men ba'ad kabdee...difficult to translate, kabd means liver, and men ba'ad kabdee means very close to my liver, my most vital organ... liver.

Of course everything has it's opposite and Love's opposite is Hate. I will not go into a philosophical discussion as to how hate comes about, but it is fair to say that hate usually comes from anger at some injustice done...

So terms involving organs and hate are the same - he/she made my heart explode, my gall bladder explode, and also talae'lee aynee, meaning he made my eyes pop out (usually referring to someone who has kept at you relentlessly and not in a nice way either...) and of course the proverbial allusion to liver as in he made my liver explode...

Of course there are other sentences used for the lower parts of the body, which I shall refrain from teaching you tonight, as I make ample use of them on my other blogs....but not quite and not my opinion.

But rest assured, I do not wish you to explode in any way, maybe just loosen up that belt, button, whatever is around your waist, because the recipe I am about to endear you with is just so yummy...

This is a recipe I watched my grandma (bless her soul) cook. It is easy, healthy and tasty...

You will need the following for two persons. I always make more, because I hate stinginess and avarice. And bear in mind that measurements are not absolutely exact, this is cooking not algebra. OK ?! So when I say roughly, because I do say roughly often, take it to mean more or less...

So more or less :

200-250g of chicken liver
1 medium size onion
1 big glove of garlic
4-5 branches of fresh coriander or cilantro as you call it
1 cube chicken stock
black pepper
mixed spices (also called all spice)
-curry powder (optional)
-cinnamon powder
-cumin or keemun powder
-vegetable oil - I use sunflower.
-tomato paste
-(note I don't use salt in this one because the chicken stock is already salty enough)

Get ready :

-wash chicken liver and strain.
-chop onions finely and crush garlic
-heat about a tablespoon of oil in deep pan or pot
-cook onion until tender THEN add the garlic
- fry for a couple more minutes then add liver
- mix well and make sure to let the liver cook before adding spices - meaning you are not to see any raw red bits at all...if you don't do that, the liver gets soggy...
- once you have made sure that the liver is cooked, add your spices, i.e mixed spices, a bit of black pepper, cinnamon, keemun. You need the liver to smell of spices and become brownish from the mix.
-boil about a cup of water and dissolve your chicken stock cube in it and add some tomato paste, enough to make it into a rich red.
-stir the whole thing and add to your liver
- and finally add your coarsely chopped coriander leaves (leaves not stalks)

Let is boil once then lower temperature to simmer, until the spices, the liver, the broth drink up from one another...and the sauce thickens enough but not too much, you need to keep some sauce in there...

Serve with rice (I will give you the proper way to cook rice, none of this Western bullshit rice cooking) or if you can't wait for my next rice recipe and want to try it out immediately, serve with hot pitta or Arabic bread instead.

Bon appétit and don't forget my welcome note and a prayer for my grandma...

January 10, 2010

Apples -- a Winter Rose.

Don't ask why the is like poetry, no questions asked...nothing but engaging the senses..
I love winter time, yes I do, in small, intense doses...I don't like this gray carpet for a sky, but I do love chilly crisps freezing days... I like winter, because I am urged to stay indoors and indulge...

And for some reason, I associate winter time with apples and cinnamon, The mixed scent of apples and cinnamon is mind blowing...

I think the fragrance industry must have figured out that this combo of scents is potent, and I noticed that shops make it a point to sell apples and cinnamon scented candles, specially around Christmas.

It is not only the smell that is alluring, but the taste...and I shall give you a simple, recipe for winter, that will warm your palate and your heart - Baked Apples.

Wait, it's not any baked apples it's Layla's baked apples.

Two kinds of apples : I call them Green Skinned ones and Red skinned ones.
The Green ones can be Granny Smith or Golden. Avoid yellow skinned ones as they are too sweet. Red skinned ones are red skinned ones and I don't know their name. If you can't find Greenish ones, no worries, stick to Red only.

Why the mix of both ? Good question. The mix of the tangy sourness of the green ones goes very well with the sweetness of the red ones. And you need to get that right mixture but not necessarily I said you can stick to one kind only.

Slice apples in nice chunks, not thin, keep skin in a glass plate, prepare your winter sauce : for 2 apples you need :

- 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey
- tablespoon of rose water

Pour the mix over the apples, and make sure that they taste it -- then be generous with the cinnamon (powder), but not too generous, as too much of everything can turn into bitterness - but you need enough to have that smell fill up your kitchen...cover with foil, and bake in oven until tender...

Serve HOT with fresh cream or vanilla ice cream or just by itself, decorate with a cinnamon stick and whiff away the wonderful smell of winter roses...

January 9, 2010

Omega 3 in your plate.

Nothing beats the blues like Omega 3. Seeing the state of the world, it should be made into a compulsory supplement.

Been reading the news again - and I need mega doses of Omega3 to survive the blues coming from this endless cycle of violence specially in, around, directed at this bloody Middle East-- more like the Arab and Muslim world.

Can't handle no more of it. Will cook instead some Fish, the natural source of Omega3

Can't find fresh fish here, so I settle for some simple frozen cod filet. Cod is easy to cook, not too greasy and not too expensive.

Thaw the thing - obviously. I also wash it. I wash everything actually. Fish included.

Marinate itfor 30mn in: some fresh lemon juice (not too much but enough to give that lemony flavor), ground cumin or keemun, a bit of salt, pepper, crushed garlic, a dash of olive oil, and I also add a bit of curry for the color and flavor.

Pre-heat oven, place fish in foil paper, and add some fresh cilantro leaves on top. Fold the whole thing but leave space for fish to breath, do not tightly wrap it, you need to let the fish cook in its own juices.

Cod is cooked quickly, so if you need a side dish, prepare it in advance. I usually add steamed vegetables, preferably potatoes on which I put a little olive oil and fresh dill.

That should beat your blues for today. Bon appétit.

Sore Throat.

I woke up with a bad sore throat. I must have caught cold yesterday, but I think it's because I got furious at the news I read about an Indian student 29 y who was set on fire alive, in that shit hole called Australia. Like it's not enough that Australians kill Afghan kids, they need to set their students on fire too. Then some dickhead on twitter was finding 1001 excuses as to why Australia is not be called a shit hole to be boycotted.

Any ways my sore throat is bad. So this is a recipe that usually works.

- Fresh grated ginger in pot, add boiling water, boil thoroughly, pour in cup, add FRESH lemon juice and honey.

I like to have the honey apart like a cough syrup, as it looses it healing effectiveness when diluted in hot liquids.

OK, now time to go and heal my self...and yeah Australia is a shit hole.

January 8, 2010

Love Sizzle and all...

I have a strange theory - I really believe people make love the way they eat...
You see it's not only about ingredients, it's the way...
Can you imagine someone having a big Mac daily, can you imagine what his or her sex life is like ? A total disaster. The dude is a product of the new world order, of globalization.

How can anyone fuck globalization without the extra calories, chemicals and tastelessness ? Definitely a philosophical question to ponder.

Another Beginning...

This is a totally crazy idea, a suggestion by a friend who told me - Layla you love cooking, why don't you start a blog and call it Layla Anwar's Kitchen ?
I had thought about that, in secret...
I sure do love cooking but then every thing is a meal dished out our way...for those who are lucky to have one, to have a meal that is...

Hence this new blog. A totally experimental one.

My kitchen is not only a place to cook but a place to experiment...and am hoping that the right recipe will be concocted here...

I will write about food, gender, art, politics, whatever ingredients I can find in my kitchen and will open the doors for you to add your own recipes...

I did say recipes...

I don't have domestic help and will not clean after you. In other words, if you will use this blog to shit your way around like a lost dog, you shall be banned...this is a kitchen not a public toilet.

Catch you soon with a bait of a recipe...