Biscuit With Anise

Few days ago, I had a mild flu. I felt like eating something sweet but nothing too sweet. I remembered that when I was young, my aunt used to tell me that anise is very good when you have cold. Boil the seeds in water then remove them with a spoon and add some honey, you will feel better. She was telling me this while making these biscuits with anise and until now I remember that wonderful aroma that wafted to me from the oven. I brought my notebook, which I have been filling until this day with recipes I collect from my mother and her sisters since I was 17 years old, and wrote down that which I’m going to share with you.

In my flu-ridden state, I turned to this biscuit recipe in my notebook; thankfully I had all the ingredients ready and didn’t need to go do grocery shopping. The best thing about this recipe it is quick to prepare, and the rest is left to the oven.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of butter softened
  • 1 tablespoon of anise seeds
  • 1/3 cup of corn oil
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • sesame (optional but recommended)

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C (or 300 F)
  • Mix all the ingredients by hand. Add water to the dough if you feel it’s hard
  • Take a small piece from the dough and shape it to your liking by hand. Dip the circle in some sesame seeds if you have some ready
  • Place these biscuit in a baking tray and cook in the oven for 30 minutes until they are a nice golden color from the top
  • Enjoy the aroma while it cools. Have it with some tea if you’re feeling under the weather like I was, it’s a real treat

ET VOILA..C’EST TOUT:)

Eggplant Salad (Betanjen Raheb)

The dish I have for you today is a typical Lebanese starter made with eggplant, and it is one of the many plates of Lebanese Mezze; in some Lebanese restaurants, you can find up to 30 dishes of Mezze. The ingredients are easy to find and the the preparation itself is relatively simple. Vegetarians, take note: this is a very nutritious and delicious treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant of 500 grams approximately
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 red tomato
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 lemon squeezed
  • salt, olive oil

Preparation:

  • Grill the eggplant very well from all sides until soft
  • When it cools, peel it carefully, taking care not to leave any part of the skin of the eggplant
  • Crush the clove of garlic in a large bowl, add salt and then add the eggplant. Mix together with a fork until nearly smooth with a few a chunks
  • Add lemon juice as desired
  • Chop the onion and the tomato finely
  • Finally, place the eggplant in a plate and add the onion then the tomato on top with some olive oil for taste

ET VOILA..C’EST TOUT:)

Couscous With Chicken

The first time I ate couscous was at a newly-wed couple’s house in Abu Dhabi, a Lebanese man married to an Algerian lady. Of course, couscous is originally a Moroccan dish, but there are variations of it in different countries and she had prepared it the Algerian way. This was 25 years ago and at the time I though it must be very difficult to cook. Since then, I’ve learned that there are many ways to prepare this plate; it is a very flexible recipe and the choice of vegetables is completely up to you. It can even be cooked with meat, chicken or seafood. It is a very playful dish and I encourage you to add a bit of your own personality when cooking it.

Today I prepared couscous with chicken, my way. Use this recipe as a guide to finding your own favorite way of making it.

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams of chicken fillet
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 red tomato peeled and diced
  • 1 large carrot sliced (or two medium sized carrots)
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of dried coriander
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh coriander
  • salt, 7 spices
  • 2 tablespoon of corn oil

Preparation:

  • Cut the chicken into medium size cubes
  • Heat the oil in a casserole and fry the chickens until nice golden color then remove the chicken from the casserole
  • In the same oil fry the chopped onion for about 3 minutes
  • Add the carrot and tomato, cover the casserole and leave it for 5 minutes
  • Put the chicken back with the onion, carrot and tomato
  • Season with salt and seven spices as desired
  • Add the tomato paste and add water until it is enough to cover the chicken and vegetables
  • Let it boil on a high fire
  • Now put the peas, reduce the fire and cover the casserole
  • In the meantime heat some oil in a frying pan
  • Mix the crushed garlic with the fresh and dry coriander then fry them for 3 minutes
  • When the vegetables are tender, add the fried garlic with coriander over the vegetables and chicken
  • Prepare the couscous as instructed on the package (it is sometimes different depending on the brand, but usually very simple)
  • To serve put the couscous on a plate, and pour the chicken vegetables over

ET VOILA.. C’EST TOUT 🙂

Falafel

Falafel is our traditional “take away sandwich”. It is like a vegetarian hamburger made in the Lebanese way. I remember when I was in complementary school, during our long  lunch break once a week, two of my best friends and I managed to escape from school to go down town and buy a Falafel sandwich and a bottle of Pepsi Cola, and we would come back to school and enjoy our lunch. I was amazed by the way the man could fry them so fast and then roll them quickly with vegetables in the pita to make a delicious sandwich. And above all this, I was totally in love with the smell of the frying pieces of Falafel.

I thought that it was very complicated to make them at home. But when I grew up I figured out the recipe so I can enjoy eating them any time I wanted to right at home.

A few years ago however, I found the perfect recipe for a home made Falafel. I want to share this with you.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of chick peas
  • 2 cups of crushed beans(fava beans)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tablespoon Falafel spices
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • oil for frying

Preparation:

  • Soak the chick peas and the crushed beans separately in 2 bowls of water for 24 hours
  • Drain the water and place them, separately in a food processor and mix well
  • Mix the crushed garlic with the fresh coriander and the onion
  • Mix all the ingredients together, season with salt, Falafel spices and the baking soda
  • Heat the oil, take a small piece of the Falafel mixture and put it in the special dispenser (called aleb falafel) and deep fry them until brown color
  • You can eat them with all kinds of vegetables you like: tomatoes, parsley, onion, pickles and lettuce, but the most important is the dip for the Falafel, the taratour

The dip(Taratour preparation):

  • Crush 2 cloves of garlic with salt, add 1 cup of tahini and mix with about 2 cups of water, then press 1 lemon and mix it with them
  • Adjust the lemon and salt to your taste.

ET VOILA…C’EST TOUT:)

Stuffed Cabbage (Mehchi Malfouf)

A small girl asked her mother, “Mum where did I come from?” Her mother answered, “I found you in a cabbage”. This little girl believed her mother until she grew up and had her own children. Surprise surprise, it wasn’t a cabbage that brought them! That little girl was me, and as a mother, I was asked her the same question by my children and passed down this old wives’ tale just for laughs.

Every time I prepare any dish with cabbage, I remember this story and say to myself: poor delicious cabbage! how people have mistreated you. Its such a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed, stuffed or in a salad. However, I have yet to find any kids in inside!

Stuffed cabbage is a popular dish among Arab countries, with small differences in preparation. As per usual, I’ll be showing you how to make it like my mother taught me, a la Libanaise.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 kilo cabbage
  • 200 gs minced meat
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • about 15 clove of garlic peeled
  • 2 cups of rice
  • salt, 7 spices
  • lemon juice
  • dried mint
  • some corn oil

Preparation:

  • Separate the cabbage, leaf by leaf
  • Put it in a casserole of boiling salted water and cook for about 7 minutes, then strain it
  • In a small saucepan, fry the minced meat in some oil
  • Crush the garlic cloves, add to the meat while cooking and season with salt and 7 spices. Turn off the fire after a few minutes, before the meat is well cooked
  • Wash the rice and mix it with the meat. This is now your stuffing for the cabbage
  • Take one leaf of cabbage, open it carefully, place 1 teaspoon of the stuffing in the center and roll it. Repeat this with the rest of the leaves until you finish your stuffing
  • Put some corn oil in a pot and pile the stuffed cabbage inside delicately with the garlic cloves in between rows
  • On the top, place a plate upside down to keep them together while cooking
  • Fill the pot with water until the cabbage is all covered, and not more
  • Cook it on a low heat for about 25 minutes or until you find that rice is tender
  • Add lemon juice for flavor
  • Sprinkle with dried mint

ET VOILA..C’EST TOUT:)

Homemade Pizza

What tastes better than pizza? A HOMEMADE PIZZA, of course. I always prepare the entire pizzas at home, from the dough to the ingredients and the filling to the way me and my children like it. In Lebanon, we have Lebanese pizza called “Man’oushe” which is made out of dough, same as pizza, but filled with either cheese or dried thyme mixed with some olive oil and it’s cooked in a large oven.

My 7 year-old grandson won’t eat any pizza except the one I made because “it is the best pizza ever!” You cant argue with that 🙂

Today I prepared the dough in the morning and let it rest for few hours to let it rise, and then I rolled it and filled it and cooked it; here’s how:

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of corn oil
  • 1 tbsp of instant dried yeast
  • water

Preparation:

  • Put the flour, the salt and the oil in food processor and mix them for a few minutes
  • Then add the yeast and pour the water from the top slowly until all the ingredients form a soft dough
  • Rub a bowl with 1 spoon of oil and place the dough inside it and cover it with a towel
  • Let it rest and wait until it doubles in volume

In the meantime prepare the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 3 red tomatoes cut in small dices
  • 1 small can of cut mushroom
  • 1/2 cup of black seedless and shredded olives
  • 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated emmenthal cheese
  • 1 tbsp of corn oil

Preparation:

  • In a pan heat the oil and fry the onions
  • Add the cut tomatoes to the onions and let it cook gently, then add the mushrooms
  • Now you can sprinkle the thyme and oregano
  • Add now the black olives and the tomato paste,  cover the pan and let it cook gently on a low heat
  • Preheat the oven on 180c
  • When the dough is ready and with a rolling pin, roll the dough and put it in a pizza tray
  • Sprinkle some thyme over the dough and put the filling on top
  • Cover with the two kinds of cheese and bake for about 25 minutes

AND THAT’S IT…. ENJOY:)

Vegetable Stew

Most children don’t like vegetables, especially zucchini and eggplant. They prefer to eat chicken nuggets, hamburger or anything else that can be found at a fast food restaurant. Even my siblings and I didn’t like those kinds of vegetables when we were young . My mother used to cook vegetables in this kind of stew with some meat to make us eat them (or else we’d be in trouble). It’s funny how we become our mothers… I too used this same recipe on my children. May it be as effective on your children as well:)

By the way, for those of you who can’t find the Lebanese Seven Spices ready mixed, here is a very useful guide to making it yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams lean beef cut into cubes
  • 2 potatoes cut into cubes
  • 1 large carrot cut into slices
  • 2 zucchini cut into slices
  • 1 large eggplant cut into cubes
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 red tomatoes chopped
  • 3 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • salt, seven spices, 1 tablespoon of dried coriander
  • cooking oil

Preparation:

  • In a pressure cooker, fry the meat with a little oil
  • When the meat is cooked, cover with water add one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon seven spices cook with the pressure cooker closed for 20 minutes
  • In the meantime, heat some oil in a pot and fry the the onion for 2 minutes then add the garlic and stir together for about a minute
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, cover the pot, lower the heat and leave it for 3 minutes
  • Remove the cooked meat from the pressure cooker and keep the water of the meat
  • Place the meat over the tomatoes, onion and garlic mixture
  • Add the carrot first for 4 minutes then the potatoes
  • Cover with the water used to cook the meat and add the tomato paste
  • Now add the zucchini then the eggplant after a couple of minutes
  • Season with salt, seven spices and the dried coriander
  • Lower the heat, cover the pot and let it cook slowly for about 20 minutes or until the carrot is tender
  • Serve it with cooked rice and green salad on the side

ET VOILA..C’EST TOUT 🙂

Lebanese Macaroon

The Lebanese Macaroon is very different from the French one. For one thing, the French Macaroons are made from almond powder, egg whites and sugar whereas the Lebanese ones are made out of semolina, oil and some spices. Also, the French Macaroon is baked in the oven while the Lebanese variation is fried in oil. It’s a very indulgent dessert, with a high amount of sugar (how much sugar syrup you add is up to you.) I’ll be posting the recipe for the French Macaroons sometime in the future; you can try it then and see the difference for yourself.

When I was young, I used to help my mother to roll the dough when she made macaroons. It would make me happy to sit on the floor, shaping the dough and rolling it on a straw chair to create a pleasant texture. It maybe difficult to find a straw chairs nowadays (its not necessary to use one) so rolling the dough on a cheese grater will create a similar effect.

This is my mother’s recipe and it is unmistakably delicious. Help yourself to a wonderfully indulgent dessert 🙂

Sugar Syrup Preparation:

  • Boil 2 cups of sugar in a cup of water, stirring occasionally
  • When done, add a teaspoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of rose water
  • Keep warm until you use it in the macaroon

Macaroon Ingredients:

  • 500 grams fine semolina (3 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground anise
  • 1 teaspoon dried instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel
  • warm water to form the dough, about 1 cup of water (have a bit more handy)
  • oil for frying
  • sugar syrup

Preparation:

  • Mix the semolina, fennel, anise, dried yeast, sugar and the corn oil together with one cup of water until it forms a soft dough (add only one cup at the beginning, but if you find that the dough still hard add more water little by little until the dough is soft and easy to manage)
  • Take a palm-sized roll of dough, roll it into a long shape (about one finger’s length) and roll it against the grater to give it texture
  • When you finish all the dough, deep fry them until they give a nice golden color
  • Remove from them from the oil and straight into the sugar syrup. Do this quickly so that the macaroons absorb the syrup

ET VOILA C’EST TOUT:)

Rice and Beans (Riz bil Foul)

When my children were young, we used to spend the summer holidays in our home in the mountain. One night, my sons felt they like to eat some beans from one of the street vendors. I took my little boys in the car and I asked them to keep an eye out for beans vendors. My eldest son saw one and I stopped the car with the vendor at the passenger’s side. I told my son to ask the man for some beans and, in his excitement, he mixed up the words while asking. Instead of saying, “3ammo 3andak foul?” (sir do you have beans?) he said “3ammak Foul” (your uncle is a bean!)

Since then, this has become a joke between us. My son is now a young man working in New York City, and while talking to him yesterday he told me “3ammak Foul”. I know that this is his way to tell me that he misses me. That’s why I decided to cook the rice with broad beans today.

Ingredients:

  • 100 gs minced meat
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup of frozen broad beans (the green ones)
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • salt, seven spices

Preparation:

  • Heat the oil in a pot and fry the onion
  • When the onion start to get golden color, add the meat and fry it with the onion
  • Season with a dash of salt and a 1/2 teaspoon seven spices
  • Add the beans and mix it with meat and onion, then lower the heat and cover the pot for few minutes until the beans becomes tender
  • In the same pot, put the rice with 2 cups of water, adjust the seasoning as desired, and let the rice cook on a low heat until it absorbs all the water
  • Serve it with yogurt and green salad

ET VOILA..C’EST TOUT:)

Tabboule

Tabboule is our Lebanese pride, along with hummus. Lebanon is the record holder in the Guinness Book of World Records when 250 of our Lebanese Chef’s made the biggest plate of Tabboule in the whole world. We Lebanese can and will eat tabboule any place, any time: for breakfast, lunch, as a snack or even at dinner. It is THAT Delicious. The best thing about it is that tabboule is made just from vegetables and bulgur, so anybody can enjoy it and it goes well with most anything!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of finely  chopped fresh parsley
  •  few leaves of fresh mint chopped with the parsley, or else they will turn black
  • 1 small onion filnely diced
  • 3 red tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of bulgur, fine and dark brown color
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • salt, seven spices, olive oil

Preparation:

  • Wash the chopped parsley with mint and put in a strainer
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to the parsley
  • Mix the chopped onion with a dash of salt and a little seven spices and add it to the mixture of parsley, tomatoes and onion
  • Wash the bulgur and drain it, then add one tablespoon of lemon juice to it
  • Now the Tabboule is ready, season it to your taste with salt, allspice, lemon juice and olive oil
  • Mix it well and put it on a serving plate garnish with lettuce or cabbage

ET VOILA..C’EST TOUT:)