Thursday, February 4, 2010

Apples Apples Apples - An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Who said eating a cake is fattening. This is a healthy way to eat an apple cake and enjoy the full flavour without feeling guilty:


1 cup homemade apple butter or good quality jar (I use my own)

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of butter

3 eggs

3 cups cake flour or all purpose

1 cup raisin

1 cup chopped nuts

2 tsp baking soda

Dash of salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp spice mix: nutmeg, cloves, cardamom (or use one kind you like)

2 apples chopped

Streusel topping (optional)

Perfect in a lunch box
Square cake pieces

Mini cake loaves

Baked in ramekins

In a silicon cake pan

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sheish Barak Yuksuk - A Tribute to my Grandparents

My posting is only intended to honour my ancestors, their heritage and the cuisine of the Assyrian Orthodox Church…I am not preaching or talking politics, or discriminating any one.

The Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts of the Apostles 11:26). Apostle Peter is believed to have established a church in Antioch in AD 37, the remnants of which are still in Antakya (the modern name of Antioch), Turkey.

The Assyrian language is Aramic and it’s the language of our Lord Jesus.

Before the war approximately one half of the Assyrian population lived in what is today Southern Turkey. The Young Turks took control of the Ottoman Empire only five years before the beginning of World War I. The Ottomans planned to join the side of the Central Powers. In 1914, knowing that it was heading into the war; the Ottoman government passed a law that required the conscription of all young males into the Ottoman army to support the war effort.

Assyrians in what is now Turkey primarily lived in the provinces of Hakkari, Şırnak, and Mardin. These areas also had a sizable Kurdish population. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I on October 29, 1914. My grandfather Gorguis was a young guy, very handsome, educated comes from a well known family from Adana, was also forced to join the army and fight the first world war.

He told stories about the war and how badly the Christian soldiers were treated, some of them were used as bodies’ fence to protect the Empire Army, and who remained alive returned home without their manhood, so that no child will bare their names. My grandfather was very lucky that his education and wisdom moved him from the front lines to the logistic line, where he works on fixing the heavy equipments and machinery.

The Assyrian genocide took place in the same context and time-period as the Armenian and Greek genocides. Contemporary sources usually speak of the events in terms of an Assyrian genocide, along with the Armenian genocide and Greek genocide by the Ottoman Empire, listing the Greek Orthodox, Syriac Christian and Armenian Christian victims together. For example, the International Association of Genocide Scholars reached a consensus that "the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks."

After the war my grandfather married Rihana. A pretty young lady from Ephesus, their first child was a baby girl (Araliah), then my father. When the genocide happened and the Ottoman soldiers where moving from one town to another, my grandparents, their relatives and friends all gathered at the town church, and in the middle of the night during a sever snowy weather, ran away on horses using old wagons, and some were walking… crossing from town to town walking on bodies not even looking behind or where they are stepping… In the effect of that critical situation they lost the baby girl who didn’t survived the harsh cold weather, my father was still an infant… he made it to Lebanon, where they settled and lived till they died, hoping that one day they will go back to their Town and their home….

During my childhood times when we used to visit our grandparents, you always find Teta Rihana in the kitchen cooking a big meal, the smell of her food reached the main road, and you know that something delicious is happened on my Teta`s stove. One of these meals is the Sheish Barak Yuksuk, which is almost similar to the Lebanese Sheish Barak, but instead of the Yogurt sauce which cooked the dumplings, you use tomato sauce.

Sheish Barak Yuksuk:
Yuksuk is a Turkish word for soup, and Sheish Barak means meat dumplings


1/2 recipe Ajeen or basic dough recipe
3 cloves garlic, crushed with a dash of salt
1 cup finely chopped fresh mint (if fresh is not available use couple spoons dried)
½ kg (16 oz) ground meat (either beef or lamb)

bones or oxtails for the broth
3 medium sized onions, finely chopped
¼ cup fried pine nuts
1 tspn salt
¼ tspn ground allspice
¼ tspn ground cinnamon
2 tbls butter

1 cup of dried chickpeas soaked in water over night

4 cup of tomato juice + 8 oz chopped tomatoes

fresh lemn juice( 1-2 lemons depend on your taste)

Basic Dough or Ajeen
(this is used in many savoury pastries)
1 kg (32 oz / 5 cups) plain flour
1 ¼ cups warm water
½ cup olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tbls salt
2 tbls sugar

Sift the flour into a working surface.Mix in salt and sugar. Make a well in the centre.Pour olive oil and vegetable oil in the well.Mix the dry ingredients into the liquid.Add water gradually. Knead the dough into a ball (if the
dough is too stiff add some water).Knead the dough on a floured working surface until it is smooth and elastic this can be done in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or in a food processor.Form the dough into a ball and put into a lightly floured bowl, covered with a damp cloth. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Preparing the Sheesh Barak

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 1 cm thickness. Using a round cookie cutter (medium size), press over dough to get equal rounds.Fry onion in shortening till color changes a little. Add meat, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Stir occasionally and fry for 7-8 minutes. Add pine nuts and Mix. Drain the mixture as butter would affect closing the pastries.

Spread the round a little with your fingers. Place 1 tspn of the filling on it. Fold over one end to make a semi-circle. Press edges down to seal. Take the two ends from the straight side, bring them together to make a small ring. Press well. Repeat till rounds are done.

You will have left over dough , (this is the best part) roll the remaining dough in thin rope and cut into diagonals. Place the stuffed dough and the cut pastries in a tray with parchment, Bake in a hot oven (400F) for 10 minutes or until golden.

If you are using bones or oxtail, wash and dry with paper towel, and bake in the oven till brown, and drain all the fat. Move them to a plate .

In a big pot add the tomato juice and the tomatoes the oxtails and the chickpeas and cook until the sauce thickens and the meat starts to fall down from the bones. Mash the garlic and chop the fresh mint or sprinkle the dried mint if using and add it to the pot, boil for 7 minutes more. Add the Sheish Barak and keep boiling for fifteen minutes add the lemon juice and stir. and continue cooking for 5 more minutes...

The smell is unbelievable . Grabe a plate and enjoy a delicious home comfort meal.

Note: when the meat falls of the bones , and the chickpeas are very tender, your meal is ready to serve.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Walima January Challenge Representing the Omani Cuisine

Oman is a 1,000-mile-long (1,700 km) coastal plain at the southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula lying on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The country is the size of Kansas.
A vast gravel desert plain covers most of central Oman, with mountain ranges along the north (Al Hajar Mountains) and southeast coast, where the country's main cities are also located: the capital city Muscat, Matrah and Sur in the north, and Salalah in the south.

Oman's climate is hot and dry in the interior and humid along the coast. During past epochs Oman was covered by ocean. Fossilized shells exist in great numbers in areas of the desert away from the modern coastline.The peninsula of Musandam (Musandem), which has a strategic location on the Strait of Hormuz, is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates and is thus an exclave. The series of small towns known collectively as Dibba are the gateway to the Musandam peninsula on land and the fishing villages of Musandam by sea.
Boats may be hired at Khasab for trips into the Musandam peninsula by sea.Oman has another exclave, inside UAE territory, known as Madha. It is located halfway between the Musandam Peninsula and the rest of Oman. Belonging to Musandam governorate, it covers approximately 75 km2 (29 sq mi). The boundary was settled in 1969. The north-east corner of Madha is closest to the Fujairah road, barely 10 m (32.8 ft) away. Within the exclave is a UAE enclave called Nahwa, belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is about 8 km (5 mi) on a dirt track west of the town of New Madha. It consists of about forty houses with its own clinic and telephone exchange.Government: Absolute monarchy. Stone AgeWattayah, located in the governorate of Muscat, is the oldest known human settlement in the area and dates back to the Stone Age, making it around 5,000 years old. Archaeological remains from different dates have been discovered here, the earliest representing the Stone Age, then the Heliocentric Age and finally, the Bronze Age. Findings have consisted of stone implements, animal bones, shells and fire hearths. The latter date back to 7615 BC and are the oldest signs of human settlement in the area.Other discoveries include hand-moulded pottery bearing distinguishing pre-Bronze Age marks, heavy flint implements, pointed tools and scrapers.On a mountain rock-face in the same district, animal drawings have been discovered. Similar drawings have also been found in the Wadi Sahtan and Wadi Bani Kharus areas of Rustaq. These drawings consist of human figures carrying weapons and being confronted by wild animals. Siwan in Haima is another Stone Age location and some of the archaeological finds have included arrowheads, knives, chisels and circular stones which may have been used to throw at animals.

Oman before IslamOman's Names Sumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan, a name thought to refer to Oman’s ancient copper mines. Mezoun is derived from the word muzn, which means abundant flowing water. The present-day name of the country, Oman, is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen. Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding and many present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral roots to other parts of Arabia.From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids. Achaemenids in the 6th century BC controlled and influenced the Oman peninsula. This was most likely exerted from a coastal center such as Sohar. By about 250 B.C. the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D. the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later.[5]
The arrival of Islam On the advent of
Islam, the religion reached Oman during the Islamic prophet Muhammad's lifetime. The conversion of Omanis is usually ascribed to Amr ibn al-As, who visited the region by the middle of the seventh century AD. The Omanis were among the first people to embrace Islam voluntarily In around 630 AD when the Muhammed sent his envoy Amr ibn Al As to meet Jaifar and ‘Abd - the joint rulers of Oman at that time - to invite them to accept the faith, in which he eventually succeeded.In accepting Islam, Oman became an Ibadhi state which is named after alkhoarej, ruled by an elected leader, the Imam. During the early years of the Islamic mission Oman played a major role in the Wars of Apostasy that occurred after the death of Muhammad and also took part in the great Islamic conquests by land and sea in Iraq, Persia and beyond. However, its most prominent role in this respect was through its extensive trading and seafaring activities in East Africa, particularly during the19th century, when it propagated Islam in many of East Africa’s coastal regions, and certain areas of Central Africa.Omanis also carried the message of Islam with them to China and the Asian ports.Oman was ruled by Umayyads between 661-750, Abbasids between 750-931, 932-933 and 934-967, Qarmatians between 931-932 and between 933-934, Buyids between 967-1053, Seljuks of Kirman between 1053-1154.

The Portuguese settlementThe
Portuguese occupied Muscat for a 140-year period 1508–1648, arriving a decade after Vasco da Gama discovered the seaway to India. In need of an outpost to protect their sea lanes, the Europeans built up and fortified the city, where remnants of their colonial architectural style still remain.Rebellious tribes drove out the Portuguese, but were pushed out themselves about a century later 1741 by the leader of a Yemeni tribe leading a massive army from various other tribes, who began the current line of ruling sultans. A brief Persian invasion a few years later was the final time Oman would be ruled by a foreign power. Oman has been self governing ever since.[edit] Oman and East African EmpireThe Sultan's Palace buildings in Zanzibar which was once Oman's capital and residence of its Sultans.In the 1690s Saif bin Sultan, the imam of Oman, pressed down the East African coast. A major obstacle was Fort Jesus, housing the garrison of a Portuguese settlement at Mombasa. After a two-year siege, it fell to Saif in 1698.Thereafter the Omanis easily ejected the Portuguese from Zanzibar and from all other coastal regions north of Mozambique. Zanzibar was a valuable property as the main slave market of the east African coast, and became an increasingly important part of the Omani empire, a fact reflected by the decision of the greatest 19th century sultan of Oman, Sa'id ibn Sultan, to make it from 1837 his main place of residence. Sa'id built impressive palaces and gardens in Zanzibar.

Rivalry between his two sons was resolved, with the help of forceful British diplomacy, when one of them,
Majid, succeeded to Zanzibar and to the many regions claimed by the family on the East African coast. The other, Thuwaini, inherited Muscat and Oman.
Ted during celebrations, which consists of mashed rice flavoured with spices. Another popular festival meal is shuwa, which is meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for up to two days) in an underground clay oven. The meat becomes extremely tender and it is impregnated with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very distinct taste. Fish is often used in main dishes too, and the kingfish is a popular ingredient. Mashuai is a meal comprising whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice. The rukhal bread is a thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal, typically served with Omani honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner. Chicken, fish and mutton are regularly used in dishes
Although spices, herbs, onion, garlic and lime are liberally used in traditional Omani cuisine, unlike similar Asian food, it is not hot. Omani cuisine is also distinct from the indigenous foods of other Arab states of the Persian Gulf and even varies within the Sultanate's different regions. There are also significant differences in cuisine between different regions of Oman.

Our Challenge for this month representing the Omani Cuisine with two recipes

Lamb Kabouli

1 kg lamb legs, pieces with bones
9 cups water or 2¼ liters
3 small cinnamon sticks
1teaspoon whole cardamom pods
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppers
½ cup water or 125 ml, extra quantity
3 medium onions or 375 g, sliced
4 tablespoons ghee
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons raisins
1 tin canned chickpeas or 400 g, (dingo) drained(or 1 cup dried and soaked overnight)
4 tablespoons omani mixed spicess
½ teaspoon saffron filaments
½ cup rose water or 125 ml
3 cubes Mutton Bouillon (if you have lamb stock or chicken stock use 3 cups as part of the above water)
2½ cups basmati rice or 500 g, washed and drained

Put lamb pieces and water in a large pot, bring to boil and remove froth as it appears. Add the cinnamon sticks, and all whole spices. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1½ hours or until the meat becomes tender. Remove lamb pieces, put them in a bowl and set aside. Drain the stock and set aside.
Cook the extra water and onion in a large sauce pan with occasional stirring for 5 minutes or until water is steamed and the onions become tender. Add 2 tablespoons of the ghee (reserve 2 tablespoons) and stir for another 3 minutes or until onions become golden in color. Add garlic, raisins, dingo (chickpeas), 1 tablespoon of Omani mixed spices (reserve 3 tablespoons), saffron leaves and rose water, stir for 1 minutes then set aside

In a large pot put 4½ cups of drained stock; add more water if stock is not enough. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee, the remaining 3 tablespoons of Omani mixed spices, the Bouillon cubes and rice. Bring to boil with occasional stirring, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until rice is ½ cooked, add the boiled lamb pieces on top of the rice, cover and cook on low heat again for another 10-15 minutes or until rice is cooked.
Serve the rice and lamb in plate topped with the onion mixture

Omani Bizar A’Shuwa
2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tbs (15 ml) cumin seeds
1 Tbs (15 ml) coriander seeds
1 Tbs (15 ml) cardamom seeds
2 tsp (10 ml) cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground turmeric
About 2 Tbs (30 ml) distilled vinegar
Combine all ingredients in an electric food processor and process until a thick paste is formed, adding more vinegar if necessary. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 1/4 cup (60 ml).

Note: This is a famous meal in Oman, prepared during the holidays. Very strong on spices. I think if we reduce the spices to two tbsps we will get a balanced and flavourful dish

SAKO - a traditional caramelized tapioca sweet

1 3/4 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of sako (tapioca), soaked in 1 1/2 cups of water
for 1 hour
1 Tablespoon saffron
, soaked with the tapioca
1/2 cup of butter

1/8 - 1/4 cup of rose water
, depending on its strength and your tastes
1 Tablespoon of ground cardamom

1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

nuts, such as pistachio nuts, or walnuts
1. Put the sugar in a heavy sauce pan and brown over medium heat. Do not stir it, but rather gently shake the pan about every minute, until the sugar is a golden brown. Be careful not to over do it and burn the sugar.
2. Add the sako (tapioca) with its water and the rest of the ingredients along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, while stirring. The sugar will clump at the bottom of the pan at first, but will then gradually dissolve in the liquid.
3. Once it is boiling reduce heat to the lowest level. Continue cooking, lightly boiling, until the sako (tapioca) is cooked (i.e. clear and soft). The time required for this will depend on the size of the sako (tapioca), with smaller tapioca cooking faster than the larger beads. Add more water, if need. The final texture should be thick and jelly-like, yet still thin enough to pour into the serving dish.
4. Take off of the fire and spread in a glass/ceramic casserole dish/plate (or smaller individual-serving bowls). Top with chopped nuts. Best eaten at room temperature or slightly warm.

Note: this was my first time using tapioca, the sweetness of the caramelized sugar was too much to my taste. I added the fresh fruit to balance the sweetness..