I will come back to Mary Ann... but first a detour inspired by her blog to one of the well-loved books on my bookshelf which is called Saha - a chef's journey through Lebanon and Syria by Greg and Lucy Malouf. This book is the reason for my increasing desire to travel to that region - and I cant resist sharing these recipes below which are to be found on the chef's website - the book itself is such a treasure - evocative photography and tales told through close exchanges with people in all the places they ventured...including family connections.
Grilled flat chicken with broad bean crushThis flattened chicken dish is cooked under the grill and served smeared with the earthy and spicy broad bean crush. The crush is also delicious on toasted bread, served as a canape with drinks before dinner.
2 x 500g free-range chickens or poussins
salt and pepper
Broad bean crush
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g broad beans, podded, blanched and peeled
1 shallot, very finely diced
1/4 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
50ml extra virgin olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
Preheat your grill to its highest temperatuire and line the tray of the grill with foil to make cleaning up easier.
To prepare the chickens, cut them down the back and splay them open. Season them with salt and pepper and place them under the grill, skin side down, making sure they are about 3cm from the heat source. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the skin starts to blister.
While the chickens are grilling, prepare the broad bean crush. First, pound the garlic and salt to a smooth paste. Next add the remaining ingredients to the mortar and pound them one by one or tip everything into a food processor. Either way, what you are aiming for is a sludgy, rough texture.
When the chickens are cooked, smear on the broad bean crush and cook for a few more minutes. Serve with Arabic bread, lemon wedges and a soft leaf salad.
Loved this one too:
Dukkah eggs3 tablespoons Malouf’s Classic Egyptian Dukkah spice mix
Plain flour for dusting
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Soft boil the eggs for 3 minutes. Cool down under running water and peel carefully. Dust them in plain flour and then deep fry, or shallow-fry the eggs in vegetable oil for one minute, or until golden brown. Remove from the oil and immediately roll them in Dukkah. Serve on buttered toast with sea salt.
And Labneh (pictured below) is something I've enjoyed making also after reading this book... Click here and take a look - this link is a serious treat!!
The chef's website linked to a story written about the influence on Melbourne's lively food culture from the Middle East - and is seems Morrocco across to Persian cuisine in Iran. ...read here at The National - Malouf is quoted as suggesting:
Melbourne has embraced Middle Eastern food more than any other city globally, outside the Middle East and north Africa. “Melburnians like exotic things and they like to travel and they are not afraid to experiment at home or go out and try new flavours and dishes. We have a strong Middle Eastern community here and that’s evident in a lot of the restaurants,” he says.
In 2007, a restaurant reviewer for the city’s The Age newspaper noted that “for a time, it seemed just about every new restaurant in Melbourne had some kind of culinary umbilical to chef Greg Malouf”
I spent a month in Melbourne early last year and was surprised to see this very noticeable change from when living in Melbourne. Many years before when resident there I was lucky to have a house guest from interstate who was Lebanese and a very good cook. So good in fact that he was welcomed back by the household when he needed a home away from home. The Arabic parts of the city were soon demystified and my cooking repertoire was never the same. I still cook dishes Samir showed us and remember the stories about hospitality and cuisine.
Well ... I did get way off track... my original intention was to tell you why I liked visiting Mary Ann's blog Beirut Pursuit
Reading her post on 17.6.10 called Plan prompted a flash back. Her post describes how as a young person floor plans had fascinated her... and why. This took me back to my own craze for drawing house plans when I was 13 & 14... dreaming of studying architecture, imagining living spaces ... however that emerged. Here Mary Ann photographs floor plans for residential developments in a city where new constructions abound.
The curios thing is this revealed quite a lot about the lifestyles of the well-to-do in this city and led to a very lively discussion in the comments which revealed so much more than a typical travelogue and the usual photographs of a city under focus. Click above on 'post on 17.6.10' to read more.
Images above and below Mary Ann describes as so evocative of the city - telling as they do of times past....and present.
PS I was delighted to hear from Mary Ann who I emailed about her blog.... revisiting a day after posting this I am very pleased to have included her story and images and you may wish to pop over and see what is happening there too! It was for me almost like wandering the streets with her discovering interesting details in the everyday! Thank you Mary Ann!!
Dont know whether the funds will materialise to travel there in person... but going via the blogosphere is a treat never-the-less!!!
As for those house plans/designs ... recent geometric paintings seem to refer to those I found myself thinking.... Maybe yearning for a home to call my own.