Eggs in meat sauce (Makhlama)

fg makhlamaThis is a delicious Iraqi dish I sampled last Summer when visiting Iraqi friends. It is perfect for brunch and easy to prepare. 

INGREDIENTS: 4 TO 6 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound ground meat
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1 14-oz can (optional)
  • 1 potato, diced (optional)
  • 6 eggs

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat;pan-fry the onion and potato (if using) and add the meat to brown, breaking it with a wooden spoon. Remove the excess oil and add the tomatoes. Stew covered over gentle heat for 20 minutes or so. 

2. Break the eggs, one at a time, in the skillet. Cover and cook a few minutes till set. Season and serve immediately with pita bread or (if you have access to it) tannour bread. 

fg makhlama


dup marie with egg


Rami Zurayk (From ‘Akkar to ‘Amel)


Rami-4Rami Zurayk is an agronomist and food personality  I had wanted to meet  for a long time. He is the author of several food and agriculture-related books, a graduate of Oxford and professor (and Department Chair) at the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science at the American University of Beirut, specializing in ecosystems management. He is one of the founders of SLOW FOOD in Lebanon.

A fascinating man with a wide experience of food and agriculture throughout the Middle-East (he even represented the country of Yemen) and an activist in his field; I was tempted to define him by stating that he is the Michael Pollan of Lebanon. He has published several books and hundreds of articles and conducted numerous seminars and conferences both in Lebanon and the region. A chance encounter at a social gathering allowed me to secure a meeting at his office on campus in order to hear his views on the wide and complex topic of food production in Lebanon and the entire Middle-East. 

Our talk  mainly centered  on macroeconomic issues related to food production: The first one he expounded on was the homogenization of taste, set forth by big food consortiums. Diets have, as a result, become similar globally.  Food has lost its socio-cultural dimension. (In Beirut, young people flock to sushi bars and hamburger joints!)

Rami Zurayk has also founded (among his many other pursuits), an organic store in Beirut which distributes food directly from small farmers, similar to the American CSA set-up, called The Healthy Basket (Hamra district).

One of his books From Akkar to ‘Amel, Lebanon’s Slow Food Trail, is the one I consult the most frequently. It is a concise (150 pages) , fact-filled manual on all the small producers of Lebanon. In his book, written in conjunction with one of his students, Sami Abdul Rahman and photographed by Tanya Traboulsi, he researched all of the country’s regional foods (Darfieh cheese, Labneh,  Rose water, Carob Molasses, Cedar Honey, Bulgur, Zaatar, Freekeh, etc), traveling to the region where it is still produced in an artisan fashion, reporting on their producers and analyzing with scientific accuracy the method by which they are made. I consult this book first and foremost when I am researching a recipe which uses any one of these ingredients. I strongly recommend it. 

Rami's book

Image from RedFlag Magazine.

























Almond shortbread cookies (Lawziyeh)

blog lawziyehThese cookies are dangerous. Too good to eat just one. They are called lawziyeh, from lawz, meaning almond. They are very similar to Mexican wedding cookies. The almonds are chopped (not peeled) and incorporated in the dough, which is a basic shortbread. They are a specialty of  pastry shops in the Chouf Mountains  and one of my friends always loves to pick-up a box when she comes over for a visit. They are easy to make and last for several weeks. 

Happy Eid El-Fitr 2014!

Hope all of those suffering around us can see their pain alleviated very soon.

INGREDIENTS: 50 cookies

  • 1  cup unsalted butter+2 tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch or rice flour
  • 2 cups almonds, chopped (toasted too, as an option)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar 

1. Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy; incorporate the flour and cornstarch. Add the chopped almonds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

2. Roll out and cut with a cookie cutter; bake in a preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes or until light golden in color. Cool and serve. 

NOTE: These can be rolled-out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper. They can also be dusted with powdered sugarblog almond cookie


Fish in a tomato stew

blog fish in sauce I don’t know about you, but the (sometimes) oppressive heat does not encourage me to bend over a hot stove. This is quick and easy and flavorful and a last-minute inspiration. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare. 

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings  

    •    4 fish fillets (salmon, snapper, grouper, sea bass, sea bream, or other firm fleshed fish fillet)   

   •    1 large onion, chopped   

   •    4 cloves of garlic, mashed    

  •    1/2 cup of chopped cilantro or parsley    

  •    3 large tomatoes or 1 l can of tomatoes in juice (14 oz), peeled and chopped     

•    2 tbsp of grape molasses (substitute honey or date syrup) 

   •    1 tsp of salt (to taste)     

•    1 tsp of dried coriander     

•   Dash of paprika or chili powder     

•    1/4 cup olive oil    

 1. Heat the oil in a large skillet and pan- fry the onion  till soft and translucent; add the tomatoes to the skillet  and garlic paste and grape molasses. Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for a few minutes.     

2.  Sprinkle the fish with the spices on both sides and place in the sauce; cover the skillet for 7 minutes and let the fish cook over gentle heat till it flakes easily. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve immediately with a garnish of chopped cilantro or parsley. fish in pond


Cream of wheat pudding (Ma’mouniyeh)

blog mamounieh Here is a traditional (and ancient) Middle-Eastern pudding that can be prepared very easily with ingredients from any mainstream supermarket. It is named after the ninth century Caliph Ma’moun (revered by some and loathed by others). It is so simple to make, yet it is a celebratory dessert. It is also prepared for a special breakfast and garnished with toasted nuts or melted white cheese or whipped cream.

  INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water or other flavoring such as vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil
  • 1 cup cream of wheat (for a coarser texture) or semolina flour
  • Garnish: pistachios, chopped fine. Pine nuts, toasted or panfried till golden-brown. Almonds, toasted. 

1. Place the water and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer for a few minutes. Add the orange blossom water and set aside.

  2. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the semolina or cream of wheat; stir constantly until the mixture is light brown and a toasted fragrance comes-up. Gradually add the syrup, stirring, until the mixture thickens (which takes just minutes). Transfer to a bowl or several ramequins. Garnish with the nuts and serve immediately. 

NOTE: Other flavorings include saffron, which can be diluted in a few tablespoons of water and added to the semolina. Some people like to add shredded cheese to this pudding as it cooks, melting the cheese.  Blog cream of wheat puddin

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