Orange blossom water – Maghdouche

Food

Almost every Lebanese village has a specialty. Whether it is a local product, a tradition, a dance…

Maghdouche’s specialty is made during springtime, and I can assure you that this product is present in every Lebanese pantry.

Get your own bottle now!

Orange blossom water. 

The bitter orange trees are blooming in every yard, every street, every corner and garden of this village. The moment you step into the southern village, the strong citrus aroma tickles your senses, and you can feel right away that springtime is close by.

Workers start harvesting flowers since the early morning. Men, women, and teens are standing on ladders, reaching even the highest branches. Of course, working gets better with some background music playing on their mobile phones.

The bloomed flowers are the best to pick. they hold all the aromas, and the yellow pistil is the part that helps to make the essential oil.

Floors are covered with burlap or plastic sheets to help gathering the flowers. While the burlap covered yards help you connect to nature due to the silence and bird sounds, the plastic covered floors sound like pouring rain with all the flowers falling continuously on the sheets.7Orange Blossom

Obviously, falling on the ground are flowers as well as leaves. Table stations are installed in the shade for sorting all imperfections such as small branches, leaves, and insects. And this is where the kids are helping.

Every tree produces an average of 50-70 kg/harvest for a duration of 3-6 weeks, depending on the weather.

In another scenery, people are installing the “Karakeh” or the distiller, to extract Orange blossom water. The distiller is a double Copper pot with the top pot facing down. In the bottom part, flowers and water are poured. The process starts with high heat until the water reaches the boiling point, then the heat is reduced to prevent the contents from overflowing. The steam reaches the top pot and flows within a tube through a cold water barrel or tank(the cooling system) and pours as a thin stream into a glass jug covered with cotton pads for more filtering. This is when Maghdouchians say: “قطرت” with great joy.

It takes 1kg of flowers to make a 1L bottle of orange blossom water. Only the first batch produces the essential oil: a dark liquid floating on the surface of the orange blossom water. The oil is then gathered separately, and a very small amount is poured in every bottle for conservation. This also serves as a sign of quality for the buyers. All this procedure takes up to 12 hours from beginning to end.

Orange blossom water is a necessity to Maghdouche and Lebanon. For the villagers, it is a profitable trade. Maghdouche produces approx. 100.000Kg of orange blossoms per year, making thousands of bottles sold by the farmers for extra income. As for the Lebanese people, it is a tradition to use orange blossoms every now and then: some just put the flower in their cup of Turkish coffee. Others drink orange blossom water and boiling water instead of Turkish coffee, calling it white coffee. The local product is also part of many Lebanese sweets, especially the maamoul. And last but not least, some use this water for stomach ache relief.

This whole scenery is a heritage in Lebanon. Keeping it alive means preserving traditions, farmers, traders, and aiming for sustainable development.  By buying this product from our website, you are not only supporting this heritage, but also, supporting Foodie on a mission to produce more videos.

Get your own bottle now!

When you get organic strawberries…Turn the into Jam!

Food

What is the best way to preserve a fresh basket of organic ripe strawberries? Turn them into Jam! Strawberries

Exchanging gifts has been a social act for decades and centuries. For me, the best gift of all is a customized gift, well thought, made with love, or brought specifically for this one person.

These ripe strawberries were one of the most special gifts I have received this year. After all, what is not to love about them?

  1. Who doesn’t like strawberries? Especially when dipped in sugar, and then, the crunchiness of the sugar meets the sweet fruit and then you feel warmth in your mouth. And just then, a hint of acidity hits the back of your mouth.Strawberry
  2. These strawberries are organic. Seriously. No chemicals whatsoever were added to the soil, to the water and of course, no pesticides were sprayed.
  3. As soon as the box entered home, the smell filled the kitchen. Soon, we could smell strawberries all over the house as the shooting took place on the balcony, which is across the house.

So, Back to the jam. As you know, Lebanese like breaking the rules. It’s in their genes. But Lebanese moms, are the best at breaking them, especially when it comes to recipe measurements. Hence, I cannot give an exact recipe for this Jam. All I can say is:

  • Pour the strawberries in a saucepan.
  • Dunk in the sugar until they are coated, and a bit more.Strawberry Sugar 2Strawberry Sugar
  • Let them sit in the fridge for a few hours (Overnight could also be an option)
  • Squeeze half a lemon into the saucepan and turn on the heat.
  • Let them simmer while stirring until thick.

 

 

 

After placing a small plate in the freezer for 10 mins, pour a drop of jam onto the plate and return it to the freezer for 2 mins.

Swipe your finger through the center of the drop. You know the jam is thick enough when both lines do not meet.
After that, you can pour them into jars, and seal them.

As for storage, if your jar is filled to the brim, you can store it in your cupboard where the temperature does not exceed 25 degrees Celsius. If there is still air in your last jar, make sure you store it in the fridge, same applies to any opened jar. 

You can dig into your homemade jam after two days of sealing them. 

Strawberry Jam 2Strawberry Jam 3Strawberry Jam

Nepal – Land of Colours and Flavours

Food

I am inviting you to join me on my trip to Nepal that was not only eye-catching but was also very interesting on the gustative level.

 

It has been a week or so since I have returned from Nepal, and I still can’t get over the fact of how much the Nepali people love colors! In a way or another, colors are just part of their lives. You can find it in their buildings, prayers, clothes, streets and certainly in their food. In food, not only do I mean because of the spices. But also, the flavors of whatever food you are having just bursts into your mouth giving you many sensations such as sweetness, spiciness, and even bitterness. I went there, thinking that the local food was limited, and I could taste everything in two days maybe. BUT! little did I know, turns out Nepali cuisine is very rich and there are a lot of specialty delicacies.

Dal Bhat

dal-bhat

First things first. Dal Bhat. The national dish of Nepal. Just like its name says it: Dal meaning lentils and Bhat meaning Rice. This dish is a mix of many combinations: of course, there is the steamed or boiled rice. From left to right, some fried potato wedges sprinkled with a few dry herbs. Then, comes the radish that lifts the whole dish by giving it a fresh taste and a lot of crunchiness. The fried omelet provides the proteins (as if Dal wasn’t enough :P) on the right a small number of scrambled eggs if I may say, with also potato and coriander. The Goblets above contain some steamed spinach (The best spinach I have ever tasted) and this one provides the bitterness to the dish; Last but not least, the Dal. It’s a lentil soup made with onions, coriander a bit of ginger and fresh herbs.
Now to the eating part: all these “side dishes” are combined in one plate, and traditionally, it is eaten with the fingers. Let’s face it. I wanted to try it the traditional way but it was too much for me as a first visit. So I stuck to the spoon and combining Dal and Bhat. I ate all the other sides…aside.

Next up:

MOMOS!!

momos

This version is an open version of the momos. These dumplings are made with wheat dough, filled with your choice of veggie, chicken or meat and steamed. On the side, a sauce is served, or in this case three sauces. The spices included depending on the recipe or the area you are tasting the momos from. I think this was the best thing I tasted in Nepal…Right after:

Naan Bread

 

 

Naan is the amazing hand kneaded bread, baked in a hollow oven heated from underneath. True it has a plain flavor but the buttery aftertaste is unbelievable! It can be paired with pretty much anything. From Dal to apricot curry to chicken…. the choices are endless. It pretty much resembles the Lebanese Tannoor bread which by origin, comes from Iran.

 

naan-and-bhat

Naan is not the only food that resembles a Lebanese one.

 

Sel – Samosas

Please do not be confused. These are two separate and very different dishes but I have combined them into the same category because of their resemblance to Lebanese dishes.

This round fried bread infused with cardamom and cloves (sometimes a bit of cinnamon) tastes like Lebanese “Zlabiya”. Not only do they look alike, the recipes are also very similar and the reason why they are made also match. They are both made for celebrations: The Zlabiya are made while celebrating the epiphany, as for Sel, they are mainly made while celebrating Tihar.

 

sel-and-puri1.jpg

Another Lebanese lookalike dish is the Samosa. And this one not looks like “Sambousak” but they even kept the name!  So Samosas are, again, veggie, chicken or meat filled small doughs, this time fried and served as snacks with a side sauce. The second dish that you can see down below, are grated vegetables that are rounded and deep fried also served as a snack with a side sauce.

 

samosas

Speaking of snacks, this type of meal is very important for the Nepalese because of eating Dal Bhat as a main dish before going to work and for dinner. So the variety lies in the snacks. Some fresh snacks include watery cucumbers sprinkled with some salt and spices, sliced coconuts and even peanuts from the cart.

 

Puri is also a snack that you can find all over Nepali corners and streets. The puffed fried bread is cracked open and filled with spices. You can eat it while wandering between the many temples of Kathmandu. I had the chance to watch the making of this small bread, the authentic way on my way to “Manthali”.

 

 

Al Falamanki Brunch

Food

Sodeco, Beirut, Lebanon. On a Saturday Noon, you can not miss the crowd around Al Falamanki Restaurant.

We have decided to celebrate my birthday by going out to a Lebanese brunch. And Al Falamanki was the destination. After parking the car, and entering the warmed up terrace, the delicious smell hits you and right away, you realize that it was a good choice.

The moment you step into the indoor space, the retro mood invades you. The walls are filled with Tarabeesh, Oud, Tawlet Zaher and all kind of authentic Lebanese gadgets.
But also a lot of small black and white with wooden frames are scattered here and there. A Closer examination led me to some pictures of Alfred Hitchcock, Grace Kelly, and other American stars.
At first, I thought they were out of the concept. BUT!! WHAT DOES AL FALAMANKI MEAN??

Well, Al Falamanki is not a nickname. It is a name. Khalil Al Falamanki was a boxer who later on became a bodyguard, has traveled to the U.S and met many stars like Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly 😉

 

Now, to the food. The open buffet includes a variety of Lebanese delicacies. Of course, no Lebanese brunch without Labneh, Shankleesh, White cheese, some vegetables, and olives.

Then, come in the warm dishes: Hummus Balila, Foul Mdammas, Fatteh. The more you walk in, the warmer the food: Saj bites always warm and ready to be served, as well as eggs on the barbecue – or as we say the “Manaal”.  Prepared to order, you can choose between sunny side up; eggs with kawarma, or even a nice shakshuka[eggs with diced onions and fine tomatoes].

 

 

The service was amazing, the staff is great. We were served by Ahmad who helped us on the buffet as well as on the table. In the plate, you 20170128_125225can see a small variety from the buffet. Everything has been mentioned above except the Pink and Orange dollops. Beetroot and Carrot Hummus were the Lebanese twist within this authentic Lebanese assortment. Not too
overpowering, the flavor was good. To be fair, you could clearly taste the beetroot but the carrot was a bit difficult to taste. Maybe all this was for the color? All the dishes tasted great, with the feeling of homemade preparation. I have to admit that the beans [Foul] had a weird aftertaste, but the Fatteh took me to another world. That warm yogurt lying over fried bread and boiled chickpeas just tantalized my taste buds until I got to the table.

 

 

Last but not least, how can you end such a feast without dessert?!  Halawa, butter, jams, and marmalade were present. what I chose to show you is the amazing fruit assortment of orange, pomegranate, apple and juices including lemonade and Jallab.

 

20170128_134905

Mr. Falamnki, nice meeting you on this special occasion. I can not wait to try the experience again but maybe next time for a regular meal, just for a change.

A trip to fishers’ market

Food

 

Well, that was quite a year! Do not blame me for the late posting, but I have already warned you.

Anyways…A new year, a new post, a new adventure. I started my comeback with a trip to the fishers’ market. Located in Beirut’s port- Karantina, the market is a big hall, with a large number of fishermen, each with a small “kiosk” and a few polyester boxes displaying today’s catch on layers of crushed ice.

I have to admit, the market exceeded my expectations. The floor was clean, no major smell was noticeable, and the vendors were very friendly. As soon as you cross the entrance, the shouting starts. Every fisherman promotes the fish he is displaying. A small chit-chat and you can find out where the fish is from. Some are local and some are freshly imported from Turkey. Naturally, a closer look and examination should be made, as some may not be as fresh as claimed.

Small tips to know if the fish is fresh:

1- The eyes.

The eyes are number 1 to inspect. Clear eyes, with no cloudiness or blue glaze, are what you should be looking for.

2- The gills.

The gills ( in the back of the head) should be deep red. The fader the color, the older the fish. Of course, grey gills are a no-no.

3- The flesh.

Don’t be afraid to touch the fish. The flesh should bounce back when you press it. If the fingers sink in and the flesh does not come back to its place, then the fish is not fresh.

4- The smell.

Perhaps this is THE most important element on the list. The fish should not smell “fishy”. It should smell like the ocean, or salty water to be precise


 

After our fish passed the freshness test, we asked one of the workers to clean and “fillet” one of them. The knife used may not have been as sharp as it should have, but the guy knew what he was doing. He kept the scales on so that the skin keeps its strength, and started removing the guts. Then, he glided the blade along the backbone from one side to the other. Last, but not least, he removed the skin. Of course, he gave us the fillet in one clean bag, and in another, the head and the bones, so that we use the latter to make some amazing fish broth. And that is it! A good start and a new discovery. This will not be my last visit, and I hope the hygiene stays the same for as long as possible.

 

 

Al Mokhtar restaurant – مطعم المختار

Food

In the heart of south Lebanon, lies a famously known restaurant called Al Mokhtar.

Al Mokhtar is literally translated to “The chosen one” in the Lebanese system, he is a person that the villagers choose to keep track of the population -somehow, a mayor -. This wise man traditionally with the famous Tarboosh and pomegranate stick, is the typical Lebanese figure to whom one should look up to and resemble.

Even if that description is about a man, Al Mokhtar Restaurant fits these words. I had the pleasure to meet Ramy, A Mokhtar’s manager, and the owner’s son. A young man, with a fresh spirit, down to earth and of course a foodie. He made sure to let me know that all the ingredients used in the making of Al Mokhtar menu are fresh and homegrown on the farm near the restaurant.

The tour starts with the many spaces available for one to choose the mood he wishes his meal to be served in. Every corner is filled with a small antique detail along with the green scenery which is a must in every Lebanese garden.

lebanese-mezza

Every Lebanese feast has to debut with the traditional Mezza. From goat cheese to stuffed eggplants -no need to remind you that all the above are homemade in the Mokhtar garden- all the Lebanese small and endless plates are somehow your “amuse gueule” before the main dish makes it to the feast.

cherry-kaftaNow, to the specialité – Cherry Kafta- An amazing terracotta pan arrives at the table. Before you can see what’s inside, a sweet smell hits you. And then, a sizzling red glaze embracing some Kafta meat will make you want to dig in and experience that sweet and savory combination.

lebanese-sweetscoffee

Of course, no Lebanese feast ends without pleasing your sweet tooth. Al Mokhtar offers various jams and marmalades. From Bitter orange to dates and even Jujuba these homemade treats may surprise you with a few almonds or walnuts. YUM!

Last but not least, the Turkish coffee will be waiting for your palette to be cleansed. The cardamom aftertaste makes all the difference and kick starts the digestion process – much needed-.

 

From farm to plate, Al Mokhtar restaurant makes sure all ingredients are handpicked and fresh. All plates are cooked with love and by the traditional recipes which makes it the ultimate southern experience.

Kawarma – قاورما

Uncategorized

Autumn is here. In Lebanon, especially in the villages, this season is the season of “Mooneh” making. Mooneh can be somehow translated to “pantry”. Back in the days, when there was no food shipping, no fridges, no indoor planting, people had to make food supplies for the rest of the year.

One of the most Famous Mooneh is the Kawarma (Kavurma in Turkish meaning cooked meat). The meat is sliced, completely cooked in its own fat and sealed in jars. This method guarantees to keep the meet in good condition all year round.

 

 

The most famous meals using the Kawarma are Fried eggs and Kushk- another Mooneh meal made from combining Labneh and Wheat-

These two delicacies, despite being very cheap and known as the poor’s dishes, are seriously worth eating, especially when it’s cold up in the mountains when all the family is gathered around that sizzling pan waiting just to dig in with their piece of bread. and the best moment? Burning your tongue, waving your hands and feeling the heat spread through your whole body, forgetting the cold cold weather.

 

eggs-kawarmakeshk-b-kawarma

Pesto with fresh basil from the garden

Uncategorized

Everyone loves to see the result of their hard work. But when it comes to tasting food from the garden, we’re talking about another level of satisfaction.

 

My grandfather, “Jeddo” is our plant guru. Whether it’s a seed, a dying plant, or a random leaf Jeddo can plant it grow it and we shall eat from that plant.

This year’s harvest was fresh basil. After months of care, watering, and smell, we had just enough to create a small batch of pesto.

planting-basil-1

Here you can see Jeddo planting the basil plants with Mom and Dad taking his orders on how to water and take care of them.

You can find a lot of recipes on the internet with specific measurements and substitutes. But my way was the Lebanese way. Eyeballing is the secret. So, Here it goes:

 

Recipe:

A bunch of fresh basil

1 or 2 garlic cloves

Some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Pine nuts

Olive oil

 

Method:

Put all ingredients except the olive oil in the food processor and start whizzing until paste forms. While the processor is still on, add the olive oil as a stream until you feel that the paste is saturated.

 

basil-pesto

Originally, pesto is grounded by hand, therefore, the name (Pesta = Pounding) but of course, a little bit of technology and some laziness made us use the food processor and man did it make our lives easier. Anyway, this paste first appeared in the 16th century around Genoa region in North Italy.

Although pesto is commonly added to plain pasta, I’m not saying it’s not delicious, but, to tantalize your taste buds, you can assert the smooth paste with a few slices of salty grilled Halloumi cheese. Hellim (as they call it in Cyprus the country of origin) or Halloum, is a salty white cheese, recognizable from it’s folded U shape. This springy cheese can be eaten raw along with some sliced vegetables and taste as good as grilled with the amazing pesto, some watermelons and even with sundried tomatoes and a drizzle of the all mighty extra virgin olive oil. YUM!

 

Basil Pesto Halloum .jpg

Saj Mankoushé – منقوشة عالصاج

Uncategorized

Makoushé in ChebaniehToday’s post is dedicated to my country’s famous and favorite food of all time probably. The Mankoushé. A round flat pizza like bread flavored with thyme, cheese, Keshk, labneh, or even endless possibilities.

First things first, a little etymology lesson. Mankoushé is literally translated to patterned. It is called so because while forming the dough, it is patterned with the tips of the fingers so that the flavoring spreads all over the dough and deep into it.

Traditionally it is baked on a large heated dome shaped iron called Saj. In my hometown, Jenevieve, or as we call her “Jeff” and her husband make the best mankoushé with whole wheat dough that she kneads every day.

Mankoushé is a food that you can savor all day everyday. As a traditional breakfast, maybe  a snack, or as we eat it, for dinner. Gathering the family, making an order of all flavors, cutting them into bite size pieces with sliced vegetables on the side. Because, you can’t miss out on any flavor, and of course, because sharing is caring 😀

Foodie On a Mission

Uncategorized

Hello there, internet world.

Here starts my journey (not my first) in the world of blogging. I have to admit, the previous ones were many, but none of them lasted for more than a couple of days…

A little backstory to set everyone on the right track. My passion for food started since day 1 of my life. Growing up at school, erasers were my favorite ingredient: I could practice my chopping skills using sharpener blades; shape eraser dust into pizza with toppings and bake it into the drawer of my desk… As I grew older, I discovered that food, became more than just an interest. It became a passion, and every occasion was a reason to put food on the table (or well… to eat)

Foodie On a Mission is my way of celebrating food Pride, and a way to express my passion towards food, that itself, creates in me and in many other people so many feelings. That soothing sound you hear while butter is slowly melting in the pan. That excitement you have when bacon is sizzling, or that satisfaction when the last piece of meat helps you lick the last drop of sauce.

 

My mission? Maybe is to find the best chef in my hometown,discover new tastes from around the world, or maybe to capture the small moments that could only be created when around food. It could be as simple as celebrating food, everyday, everywhere.

Let the Mission Begin!

Foodie on a Mission

Celebrating Lebanese food, and how else can I celebrate than by dedicating my first photo to Grandma, or as we say, “Teta” rolling the famous vine leaves (Warak Aarish)