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)
It all started in 1839 when Roy Riachi’s ancestors passionately built their first “khommara” to produce alcoholic beverages and sell them to the neighboring villages of Khenchara – and the rest, as they say, is history…
In fact, just by looking at the striking diversity and creativity behind the designs and bottles, one would think that it’s a young winery. However, Riachi is one of the oldest wineries and distilleries in Lebanon. Great winemakers, but also groundbreaking visionaries: when Roy’s great grandfather incorporated liquor into their production, he really was a trend-setter at the time.
Roy takes pride in having taken up on his ancestors' promise to put Lebanese wine and spirits on the map. He is today the 8th generation winemaker and master distiller at Riachi Winery & Distillery. He has amazing stories to tell about how Riachi ended up where it is today, overcoming invasions, conflicts and wars.
The key to passing the winery on from generation to generation is simple: you cannot be in it just for the love of business, you need to be in it for the love of the craft.
That’s why he never settles for the comfort of his winemaking history. Instead, he never stops finding ways to innovate: Innovation found in the techniques, in the bottles, in the storytelling, and in the overall experience. For example, Riachi’s Athryr is the first ever Lebanese single malt whiskey. Made of melted barley, harvested from the Beqaa Valley and aged in new Lebanese Oak, Athyr is Lebanese through and through.
Today, Riachi has released Levant Highlands, their 100% Lebanese craft malt whiskey. A tribute to Mount Hermon, home to the palace of Baal, the Canaanite god of seasons and fertility, it gives off toasted notes of chocolate, toffee, roasted coffee and even vanilla, condensed milk, and confitures.
No matter what, Roy stays focused on the everlasting promise of his ancestors, that wine and spirits should only serve the purpose of bringing people together. With this in mind, Riachi Winery & Distillery maintains a steady path towards keeping the legacy untouched.
Click HERE for more.
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!
Sobbaghieh from the word "Sabgha" meaning dye in Arabic, is a rare dark-skinned red wine grape native to Lebanon.
It belongs to the "Tinturier" grape variety, characterized by its red-colored flesh and juice. The presence of anthocyanin pigments within the pulp of the "Tinturier" grapes is what gives them this rich crimson color and higher levels of tannins.
Traditionally, Sobbaghieh grapes were grown in the mountains of Lebanon and used in the dying of red vinegar!
As the years passed, old traditions were forgotten, so was the use of Sobbaghieh.
That is until, Dr. Fadi Gerges, founder and owner of Château Cana, decided to experiment with the grapes and make wine!
For him, everything that Mother Nature has to offer is a gift, a gift that should not be forgotten.
This is how Jardin Secret was born:
A product of pure curiosity, imagination and lots of love for the Lebanese soil.
Jardin Secret is a wonderful gem of a wine, made purely from Sobbaghieh, and aged for 6 months in used oak barrels.
It is dense and deep, offering the distinct taste of "sunny grapes".
The aromas are expressed through a burst of dark berries and a subtle taste of burnt oak and barnyard elements, like forest floor. It also has a delicate after taste of sweet spices.
A dry wine, with medium body, it has a soft finish with gentle, but still present, tannins.
Make sure you decant it for at least an hour or two!
In perhaps one of the most photogenic enclaves of the Mtein region of Lebanon, the Bou Sleiman Family has been making wine since the 1950’s. Joseph and Cynthia Bou Sleiman are today the 4th generation winemakers and founders of Château Oumsiyat.
More than just a winery, Chateau Oumsiyat is their home. Winemaking binds their family together and keeps them in touch with their history and traditions.
Oumsiyat means beautiful and happy nights spent around music, wine and stories.
Cynthia, the keeper of the stories, was keen on starting our conversation at the ancient premise of their winery: the old “cave”.
The “cave” is an homage to their history. It has endured wars, fires and conflicts, just like the Bou Sleiman family, but it’s still here, just like them.
Cynthia proudly tells us that their story is one of resilience, just like all Lebanese stories: a story of getting back up however big the fall.Cynthia is proud of Chateau Oumsiyat: proud of its history, of its traditions, and she is proud to be passing the legacy on to her children one day…
Visiting Château Oumsiyat is just like visiting their family home: Everyone works in harmony. It’s not unusual for the workers and employees to work alongside the Bou Sleiman kids, who like to help and play around the winery.
Today, Chateau Oumsiyat makes wine in great varieties ranging from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan, to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Clairette, Uni Blanc and Obeideh.
Cynthia tells us that variety is a way for the Lebanese people to explore and discover all that their land has to offer. For her, Lebanese wine doesn’t need to be pushed or marketed in any other way than what it really is: a high-quality wine, good enough to speak for itself. Discover what she means HERE.
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)
Throughout their early working years, Assaad and Katy Hark would wake up, day after day, with their lifelong dream always in mind: to go back to their homeland and make wine.
So, one day, they did just that. They moved back to Lebanon and created Batroun Mountains.
This was the way, Assaad Hark, grape grower and winemaker, would express his love for Lebanon: by choosing to respect the land and making a genuine Lebanese wine.
That is why Batroun Mountains’s grapes are certified 100% organic by the CCPB. Organic means gentle, it means caring and respecting nature, the soil, the seasons and the environment. And what better way to express your love for your homeland than actually growing what organically comes out of it?
Many people work hard for many years to sit back afterwards and enjoy the fruits of their labor. The Harks do enjoy the fruits of their hard work, but they hardly have the time to sit back. They wake up at 4 in the morning to get to work: from managing the winery, to growing the vines, to harvesting the grapes with their own hands.
When your craft is your passion and your business is your family, no time is too early to wake up!
In fact, it’s the family itself that sees through all of the winemaking process: growing, producing, bottling and marketing. All is carefully handled by each member of the Hark family, from vineyard, to bottle, to your table.
Katy, the warm and driving force of the family, tells us of all the memories she has of her children in the vineyards, she remembers when each of her kids had their own pair of vine clippers, proudly illustrating how almost all of their family memories were created around the vineyards, how Batroun Mountain’s history, is in fact, the Hark family’s history.
We sipped on their famous Frizzante Sparkling White Wine: a fun and genuine surprise made from a blend of seven grapes, delivering a superb complexity and wide range of floral aromas and fruits, fresh and crisp acidity, with a pleasant roundness! (Get a taste HERE).
Every bottle, from their red Prestige to their Chardonnay, is infused with passion and love. Love for the family, love for the grape, love for the soil, love for Batroun and love for Lebanon; and this kind of passion translates into every sip of a Batroun Mountains organic wine. See what we mean HERE.
Have you ever wondered what makes us who we are? What is it that makes us different from the rest? Is it our land? The way we talk? What about the way we dress, the shoes we wear, or the way we like our coffee in the morning?
Fabrice Guiberteau, the winemaker of Château Kefraya might not be able to answer these questions, but he will push you very adamantly to find them for yourself: “If you want to exist meaningfully, even if it’s for just one second in your life, you need to find your own identity”.
His philosophy about wine is not much different: Fabrice and Château Kefraya are a staple in the Lebanese winemaking industry. For decades, they have contributed to pushing the industry forward, making Château Kefraya one of the most respected wineries in the world.
The secret to this success? Fighting every day to define and represent Lebanon’s identity through their wines. And the truest way to do so is by letting the soil speak for itself: not intervening, and actually letting the grapes, the seasons and the stories, express themselves freely in the wines.
Fabrice, a Frenchman coming from a long tradition of winemaking in the region of Cognac, admits that Lebanon fascinates him, and especially Lebanese wine. According to him, Lebanese wine should never be thought of only in terms of how it’s made, but rather on the historical, traditional, geographical and cultural aspects behind what make it such a good quality wine: “You need to ask the right questions: where do your raw materials come from? How and why are they helping you make the best product possible?”
A firm believer in the identity of the terroir, Fabrice is a hands-on activist for the for the exceptionalism of Lebanese wine, and his way to prove it is by actually making truly exceptional wines.
Sweet wines are often overlooked and reduced to being desert wines instead of being enjoyed for what they are.
In our book, they are a sweet and delicate surprise that should rightfully remain on the list of any true wine-lover.
What are sweet wines?
Historically, sweet wines used to be the envy of the whole world! Before the advances of technology and refrigeration, and before modern winemaking techniques, sugars were added to wine to stabilize its taste and prolong its life.
If we want to go at it simply, wine is made by converting the natural sugars found in grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide by using yeast. Usually, to obtain a dry wine, nearly all of the sugars are fermented out of the grapes in the process.
If any sugar remains, then the wine is considered sweet.
How is sweet wine made?
In the past, grapes were left out to dry in the sun after harvest. The water of the grapes then evaporates, leaving them with a high sugar level that makes the wine sweet.
With today’s modern techniques, other methods are used to produce sweet wine such as filtration for example: when a winemaker has obtained the level of sweetness he wishes, he can filter out the yeast, thus controlling the level of sweetness of his wine.
A winemaker can also decide to stop the fermentation process before all the sugars have turned into alcohol, keeping some residual sugars in the wine.
The world of Sweet wine is so versatile, creating space for more experimentation and creativity. Sweet wine can be obtained using white or red grapes. Their varietals are endless, so are their types, colors and origins.
As Lebanese wine lovers, we are in love with everything eclectic, and there isn’t a more eclectic world than those of Sweet and Lebanese wines.
Discover what we mean HERE!