Health and Happiness in Sticky Chocolate Form.

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Lately through pure exhaustion and bad habit I’ve been overdosing on sugary convenience foods with a total disregard for nutrition and well being. I could blame the endless winter of the British Isles, the damp shiver-inducing winds and lack of sun light. It makes you want to scoff a whole packet of biscuits in an instant washed down with a strong milky coffee.

When I fell sick I knew something had to change. Its now been three weeks of relentless coughing and grogginess. This is my doing, through bad dietary choices. Enough is enough, I’m turning a new leaf! No more snacking straight out of the cupboard or late night treats to satisfy an insatiable sweet tooth. That is unless I’d be contributing to my wellness.

My delicious chocolate date butter marks the start of a new way of eating for me, its somewhat life changing. As if I’ve had an epiphany, I am neither wanting or ‘needing’ the bad stuff I once binged on, and that’s a bold statement coming from a sugar addict.

Not actually a butter at all, more a spread, this simple recipe promises to satisfy your sweet tooth while also being highly nutritious – it’s healthy!! With just 4 ingredients you’ll find yourself saying “no” to sweet alternatives packed with refined sugar. First cultivated in ancient Mesopotamia, dates have been revered in the Middle East and North Africa for centuries not only for their sticky sweetness but for their many health benefits, from aiding weight loss, promoting digestive and respiratory health to relieving anaemia and having anti inflammatory properties. This gooey gloriousness will definitely be making more appearances on my table.

You’re welcome.

Resilience: Nurturer and Warrior. 


Happy International Women’s Day! I’m thinking of the brave women fighting Isis on the front line, the women whose work is never done, the ones who never sleep or get a day off, to those fighting oppression and lack of equality, the women who struggle to be heard, those who are silenced, the mothers, the sisters, the daughters, the wives, the ones who make sacrifices every day, the ones who got a say in life and the ones the ones who didn’t.

Photograph by Veronique de Viguerie, September 6, 2014: A Kurdish combatant breast feeds her child. For me its one of the most memorable and striking images from the fight against daesh which had circulated on social media, highlighting the resilience of women and their innate ability to be both nurturer and warrior.

Realms of Fire & Sea 


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 sense of accomplishment that goes with making something meaningful and, if only to myself, beautiful.  After years of longing for my creative side 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. In reconnecting with myself its as if reacquainting with an absent friend.

Hello dear friend, welcome back.

Spread the Christmas Love with Mostaccioli and Divino Amore

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 traditional sweets and biscotti like Susamielli, Rococo and marzipan shapes, ‘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 scent. Divino Amore are baked marzipan dipped in blushing white chocolate, originally made by nuns for Neapolitan nobility. With floral notes and candied peel, they are an authentic 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… Any Excuse for Chocolate!

TORRONE DEI MORTI

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 (31st Oct) present an opportunity to pay respects to deceased relatives by visiting graves and tombs. 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 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?! 🙂

Easy Meat Pie Levantine Style; Kibbeh Bil Sanieh


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..

Winning with Soup

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When I stayed in Albania with my good friend Ida, her welcoming mother made 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 (minus the green bits maybe!) 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…

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 traditionally 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; these 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 in a moment of anxiety, 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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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 commonly 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!