Sunday, August 28, 2005



A very famous Palestinian recipe, particularly in the villages, this meal is a symbol of self-sufficiency in rural Palestine. Its ingredients are available in any village house at minimum costs, making a delicious and healthy meal.

Ingredients (for two)

6 large onions
2 Naan Bread
250 ml of Frying oil
1 chicken
salt, pepper, and allspice


Clean the chicken and cut it into 4 - 6 pieces. Cut one onion in small pieces. Fry it in one table spoon oil until golden. Add the chicken and turn it over in the pot adding salt, pepper, and allspice to taste**. Cover with water and cook until tender. Cut four onions into small-medium size pieces. Deep-fry the onions until golden. After the chicken is done, remove the pieces from the water and place in a grilling pan, adding one onion cut into small pieces with salt & pepper, then Grill in the oven.

To prepare the bread, spread the fried onions (and their oil) evenly onto the taboun bread. Place the chicken over the bread. Fried pine seeds are optional garnish. Serve hot with sour yoghurt and salad.

Taboun bread is the traditional Palestinian bread baked over hot stones. An adequate replacement is the Naan bread.

To give an interesting taste to the chicken, add cardamom and bay leaves to the water.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Bika Ambon

Bika Ambon
Category: Cakes

Mixture I

200 ml cold water
1tablespoon instant yeast
3 Tablespoons white sugar
200 g glutinous rice flour (ketan)

Mixture II

600 ml Santan (coconut milk), boiled with 10 pieces of jeruk purut (kaffir lime leaves), boil until oily. Cool
20 egg yolks
10 egg whites
800 g white sugar
400 g glutinous rice flour (ketan)
A little vegetable oil

Prepare Mixture I -
1. Take 5o ml water, add the yeast and i tablespoon of sugar. Mix in 50 g of the glutinous rice flour, stir and leave to stand until foamy bubbles form on the surface
2. Add another 50 ml water i tablespoon of sugar and 50g of the glutinous rice flour, mix thoroughly and leave to stand for approximately 30-45 minutes
3. Repeat the last step another two times

Prepare Mixture II -

  • Beat the egg yolks and egg whites for 10 minutes until thick and fluffy.
  • Add the glutinous rice flour and Mixture I
  • Mix thoroughly then add the santan (coconut milk)
  • Leave in a warm place to rise for about 3 1/2 hours until foamy
  • Place sand on an oven tray and heat in the oven at a 180 ° Celsius together with
    a springform which has been greased
  • When the springform is heated take out of the oven and pour the cake mixture into
    the baking form
  • Place into the oven leaving the oven door ajar
  • When little holes form on top of the cake place a lid on top of the springform
  • When the cake is almost done turn on the top grill and take off the lid. Leaving
    the door ajar grill the cake until a golden brown on top
  • Bake for another 20 minutes with the door closed.


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Lemongrass Jello with Mixed Assorted Fruits and Lime Sorbet

Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:9~Dec:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...


Lemongrass Jello
1 ltr : water
180g : sugar
40g : screwpine ( pandan) leaves
50g : lemongrass
3 : pomelo leaves
7g : gelatine powder (mixed with 25g sugar)
5g : kiwi fruit, peeled and diced
5g : strawberries, hulled and diced
5g : mint leaves
5g : barley
5g : dried sea olive jelly
5g : black grass jelly
1 scoop : lime sorbet

5g : crushed peanuts
Black sesame seeds
Mint leaves



1. Prepare lemongrass jello. Place water, sugar, screwpine leaves, lemongrass and pomelo leaves in a saucepan and bring to the boil for 30 minutes. Strain and mix in gelatine powder. Leave at room temperature to set then chill in the refrigerator.

2. Combine lemongrass jello with kiwi fruit, strawberry, mint leaves, barley, dried sea olive jelly and black grass jelly and spoon into a tall glass and top with a scoop of lime sorbet.

3. Garnish with crushed peanuts, black sesame seeds and mint leaves.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:8~Nov:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...

Purveyor of fine baklava

IF you pass quickly by Lavand, an elegant little corner shop on the ground floor of Bangsar Village, Kuala Lumpur, you might mistake it for the storefront of a chocolatier. But if you stop and look, you will discover within its sparkling glass cases tray upon tray of the delectable Mediterranean dessert known as baklava.

Lavand is the purveyor of fine baklava, as far removed from the soggy, cloying dumplings that are sometimes sold as baklava as a Rolls Royce is from a – well, I will stop there, lest I offend some car maker or owner, but you get the idea.

As the first baklava shop in Malaysia, Lavand is not only breaking new ground, but also setting a standard that can best be described as golden – like the honey that sweetens this Arabian Nights fantasy of a pastry.

The shop imports premium baklava from Lebanon. Because they buy from makers who use the finest ingredients, Lavand’s baklava is remarkably fresh and long lasting. The filo crusts are crispy and delicate, the nutty fillings are aromatic with spices and rose water.

Sheerin Zalani, the owner of Lavand.
The woman behind the shop, Sheerin Zalani, is determined to match the quality of the product with the highest level of customer service.

“I worked very hard to train the staff myself,” she says. “I wanted them to be knowledgeable about the product. And we absolutely guarantee our baklava. If you keep it for three months or whatever, and it loses its flavour, I’ll take it back.”

According to Sheerin, good baklava can be kept for six to eight months in the refrigerator without losing its taste.

The second partner in the trio that established Lavand is Sheerin’s husband, Fazel, whom she credits with the original idea for the shop.

He often went to Lebanon, where he has family, and brought back baklava for the people in his office. They loved it so much that he eventually asked Sheerin: “Why don’t you open a baklava shop?”

Baklava changed their lives in another way, as well. Back when Fazel was courting Sheerin, he didn’t feel that his prospective father-in-law was exactly warming to him.

At Fazel’s urging, Sheerin tells the story: “One day, he showed up with a gift of baklava for my father, and that did it! He was always welcome at our house after that.”

Baklava is not merely a delicious, father-in-law-melting confection, but also an intensely romantic one, with an ancient history and a reputation for inspiring – um, warm feelings, shall we say? It was first recorded some 2,700 years ago in Assyria, where the basic pastry-with-walnuts-and-honey (both of the latter are reputed to be aphrodisiacs) was born. It comes to KL by way of Greece, where it acquired its leaf-thin filo pastry; Armenia, which added cinnamon (said to stimulate female desire) and cloves (ditto for both genders) to the mix; and Arabia, where it was blessed with rose water and cardamom (said to arouse male passion).

.It is not clickable.

Sheerin Zalani

The name of the shop, Lavand, reflects baklava’s seductiveness: it means “Desire” in Persian, the language of Sheerin’s Iranian mother.

Even if you don’t believe in baklava’s powers as an aphrodisiac, you will love the subtle blend of spices and textures that differentiates the various types. Lavand has chosen to import products which are not as intensely sweet as some, in deference to Malaysian taste.

Speaking of sweetness, Sheerin’s name is Persian for “sweet”, which seems eerily like precognition on the part of her parents. She has put her heart and soul into making Lavand a success. She is the creative motor behind the business, generating ideas, designs and plans at a breathtaking rate. She sometimes has to rely on her husband, though, to lend a certain gravitas to the business side.

It was not all sweet in the beginning, though. Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of starting the business was finding a space for it.

A selection of the wide variety of baklava available at Lavand.
“Everybody said they wanted something new and different,” Sheerin recalls, “but when it came down to it, they ignored us in favour of yet another chain store.”

By the time Bangsar Village gave them a chance, sales were practically built-in, thanks to Sheerin and Co’s creative promotional efforts beforehand. With their core base of ardent customers, including celebrities, hotels and corporations, the response has sometimes gotten ahead of Sheerin’s ability to meet demand. She vividly remembers one such incident:

“We had only been open a short time when a well-known actress came in and asked for a box of baklava. I showed her our smallest box. Bigger, she said. I showed her the next size up – bigger, she said again. Finally, I asked, how big a box do you want?”

Sheerin holds up her hands about a metre apart, to show me the size of the box the woman wanted.

“I asked how she could even carry a box that big but she said, ‘Never mind, it’s for the Queen!’” Sheerin shakes her head in disbelief.

“I tried, I really tried, but I just couldn’t arrange for a big, beautiful box suitable for royalty on such short notice. When I finally did get one ready, it was too late ... she had found a different gift.”

That won’t happen again. Lavand is preparing to import a range of beautiful silver, porcelain and bronze dishes suitable for presentation, and not just to royalty.

Two holidays when Sheerin believes baklava will have a special impact are Ramadan, with its tradition of eating sweets to break the daily fast, and Valentine’s Day.

In fact, she has invented a new type of baklava that could be the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Since baklava helped bring Sheerin and Fazel together, she has married the chewy richness of baklava with the smooth delight of chocolate to create “choclava”. It is a made-in-heaven match and, as far as she knows, original to the shop.

Indeed! Will this be the first serious addition to the baklava tradition from outside its historic Mediterranean base? That certainly ought to put Malaysia, and Lavand, in the confectionary history books!

Types of Baklava at Lavand

Pine Nut Baklava: Traditional, pine nuts sandwiched between filo pastry.

Pistachio Baklava: The original. Chopped pistachios in filo.

Diamond Baklava: Either of the above, cut into a diamond shape.

Pistachio Kolwishkor: Chopped pistachios in filo sweeter than the above.

Pine Kolwishkor: Also sweeter, with pine nuts.

Pistachio Assabeh: Special blend of ground pistachios and spices in a baked filo roll.

Basbousa: Knafe dough with crushed almonds and ghee.

Pistachio Bourma: Shredded filo, stuffed with pistachios, baked and drizzled with honey.

Pine Nut Bourma: Shredded filo, filled with pine nuts and spices and baked.

White Noboulseah: Pistachios and honey sandwiched in filo and flavoured with rose water.

Pistachio Boaj: Bird’s nest filo stuffed with pistachios and sweetened with honey.

Choclava: Lavand’s original creation, pistachio assabeh dipped in chocolate.

Lavand The Baklava Shop is located at Lot 3GB, Bangsar Village, Jalan Telawi 1, KL. Call 03-2283 3108 for delivery in the Bangsar area. (RM10 delivery fee, no minimum order.)

*Article from The Star Newspaper


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Gastronomic Pleasures Of İnstanbul

Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:7~Oct:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...

The Gastronomic Pleasures Of İnstanbul
by Tuğrul Şavkay (Turkey's Foremost Culinary Critic)

One last dinner and one last drink in İstanbul is a most plausible last wish for anyone who is a real gourmet. One cannot help believe that one reason for the recurrent use of the Arabic word "keyf" (defined as health, fitness, satisfaction, pleasure, light-heartedness, joy, enthu-siasm, ardour, etc., in dic-tionaries) could be that taking delight in eating and drinking has only recently become a national pastime for Turks.

One comes across convincing statements on the eating habits on Turks, which more or less took on the quality of fulfiling an obligation, such as depicted in the memoirs of a Spanish prisoner captured by Turks in 1552 who later dwelled in Admiral Sinan Pasha's palace during the era of Süleyman the Magnificent. The following sentence, written during the most exuberant days of the empire is especially striking: "They aren't excessively fond of eating. In my opinion, they eat to live, not because they take any delight in eating."

İstanbul is one of the few enchanting cities in the world which has finally managed to cast its spell over a nation that had preserved its modesty even in the most glorious of days. Byzantine, in full justification of the attributes the French have bestowed upon it, has succeeded in transmitting its lifestyle to the present-day Turks. This verifies the Roman saying that the conquerors will ultimately be forced to yield.

It would be totally unfair to presume that tavuk göğsü (pudding with chicken breast), which is still uncannily delicious in spite of the fact that most pudding shops in İstanbul now sneak in starch, is the only remaining splendor of the Roman Empire. Rome, for example, is still alive in İstanbul in the varieties and flavors of its breads. Widely recognised names such as Süheyl Ünver MD, who has a special interest in gastronomy, and the French historian Andre Cloit, a specialist on the era of Mehmet II the Conqueror, write that there are very few dishes Turks have —anthropologically— "borrowed" from the Byzantine and Roman cuisine. In my opinion this is essentially unfair. The fact is that Turks, from the time of their arrival in Anatolia, assimilated into the Roman culture—within the confines of Islam. For Turks have never been a conceited and obstinate nation, in spite of the important positions they presumed throughout history. They are imbued with the virtue of adapting to the circumstances in such a way as not to deprive themselves of the already existing charms.

Thus, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror took great care to make his city appear as a meeting place of several civilisations, and tried to assemble in İstanbul the most distinguished citizens from across the Empire, during the city's resettlement after its conquest. (This cosmopolitan atmos-phere survived for a while longer, fighting against all odds, even following the National Liberation War in early 1920s.) This cosmopolitan character plays a leading role among the many other factors that render İstanbul's cuisine unmatched. Furthermore, this is not just an eclectic diversity as seen in certain European and American cuisine. It has always been difficult to pinpoint where Armenian cuisine starts and where it runs into Greek cuisine. Greek and Turkish cuisine have always been intricately interwoven, not forgetting the close relationship Arabic cuisine has the three mentioned above. The Turkish kitchen is one of the few areas where it is nationalism finds it hard to infiltrate. The imperial heritage constitutes an umbrella covering all, from the Albanian to the Circassian, from the Tatar to the Arab. It is usual to encounter in an İstanbul restaurant Tatar pastries, Albanian fried liver, Circassian chicken with walnuts and Damascene desserts.

It is not clickable.

Eating in İstanbul

The very same menu may include Beef Stroganoff or Chicken Kiev. The Empire never extended its borders as far as central Russia, but İstanbul was the city that hosted the Russians while they were escaping from the Red Army during the October Revolution. These Russians fleeing Trotsky's comrades, were the first to introduce western style restaurants in İstanbul, which a few years after the revolution also hosted Trotsky, the former com-mander in chief of the Red Army.
Unfortunately books about the old days are rare. But from those that exist, we can see that meyhanes have remained the essential domains for dining and wining for years-on-end. In spite of the strict Islamic tenets, wine reigned in İstanbul where the Ottoman sultans and the head of the religious estab-lishment (eyhülislam) resided. Şeyhülislam Yahya Efendi, one of the brightest clerics of the Empire, wrote the following meaningful verses: "Let hypocrites carry on with their hypocrisy in the mosque / Let those with no hypocrisy and no lies come to the meyhanes."

It would be a great insult to rakı, considered to be the Turks national drink, to say that drinking is only tantamount to wine in Turkey. In fact, rakı is a dis-tilled drink flavored with the aroma of anise, which exists in various varieties all over the Mediterranean. Greek "ouzo", Lebanese "arak" and French "pastis" are all a very similar drink. The Turkish sensitiv-ity on this issue lies within the etiquette of drinking rakı. This etiquette can only be observed at a rakı table fully laden with mezes. And İstanbul meyhane keepers prepare the best mezes. Among the mezes are dishes, referred to as "cuisiné" by the French, that become magnificent and delectable after meticulous prepa-ration, such as stuffed mussels, mussels or fried calamari with tarator (bread crumbs with garlic and walnut) sauce, Albanian (fried diced) liver, very thin rolled pastries seasoned with fresh herbs; as well as those that are not part of the "cuisiné", such as chunks of hard, full-fat white cheese, a sweetly scented slice of melon, Çengelköy cucumbers with drops of morning dew when cut in season, or roe in wax "putargo". Turks welcome all pleasant and delicious dishes on their meze tables without creating any uproar in the matter. There is no end to the list of good meze shops in İstanbul, which forces me to implore that my fol-lowing statement should not be taken further than just being an example in this context. Swissotel's Şark Sofrası, or the small meyhanes on Nevizade Street located behind Çiçek Pasajı, serve some of the best mezes around.

Fish and seafood dishes rank just as high as the famed İstanbul mezes. Fernand Braudel, a French historian and an expert on the Mediterranean, places the Bosphorus on the top of his list along with the few Mediterranean locations that serve fish worth tasting. Any restaurant by the Bosphorus, be it luxurious or humble, will serve you the best and the fresh-est fish in season in İstanbul. I must mention here that those who seek fish in fancy sauces will be disappointed. For Turks like to eat fish in the most simple form possible. Even though this is not taken as far as preparing "saşimi", they eat their fish grilled or fried in olive oil, whole if its size permits or in big chunks. Crisp fresh salad served alongside, followed by fruit, constitutes an ordinary, dogmatic menu. Rakı, which used to be an aperitif taken only with mezes during the last century, is now a customary drink of fish restaurants.

It is quite ordinary for a foreigner to order wine to accompany a palatable fish dish. İstanbul-lites with refined tastes do the same. Wine making is one of the sectors receiving the great-est state protection. The progress achieved is not proportional to the amount of state support received, yet there are still a great variety of wines that are quite pleasing to the palate. Concluding an evening out in İstanbul without tasting some of these would be a tragic loss in life. It also seems to be an appropriate place to mention, now that we have embarked upon it, that Turkish coffee, lately facing a challenge from the "espresso", is a "molto vivace" finale to end a meal.

In returning to the prelude... As a consequence of its cosmopolitan nature, İstanbul hosts a variety of restaurants. While Rejans is fighting for its survival, there are still some other more modest Russian restaurants. There are the new excellent Italian restau-rants such as Spasso at Hyatt Regency, Monteverdi at the Conrad Hotel, and Villa Medici in Arnavutköy. There are the undeservingly over-priced Chinese restaurants at the Hilton and Polat Renaissance Hotels, in contrast to the marvellous Chinese restaurants run by the Chinese in the Taksim region. German restau-rants, in the meantime, became a thing of the past 20-30 years ago, and none have replaced them until recently.

It is not clickable.

tavuk göğsü

The Bierstube at the Polat Renaissance Hotel continues to excel and is perhaps the sole and the best Austrian locale of the city. There also is an Austrian-Hungarian restaurant which resumed service in Gümüşsuyu only just a few years ago.
However, hidden behind a curtain, are still quite a few excellent restaurants waiting to be discovered in their modest spots. For example, there is a charm-ing Bosnian restaurant in the Kuruçeşme vicinity on the Bosphorus, where immigrants of this distressed country offer their authentic cuisine to and to the visiting guests of the city.

Another factor that con-tributes to the cosmopolitan nature of İstanbul is the culinary variety brought by the immigra-tion from all parts of Anatolia. This local Anatolian cuisine, which used to be confined to homes, has recently started to be commercialised by daring entrepreneurs. Pafuli in Kuruçeşme is known for its Eastern Black Sea cuisine and dishes of the Laz peoples. Arif Develi pre-pares the most sumptuous Antep kebabs at his modest locale in Samatya. His compatriot Nadir Güllüoğlu bakes and sells a wide variety of Antep baklavas and pastries. You can try the best herbage (vegetation) and olive oil dishes of the Aegean region at Ece's.
To sample excellent examples of Turkish cuisine that are now identified with İstanbul, you must visit a good "local tradesmen's restaurant" such as Hacı Salih in Beyoğlu and Kanaat in Üsküdar. Hard to prepare dishes that require a lot of devotion can still be found at these locales. For the modern, more western "haute cuisiné" versions of these dishes, it is necessary to stop by Tuğra Restau-rant managed by Vedat Başaran at Çırağan Palace Kempinski.

It is not possible to offer a complete description of the food and drink varieties available in İstanbul, for its pebble, as a poet says, he would forfeit the whole of Persia. As I am writing down these lines in my office off the main street in Beyoğlu, a sound of violins and darbuka accompanied by rhythmical hand-clapping flows in through my open windows.It is late at night and I am impatient to go to a restaurant in İstanbul, filled with a sensation accentuated by having skipped lunch. I will start feeling guilty if I spend a little more time here and miss a charming, pleasurable dinner. Be true to yourself and never do anything that you'll regret in İstanbul.


Thursday, September 30, 2004

Book Review of the Month
Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:6~Sept:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...

A la table du Grand Turc
Stéphane Yerasimos, illustrations by Belkis Taskeser

For five centuries, the secrets of the imperial cuisine of Ottoman Turkey escaped the curiosity of scholars. The reason ? They were hidden away un a neglected fifteenth-century manuscript whose real value had been underestimated. Careful reading of the document - wrongly believed to be a mere translation of the celebrated thirteenth-century Arab cookery manual Kitâb al-Tabkh by al-Baghdadi - brought to light as many as 82 recipes. The first part of the manuscript dœs in fact consist of a translation from Arabic to Turkish of the recipes of al-Baghdadi, but the ones from no. 74 onward are the personal contribution of the translator turned author, Mehmed bin Mahmoud of Azerbaijan. This part of the document thus bridges gaps in documents on the cooking of the Ottoman empire in its period of greatest splendor. The royal palace administrators would take note of all the ingredients that used in the dishes prepared in their kitchens, but failed to provide information cooking about procedures and methods. Furthermore, the first books of Ottoman recipes date from the late eighteenth century when tastes and eating habits were beginning to change following to the introduction of produce from the Americas -tomatoes, peppers, beans - and opening out to western gastronomic fashions.

It is not clickable.

A la table du Grand Turc

Stéphane Yerasimos, a historian, and Belkis Taskeser, a painter, put on their cook’s aprons to test 40 of the recipes from the manuscript: apples filled with meat and rice on a bed of raisins; egg pasta squares; mutton with prunes, honey, almonds, dried apricots, apples and pomegranate syrup; mutton with spinach, cumin seeds, coriander, mastic, pepper and cinnamon; leg of lamb with dates, almonds, red apples, saffron and rose water. But before actually getting down to work in the kitchen, the two had to polish off an enormous amount of archive research. First, it was necessary to verify the authenticity of the ‘Turkish’ recipes added at the end of the translation, comparing the names of the dishes and the ingredients cited with those mentioned in the accounting records of the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace, in which all the food purchased and consumed was recorded on a daily basis. Through these administrative documents and comparisons with recipes from the fifteenth and later centuries, Yerasimos was thus able to follow the evolution of tastes and eating habits of the sultans. He discovered, for example, that the flesh of the gazelle, the horse, the wild donkey-and the hare was progressively eliminated from menus, and that the choice of meat was reduced almost exclusively to mutton and chicken.
The book - which consists of an introduction about the history of Ottoman food and a selection of easy-to-reproduce recipes - is a treasure trove of curiosities. In Belkis Taskeser’s illustrations, redolent of Persian miniature painting and Balkan painting on glass, each image evokes a moment of quiet and ‘Oriental languor’.

Stéphane Yerasimos, a lecturer at the Paris-VIII University and author of numerous books on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Mixed Herbs Flat Omelet

Kuku (eggah in Arabic) is a versatile dish popular throughout the Middle East.In Iran, the fresh greenness of kukuye sabzi always appears on No Ruz, the New Year celebration falling on the vernal equinox.

Unlike omelettes,kuku feature the "filling" more than the eggs, and is cooked on both sides until brown and firm. Kuku can be made with potatoes, eggplants, or practically any other vegetable in season. Serve for lunch, or cut into small pieces for an appetizer.

Total time 1 hour

16 eggs
2 cups minced onion
2 tbsp. flour
2-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp saffron, dissolved in 1 tbsp. water (optional)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
6 cups mixed fresh herbs (scallions, dill, mint, chives, coriander, parsley), chopped
1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350F, or cook the dish on the stovetop.

Beat the eggs until they are light and fluffy, then blend in the minced onion, flour, salt and pepper, saffron (if using), turmeric and herbs. In a large frying pan or shallow casserole dish, melt the butter and tilt the pan to distribute it evenly over the entire surface. Pour in the egg-herb mixture, cover, put in the oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the kuku is crispy on top and brown on the bottom. For stovetop cooking, cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, or until the eggs are well browned. Cut the kuku into segments, turn each segment over, and return to the heat for another 10 minutes, or until the other side has browned. Serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with chopped parsley.


Kak al-Ramadan

Kak al-Ramadan
Ramadan Crescents

The croissant was invented in 1686 in honor of the Budapest bakers who sounded a midnight alarm warning their people of the arrival of Turkish armies in their city. The pastry, its shape the insignia of the Ottoman flag, became popular throughout Europe. The pastry probably journeyed to its source of wartime inspiration in the course of French-Ottoman diplomatic exchanges, to become more substantial and bread-like. The style of preparation is classically European; the aromatics and garnishes quintessentially Ottoman.

Total time: 3-3/4hours
Dough preparation: 3-1/2 hours
Baking time: 15 minutes

1-1/2 cups milk
2 tsp. dry baking yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
4-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon, or 2 tsp. rosewater
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled butter
3 beaten eggs

2 beaten eggs
2 tbsp. milk

2 tbsp. poppy seeds, sesame seeds,
ground almonds or pistachios

Warm the milk to skin temperature, sprinkle the yeast over it, and set aside until the yeast begins to bubble. Combine the sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon (if desired). Cut 4 tbsp. of cold butter into small pieces and rub them into the dry ingredients until the whole mixture becomes crumbly. Pour in the yeast mixture and rosewater (if desired), stir well, and knead briefly to make a soft ball of dough. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp cloth and refrigerate for an hour or more.

Cut the remaining butter sticks in halves or thirds lengthwise, lay flat on a piece of wax paper, cover with another piece of wax paper, and roll out into a 6x8" rectangle. Refrigerate the butter until you are ready to work with the dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, then roll out onto a lightly floured surface into a 12x16" rectangle. Remove a layer of wax paper from the butter, lay the butter face down in the center of the dough, and remove the other layer of paper. Fold over the sides of the dough to completely enclose the butter. Roll this out into a long strip, then fold into three, as if folding a letter. Cover the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lay it out lengthwise on the lightly floured surface and roll it out into another long strip. Turn the dough over several times during rolling so that each side gets equal treatment. Fold the dough in three again, cover with plastic and refrigerate for another 15 minutes. Repeat this rolling, folding and refrigerating process two more times, the last time refrigerating the dough for a full hour.

Cut the dough into eight pieces, then roll out each piece into an 8x8" square. Cut each square diagonally to form triangles. Roll up the triangle tightly, from the wide side up to the tip, and pinch the ends together lightly. Remove to a baking sheet, central tip down to prevent unrolling. Beat together 2 eggs and 2 tsp. milk, then brush some over the crescents.

Store the filled trays of crescents in the refrigerator for 1 hour. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425F.

Treat the crescents to another brushing of the egg-milk glaze, then sprinkle with the chosen topping. Gently pull apart the ends of the crescents, but do not straighten them out.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crescents turn golden. Cool on a wire rack before serving.


Sunday, September 12, 2004

Cooking The Feng Shui Way

Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:5~Sept:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...

Feng shui(pronounced fung shway), developed in China some 4000 years ago, is very popular today. The placement of furniture, the colour of walls, the use of objects and foods are all supposed to affect our mood, well-being, health, productivity...even how pleasurable dining at our home is for friends and family!

Feng shui is an ancient art based on the theory of positive and negative energies (yin and yang). Its purpose is to help us live in harmony with our environment by creating a good flow of energy, or ch'i as it is known in Oriental cultures. The flow of ch'i in a house varies depending on the forms, colours and materials it encounters. Other decisive factors are the layout of rooms, location of doors and stairs and arrangement of furniture.

Some principles are self-evident. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you want a lot of light, preferably sunlight for a homey feel throughout the day. You wouldn't put the stove (hot element) beside the fridge (cold element) or want the kitchen door to open directly onto the bedroom or living room. You're already practising feng shui.

But did you know that ch'i finds fluorescent lighting, plastic, vinyl and nylon coverings, small appliances like microwave ovens and toasters and wall-hung knives hostile? What can you do?

Decorate with lots of green plants; they protect against aggressive elements. Mirrors turn negativity away. Opt for halogen lamps where possible. Water (an aquarium for example) is a source of positive energy that provides balance in tense situations. Keep knives in a drawer and the toaster in the cupboard. Keep the kitchen clean and tidy at all times. Don't let food go bad or it will give off harmful ch'i. Food is affected by the energy around it. Cut food on a wooden counter. Don't eat while watching television or you will absorb the negativity of the news along with your meal. Focus on feng shui foods.

Feng Shui Foods

1.Cold-pressed, unsaturated vegetable oils like olive and sesame oils.

2.Lots of fruits and vegetables. Because they grow in the earth, root vegetables have stronger ch'i than other vegetables.

3.Feng shui recommends soy milk and coconut milk carried by a growing number of supermarkets.

4.Given meat's negative ch'i, feng shui favours fish and seafood as healthy, nutritious, low-fat sources of protein. Salmon is strongly recommended for people who feel sluggish.

5.Cereals, rice, barley and noodles are fibre-rich sources of hydrocarbons, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, making them ideal feng shui foods.

The food we eat nourishes the body; the company we dine in nourishes the soul. The ambiance contributes as much as the dishes served to making a meal enjoyable. Many factors can affect the mood and behaviour of guests. For example, a transparent glass table can be distracting and make people uneasy, so a wood table is better. A round or oval table where people are closer and can see each other is preferable to a long rectangular one. According to feng shui, where you are seated has a big effect on the pleasure you take in the food, atmosphere and people around you. So you want to draw up a detailed seating plan based on your guests' personalities and the mood you want to set for the meal.

Feng Shui: Kitchen Tips

Feng shui masters spend their lives studying the discipline, aligning themselves with various approaches such as black hat sect, traditional, or intuitive feng shui. But you can instantly become a “kitchen master” with our quick and easy feng shui tips for your home:

1.Pay attention to your stove. Food nourishes you, affecting your ability to work and earn money, and the Ch’i of your cooking area will affect your meal. Keep the burners clean and use each one equally to illustrate the movement of good fortune in your life.

2.The cook’s back should never face the kitchen entrance. If the cook is unaware of who enters and exists, he or she could be startled, transferring negative Ch’i into the food. Place the cooktop on an island so that the cook can face the door. If the cook’s back must turn away from the entrance, hang a mirror on the backsplash or place a reflective object (like a tea kettle or a stainless steel utensil holder) on or beside the stove. This will allow the cook to remain aware of all activity.

3.The stove should not be placed under a window. Wind currents could pull the good Ch’i out of your food.

It is not clickable.

Dining the Feng Shui Way

4.Elements of fire and water clash, leading to bad Ch’i. Design your kitchen with distance between the two—your stove should not be adjacent to your refrigerator or sink. If such a placement is unavoidable, add a nourishing wood element—like a plant, butcher block, or wooden spoon—to turn the opposition into a cyclical relationship.

5.Plentiful food indicates prosperity. Hang pictures of fruits or vegetables on your kitchen’s walls to increase the sensation of abundance. Mirrors by your eating area, stove, or preparation will “double” your food as well, increasing wealth and health.

6.Clutter crowds your kitchen’s surfaces, often causing frustration. This inhibits the cook’s ability to prepare nourishing food. Keep all surfaces clear, storing all food and appliances not used on a daily basis out of sight.

7.Apply the same order to your pantry and cabinets. Broken items, empty boxes and containers, and unused food should be donated or discarded.

8.Keep in mind that Ch’i connects everything. Do you want to be linked to rotting fruit or unvalued knick-knacks? Discard, discard!

9.By the same token, surround yourself with meaningful things with positive Ch’i. Keep seashells gathered during a special family vacation on your windowsill, or display fresh flowers in an antique vase.

10.Keep trash and recycling centers out of sight. Garbage rarely signifies health and prosperity!

11.Don’t forget safety, an important component of feng shui. Knives should always be stored out of sight.

12.Sharp corners can be both unsafe and uncomfortable—how often have you banged your leg on a jutting table corner or squirmed in a Ch’i-depleting chair? Choose rounded corners over squared ones for tables, countertops, and chairs. Select wood over pointed glass tables. Hide and protect existing corners with plants and cushions.

13.When selecting your dining table, choose a softer, safer wood model over a pointed glass one. Oval and round tables are preferred over square and rectangular ones as they promote good Ch’i circulation.

14.Nourishment is as much a product of the cook as the food itself. The cook’s focus and spirits are transferred to the food. Make every effort to structure your kitchen (and your life!) in a way that facilitates a relaxed, leisurely, and meditative cooking process.

15.Remember—negative feelings and events tarnish the quality of your life. As a “feng shui rule of thumb,” surround yourself with whatever makes you comfortable and safe.

Source: The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Room By Room, by Terah Kathryn Collins

Seating Plan

In feng shui, the seating plan isn't dictated by the age, title or social standing of guests but by their personality... and the cardinal points. Try your hand at seating arrangements when entertaining friends, but also for family meals or romantic dinners.

1.Serious people should be seated facing west to help them relax.

2.A position facing south is good for a shy, withdrawn person. It will help them get closer to the others.

3.Someone who lacks self-confidence should face east.

4.Phlegmatic people should never be seated facing north, lest their coolness colour the ambiance.

5.A domineering, forceful guest should face north, which will have a calming affect.

6.The dominant seats are those facing the door or the longest part of the room because the people in them have a commanding view. Be careful who you seat there!

7.At family meals, parents should sit facing southeast (reinforcing wisdom and dignity) and northeast (reinforcing respect and care for others). If this isn't possible, northwest is next best (encouraging open-mindedness and communication).

8.Finally, avoid seating children with their back to a door or any other potential source of distraction. Why is obvious even if you know nothing of feng shui.

9.At a romantic dinner for two, facing west is best as this position is associated with pleasure.

10.Facing north, which corresponds to the night, will draw you closer together.

11.Facing south, will help you show your ardour, especially if you're shy and tongue-tied. Changing places throughout the meal is also a good idea.

12.Eating out of the same dish brings two people very close together. Prepare a slow-simmered dish where various flavours have commingled in the heat's long embrace. A fondue is the perfect solution if you don't have a lot of time to prepare the meal.

Colours Are Important

The colour of walls and objects is important. You can manage this energy as you wish in decorating your home. The better your understanding of colour's influence on your moods, emotions, health and success, the better you can make your life. Think of the atmosphere you want to create as you review the colours below.

1.Cream is associated with healing, health, serenity and well-being. In feng shui, cream is linked to sexual desire and stimulates sensuality.

2.White encourages drive and competitiveness.

3.Yellow speaks of comfort, warmth and sensual satisfaction, encourages pleasant conversation and is ideal for the eating area.

4.Orange is claimed to relieve fatigue and boost optimism. It's a vibrant colour that stimulates conversation.

5.Blue has a calming effect, reducing stress and producing serenity.

6.Green is associated with rebirth and creates a fresh, invigorating atmosphere, maybe because it reminds us of nature's greenery.

7.Red is the colour of luck, happiness and love. A little red in the decor encourages people to give voice to their ardour. But red should be used carefully -it stimulates aggressiveness as well as eloquence.

Feng shui helps us to create more beneficial surroundings. It encourages us to increase the energy in our homes using colours, materials, and the arrangement of furniture so that our lives become more harmonious. Feng shui is about being aware of the world around us and bringing balance to our lives.

Article from


Friday, September 10, 2004

Zalubiyyah - Fritters in Syrup

The lover dissolves into the Beloved like milk in zalubiyyah.


Fritters in Syrup

This is universal festival food, a tasty idea from centuries past that has circulated around the world. It is often shared by pilgrims at Mina, the final stage of the hajj. A recipe for it appeared in Al-Baghdadi's 1223 cookbook. It is very much like the perennial County Fair attractions, fried dough and funnel cakes. At the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, a Syrian vendor rescued his ice cream selling neighbor, fresh out of dishes, by rolling up a zalubbiyah and topping it with a scoop of ice cream to create the world's first ice cream cone. Rosewater gives zalubbiyah a Near Eastern taste, orange flower water a more North African one. In India, the fritters are known as jalebi.

Total time 3 hours
Batter & syrup preparation 30 minutes
Resting & cooling 2 hours
Frying time 30 minutes

1-3/4cups water or milk, approximately
2 tsp. yeast
1/2 cup yogurt
2-1/4 cups flour
Oil for frying

2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1-3/4cups water
2 tbsp. rose or orange flower water

Measure the water into a mixing bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and let it rest until bubbly. Add the yogurt, stir until dissolved, then add the flour and stir vigorously until thick and smooth. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for at least 2 hours, stirring it down every half hour.

While the batter rests, prepare the syrup. Put the sugar, lemon juice and water into a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the syrup coats a cold metal spoon. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the rosewater or orange flower water, and allow the syrup to cool.

Heat 2" of oil in a heavy saucepan. Using a wet spoon, pastry bag or narrow funnel (1/4 diameter tip), drizzle the batter into the oil in round dollops, spirals or figure eights. Do not crowd the pan. Fry gently for about a minute, turning them several times, until they are crisp and golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the darkest zalubiyyah from the oil and drop it into the cold syrup; remove another and drop it into the syrup; remove the first one from the syrup and put it onto a baking sheet. Continue alternately transferring them from pan to syrup, from syrup to baking sheet, until the first batch is done; then begin the next batch until the batter is all gone.

Dust the zalubiyyah with confectioner's sugar. With sugar-dusted fingers, arrange them on platter and serve.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Arabic Food and Arab Hospitality

Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:4~Sept:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...

Arabic Food and Arab Hospitality
by Eida Hasan

Arabic food and Arab hospitality can be somewhat of an overwhelming experience to first timers. My advice to anyone invited to a good old-fashioned Arabic meal is simply to wear loose fitting clothes. For, Arabic food is flavorful, diverse, and plentiful, but above all it will be offered to you relentlessly by your hosts. Even when there are no more buttons to unbutton, the offers to eat just a bit more keep coming. Regardless of how well or how little I knew my hosts, I have never been to an Arab home where I have not been kindly coerced into eating above and beyond what I am capable of eating. The very same occurred to guests at my own home when I was growing up. My mother followed the customs of her own mother - to feed your guests before you feed yourself, and to feed them well. My grandmother, I am told, had always stored food away that was to be offered to guests only. Yet this is not unique to my family. Great cooking, variety and abundance of food, and an insistence on good eating is found throughout the Arab world and in most Arab households. It is the Arab way of cooking and traditional hospitality.
Arab Hospitality Defined

For Arabs, hospitality lies at the heart of who they are. How well one treats his guests is a direct measurement of what kind of a person she or he is. Hospitality is among the most highly admired of virtues. Indeed, families judge themselves and each other according to the amount of generosity they bestow upon their guests when they entertain. Whether one's guests are relatives, friends, neighbors, or relative strangers, they are welcomed into the home and to the dinner table with much the same kindness and generosity. Arabic meals are more often a festive, warm and casual experience than they are formal. The guests are made to feel right at home, and to sample everything offered. In fact, most Arab hosts feel that they are failing in their role as host if their guests have not only tried all courses of the meal, but have also eaten more than is normally comfortable. The importance of hospitality to guests is something a visitor to an Arab home must understand. For the visitor who does not overeat may be seen by the host as a guest who is not showing proper appreciation. Again, this would cause the cook and/or host to feel that he or she is not fulfilling their duty. A meal is usually ended with the word sahtayn which means two healths to you, and this again emphasizes the importance of plentiful and healthy eating to the Arab people.

It is not clickable.

Veil - Modesty, Privacy & Resistance

Main Ingredients of Arabic Food

Arabic food has a lot of variety and its ingredients are far too many to name here. However, there are certain ingredients that make up many Arabic recipes. Wheat is the staple grain of Arabic cooking and it is used in bread, pastries, salads, and main dishes. Rice is another staple ingredient. In fact, rice is to the Arab what potato is to the Irishman as it is used often in Arabic recipes. It is most often cooked with vegetables, chicken, lamb or beef. Vegetables and beans are also found often in Arabic recipes. Compared to Western cooking, Arabic cooking contains a large variety of vegetables including eggplant, cauliflower, zucchini, and spinach. Beans such as garbanzo and fava beans are used often in dips such as hummus. Olive oil is a favorite as well. The basic dressing used for salads is olive oil, garlic and lemon. Olive oil is also used in bean, yogurt and vegetable sauces and dips. Lamb and mutton are the most common meats used throughout the Arab world. It is common on festive or religious occasions to serve dishes with lamb. For centuries, Arabs have served stuffed lamb on their most special occasions and to their most honored guests. In fact, T.E. Lawrence, known to most as Lawrence of Arabia, described in detail a feast of stuffed lamb in his memoirs Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Finally, most Arabic desserts, which are an important part of Arabic meals, consists of very thin pastries stuffed with dates or nuts, spices and butter and covered in a syrup of honey or sugar.

Popular Arabic Dishes

Arabic food, it seems, is only just becoming familiar to the Western world, particularly in the United States. Most cities are only recently seeing an increase in restaurants serving Arabic food. However, there are a few Arabic foods that most people have already tried or at least heard of. Hummus, a dip made of garbanzo beans, sesame seed paste, lemon garlic and sometimes olive oil, is already sold at most major deli and grocery stores. Arabic bread, known to most people as pita bread is eaten with most Arabic meals. Falafel, a veggie burger-like food made from chick peas, onion, potato and flour, among other ingredients, is also relatively well known to non-Arabs, as is shawirma which is also called gyros by the Greeks. Shawirma is a sandwich of rotisserie lamb or beef, wrapped in pita bread. Another popular Arabic recipe that can also be found in a deli is taboula which is a finely chopped salad of tomatoes, parsley, fresh mint, and crushed wheat. Stuffed grapevine leaves, called warak dawali, is another relatively well known Arabic food. The Greek version of this recipe is called dolmas. The Arabic recipe contains rice with beef or lamb, and lemon wrapped in grapevine leaves and cooked. Grapevine leaves used in this recipe can be found in speciality food stores. Unusual as this recipe may sound, this dish is especially flavorful. One last Arabic food that is popular to Arabs and non-Arabs alike is the pastry baklawa. No self-respecting host would forget to offer a tray of a variety of pastries to their guests with piping hot Arabic coffee or mint tea. Baklawa, the quintessential Arab pastry, is almost always among the pastries Arabs prefer. Baklawa is made from walnuts or pistachios, cinnamon, and orange blossom wrapped in a thin pastry shell and soaked in syrup. According to one cook book (From the Lands of Figs and Olives), it used to be said that in the Arab East, no young lady would make a good wife unless she could make baklawa dough. Today, that dough or pastry shell used in the recipe can be found in many grocery and speciality stores.

With the variety, robust flavor and exoticness of Arabic cooking, it is a shame that it is still relatively unknown to the majority of people. Good Arabic food, combined with traditional Arab hospitality, can be a wonderful dining experience.

(Some information was borrowed from the following three cook books: A Taste of Lebanon, by Mary Salloum; Lebanese Cuisine, by Madelain Farah; and From the Lands of Figs and Olives, by Habeeb Salloum and James Peters which I highly recommend.)


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Fava Beans Stew - Egyptian Ful Medames

There is little evidence to draw upon regarding Ancient Egyptian recipes, as it would appear that they did not consider it necessary to write them down. Scholars tend to rely on paintings that show feasting and celebratory scenes, such as those found in tombs.

Although the ancient people did not appear to use cookbooks, the ingredients needed to make most of the dishes are well known, many of which are still used in Egypt today.

For example Ful Medames is the national dish of Egypt and probably dates as far back as the Pharaonic periods. It would have commonly been eaten with bread, lentils, raw vegetables and eggs.

Egyptian Ful Medames

Total time 1-1/2 hours

2 cups dried fava or broad beans, soaked overnight
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. allspice

1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped scallions
1 cup diced green and red peppers
6 hard boiled eggs, sliced
6 tomatoes, chopped

Drain the beans and put them in a large pot with the lentils. Cover with 3" of water, bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours. Add salt after the first hour. When the beans are done, drain them and reserve 1 cup of the liquid containing the disintegrated red lentils. Put the beans in a serving bowl. Combine the garlic, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, olive oil, reserved cooking liquid, and allspice, if desired. Add to the beans and mix well. Surround the serving bowl with garnishes on individual plates or bowls, and allow your guests to help themselves.


Friday, September 03, 2004

Paluda - Persian Fruit Salad

Live as if you had never tasted this paluda,
As if you know nothing of this kitchen that you have seen,
For its paluda cannot help but intoxicate you,
And make you forget your humble sheepskin jacket
and your battered shoes.


Persian Fruit Salad

The Persian word paluda describes fruit salad, or sweet noodles soaked in honey or fruit syrup. To Mevlana, paluda symbolized spiritual sweetness. Simple and elegant, paluda often appears on the Iranian Friday afternoon dinner table, and can be made with whatever fruits are in season.

Total time 30 minutes

2 honeydew melons
2 cantaloupes
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
8 peaches
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup rosewater

Halve the melons. Scoop the fibrous pulp and seeds into a sieve set over a large mixing bowl. Discard the seeds and fibers and reserve the melon juice. Using a melon baller, scoop out the melon flesh over the juice bowl, reserving any melon juice that drips out in the process. Put the melon balls into the bowl with the juice. Sprinkle in the sugar and salt and stir gently. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the peaches for 30 seconds, then remove from the pot and rinse with cold water. Peel and halve the peaches, slice them lengthwise, and put them into a second bowl with the lemon juice. Stir well to distribute the lemon juice evenly over the surface of each peach slice, to prevent discoloration.

Combine the melons and their juice, the peaches and lemon juice, and the rosewater. Toss gently, then transfer to a serving bowl. Chill for several hours before serving.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Cape Malay Rich Lamb & Tomato Bredie

Cape Malay Rich Lamb & Tomato Bredie

Stew - it's an old-fashioned term but the nostalgic thoughts of comforting flavours that it evokes make it a perennial winter favourite. In South Africa,this particular stew is an old Cape dish called a bredie. What gives a bredie its unique character is the long,slow simmering until the meat and vegetables melt together in the rich, full-bodied gravy.

In addition to the potatoes and onion there is always a dominant vegetable such as
cabbage, beans or pumpkin. To my mind the finest bredie is made with lavish quantities if sweet, ripe tomatoes and a touch of fragrant lemon peel. Serve it with a bowl of steaming rice to soak up the juices.

Rich Lamb & Tomato BredieIngredients
6 lamb shanks or 1-2 lamb chops per person
1-2 tablespoons flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 bay leaves
2 onions, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
freshly milled pepper, to taste
6 white peppercorns
1 kg ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped, or 2x 400 g tins peeled tomatoes in juice,
1 tbsp sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
(Serves 4-6)

CHECKLIST:Chopping board,deep bowl,cook's knife, wooden spoon, large ironstone casserole dish or heavy-based frypan with a tightly fitting lid, citrus zester.

Do use a heavy-based casserole or frying pan with a tightly fitting lid for slow gentle cooking.During the long, slow simmering, the lamb and vegetables should almost become one.Dust the lamb with flour before browning in heated oil.


Lamb cuts suitable for stewing include shanks, neck chops and shoulder chops.

Dust lamb with flour and brown in heated oil.


Use really
ripe, flavoursome tomatoes. Tinned tomatoes are a good option when you want to save time or when fresh tomatoes aren't at their best.

To peel fresh tomatoes, cut
a little cross with a sharp knife on the top of each one and immerse in boiling water for 10 seconds. Peel off skin with fingers.

Sprinkle the chopped, skinned tomatoes with sugar to heighten their flavour.Cut out stem, halve tomatoes, place face down and dice. Use a large board as you don't want to waste the juices.


Add bay leaves and onions and gently cook until onions have softened.

Add salt and pepper,peppercorns,
tomatoes sprinkled with sugar and lemon zest. With the clean, direct and full
flavours of this stew you do not need to add many herbs and spices.  Cover and simmer for about 2 hours.


Add bay leaves and chopped onions to the pan and saute gently until onions have softened.Add potatoes, cover and continue to cook for 30-40 minutes. Serve with piping hot steamed rice.

The stew can be made in advance but add the potatoes 30-40 minutes before serving.

For a delicious variation,use green beans instead of tomatoes. The basic recipe remains the same but omit the sugar.
In addition you will need 1 cup well-reduced meat stock, preferably home-made. (Tomatoes have their own juices; beans do not have as much.) The stock is added after the onions have softened, then 1 kg sliced green beans is stirred in.


Cape Malay Sosatie

Cape Malay Sosatie

Total Preparation Time 4+ hours
Cooking time 20 minutes

1kg leg of Lambs, cut in 2.5cm cubes
1kg lean beef, cut in 2.5cm cubes (original recipe it was pork)
125gm mutton fat, cubed
75ml smooth apricot jam (6 tbsp)
25ml brown sugar (2 tbsp)
3 cloves garlic
12.5ml cornflour (1 tbsp)
2 bay leaves
25ml curry powder (2 tbsp)
25ml wine vinegar (2 tbsp)
12.5ml salt (1 tbsp)
5ml pepper (1 tsp)
3 onions, quatered
250ml dried apricots

Combine apricot jam, sugar, garlic, cornflour, bay leaves, curry power, vinegar, salt and pepper and add onion quarters. Cook until slightly thickened. Place lamb and beef cubes in mixture and marinate for 4 hours in a cool place, turning 2-3 time. Soak apricots in water until plump. Remove meat from marinade and thread onto skewers alternately with mutton fat, apricots and onion. Grill over coals until done.
Serve 6-8


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Cape Malay Bobotie

Bobotie came to South Africa via Malaysia, and is a sort of savory bread custard with lots of ground lamb/beef, curry, fruit and nuts. Make sure the ground lamb/beef you use is very, very lean.

Cape Malay Bobotie

Total time 2-1/2+ hours
Cooking time 60 minutes

The Filling

1 lb beef/lamb, minced
2 eggs
2 slices white bread, stale with crusts removed
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp sugar
6 almonds - chopped
½ cup golden raisins
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt

The Topping

1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
bay leaves or lemon leaves for garnishing

Pre-heat the oven to 325o F.
Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes, squeeze out the excess and then crumble.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and braise the onion until golden.
Break the two eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly. Mix in the mince lamb/beef
Add the onion mixture from the frying pan, the hot water, lemon juice, crumbled bread, raisins, almonds, turmeric and sugar to the mince meat, mixing well.
Spoon the mixture into a well-greased, oven-proof dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and then remove from the oven.

Combine the other egg with the milk and beat well.
Pour the mixture over the bobotie and arrange the bay/lemon leaves as garnish.
Return to the oven and bake at 350o F for 10 minutes, or until the topping is set.

Serve the Bobotie with a large salad and rice.


The Cape Malay Influence in South African Cooking

Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:3~Sept:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...

Welcome to an exceptional city, a place where dreamers find inspiration, where lovers are compelled to return, time and again.
This is Cape Town, a sophisticated city at the gateway to a majestic continent. Proudly conscious of itself, yet always subtle, the Mother city is both exhilaratingly modern aand humble, even down to earth.

Cape Malay Cooking

With their soft, caramel skins and wide smiles, the Cape Malay people are a prized and proud element of the South African culture.

The first group of Malaysian state prisoners landed on the shores of South Africa from Java and the neighboring Indonesian islands in the late 1600's. Many more followed in the years 1727 until 1749. Not only did this proud and attractive people bring with them the Moslem faith and fine architecture, they also brought with them a unique cookery style, introducing exciting mixtures of pungent spices that has had a heady influence on traditional South African cuisine. Indeed, the Malay-Portuguese words such as bobotie (a curried ground beef and egg custard dish), sosatie (kebabs marinated in a curry mixture) and bredie (slowly cooked stews rich in meat, tomatoes and spices) are integral in their cookery vocabulary.

Dr. Christian Louis Leipoldt, great Cape born surgeon, poet, esteemed chef and wine connoisseur who died in 1947, left a rich and amusing account and recipes for a number of Malay dishes in his book, 'Leipoldt's Cape Cookery', eventually published in 1976. Noted for his aversion to weights and measures, his recipes are liberally sprinkled with 'a hint of this' or 'a scattering', 'a pinch' of that.

Cape Town.It is not clickable.

Mother City - Cape Town

In 1946 he wrote of an interest in cookery that dated back to the late 1880's when he was just a small boy, where, under the guidance a spotless if obese, expert Cape Coloured woman, he greedily devoured her culinary magic and expertise in the preparation of Malay cookery. "The Ayah's art was the result of many years of instruction and experience in the traditional methods of Malay cookery, whose outstanding characteristics are the free, almost heroic use of spices and aromatic flavourings, the prolonged steady, but slow application of moist heat to all meat dishes, and the skillful blending of many diverse constituents into a combination that still holds the essential goodness of each," he wrote.

It all began in 1652, when the Cape of Good Hope was born, a stop in South Africa for ships of the East India Company of Holland on their way east. Immigrants from Europe, convicts from China, slaves from Mozambique and the prisoners from Java soon increased the populace of the seaside village bringing with them their unique cookery skills. A multi-ethnic cuisine emerged, and one can only imagine the aromas emanating from kitchens producing highly spiced dishes from Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and especially oriental recipes handed down for generations.

The Malay influence comes through in the curries, chilies and extensive use of spices such as ginger, cinnamon and turmeric. More Malay magic comes through the use of fruit cooked with meat, marrying sweet and savoury flavours, with hints of spice, curry and other seasonings. The food has a nuance of seductive spiciness, true testament to the culinary capabilities of Malay women world wide. I cannot think of a dried apricot without the image of a caramel coloured woman, grinning widely, a wooden spoon in her hand, gently stirring a pot of simmering curry and fruit. Splendid!

Leipoldt wrote;
"To make a bobotie it is necessary to have clean hands, for you must knead the meat as you do a dough. Take then of tender mutton and the backstring (fillet) of pork of each a pound in weight, and that without fat or hard part; pound it vigourously in your mortar, with a handful of blanched almonds, 12 pepper corns, a slice of green ginger, a chili, a leaf of the herb marjoram, some coriander seeds, a very small piece of fresh garlic, or if you have none of it, half a leaf of an onion, and the grated rind of a lemon, and work into it half a cupful of wine in which you have soaked an ounce of tamarind. Let it stand overnight. Then, beat into it half a cupful of cream and two tablespoonsful of good butter, not too much salt, and knead it well. Shape it into a round loaf and put it into an earthenware pie-dish that you have well smeared inside with butter and sprinkled with a few cumin seeds. Put it in the oven and when it gets hot and expands, but not before, pour over it two cups of milk in which you have beaten up the yolks of three eggs and a tablespoonsful of curry powder such as you may get at the Malay store. Let it bake till it is well set, and then put upon it a few blanched almonds and a grating of nutmeg. Before you send it to table you may, if you are not pleased with its top colour, pass a hot salamander over it."

I think that Cape Malay bobotie recipe may be a little simpler and just as good. However, for the hardy and brave, try this method and enjoy a little bit of South Africa.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Syrup of Sekanjabin

God's wrath is His vinegar, mercy His honey.
These two are the basis of every oxymel.
If vinegar overpowers honey, a remedy is spoiled.
The people of the earth poured vinegar on Noah;
the Ocean of Divine Bounty poured sugar.
The Ocean replenished his sugar,
and overpowered the vinegar of the whole world.


Syrup of Sekanjabin

Sekanjabin is a medieval Arabic version of oxymel, which is a general term for medicinal drinks combining vinegar with sugar syrup or honey. It is probably first mentioned by the ancient Greek medical writer Hippocrates, who prescribes it extensively and comments that, among other things, “it promotes expectoration and freedom of breathing.” (Hippocrates, On Regimen in Acute Diseases, tr. Francis Adams). The Anglo-Saxons also knew it: an old Anglo-Saxon leechbook mentions oxymel as “a southern acid drink” (Cockayne vol II p. 153), and suggests betony in oxymel as a relief “if a man is tired by a long journey” (p.152). Later the writer gives the recipe for oxymel, together with the injunction to drink it for “the half dead disease” (p. 285), or for epilepsy. Platina, a 15th-century Italian writer, mentions honey/vinegar oxymel several times, suggesting it as a remedy for the harmful effects of melons (Milham p. 127). Andalusian Sekanjabin likewise has a medicinal slant, since it is described as being “beneficial for fevers of jaundice, and calms jaundice and cuts the thirst” (see recipe below). Like most Arabic syrups, it was intended to be drunk with hot water as a medicinal draught, although they were probably also drunk cold for refreshment.

The concept of using a basic oxymel infused with herbal flavour of some sort is fairly universal; the Anglo-Saxon leechbook suggests infusing it with radish as well as betony, and Hippocrates speaks of infusing oxymel with asafoetida and carrot, or opoponax and southernwood (whatever those are). Cariadoc’s mint version doesn’t seem to be much of a leap, particularly given the modern sekanjabins he notes in ethnic restaurants and the parallel Andalusian recipe for mint syrup

Total time 2-1/2+ hours
Cooking time 30 minutes
Cooling 2+ hours

4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup fresh mint leaves, plus 1 sprig per glass

In a heavy pan over medium heat, bring sugar and water to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then add vinegar and lemon juice and continue boiling until the syrup drips slowly from the end of a cold spoon. Lower the heat, add mint and simmer for 3 more minutes. Strain the syrup into a jar and let it cool. To serve, place an almond at the bottom of a glass, pour in 3 tbsp. of syrup, add ice water and stir. Garnish with a sprig of mint. You may also add a little grated cucumber to the glass.

*The syrup stores without refrigeration


Mint & Lemon Drink

Ho, saki, haste, the beaker bring,
Fill up, and pass it round the ring.
Love seemed at first an easy thing —
But ah! the hard awakening.


Mint & Lemon Drink

Served after a meal, this is an excellent aid to digestion.

Total time 10 minutes

6 tbsp. grated lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
8 cups water
6 tsp. dried mint

Bring freshly drawn water to a boil. Add the lemon zest and mint and boil for 1 minute. Strain into cups and serve hot, with or without sugar.


Monday, August 02, 2004

Coffee — The Wine of Islam

Chez é-sham...e-Zine® [Vol:2~Aug:04]

"For People Who Make Mistakes and Willing To Learn" ...

Most modern coffee-drinkers are probably unaware of coffee's heritage in the Sufi orders of Southern Arabia. Members of the Shadhiliyya order are said to have spread coffee-drinking throughout the Islamic world sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries CE. A Shadhiliyya shaikh was introduced to coffee-drinking in Ethiopia, where the native highland bush, its fruit and the beverage made from it were known as bun. It is possible, though uncertain, that this Sufi was Abu'l Hasan 'Ali ibn Umar, who resided for a time at the court of Sadaddin II, a sultan of Southern Ethiopia. 'Ali ibn Umar subsequently returned to the Yemen with the knowledge that the berries were not only edible, but promoted wakefulness. To this day the shaikh is regarded as the patron saint of coffee-growers, coffee-house proprietors and coffee-drinkers, and in Algeria coffee is sometimes called shadhiliyye in his honor.

The beverage became known as qahwa — a term formerly applied to wine —and ultimately, to Europeans, as "The Wine of Islam." It became popular among the Sufis to boil up the grounds and drink the brew to help them stay awake during their night dhikr. (Roasting the beans was a later improvement developed by the Persians.)

The Shadhili Abu Bakar ibn Abd'Allah al-'Aydarus was impressed enough by its effects that he composed a qasida (poem) in honor of the drink. Coffee-drinkers even coined their own term for the euphoria it produced — marqaha. The mystic and theologian Shaikh ibn Isma'il Ba Alawi of Al-Shihr stated that the use of coffee, when imbibed with prayerful intent and devotion, could lead to the experience of qahwa ma'nawiyya ("the ideal qahwa") and qahwat al-Sufiyya, interchangeable terms defined as "the enjoyment which the people of God feel in beholding the hidden mysteries and attaining the wonderful disclosures and the great revelations."

The Shadiliyya dervishes were active in the world; it is said that Shaikh Abul Hasan ash-Shadhili, the founder of the order, was reluctant to take on a student who did not already have a profession. It soon became apparent that coffee's benefits could be extended to the workday and the local economy as well. The southern Arabian climate was ideal for coffee cultivation, and the ports of Yemen, particularly the port of Mocha, became the world's primary exporters of coffee.