Some of you will remember Bea from her delicious biscotti and cacciucco. Well, I am back in my friends’ gorgeous house by the sea where Bea cooks the most divine meals, some of which I am hoping to blog before I leave. Until then, I thought I would post the adorable panettone and icing sugar presepio that she made for my friends for Christmas. Such a sweet thing to do (no pun intended). Her edible effort is not unlike the non-edible one outside the Duomo in Perugia below. I guess there aren’t very many ways to depict baby Jesus just born in the barn!
Or perhaps I should say heroines! In any case, I have hundreds of cookery books but I only refer regularly to a few, each dealing with a particular country. Nevin Halici is my guru for all things Turkish, Zette Guinaudeau Franc for Moroccan and Diana Farr Louis for Greek island cookery. Her book Feasting and Fasting in Crete is totally brilliant, both to read and to cook from and the same for Prospero’s Kitchen which she wrote with June Marinos and which has just been re-issued by I.B. Tauris. A perfect cookbook that makes the perfect xmas present for those interested in food and/or travel.
I hadn’t been to Beirut for nearly two years and in that time many new places have opened, including my new favourite, Villa Clara in Mar M’khayel where owners Olivier (ex pastry chef at le Grand Véfour) and Marie-Helene have created the most delightful restaurant, inside and outside where friends and family mingle over simple but exquisite dishes, made with locally sourced ingredients. Olivier cooks these expertly and with great precision but without any fuss. Just how I like to eat, at least most days! Anyhow, what made our lunch even more memorable was the wedding that was happening across the road which took me all the way back to when I lived in Beirut even if I never saw a similar wedding. Here are some fun pictures of our gorgeous day, both at Villa Clara and from across the road! And for those of you interested in my culinary tours, I will be doing one in Lebanon next fall with Villa Clara as our base! Details to be announced soon on my travel page.
Very soon I will be going to California for WOF which theme this year is Arc of Flavors. I am looking forward to the conference of course but I also can’t wait to see my newly-engaged nephew and his fiancee and my niece and all my friends including lovely Amy, who as some of you may know, helped me cook my birthday party. I love cooking with Amy. Not only is she a marvellous chef (at Chez Panisse) but she is also a fabulous partner in the kitchen with the sweetest character and no ego in play; and she is very silent as she works — I am totally paranoid about noise. And to make things even better, Amy loves my Lebanese food as much as I love hers. So, when we saw the fresh borlotti beans at la Fromagerie, I told her about my mother’s fassulia (beans in arabic) bil-lahmeh (meat), and how she used to prepare it with pork skin in a tomato sauce. As luck would have it, I had received that morning wonderful pork belly from Packington Free Range farm. So, we decided to buy the beans to cook with the pork.