DSC_3821hinbeh-finished-trapani copyI have recently moved to Sicily, in search of sunshine and a place that reminds me of home (Lebanon & Syria) but where I do not have to worry about ISIS! I am being facetious of course but Italy seems a safer bet than the Middle East these days and the great thing about Sicily, apart from the fact that it is very beautiful with lovely people and lovely food, is that the produce is just amazing, and pretty much the same as what I was brought up on, seasonal and supremely flavourful. So, I am now ensconced in Trapani which I like to compare to Beirut but cleaner and better organised, until that is my house is built, and not far from where I live is the mercato dei contadini, ie. farmers market that happens every Saturday; and this last Saturday one of the farmers had the most amazing cicoria or hindbeh that took me straight back to my mother and Jamil, my wonderful driver in Beirut who sadly is no longer with us, who used to bring my mother the most amazing bunches of freshly picked hindbeh which she would then cook in olive oil. And even though my fractured toes are still not completely recovered, I bought some  to make myself some hindbeh following my mother’s recipe.

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goat curry cooking in lem bakrie restaurant-banda aceh copyRamadan is the most important time of the year in the Islamic calendar, a time when people fast from sunrise to sunset, not even letting a drop of water into their mouth. The dates vary each year, going backwards by about ten days because Muslims follow the lunar calendar. The first day of the fast is announced when the new moon is sighted and the last day when the moon has reached its full cycle after which, there is a period of three days when the whole Muslim world celebrates Eid el-Futr (the feast of breaking the fast). When I planned my trip to Indonesia for the beginning of June, I didn’t quite think of Ramadan but as it happened, the latter half of my stay coincided with the first week of Ramadan, which was both good and not so. Not so good because life slows down during the day, with many eateries closed but good because once the fast is broken at sunset, everything springs back into life, with restaurants putting on special Ramadan menus for those wanting or needing to break their fast (buka puasa as iftar is known out there) outside their home while street vendors wheel out their carts — some with Ramadan specialities which you don’t see the rest of the year. Read more >


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It’s been a while since I gave you my belly dancer of the month. Too much traveling and too many different things to work on but my life has been a little more relaxed recently and here is my choice for this month, a resplendant Samia Gamal who with Tahiya Carioca, is my other favourite belly dancer. And like Tahiya, she avoids being vulgar despite the suggestiveness of her movements. Every time I watch her I wonder how her jaws don’t ache with that wide fixed smile she has throughout her dances. She is very young in this clip taken from a 1954 film called Raqsat al-Weda’. The choreography and set are delightful, her body and movements absolutely gorgeous and the characters watching her very amusing despite some tragic expressions! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!


orange blossom jam-finished copyI am coming to the end of my Sicilian stay, and this year I managed to be there for orange blossom season even if I arrived at the tail end of the season. I had Amy come back to visit, and one of the first things we did was to go down to the citrus grove to pick enough blossom to make our jam. Most of the blossom had gone but there were still enough for us to pick to make our jam. And the fact that the blossom was nearing the end of its life made it easier to pick. All we had to do was to shake the branches for the petals to fall off the buds and into our basket. Well, not all the petals but at least half. Here below are pics of Amy reaching high up in the tree to get some really good blossom to add to those that fell off easily.

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