Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Siyadiyeh - Fisherman's Rice

Siyadiyeh – Fisherman’s Rice

Before I proceed with this recipe I would like to give you an idea about the coastal cities of Lebanon, situated on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea , since the early days the Phoenician who are the original people of Lebanon , loved the sea, sailing and travelling all over the world, to trade, and explore. To this day the passion of sailing and travelling and exploring the world is part of our history. As well as enjoying easting fish and seafood.

Every coastal city in Lebanon has its unique seafood recipes which they are proud of.

This recipe originated in Tyre, and the people in Tyre (Sour) prepare this dish using a whole salt water fish, due to the convenience and keeping the flavour I am going to share a simple version of this recipe I hope you will try it one day, because I am sure you will not regret and it will be one of your favourite.

recipe for 4 servings
1 1/2 pound of firm salt water fish fillets (Cod)
2 large onions sliced
1 ½ of Basmati Rice
1 ½ cup Fish stock (you can prepare it by boiling the bones and head of the fish)
2 tbsp of fish sauce
1 ½ cup of water
1 heaping teaspoon of cumin powder
1 tsp of caraway powder
½ tsp of cinnamon
3/4 tsp of black pepper
1 tsp of salt
couple bay leaves
 ½ cup Canola or grape seed oil for frying
for decoration: toasted or fried nuts

1-Wash your fish and pat dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, add 1/2 cup of flour in a plate and
dip the fish in the flour on all sides.  Heat the oil to 360F and fry the fish on both side till golden brown, and move them to a plate with paper towel.
2-Slice the two onions and fry them in the same oil till golden. And move them to the same plate
3- Pick the rice and wash , and drain it from water.
If you have more than 1 1/2 tbsp of frying oil in the pot drain and save only 2 tbsp to toast the rice the rest of the oil is not needed , ( I throw it in the bathroom as it may block the sink)
4-Toast the rice on a gentle heat; keep stirring so it doesn’t stick

Add the spices and stir well so they can toast with the rice, after couples of minutes you can tell that the rice is toasted add ¾ of the fish and onions to the rice mix gently so the fish doesn’t break, or you can use another clean put and start building the fish in the bottom then the onions then the rice add the fish stock and fish sauce, and cover the pot and cook until rice is done.  Leave the rice to rest at least ten minutes before turning the pot into a large serving plate. (put the large round plate over the pot and turn the pot over the plate , leave it couple of minutes so everything falls in the plate).
toast or fry the nuts with a spoon of the frying oil, till golden brown and sprinkle over the platter. 

I serve the Siyadiyeh with shredded cabbage salad .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Original Assyrian recipe for home made baklawa dough

I am proud that my Syriac ancestors left behind this recipe which was the birth of a gourmet dessert. I heard from several people who are still using this old recipe, it taste better than the one prepared with phyllo. I need to give it a try one day and see the difference.

Dough for two large baking pans
. Six egg whites slightly beaten
. Five pounds of flour
. Two egg yolks
. 1 tbsp salt
. 1 tbsp baking powder
. ½ cup rendered butter
. 7 cups of more water

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into large pan. Push dry ingredients to one side. In other side of pan, add water, egg whites, egg yolks, and butter. Work flour into liquid gradually until mixed. Knead thoroughly. Dough should be of soft consistency.
Cut and shape into balls the size of an orange. Roll in cupped hands until smooth. Dust with cornstarch and set aside for a few minutes. Pat out each ball to inch thickness then stretch out tissue thin and place directly into generously buttered baking pan. These sheets of dough may also be dried before placing into baking pan.
Place 25 sheets of dough in pan, brushing butter between each sheet. Do not butter top sheet. Spread nut filling and cover with 22 sheets.

Note: For each tray of Baklawa use 2 lb. of Commercial Dough

History of Baklawa - Bak-la-wa

The Origin : Like the origins of most recipes that came from Old Countries to enrich the dinner tables of dessert lovers, the exact origin of baklava is also something hard to put the finger on because every ethnic group whose ancestry goes back to the Middle East has a claim of their own on this scrumptious pastry.
It is widely believed however, that the Assyrians at around 8th century B.C. were the first people who put together a few layers of thin bread dough, with chopped nuts in between those layers, added some honey and baked it in their primitive wood burning ovens. This earliest known version of baklava was baked only on special occasions. In fact, historically baklava was considered a food for the rich until the mid-19th century.

In Turkey, to this day one can hear a common expression often used by the poor, or even by the middle class, saying: "I am not rich enough to eat baklava and Borek every day.”
Regional Interactions The Greek seamen and merchants traveling east to Mesopotamia soon discovered the delights of Baklava. It mesmerized their taste buds. They brought the recipe to Athens. The Greeks' major contribution to the development of this pastry is the creation of a dough technique that made it possible to roll it as thin as a leaf, compared to the rough, bread-like texture of the Assyrian dough. In fact, Greeks coined the name “Phyllo,” which means "leaf" in the Greek language. In a relatively short time, in every kitchen of wealthy households in the region, trays of baklava were being baked for all kinds of special occasions from the 3rd Century B.C. onwards. The Armenians, as their Kingdom was located on ancient Spice and Silk Routes, integrated for the first time the cinnamon and cloves into the texture of baklava. The Arabs introduced the rose water and cardamom. The taste changed in subtle nuances as the recipe started crossing borders.

To the north of its birthplace, baklava was baked and served in the palaces of the ancient Persian kingdom. To the west, it was baked in the kitchens of the wealthy Roman mansions, and then in the kitchens of the Byzantine Empire until the fall of the latter in 1453 A.D.

The Perfection:In the 15th Century A.D., the Ottomans invaded Constantinople to the west, and they also expanded their eastern territories to cover most of ancient Assyrian lands and the entire Armenian Kingdom. The Byzantine Empire came to an end, and in the East Persian Kingdom lost its western provinces to the invaders.

For four hundred years from 16th Century on, until the decline of Ottoman Empire in 19th Century, the kitchens of Imperial Ottoman Palace in Constantinople became the ultimate culinary hub of the empire.The artisans and craftsmen of all Guilds, the bakers, cooks and pastry chefs who worked in the Ottoman palaces, at the mansions of Pashas and Viziers, and at Provincial Governor (Vali) residences etc., had to be recruited from various ethnic groups that composed the empire. Armenian, Greek, Persian, Egyptian, Assyrian, and occasionally Serbian, Hungarian or even French chefs were brought to Constantinople, to be employed at the kitchens of the wealthy.

These chefs contributed enormously to the interaction and to the refinement of the art of cooking and pastry-making of an Empire that covered a vast region to include the Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Persia, Armenia, Iraq and entire Mesopotamia, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa and the Mediterranean and Aegean islands. Towards the end of 19th Century, small pastry-shops started to appear in Constantinople and in Major Provincial capitals, to cater the middle class, but the Ottoman Palace have always remained the top “Culinary Academy" of the Empire, until its end in 1923.Here, we must mention that there is a special reason for baklava being the top choice of pastry for the Turkish Sultans with their large Harems, as well as for the wealthy and their families. Two principal ingredients, the pistachio and honey, were believed to be aphrodisiacs when taken regularly. Certain spices that were added to baklava have also helped to fine-tune and to augment the aphrodisiac characteristics of the pastry, depending on male or female consumer. Cinnamon for females, and cardamom for males, and cloves for both sexes.From 18th century on, there was nothing much to add to baklava has already perfected taste and texture. There were however, some cosmetic modifications in shaping and in the presentation of baklava on a baking tray (called Sinii). The Phyllo dough (called Youfka) which traditionally was layered, and cut into squares or triangles were given a "French touch" in late 18th century. As the Empire began opening itself to the Western cultural (and culinary) influences. the General Manager (Kahyabasi), of the Imperial Kitchen, didn't miss the opportunity to hire Monsieur Guillaume, a former pastry chef of Marie Antoinette, who in exile at the Ottoman Turkish Palace after learning how to bake baklava, created the "dome" technique of cutting and folding of the baklava squares which was named "Baklava Française" (French Baklava) after the nationality of its creator.
Based on the above history it is clear that Assyria is the origin of the Baklava.The Assyrian empire stretched from Southern Lebanon in the south to the Zagros Mountains in the north (bordering present day Iraq and Iran) and included areas of present day Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq. The heartland of Assyria is the area that is now dominated by the Kurds.Baklava, in fact has been the sweetest unifying dessert between all the countries of the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea. Each country makes it its own way but they are all sweet and sticky.Lebanon has been the leader in promoting Baklava throughout the world. Lebanese baklava bakers such as Samadi were the first to Franchise it in the Gulf region, Europe and throughout the Middle East.
As Lebanon continues to promote this dessert, it will become the ultimate original Baklava.Turkey and Greece therefore should stop this crazy Baklava war, because they both copied the dessert, but Lebanon did a better job at copying.they continue to add:" since Lebanon was at one time part of the Assyrian empire...perhaps Lebanon was the origin of this dessert and the Assyrians copied it from us and then passed on the recipe to the Turks and Greeks!!” it’s a good one Here are some instructions and pictures to teach you how to handle and use all kinds of the phyllo pastry, when you learn the techniques many recipes will be very simple to prepare. Even you can create your own recipe from kind of dough and stuffing and shaping.
I encourage every one of you who never tried working with phyllo either the sheets of the shredded, to try it, trust me, you will be proud of your work.
The sky is the limit to your imagination and creativity

Sunday, December 14, 2008


During the old days the Kibbee used to be prepared in a mortar and pestle, and up till this date the people who live in the country still use the old methods in preparing their food. The flavor of the kibbee prepared in a mortar has a better texture and flavour than the kibbee prepared in an electric food processor. its a labor and a reward flavour.
pounding the meat in the mortar with a pestle to break all the tissues and make it smooth, then you add soaked burghul and you pound it again, until the mixture become very smooth .

There are several kinds of Kibbee with the way you prepare it and cook it, you can prepare it as balls either you fry it in hot oil, or you brush it with little fat and bake it over the charcoal , also you can stuff it with meat and suet and bbq it and the fat inside it will cook it through.
also the same kibbee balls after they are fried you can cook them in a boiling sauce or stock or hot yogurt. As well the dough can be devided intro two parts, in a buttered tray you spread the kibbee in the bottom of the tray, dipping your hands in water to flatten the first layer in the bottom then you spread the stuffing on top , then add the second layer of kibbee on top and dipping your hand in the water to smooth it and make it level and one thickness. then cut it into diagonal shape don't dip the knife too deep to reach the bottom layer, only you are making a design

add clarified butter over the kibbee and around 1/4 cup of olive oil, you might think its too much fat to cook the tray, but you need to have enough fat for baking, other wise it will come out dry and break apart when you slice it. When it bakes you can take it out of the oven, and put another tray over it and drain all the excess fat, before the kibbee rests and soaks it. The kibbee takes around an hour in a 375F hot oven to turn golden brown.

KIbbeh Kras Mikliyeh - Fried Kibbee Balls

the ingredients of the Kibbee are a mix of bulghul or cracked wheat and meat, and the stuffing ground meat and spices, the kibbee then shaped into balls and fried.
See the following pictures for instruction.

cook the stuffing before adding the pinenuts which can be toasted in another frying pan and then add it to the mix.

Dip your finger in water and start making an eggshell, fill it with the stuffing .

The egg shell should be the same thickness and the thinner the better, you can achieve that by practice. if the kibbee breaks when working with it, just dip your finger with water and gather it together.

then dip your finger again in water and start closing the egg