Friday, 29 July 2011

Summer Lovin’: Pépé Abed, the best fish in Lebanon






Byblos is a magical place. I am not sure if it is the sea breeze, the amazing ruins, or the friendly people. One thing I am sure of is that you can find the best fish in Lebanon there, at the Byblos Fishing Club.

Pépé Abed has celebrity status in Lebanon, being the founder of several restaurants, clubs and resorts, including the Byblos Fishing Club. The restaurant has pictures of many celebrities that have visited the fishing club.  

I was lucky enough to have a lovely lunch there, which was pricey but totally worth it. You get to pick out your fresh fish, which is always fun.

Homemade lemonade is always a treat in Lebanon; they add in a touch of rose water. It was perfect for that hot summer day. 

Then I had jumbo shrimps, grilled to perfection, and barbequed whole fish. I was amazed at the simple basic flavors; a squirt of lemon was more than enough.  


We were then given a delicious dessert, I didn’t catch the name though, on the house, made with what I think is semolina flour, and has lots of cinnamon and sprinkled with coconut. To say that it was phenomenal would be an understatement. If you ever find yourself in Lebanon, you must go to Byblos and visit Pépé’s.  







The view from the restaurant


Friday, 22 July 2011

Summer Lovin’: Lebanese Ice Cream (Arabic Bouza)



Bouza from Byblos (Jbeil). Flavors: Ashta (mastic cream),  Bubble Gum, Vanilla, and Mint


Ice Cream is not a new delicacy, since early versions of it have been traced back to the ancient Persians. Their version was more of a sorbet, which comes from the Arabic word for syrup, “Sharbat”. It was shaved ice with fruit juice poured over it. It is also claimed that Marco Polo brought the idea to Italy from China, who also enjoyed their version of cooled ice desserts.

Fast forwarding to the 10th century, the Arabs used milk and added dried fruit and nuts to the dessert. They also added mastic (mestika) while making the ice cream, and that is what gives the Arabic ice cream (Bouza Araby) its distinct chewy texture.

Then it was popular in Europe. Italy, France and England all had ice cream fever, and it eventually travelled across the Atlantic to the new world. The recipe was changed and tweaked as it traveled, eventually reaching the classic creamy milk ice cream we now know.  The rest is delectable history. 


Rachad's in Beirut
This summer found me in Lebanon for a week, and being a frequent visitor, I already had Lebanese bouza on my mind.  The ice cream is chewy, and that distinct texture makes ‘scooping’ it out of the tubs a bit different. Usually it will be scooped out with a spatula-like utensil, almost identical to a spackle knife. The traditional cones are rectangular wafer cones. The thing I love the most, being a very indecisive person, is the fact that it’s quite normal to order multiple flavors. If you are unsure what you want, then just have a cocktail which is a bit of each flavor.


At Rachad's: Lemon blossom, rose water, vanilla
Distinct and unique flavors which I have seen include lemon blossom, rose water, pistachio, roasted almonds, orange, cream with mastic (Ashta), milk (Haleeb) and bubble gum. 


In Beirut, the best Bouza I have had so far is at Rachad’s in Karakol El Druz. Not on a main street, this shop will make you really look for it; I always seem to get lost. But it is worth it, totally worth it.

I have never made homemade ice cream, and I think it will be my next endeavor.

What is your favorite flavor?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Creamy Mashed Potatoes



This dish is so simple in both preparation and in the ingredients, but is so rich in taste. I love this recipe because it is so versatile it goes with almost any meal, and is great in winter or summer.

Because it is so simple, it’s so easy to vamp up the flavor. Some of my favorites are, grated cheddar cheese and chives, which is amazing with steak, or kofta. Some dill and sautéed onions are perfect with grilled fish. Be creative and find your perfect flavor.

Ingredients:

This recipe will make enough for about 4 servings.

- 1 kg Potatoes
- 1 cup skim milk
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- salt and pepper to taste


Preparation

Peel and boil the potatoes, with a pinch of salt.

When the potatoes are very soft and break apart when poked with a fork, drain and put back in the pot.

Reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible, and add in the butter and the milk. Using a potato masher, mashed the bad boys until they are as smooth as you like them. If you are not serving then immediately, I suggest adding more milk, since they tend to thicken.

Enjoy!

How do you like your mashed potatoes?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The World in Black and White: Marble Cupcakes





Sometimes I can’t decide whether to have a vanilla or chocolate desert. Luckily, I have found the perfect solution for that dilemma: Marble Cupcakes.

Using my basic vanilla recipe, I just keep some of the batter at the end and add in cocoa. These cupcakes are a hit at any party or if you just can’t decide what to have for dessert. The key to make the swirls distinct and not just mixed in, is to dollop a small amount of the cocoa batter and with a clean knife, fold it in the vanilla part. This will take a few tried until you get the hang of it, but it is oh so worth it!


Ingredients:

- 1 ¾ c sugar
- 4 eggs
 - 1 c Milk
- ¾ c oil
- 2 ½ c flour
- 1/3 c cocoa
- 2 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla




Preparation:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C

Prep the cupcake pan and line with cupcake paper cups. This recipe makes about 20 - 24 cupcakes, depending on how much batter you use in each cup.

Mix the sugar and eggs, and beat until well incorporated and the mixture is light.

In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients EXCEPT the cocoa. We are making a vanilla base with chocolate swirls, so we will keep the cocoa for later.

Mix in the dry vanilla base ingredients into the egg mixture, add in the vanilla, oil and milk, and mix only until well incorporated.

Pour most of the batter into the paper cups, only filling each cup half-way up. Make sure you keep about ¼ of the batter to make the chocolate batter with.

With the rest of the batter, add in the cocoa powder and mix well. If it is too dry, add in 1 Tbsp of milk.

Now we will do the chocolate swirls or marbling. Add in 1/2 Tbsp of the chocolate batter in each vanilla cup. With a flat knife, like a butter knife, fold some of the vanilla batter into the chocolate one. You can fold from bottom to top to make sure the cupcake will me marbled inside as well. Clean off your knife after each cup.

 Do not mix or beat! We don’t want the two batters to mix. It will take a few tries to get the hang of it. That’s the advantage of making cupcakes; you have lots of practice.

Put in the oven for 25- 30 mins. To check if they are ready, insert a toothpick to the center of a cupcake and it should come out clean.

Enjoy!

What is your dessert preference? Chocolate or vanilla?