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..

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Meaty Stuffed Vine Leaves

My mother in law is visiting us, and with her came an array of gifts and packages of food straight from the city of dreams. Amongst the numerous baby clothes, jewellery and candied chesnuts (Murat’s favorite) came a mysterious, humid bag. To my delight, the heavy package contained vine leaves.

When I first visited Murat’s family in Istanbul, his three sisters and mothers gathered around at tiny table, crafting Yaprak Sarmasi in honour of my visit and his return. They chattered excitedly, stuffing and rolling what seemed like hundreds of leaves.  Quite the excuse to get together and pitch in, I’ve now mastered this traditional recipe much to Murat’s delight.

The family in law in Istanbul.

This recipe results in succulent meaty rolls with a subtle heat. It is absolutely authentic and often eat in Turkish households. This version is best served warm with a dollop of cooling strained yoghurt. Stuffed vine leaves can also be made without meat and with the addition of pine nuts, sultanas and dill, usually served cold.

Click here for my recipe.

The Perfect Pudding

Rice and Almond Pudding

..for many reasons! I’m stuck at home having been struck down with a mystery throat infection. Almost crying at the thought of surviving on broth and yoghurt until this thing clears, I knocked up a rice and almond pudding yesterday.  Needless to say I managed to lift my spirits with this cooling, sweet dessert.

It’s a cross between a Turkish rice pudding, Sutlac, and Middle Eastern Muhallabi,  milk & almond pudding, which are both served chilled. Most recipes call for full fat milk and cream but I have used semi-skimmed milk which makes this pudding lighter and guilt free.

Click here for my recipe… 

Una Faccia, Una Razza!

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It’s a saying which shaped the foundations of NazarBlue and a philosophy in which I have always believed; One face, one race.

Wherever I am in the Med I’m overcome with the same emotions: a sense of nostalgia invoked by musical laments, a sense of exhilaration from pulsating cities, and insatiable hunger spurred on by tempting street food. The air is thick and perfumed with pine resin, the crickets rasp in arid shrubbery and socialising is almost always centered around good food and wine. A plate of fried Calamari on the seafront is a must, cats with huge begging eyes lurk under taverna tables and swipe at falling scraps. Siesta time ceases with the whirrs of moped engines. People converse on lantern lit terraces with waving hands and raised voices. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in Italy, Greece or Istanbul, the scenes are always the same.

‘One Face, One Race’ is a saying which acknowledges the similarities between Italians and Greeks. In fact, I believe it can be said for any of the Mediterranean’s people who have been both unified and separated by slithers of sea. With the shifting of borders as empires advanced then retreated, cultures intermingled and languages, music and food were shared.

Some may patriotically claim Baklava, Turkish Coffee, and Falafel to be theirs, but in disregarding language barriers we can see a common knowledge and mutual love.                                   Ouzo, Raki, Arak and Sambuca may go by different names but essentially it is a liquor made with anise, consumed in the same way. Shakshuka to the North Africans is as Uova in Purgatorito to the Italians. Meze, Mezzeh, Tapas and Antipasti are a way of life, essientoal to the sociable ways of eating. Pizza as we know it hails from Napoli, yet what influenced this iconic food? Well, how about Greek Pitta bread or Turkish Pide – flat breads with various toppings. Then there is Manoush from the Eastern Med. Could the most famous dish from the chaotic port city have its origins further East?

Even the most frugal of dishes add a sense of pattern to the Med’s colourful mosaic. Farinata di Ceci, wet dough made from seasoned chickpea flour and baked with plenty of olive oil, is particular to Liguria. However Karantita from Algeria and Calentita from Gibraltar are both of uncanny similarity.

It’s rainbow season in London: The blustery winds are relentless and storms seem to roll pass often, appeased once in a while by brilliant bursts of sun. Last Saturday as I took shelter in my flat I sorted through my DVD collection and decided to watch Mediterraneo, a hilarious Italian film about a group of soldiers who are sent to a Greek Island during WWII. They find themselves stranded when after becoming intoxicated with Opium supplied by a Turkish fisherman, they come too, discovering their arms and transport have been stolen. The Italians soon forget their duties and ease into Island life, accidentally missing the fact the war ended some three years before.

‘Una Faccia, Una Pancia!’ one soldier says mocking the hefty appetite that Greeks and Italians share. One face, one belly! It’s not only appearance which unifies the Mediterraneans, it’s their mutual love of food too.

Here’s a more in-depth explanation of Una Faccia, Una Razza, written by my lovely sister.

The Force Behind It All.. Kismet!!

Kismet

Every life is full of ups and downs – of tragedy and comedy, choices, hope, longing, ambition. The saying ‘Life is what we make it’ rings true in some respects, but what about the things beyond the grasps of our control? We are constantly plagued by decisions whose outcomes will help determine our future, yet unexpected situations arrive on our doorstep, some welcome and others absolutely uninvited.

At times of turmoil, desperate attempts to resolve a troublesome situation serve purely as a tool of self-destruction. When we realise that there is simply nothing we can do to help ourselves, we’re forced to accept that certain things are out of our control.

Contentedness is born from acceptance. Acceptance comes after reflection and crisis. Sometimes crisis is necessary to find out who we are and what we’re capable of and on reflection we realise that a series of happenings has led us to the present situation. Consequences of events, whether good or bad, decipher our destiny. A sense of calm becomes us when we give up trying to fight against the powers that be. Everything will be OK, it always is in the end.

So what is the name of the force behind it all? Kismet.  It’s a force which hushes the storm within, it’s the concept which erases frowns and etches smiles.

I’ve mentioned the word Kismet before on NazarBlue, now I want to share my story with you to illustrate its meaning.

Read about a sequence of events so interwoven, it simply has to be fated…   Read On…