My kids who are American kids par excellence, think that cereals come in a box and are eaten with some milk. They also know that there are hundreds of varieties of cereal boxes. I have known people in America whose devotion to these boxed cereals is unparalleled and lifelong. I have never shared that feeling. I always felt that the packaged cereals were nauseatingly sweet and weird-tasting for the most part. Part of the cultural divide I guess.
The one cereal bowl that figures in traditional Lebanese cuisine uses wheat (which can be substituted forbarley). The wheat is boiled in an anise-infused water (can substitute cinnamon), then a sweetener is added along with some nuts. Pomegranate seeds too, if they are in season. This dish is served on happy occasions, such as to celebrate baby’s first tooth, when it is distributed to all friends, relatives and neighbors. It was also served for the New Year as wheat symbolizes prosperity and happiness, as well as for the Feast of Sainte Barbe or al-barbara that falls on December Fourth. For this feast, people wear a disguise and go door to door. They are welcomed with a dish of wheat berries in a sweet anise-scented broth covered with a multitude of nuts. This dish was customary in any celebration; in my grand-mother’s time, families would send the parish priest two large platters of this dish that he would bless, returning one to the family.
This dish can be served hot or cold. If you serve it cold, then it is best to sweeten it while the wheat is still boiling. If you decide to serve it warm then you can sweeten it right before serving it with sugar or honey or molasses. I found the wheat at the Hispanic market but it can be found in any health food store.
INGREDIENTS: This quantity will yield 6 servings.
- 1 cup of hulled wheat (you can use unhulled wheat, just cook longer, or barley)
- 1/2 cup of sugar (or to taste, can substitute honey or molasses)
- 1/4 cup each of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts
- 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds (optional)
- Spices: one tablespoon of anise seeds (can substitute ground anise), 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (optional) , 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger (optional) and 1 teaspoon of orange flower water (optional)
- Boil the wheat in water for one hour. You can put a tablespoon of anise seeds in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie it with a string and let it boil with the wheat.
- Boil 3 cups of water and pour over the nuts. When cool, peel the nuts, drain.
- Add the spices to the wheat the last few minutes of cooking. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Ladle the wheat in a small bowl, cover with the nuts and some pomegranate seeds or dragées.
28 Comments • Comments Feed