Ablama (Stuffed Zucchini)

ablama 2

I’m back home in Lebanon and I plan to post more regularly! After a long vacation in Abu Dhabi with the family, I feel relaxed and ready to cook again 🙂 Today I made zucchini stuffed with meat; this dish is called Ablama, which means “ahead of time” though I don’t know why. Previously, I’ve made Ablama served with yogurt, you can find the recipe here, however this time I’ve cooked it in tomato sauce. Every time I make it, I’m reminded of my best friend M. About twenty years ago when M was newly wed, she invited me and my husband for lunch and prepared Ablama. She  is french educated and followed the instructions in a french cookbook. While we were eating, we noticed something different in the taste and when we asked her, she replied with her adorable french accent ” Oh! J’ai oublié  le 3ement”. Translated, it means “I forgot to do the third instruction” which consists of frying the zucchini. Now, every time I cook this meal, I remember M and the look on her face when she forgot to fry zucchini. Don’t forget to fry it when you try it yourself 🙂


  • 1 kilo of baby zucchini
  • 200 grams minced meat
  • 1 medium onion, finely shopped
  • 1 handful pine seeds
  • 1 tablespoon tomato pureé
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon 7 spices
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • frying oil


  • Wash the zucchini, cut the head and remove the inside with a corer; don’t throw them, you’ll use them to make omelette with them (stay tuned, it will be in the next post)


  • Heat the frying oil in a saucepan and fry the zucchini until slightly colored, then place them on a kitchen towel to absorb the excess of oil and allow them to cool

ablama 1

  • In another saucepan, heat the canola oil, fry the pine seeds until golden color then put the onion and cook until the onion is colored, add the minced meat and let it cook. Season with one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon seven spices
  • Fill the zucchini with the meat, place in a pot, cover with about 3 cups of water and tomato paste; season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of spices
  • Let it boil, then reduce the fire and let it simmer for about 25 minutes
  • Serve it with cooked rice, and enjoy


Rocca Salad with Cheese


This salad is the kind you can have it as a side dish, as a starter, even as a breakfast, which is how we enjoyed this time. A very simple dish and so versatile, you can use your favorite kind of cheese, and even the bread.


  • one bunch of rocca
  • one red tomato
  • a few slices of baguette bread
  • about 150 grams of sliced cheese (I used the goat kashkaval kind)
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 180 C
  • Put few drops of olive oil over the bread slices, place one slice of cheese on the top, sprinkle with thyme and put in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese melts
  • In a plate place the leaves of rocca
  • Slice the tomatoes and place them around the rocca
  • Place the slices of bread on the top
  • Prepare the dressing by mixing the salt with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining olive oil, pour the mixture over the salad.


Buche de Noel (Christmas Yule Log)

buche de noel

I’ve been making this wonderful dessert for my family for at least the last 25 years. I have tried to find replacement recipes, but for my family nothing but this time- honored traditional cake will satisfy them. It’s a delicious dessert and you’re going to keep wanting more.

To start off, I would recommend making first one of each vanilla and chocolate sponge cakes. If you’re going to be feeding a larger crowd you can add as many logs as you like and just build it up.

I can’t tell you how many I make each year because each of my two married daughters ask for one for their homes for Christmas, in addition to the one I usually prepare for our Christmas eve dinner.

For a special treat get the kids involved in the decorating process and they probably won’t be able to resist having some of that delicious butter cream all on its own.

Merry Christmas!


  • 1 1/4 cup flour (for the chocolate  sponge cake substitute 1/4 cup flour for cocoa powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • Whisk eggs until pale yellow in colour, add sugar then water and vanilla
  • Add flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder if used, whisking slowly
  • Line the tray (18 by 12 inch) with aluminum foil, pour the batter into the tray
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 12 minutes or until springy to the touch
  • Prepare a tea towel sprinkling it lightly with icing sugar through a sifter
  • Turn the cake onto the tea towel then slowly peel off the aluminum foil
  • Roll the cake with the tea towel from the larger side and leave it to cool

buche de noel 1

buche de noel 2

buche de noel 3

In the meantime prepare the buttercream:

  • Mix 3/4 cups butter with 1 cup icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. For chocolate buttercream add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • When the cake is cooled, unroll it and spread the cream inside it, roll it again and cream the top as desired

Because we are a large family and most people will have several pieces of the Buche, I usually make about 5 yule logs and build them up as shown in the pics. Some of the logs will be chocolate sponge with vanilla buttercream filling, and others will be vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream filling. Slice smaller pieces at a diagonal and add them to the sides of the larger logs to look like smaller branches. Drag the back of fork over the cream topping to create a rough surface. Decorate as you wish.


Eggplant Salad


If you have been following my blog, you should know by now that eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. Grilled, fried, raw, cooked in anyway possible; I love it. This is a salad made with eggplant that can be eaten as a side dish that goes well with anything. When my mother used to make it, she managed to make a big quantities, to feed our large dinner table 🙂 You can also use it to stuff into a sandwich, which was useful as kids when we needed a quick bite before running out to play with my siblings.


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 red tomatoes, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • few leaves rocca
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar


  • Wash the eggplant, dry it, and cut it into thin slices
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan, fry the eggplant until light brown
  • In another pan, fry the onion until translucent, add the tomatoes and fry until tender, season with salt and pepper
  • Place one layer of eggplant in a tray, then put the cooked tomatoes with onion, place on the top another layer of eggplant
  • Place the tray in the fridge for few hours
  • To serve, cut a piece of this salad, place it in a plate, put on the side few rocca leaves, and on top on the leaves drizzle few drops of balsamic vinegar and enjoy eating


Steak Indonesian Way

A few years ago, when I worked as a journalist in a Lebanese magazine, I received an invitation from the Indonesian Ambassador in Lebanon to visit Indonesia. There was an important seminar, and people from 40 countries participated in this big event. I was so excited to visit this country. I traveled  from Beirut airport and after nearly fourteen and a half hours of flight, I finally arrived at Jakarta.  A seminar representative received me and took me to my hotel which was located near the  seminar’s venue. I spent a lovely week there, and met people from all around the world – the trip was a great experience. And above all I discovered the Indonesian cuisine which is very rich in flavors. This is a recipe I took from a lady I met there, but I made some changes to the original one to suit  me and my family.


  • 500 grams sirloin steak
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger 
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 can mushroom, sliced
  •  1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • Heat the oil in a skillet, cut the steak into thin strips
  • Fry the onion in the oil until light golden, add garlic and leave it for one minute
  • Add the carrots, the the mushroom, let them cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Add the beef strips, stir well, then add the ginger, the beef broth, soy sauce, salt and pepper
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the meat is cooked
  • Served with cooked rice ( I cook it with some mixed vegetables)


Soup with Meat Balls ( Shawrabt el Ima)

Hello everyone,

I realized today that I have been away for three weeks. I had a very bad flu that put me in bed for few days. When I felt better and moved out of bed I had dizziness that make me feel really bad. The weather in Lebanon during this autumn is very unreliable. Flu is everywhere. So finally I’m here, back again 🙂

The first meal I cooked when I was sick is this soup with meat balls, to make me feel better. The first time I had this soup was at my mother-in-law’s house, and it was so warming and delicious – and very suited for the cold seasons, I liked it a lot and took the recipe from her.


  • 300 grams minced beef
  • 1/2 cup short grain rice ( I use the Italian one)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon corn oil


  • Mix the meat with half teaspoon salt and a dash of black pepper, and shape it into small balls
  • In a pot, heat the oil and fry the meat malls until brown, remove them and place on a kitchen towel paper to remove the excess of oil
  • In the same oil fry the onion until slightly golden, the add the rice and cover with about 5 cups of water. Let it boil, then simmer covered on low fire until the rice is tender, then add the meat balls
  • Add the tomato puree to the soup, add the remaining salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning. Cover and let it cook slowly for few minutes
  • When you put the fire off, add the chopped parsley


Namoura (Egg free Lebanese Cake)

It is so strange how a smell can bring back a lot of memories from your childhood. During the Eid el Adha I went to a sweet shop to buy something, and I saw and smelt Namoura. I remembered when I was young, a vendor used to come to our neighborhood with his trolley selling Namoura and we loved eating it with our hands. As I grew up it was one of the first sweet recipes I learnt from my mother. This is an egg free, butter free Lebanese cake, that can be made on any occasion and can last for quite a while time without any alteration to the taste.


  • 2 1/2 cup semolina
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups yogurt
  • 1/2 cup orange blossom water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 cup of almonds for decoration

Sugar syrup:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup orange blossom water
  • teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter


  • Mix the semolina with bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt
  • Gradually add the orange blossom water while stirring with a spoon
  • Add the yogurt and stir until all the ingredients are well mixed
  • Cover the mixture with a clean towel and leave it to rest for half an hour
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C
  • Grease a 40 cm diameter tray with tahini, pour the mixture in the tray, decorate with the almonds and bake it for about 35 minutes, until the cake becomes golden
  • In the meantime prepare the sugar syrup, boil the sugar with water until it thickens, then add the lemon juice, the orange blossom water and the butter
  • When the Namoura is baked remove from the oven and put over it the hot sugar syrup, and put it in the oven  again for 5 minutes

  • Remove the tray from the oven and let it cool, then cut into squares or diamond shape and serve


Batenjan Makdous (Preserved Eggplants in Olive Oil)

It is the season of Autumn, and now is the right time for preparing the Mouneh (pantry). A few weeks ago I showed you how to prepare preserved meat, Awarma.  Now I’m going to show you how to preserve eggplants, using a recipe I learned from my mother-in-law years ago. It takes about ten days for the Makdous to have been pickled properly. After it has been prepared, the eggplants can be eaten as a appetizer, side dish or can even  be put in a sandwich alone. You will find many ways to enjoy it by playing on your own. Personally, I like to eat it for dinner with labneh (yoghurt) and cheese on the side; it makes for a lovely and easy to prepare dinner.


  • 1 kg baby eggplant
  • 200 grams whole nut
  • about 15 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon rock salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste (optional)
  • about 4 cups olive oil


  • Wash the eggplants, remove the stem
  • Place the eggplants in a pot full of water, leave it on fire for about 10 minutes (not more); the skin of the eggplants when tested should be soft
  • When the eggplants are cooked place in a strainer and wash with cold water. Make a small slit lengthwise in the eggplant, sprinkle with salt, put them back in the strainer, slit facing down, place a weight over them and leave it for about two days. This helps any remaining water to come out of the eggplants

  • Meanwhile, prepare the filling by roughly crushing the nuts and mixing it with garlic, salt and chili paste if desired
  • With you thumb widen the slit, fill each eggplant with a spoon from the nut garlic mixture

  • Place the filled eggplants in a jar, turn the jar upside down on a plate at a certain angle to release the remaining water, leave it for 2 days until no more juice comes out from it

  • Return the jar after 2 days to upright position, and fill it with olive oil. After five days the eggplants are ready to be consumed


Coconut Chocolate Balls

When my children were younger, I used to organize their birthday parties at home. I would invite all their friends and arranged for a nice party in our garden in Abu Dhabi. In the menu, I used to make these balls, which were very much appreciated by everybody. My children, who still like them until now, reminded me of them this summer as I was preparing for my grandson’s birthday; he loves them now too. As for myself, I still like making them because no baking is needed and they’re quick to do.


  • 2 cups grounded biscuits (use any kind you like: petite beurre, digestive etc..)
  • 1 cup, shredded coconut + extra for coating
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup condensed sweetened milk


  • Mix all the ingredients (except the coconut) together, knead until you have a smooth dough and not sticky
  • Take a small amount of the dough and roll it in you hands to form a ball shape then roll it into the coconut


Achtalye (Milk Pudding)

There is an amazing wide variety of Middle Eastern desserts. Some of these desserts are very complicated and require a lot of ingredients and preparation, like baklava, knefe and others. On the other had, some of them are simple, easy and quick to made, like the Achtalye I prepare today. This dessert can be found in Lebanon and in Palestine, and is similar to a dessert to Mhalabiyye, a kind of pudding made out of milk and cornflour. It is very high in calcium so its good for growing children and babies.


  • 1 cup powder milk
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cornflour + 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon mastic, grounded
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 1/2 cup pistachios for decoration
  • sugar syrup


  • Mix the cornflour with a half cup of water until it all dissolves
  • In a casserole place the powder milk, water and the cornflour and mix well
  • Place the casserole on a fire and let it boil, stirring constantly until it thickens
  • Add the mastic, remove from off the fire and pour the orange blossom water
  • Put this pudding into small individual bowls, allow to cool then refrigerate
  • To serve, decorate with pistachios and pour sugar syrup over