I used to dabble in jewellery making. I used to paint too, large sweeping landscapes on huge pieces of hardboard. Inevitably as real life got in the way, action packed days and countless sleepless nights ebb away into a blur of creative inactivity. Long gone are the productive outbursts I so relished in and the unique sense of accomplishment that goes with making something meaningful and, if only to myself, beautiful. After years of longing for my creative self to reemerge I finally have the opportunity. So back to jewellery making it is.
As I begin investing what little spare time there is in fiddling with lava, semi precious stones and evil eye beads I realise theres a tiny smile etched on my face. This is what I’ve missed; stolen moments of self indulgence away from technology and that real world which has kept me so occupied. As my mind wanders I tread the realms of fire and sea, reflections of the very elements I’m working with. I begin reconnecting with myself as if reacquainting with an absent friend.
Hello dear friend, welcome back.
Mostaccioli and Divino Amore have a special place in the heart of Neapolitans and southern Italians; for diaspora the scent of these ‘dolci’ conjures up sentiments of Christmas.
They are an essential part of our festive season and are found along side other fragranced traditional sweets and biscotti like Susamielli, Rococo and marzipan, ‘pasta reale’.
My recipes reduce the amount of sugar usually called for. Mostaccioli are nutty chocolate biscuits which are as antique as they are loved. They remind us that Napoli has been touched by the East with their spiced perfume. Divino Amore are baked marzipan dipped in blushing white chocolate, baked originally by nuns for Neapolitan nobility. With floral notes and candied peel, they are a taste of the Mediterranean.
They make for perfect gifts so parcel them up and spread the Christmas love. Merry Christmas and Buon Natale a tutti!
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All Souls day, which falls on the 2nd November, is a significant event in the Catholic calendar which pays homage to the dead, especially those whose souls are stuck in purgatory.
In Napoli, a city obsessed by superstition, shrines and catacombs, All Saints day (1st Nov) and All Souls day present an opportunity to pay respects to deceased relatives by visiting graves. Older, alarmingly morbid practices are still carried out where church crypts are lit up and coffin lids are opened or removable glass panels taken out so that the relatives of the decaying can see their faces, caress the corpses and make the sign of the cross over their head. This of course is no longer common practice and remains a ritual for the religiously devout.
In Napoli, every event calls for an edible homage. Around the time of All Saints & All Souls day, sugared skulls and skeletons appear and temp children for a pittance.
Here is my version of Torrone dei Morti (Torrone of the dead), in which layers of chocolate and nuts give a sweet taste to an otherwise bitter remembrance.
Slices can be wrapped and gifted – why not?! :)
I rarely choose the meat option, unless there’s kibbeh! Torpedo shaped crispy dumplings filled with sweet onions and pine nuts, complete with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice are my absolute favourite street food and a must when visiting west London Syrian eatery Abu Zaad.
There are various versions from all over the Middle East from Palestine to Kurdistan, some made with meat, others with pumpkin, red lentils or potatoes, some known as kibbeh, others kubbeh, kubbah, kubbi and içli kofte! To make kibbeh requires time and patience (I currently have neither of these!) so here’s the next best thing; a simple baked version, easily prepared and equally as satisfying with the same inviting lightly spiced appeal.
Spice up your minced meat with a touch of the orient in this easy recipe here! Enjoy..
When I stayed in Albania with my good friend Ida, her welcoming mother presented this delicious soup at the beginning of every evening meal. Similar to Turkish yayla (yogurt soup), this soup is massively comforting. I have often abandoned my spoon and gulped it straight from the bowl. Its a safe bet for fussy toddlers and an effective hangover cure (trust me on that!). My son calls it ‘white’ and for a kid who doesn’t drink much and has his fussy food days, I feel like I’m winning with this tasty broth, fortified with eggs, yogurt and fresh mint butter. Click here for recipe…
We arrived in Marrakech in the dead of night. Our driver, sent by our riad to pick us up, stops at the end of a deserted dusty derb and leads us to our home for the next few days. Aziz greets my sister and I with a massive smile as his head ducks out of a tiny studded doorway. Its nearly 2am and he has waited up, knows we need to rest and shows us to our room. As I drift off to sleep in our beautifully decorated room, my mind bubbles with excitement. I am finally in the land of my dreams.
In the early morning sparrows chirp and flitter back and forth between plush orange trees in the courtyard. Breakfast is served beneath them by figures who fast become our friends; Aziz, Azizah and Sayeed. Their enthusiasm and warmth was our first and lasting impression of Marrakech; their qualities seem to come so naturally to the people of Morocco. We are presented with a detailed and jovial orientation, a map and possibly one of the most important tips we were to receive “If they say the road is closed, don’t believe them.”
Aziz then accompanies us the small distance to the main square, Jmaa el Fna, Marrakech’s tireless heartbeat. Just as he leaves us, we miss him immediately. We seek each others arms for comfort, linking tightly as we struggle to make sense of our surroundings. We see snake charmers and monkeys, we hear cat calls and unfamiliar music, we narrowly escape being run over more than once. We squeeze each other at every loud noise and sudden movement. Veiled women follow us overly eager to decorate our hands with henna which is rumored to be poisoned. Men in turbans motion and shout, others pass us by a bit too closely. Svelte horses appear out of the dust and charcoal smoke, mounted by majestic faced men donning wide brimmed hats. Its arid, the baked ochre buildings hum under the relentless sun. I couldn’t have guessed that in just five days from that moment I would have fallen deeply in love.
My experience in Marrakech wasn’t a holiday; it was a roller coaster of emotions which threw me from extreme anxiety one minute to absolute calm the next. Continue Reading…
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Fried cheese – Greek style!
Yes it really is as glorious as it sounds with a heavenly crust and oozing insides, even more so with a few extra embellishments. Invoking the spirit of the Mediterranean, this dish is frugal and beautiful in its simplicity; it sates this salty craving I have which never seems to disappear when temperatures soar.
This dish can form part of the legendary meze table and is known as ‘Saganaki’ , referring to the pan in which it is seared. Usually Kefalotyri, Kefalograviera or Kasseri cheese is used.
Click here for my easy peasy cheesy recipe.
My sister in law, Yeliz, made lentil kofte the first time I visited her at home. With her young children whizzing around excitably, she brought plates of kofte to the dinning table narrowly avoiding the toy cars in her path. What better way to welcome someone not only into your kitchen, but into your life by preparing a wholesome meal. I took the recipe away with me and now my own Mum often asks ‘When are we going to eat those lentil patties again?’
This is the type of meal prepared for large families so it’s no wonder then that my in-laws eat lentil kofte often. They are your typical large, warm Mediterranean family who come together around the table.
These kofte laugh in the face of meatless sceptics; as well as healthy they’re filling and make for a fun way of eating. Lay one in a lettuce leaf, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on top, wrap and enjoy. As always, best eaten in good company!
This winter is stretching out until the bitter end. As a cloud of toxic smog looms over the UK, I’m stuck at home, gazing out the window at bare branches and uninspiring grey skies. Its at times like these I welcome memories of balmy summers in the Mediterranean where pleasures are simple; the rasps of crickets in the hot arid air, the smell of ripe tomatoes and freshly grilled fish. Why not reminisce with me and revisit the enchanting island of Crete.
Since the birth of my son I’ve been guilty of grabbing snacks to fuel me through my busy days. Now he’s just that bit older, I can finally set some time aside for myself so I’ve vowed to revert to healthy and wholesome eating. I’ve missed having the time to cook for myself, to rustle up simplistic but delicious soul food. Most mornings can still be so much of a rush that my ‘Breakfast’ tends to actually mean brunch but come that time what better to eat than a hearty Turkish family favourite, Menemen. Wishing all the sleep deprived, selfless and wonderful mothers a very happy Mothers Day. Take some time out for a change :)