About NazarBlue

Growing up with Southern Italian roots, Turkish best friends and Arabic neighbours, life was lived around abundant tables in warm kitchens. A love for food and feeding was inevitable. It showed me how all people are the same regardless of language and borders – Una Faccia Una Razza! When I became engaged to a Saracen from Istanbul, his relatives not only welcomed me into their family but welcomed me into their kitchen. For me, food is love. Food personifies the people who you hold dearest and speaks of origins and affections. To cook is to create edible offerings of love. NazarBlue embraces food, culture & photography. But by no means the regular stuff you'll find littering the Mediterranean tourist trail. No, no! I cook food with stories behind each dish. I photograph simple things, but try to emphasis natural beauty in a moment or in a scene. And when I travel I live with the locals for an authentic experience. I adore the pockets of culture from the Mediterranean and beyond in this great city, London, and write about the authentic eateries and events I stumble upon, often by chance. I have also uploaded some flash fiction, for no particular reason other than I love a good story.

Marrakech; Magic and Mayhem.

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…

*  *  *

Easy Peasy Saganaki – Pan Seared Cheese

ImageFried 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.

Meatless Satisfaction 

  

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!

Missing the Med

watermelonlokoumades

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.

Vows of Wholesomeness. 

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 :) 

Struffoli!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the coming year! I wanted to share Struffoli with you, honeyed dough balls from Napoli, essential to my Christmas table. This dessert, not dissimilar to Greek / Turkish Lokma, shows the influences which became the city. Bejeweled with candied fruits and sugar covered Fennel seeds and Cinnamon shards, Struffoli also bears an incredible resemblance to the national dessert of Tatarstan called Çäkçäk . I like to think there is some connection between Napoli and the Central Asian country, a connection which stretches way beyond the Mediterranean Sea.

image (1)

Click here for the recipe! 

Cuccia di Santa Lucia – Wheat & Ricotta Dessert

Cuccia’ di Santa Lucia is traditionally eaten on St.Lucia’s day, 13th December in the deep south of Italy. St Lucia of Syracuse is the patron saint of eyesight, symoblised in this creamy dessert by soft grains of wheat said to represent her eyes.

Cuccia al Cioccolata

I made this dessert for my sister when she had accidentally damaged both corneas and was in a lot of pain. Off I went to Soho’s Lina stores for wheat and proper Italian style candied orange peel with this dessert in mind. She swears that her eyes improved, thanks to St Lucia! Click here for recipe.

I Love October

I love October; the satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot, gloriously golden days where the sun still warms the brow and chilly nights drawing in. As we near Halloween, I take delight in knowing the season of comfort food is upon us. Here are some spooky (ish!) recipes to consider; Pumpkin, Hazelnut & Ricotta salad, Eggs in Purgatory and Torrone dei Morti – Torrone of the dead!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Hope for Humanity?

Gaza

As I navigated my son through the Saturday shoppers on Kensington High Street, I cursed the impending downpour. As we neared Kensington Gardens I could hear collective murmurs rising above the noise of traffic, then I began seeing placards and chequered scarves; another protest outside the Israeli embassy, a regular occurrence in the Royal Borough and one I have witnessed on many occasion in my 30 something years as a resident.
As we crossed the road to avoid the protest, I caught my son’s little face looking up to me for reassurance, his wispy hair blowing in the wind. I scooped him up and patted him on the back. Passing the barricade of police officers, my son innocently gawked at the protestors across the road, mouth wide open in amazement. To a toddler, the ruckus must have seemed terrifying. I too stopped, trying to capture the gist of what this latest protest was about; sure I keep up to date with current affairs and had some idea, but I didn’t know that by simply observing this time round would have such an emotionally profound effect. A group of Orthodox Jewish men stood on the front line of the protest, participants I really didn’t expect to see. Proudly holding placards and Palestinian flags, they politely refrained from hollering. Seemingly at ease, they appeared fearless in the face of what potentially could be perceived to the ignorant eye such as mine, not only an anti-Israeli rally, but an anti-Semitic one too.
I took a photo of the group and tweeted it assuming that it would be lost amongst the social media giants. Little did I know that within hours my photo would become viral; retweeted, shared and liked hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of times all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
With the rise of social media, distressing images are at every log-in even if you do not seek them, images so shocking and terrible that you have no choice but to feel sickened, helpless and angry. They continue to divide people at a time we so desperately need to be unified. As a mother, evidence of murdered children turn my stomach. Seeing raw sufferance moves me to tears and I often ask myself
‘Who is responsible for this?’                                                                                                                                              Bombarded by hateful captions and comments, the finger of blame is pointed this way and that. Entire creeds and faiths are vilified and perceptions are embedded into the psyches of those seeking answers. Hate is voiced and in other cases retaliation is actively sought. Yet it is massively important not to tar everybody with the same brush for regular civilians cannot control the actions of their own government.
For the average person such as myself, I cannot fully understand the horror that enrobes the people of the region. For me, hardships were few and fixable. There was always hope.
It’s easier to bury my head in the sand and believe it doesn’t affect me. So why then was a lump forming in my throat? Why was this protest having an impact? We had only gone out to feed the ducks! I look at my son who is still engrossed by the protest; I care because of him. I care that he should know compassion and injustice. I care that my son is accepting and shouldn’t dwell on differences spurred on by an age of rage riddled social media. I care for the sake of humanity and all the sons and daughters who are suffering. I care because I am human; I cannot see would be refugees with nowhere to turn, barricaded by land and sea. Nor innocent men women and children at best impoverished, at worse wrapped in shrouds, victims to a sky which rains bombs and bullets.
The protest was an emotionally charged collective voice with an urgent message. There is a terrible thing happening at this moment; the heart of the Mediterranean is bleeding. There are lives being needlessly spent in a crisis of humanity, one we all can no longer ignore. I saw them standing shoulder to shoulder in Kensington, Muslim, Jew and Christian and I was deeply moved, not as an activist, but as a mere observer.
For hours after the protest, I received messages from friends telling me that my photo had been shared by various people, some very well well-known. Some speculated it to be a fake, others were crying out for the rest of the world to see it. Why was one photo so massively relevant? Because it shows that humanity dwells in the heart of everyone, regardless of religion and race. People have had enough of an eye for an eye. With an eye for an eye everyone went blind. We may not have the immediate solution for the peaceful co-existence of Israelis and Palestinians, or for chipping away layers of hate stretching back for generations, but if we begin to stand together there is at least some hope for humanity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One week on and there is another protest outside the Israeli embassy with supporters numbering near thousands. A helicopter circles the area and the press is out in force. An iconic London double decker is at a standstill just metres from Kensington Palace and protesters climb aboard and out onto its roof, waving Palestinian flags victoriously. One determined reporter is pushing through the crowd, I see his eyes fixed on the bus and sure enough within minutes he is balancing precariously on its roof. There is a huge roar from the crowd as an Orthodox Jew, rumoured to be a Rabbi, also climbs on top, placard in hand. The collective voice is gaining strength and they’re begging the world to listen.

Happy Easter e Buona Pasqua!

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate it!

Easter for me, as for many, has always meant family gatherings and festive foods.  Images of palms twisted into crosses on my parents mantle piece, daffodils and sugary coloured decorations are imprinted deep in my memory. I also recall my mother showing me how to empty an egg for decorating using only a pin and deep breaths.  Then there was the food; platters of salami, mortadella, boiled eggs with various cheeses, pasta with juicy ragu’ and ricotta, roasted lamb with peas and artichokes, colomba cake and Italian style Easter eggs with brightly coloured foil wrapping.  Then there was the Pastiera; a beautiful Neapolitan wheat and ricotta cake delicately perfumed with orange blossom. My father would cut a hole in the centre to ‘make sure’ the year’s offering was up to scratch – it always was :) This is the essence of Easter in our household.

Here are some Easter style recipes I’d like to share with you; Casatiello, a festive flavoursome bread from Naples, Italian style lamb and potato bake and a gorgeously moist Chocolate Caprese cake.

Enjoy the long weekend :)