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.

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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.

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When you get organic strawberries…Turn them 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, well thought, made with love, or one that is 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

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.

Foodie On a Mission

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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)