Growing up with Southern Italian roots, Turkish best friends and Arabic and Greek speaking 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.
Hi guys, I’m so pleased to finally be able to share my beautiful wearable gemstones for women and men with you via Etsy 🖤
From magical morganite, soothing kunzite, sodalite (for you creatives) jasper, flashy labradorite (pure magic), smoky quartz (amazing for stress) to amethyst and rose quartz and so many more. They are looking for their new guardians.
Many people are quick to dismiss the ‘wild claims’ surrounding crystals but I can honestly say that they are life changing. If you haven’t yet discovered crystals or are curious about their many healing properties, wearable gemstones are a great place to start.
They can be incredibly soothing and grounding, connecting us to Mother Earth wherever we are.
These light, crumbly, melt in the mouth almond biscuits remind me of cherished holidays in the Canary Islands, when the arid afternoon air induces a need for the perfect pick-me-up; delicias de almendra with a short strong coffee. Easy (dairy-free) recipe here.
Looking for an alternative to Christmas pudding? Why not try making Struffoli, a festive dish which evokes the colourful roots of Naples.
Struffoli is one of the essential Christmas dishes in our family. This Neapolitan dessert is unique to the city and not dissimilar to Greek / Turkish Lokma where deep-fried dough is immersed in syrup. Jeweled with candied fruits, sugar covered fennel seeds, cinnamon shards and lightly spiced with anice, Struffoli invokes the spirit of the East and bears a striking resemblance to the national dessert of Tatarstan called Çäkçäk.
I’d like to imagine there is some incredible story of how the dish is unique to two very different places, and of a possible connection which stretches way beyond the Mediterranean Sea.
If you’ve left Christmas shopping a little late (as have I!) or can’t decide what to give a certain someone, why not make one of these two sweet treats? Italian almond sweets, Pasticcini di Mandorla, or Pahklava, Azeri style spiced baklava. Both insanely delicious, they’ll make perfect gifts for loved ones with a sweet tooth.
Wishing all of you a very merry Christmas filled with family, festivity and good food and an amazing 2017.
Southern Italy and North Africa, not so distant cousins.
I adore dishes which bear testament to shared histories and the exchange of tradition, the type which are so strikingly alike that they surpass borders between two seemingly different lands. With the Arab conquests of Sicily and Calabria, the presence of the Spanish with their Moorish influence until the 18th century and the natural proximity of land, its no wonder we can find huge similarities in food, language and architecture between the regions. The occasion pastries of Southern Italy and North Africa demonstrate just this with the common use of of floral essences, spice, ground almonds, pistachios and honey. In Italy at Christmas we see deep fried honeyed dough steeped in honey (like fragrant Neapoletan Struffoli and Puglian Cartellate), and around Ramadan we find Moroccan Chebakia in abundance; rose shaped, spiced pastries also deep fried and steeped in honey. The trick is to use a light honey, such as Rowse Light & Mild, so the flavour of the spices aren’t overcome.
My recipe is a take on the afore mentioned dishes, on the methods and depth of flavour shared by both regions who it seems are not so far apart. These spiced honey and sesame curls are best accompanied by a strong, unsweetened Turkish style tea; since we’re already in the Mediterranean flavour mood, why not!
Today I visited one of my favourite bakeries in Shepherds Bush, Maison Sousse (read about it here), a necessary pilgrimage in the name of late pregnancy cravings for mountains of freshly fried chebakia (in the pic above), North African spiced honey & sesame cookies more commonly seen around Ramadan.
Breaking fast (Iftar) in some parts of the southern Mediterranean sometimes sees lavish table spreads and lengthy meals that commence with dates, Harira soup and chebakia.
My best wishes to those fasting on the hottest, longest days of the year in the ultimate test of faith and endurance. Ramadan Kareem to all of those to celebrate!
Burrata is a thing of beauty. It is delicately flavoured yet rich and luxurious, often eaten with nothing more than the faintest drizzle of olive oil. Pictured above, this delight was flown in from Italy and delivered straight to my door thanks to NifeisLife, an online Italian grocery store with a passion for fresh, authentic ingredients.
I served the queen of cheeses with crisp flat bread and a homemade rocket and walnut pesto, just a bit mind you as I didn’t want to over power its subtle flavour. My rocket pesto is a wonderful tool for cutting the richness of dairy, adding a fiery kick to steak or potatoes, an interesting addition to otherwise boring sandwiches and it will also give you a serious nutritional boost.
The rocket widely available in the UK tends to be smaller and more bitter tasting than its large leaved Mediterranean cousins, unless that is, you’re lucky enough to find it bunched up in street markets or Turkish/Middle Eastern food stores. Paired with walnuts, lemon and a touch of parmesan, the recipe takes about 2 minutes to make!
This savoury recipe is a great idea for picnics, breakfasts, lunch boxes, tea times and snacks. I always adored this ‘cake’ in the breakfast rituals and afternoon tea times of my Turkish friends and neighbours, when accompanied by strong, clear tea I’d gladly indulge in seconds and thirds.
You can make your own take on it easily, adding to or replacing any of the flavoursome ingredients. Why not try adding spring onions, chopped sun dried tomatoes or fresh dill?