209 x AllergicFoodLover
I still remember that day as if it was yesterday, those butterflies fluttering in your stomach as the plane is getting closer to the ocean as you see this mixture of skyscrapers and stone houses. Then you have that wall of people holding balloons and roses at the arrival waiting to welcome their missed family members or the taxis parked in double and triple line. I never had anyone teach me Lebanese cooking, then with the development of my food allergies whatever motivation my aunts may have had, somewhat vanished and my father is not a cook, he is a taster.
The first time I had 'samke harra' was up in the mountains, Baabdat to be precise, with my father and my Swedish family who had come to visit. I had eaten the sauce at a ratio of 10 spoons per tiny piece of fish, naturally, that had meant asking for second servings of sauce. It was packed with flavors, delicious and addictive. This lunch was also the first time I had arak, and no thankfully, no embarrassing moment followed that tasting.
I suppose, like many recipes, it varies from region to region, although I believe it originates from Tripoli, for sure not the mountains! The more authentic version will use harissa, however, I did not have any on hand. I would call this version a more easy-going, little to no hassle recipe.
Recipe for Hassle-Free Samke Harra
Once the fish is ready, transfer it to a slightly deep dish and pour over the tahini mixture on top. Garnish with your favorite nut toppings, I used the olive makdous from Feryal as it has both the crunch and additional spice complexity.
Pair it with a glass of cold white wine, for this meal, we chose the bottle of Chateau Khoury Rêve Blanc 2018. The chardonnay and riesling soften the spiciness of the fish.
For this year, I would like to dedicate this post to a special woman in my life, I see her as a mother figure, as they do not all come with relatable blood. This woman, both beautiful inside and out, has a romantic heart, a mind as creative as the world of Alice in Wonderland, with a will and determination that would motivate anyone to paddle to Antarctica.
For me, Mother's day is not only to celebrate the biological mothers, but also the aunts, the grandmothers, the women who have shown that maternal aspect, ultimately nourished you whether it was mentally or emotionally to be a better version of yourself.
This woman did this, still does, and probably will continue doing so until the end of time. And I love her for that.
The Sweet Tart: with olive oil crust and limoncello filling.
For the Crust:
160gr rice flour
30gr nut meal - I used Cashew flour from holiguds
50gr nut butter - I used tahini for this
50ml olive oil - I used le jardin de toto
Pinch of salt - I used the ’not himalayan salt’ from mad.in.lebanon
Put the oven at 175°C. Pour the mixture into the pie form and carefully place it in the middle of the oven, for 20min. Depending on your oven it might need an additional 10min. However, it burns very quickly so do not forget it!
Once done, take it out, let it cool down and serve it with a glass of limoncello in the sun!
In terms of food pairing, it's quite evident that limoncello would go well with a lemon tart as they are both lemon-based. Limoncello is an Italian liquor, mainly made in the South. Luckily for us, we have our very own made in Lebanon!
Try it out HERE!
Food plating has become of such importance nowadays, especially with social media where neither taste nor smell can be experienced, heightening the visual essence. We draw with food now, which is what I felt like doing this Sunday. It's a salad but I presented as if it was a floral vine climbing its way to the top of the plate, blooming all sorts of delicious things. Naturally, I am not asking you to do the same, but rather I invite you to play around and create your little gastronomic painting. I believe the most beautiful aspect of this plate is that it's all sourced from Lebanon, including the bubbly. I was taught as a child that when you crave salty, food it meant you were in need to connect with your masculine side which was organization, structure, slightly black and white, whilst the sweet cravings were the feminine, sensitive, creative, emotional side. So now, looking at the Frizzante and the salad dish, we have a gastronomic yin and yang.
I could go on about all the different ways we can interpret food but that would take a couple of pages. So let's talk about Frizzante. One cannot call a wine that has bubbles 'champagne' if it is not made in the region of Champagne in France, that's because it's a PDO - Protected Designation of Origin. The EU with Unesco developed three labels to protect food, it's like a form of copyright. Parmigiano also falls into that category because the whole process has to be done in that region for it to be called Parmigiano Reggiano. So now we know that champagne is French, cava, the Spanish version, prosecco is Italian and sparkling, or vin mousseux is just another word for wine with bubbles that do not come from those regions. Champagne and cava are made the same way with a double fermentation. The difference with prosecco other than the grapes is that the second fermentation happens in the bottle, whilst prosecco it's done in tanks.
THE HAPPY SALAD: Rocca salad with quince, brie, walnuts, and herbs
- Handful of rocca
- Quince jam or pomegranate or cranberries
- Brie ( I got mine from Dry and Raw) You can substitute for another cheese, as long as it has that strong flavor.
- 50gr of crushed walnuts
- A mix of tried za'atar, chili flakes, salt, and pepper ( I used the spicy mix from Good Thymes).
- Olive oil
The sparkling wine from Batroun Mountains sweetens the bold taste of the brie and the bitterness of the rocca. It creates balance in the mouth and brings out the flavors of the herbs with its bubbles. What's brilliant is that we have sparkling wine made in Lebanon, something that not all countries are fortunate to have.
This country has some incredible products, do not be afraid to try them out, you might like them, you might not, but at least you would have tasted the products made from these lands.
Before we even think of talking about the burgers, let us take the time to celebrate this day. I do not believe that women's day should refrain to just a mere 24 hours, but rather it should always be celebrated. Also, I think that this year, for many of us females, has been more trying than others. For some readers, such talks might feel redundant but sadly when uncertain times arise, women generally are one of the first victims of this. It is true that there has been an increase in domestic violence as a by-product of the Covid-19 lockdown. This is for all countries. What I would like to bring forth with this short mention is that yes, things can be tough, and yes some days, it feels like hope is an imaginary word and the anxiety and frustration are consuming. However, that does not mean that one should take it out on their partner nor their child. Use that fire to create something, to change something, to put your foot down, and make a stand.
The first time this day was celebrated was back in 1911. There have been some incredible signs of solidarity looking back at the past, from the women's march to Versailles during the French Revolution in 1789 to the strike done by Russian women, this strike that lasted for four days, lead to the abdication of the Tsar in 1917. When women come and join hands they are a force, but the greatest strength is when everyone, both men and women join together to fight for what they believe in, that's a force to be reckoned with.
So on that note, do celebrate the women in your lives, celebrate your mother who brought you to life, your siblings, women you admire, and your partner. If you are a woman, then celebrate yourself. This is why we decided to do a burger. Because women, just like men, love a good burger, and just like men, do not always want wine. Women love beer, women who are coeliac ( aka gluten allergic) love cider which works just as well to refreshen the mouth after all that delicious greasiness.
The beauty of a burger is that at the end of the day, you can put whatever you want in it. Go all out, put your personality in it. Mine shows the creativity, the different layers one has to overcome in order to get the whole aspect of the person, the daring and courageous with a hint of the familiar. However, the best part of this delicious indulgence is that it's 100% made in Lebanon. Let's rock and roll!
Recipe for 2 badass Leburgers
2 hamburger bread buns ( I made gluten-free ones myself, message me for the recipe).
2 burger patties: I used the gluten-free vegan one from Dry & Raw, otherwise, it's 500gr minced meat per burger.
1 jar of fig jam, I used Fertaike
1 jar of spreadable brie from Dry & Raw
Something green, I used spinach leaves
Cut the onions in thin slices, throw them in a pan with a drizzle of oil, splash of water on low heat, salt, and pepper, and stir until they turn golden brown. If you want you can add a small spoon of butter to enhance the flavoring of the caramelized onion. Once done, in a bowl add a spoon of fig jam to the onion and mix. Set aside. Pan fry your patty, according to your preference, that is whether it's meat or the vegan patty. Then assemble accordingly. On the bread, very lightly, spread a layer of mustard, add the mixed fig jam and onion mix, add the patty, then the cheese of your choosing, if using the brie, take a nice scoop and it'll melt on the burger, the salad leaves, and the very lightly mustard covered bread bun.
4 to 6 large potatoes
Peel the potatoes and cut them into thick match sticks.
Wata Cider works perfectly with anything greasy because the alcoholic apples give that refreshing somewhat mouse rinse to the taste buds when eating anything heavy in carbs and fat, although the bubbles might make you full faster, these bubbles are more delicate than fizzy water and thus give that light sourness against the fattiness of the brie and patty.
This dish, translated literally into eggs with tomatoes, is the epiphany of childhood comfort food in Italy. I still remember to this day my babysitter back when I lived in Italy would always cook this for me. The key was to keep the eggs runny, not raw, but runny. A recipe born in the region of Tuscany and often falls under the names; "Uova al livornese" or "Uova alla garibalidini", eggs of Livorno, the port city nestled in the region and garibaldi eggs was simply because the redness of the tomatoes reminisced the red jackets of Garibaldi's men ( he contributed heavily to the unification of Italy). There is a similar dish, originating from North Africa, called the shakshouka, the main difference is that this one has bell peppers.
Each dish we eat carries pieces from the past, stories, and memories, both personal and international ones. For example, did you know that when tomatoes were first brought to Italy they weren't accepted? During the Renaissance, vegetables, especially those that came from the "New World" were believed to harm the body and thus were called the devil's fruit. It wasn't until the 19th century that the tomato-related recipes emerged that the fruit gained such nationalistic status.
Take mouneh for example, it's not just cute jars filled with yumminess with a little bow tied around them. It signified the method of preservation of food in order to survive the winter. In other countries, one would salt the food to create a preservation coat, and in other countries, like Sweden, well we would make a fridge in the snow and store it there.
Let's go back to the eggs and tomatoes. A dish now cooked as a way to empty your fridge of those little leftovers. It is a dish that has no rule other than tomatoes and eggs. Through in those sad-looking zucchinis or that kale, you convinced yourself to buy, thinking you'd have that healthy salad a week ago. Add your own spice to it, make it yours, call it something and make it your signature dish! if chefs can have dishes named after them, then why can't we?
The bold flavors of the tomato with the creamy eggs were paired with a glass of arak from Abou Akl Arak. A quick history note, this arak was first made in the early 1920s in Mtein. It turned 100 years this year! With its notes of aniseed and licorice, it refreshes the mouth when eating, one of the big reasons why it's served with mezze. It clears your palate and instead of overpowering, it tones down the acidity from the tomatoes and za'atar.
Eggs Al Banadoura
(For 2 people or 4 if everyone has one egg)
Last week was a week filled with love during a lockdown, however, love shouldn’t be restrained to a 24-hour curfew, nor should you base love on that day, but rather on the other 364 days. Love comes in all shapes and forms, and it manifests itself in ways that sometimes need no words to express it. Food does that. Why is it that your grandmother’s stew is the best one on this planet? Or that someone dares say something about that 50-year-old recipe on how to cook the Christmas dinner, don’t even think about it. Nope, I said no.
But then what do you do when you have allergies? What do you do when there is an economic crisis that stops you from being able to eat what you love? Or even worse, to make those dishes that your family loves, to have to say no to something that was a commodity. Every Christmas and every Valentine's Day my father would get a box of Ferrero Rocher. I am sure that he bought them because he loved the taste, but there was that little hint of ownership, this was his box because of course these chocolates are filled with gluten, dairy and everything I can’t have. This year, supermarkets didn’t even import it because of the dollar rate. It’s a silly example, and other situations are on a whole other level of dramatical, from the powder milk to meat, to medication and gas. It sometimes feels like everything has become a luxury.
Yet there are ways, there are solutions, it might not be exactly what you were used to eating, but maybe this version is better? Maybe, this version has a greater impact on our community? Maybe, because you decided not to buy that jar of barilla pesto and instead go to the old man down the street that has fresh spinach and hindbeh, you just made his day a little sweeter. So what ends up happening when you decide to stop buying those products that have become so expensive, for reasons of having to and wanting to, and turning towards local products, you can create and recreate those dishes you love. The obstacle is how far your creativity will go. This is exactly what this dish stands for, taking the local and creating recreating something we love, yet our version of it. Use the various cuisines to inspire us and create something delicious.
The storm has arrived as they predicted. They called it Hope. This can stand for many things; it can be hope for us, for better days to come, it can be hope for the various wineries that are suffering from the climate change and the delayed winter, it can be for nature to recuperate a little. When the first drops of hope began to descend, I took out my little table, lit a candle, opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine Wardy, and witnessed Hope take over.
Pasta with Lebanese Pesto
Pasta of your choice, I used gluten-free penne
( 80gr – 100gr are a good serving size)
A good handful of fresh hindbeh, if you are not a fan, can be replaced with spinach or even parsley.
Four garlic cloves
Juice from one lemon
Salt and pepper
50 - 100ml olive oil – you really go with the feeling, the more olive oil, the creamier it will be.
40gr of walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Some pasta water roughly 100ml
Cook the pasta al dente, following the instructions on the packaging, take them out when they still have a slight chew. Empty the water, while keeping some for the pesto, put them back in their pot. Throw the pesto ingredients in a food processor, taste, add more olive oil or salt depending on your liking. Adding pasta water to the pesto will give it a smoother, silkier aspect, if you prefer the sticker version skip this part. Reheat the pot of pasta, low heat, add the pesto, mix together, and voila. Serve.
Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, Domaine Wardy
This wine goes very well with green vegetables that have that grassier taste. The primary aromas from Sauvignon blanc are citrusy with a burst of fresh herbs, thus complements the pesto. When you pair salads, shellfish, or even sushi, sauvignon blanc will give that note of freshness for your palate. A little side note on this wine, this is their first vegan wine. The only difference between normal and vegan wine in the fining process, that is the clarification process, this is the process that gets rid of the cloudiness in wine. Animal agents are used in getting rid of those tiny particles, nowadays, wineries are using more vegetable-based ways for that. If it is a natural wine, they let the particles sink to the bottom. There isn't one that is better than the other, give them a try and if you enjoy one more than the other!
Click HERE for Wardy's Sauvignon Blanc!
Valentines' Day Menu for 2
Carrot Risotto with Labneh garnish, paired with Bybline Echo.
150g rice ( risotto rice, arborio rice, Italian rice, even Egyptian works - it has to be starchy, no basmati or jasmine)