Yesterday, my great friend Reda sent me a clip of a belly dancer for my monthly feature all the way from Beirut. It was actually his father who had suggested her and even though she is pretty terrific, I felt she was a little vulgar for here. So, I trawled youtube looking for a more sober one but instead I came across a chorus of of mermaids belly dancing on the beach and luring men to their death with the sound of a derbakeh (or drum). The whole set up is preposterous and the dancers are not even that great; and if anything more vulgar than the one I spurned. Nevertheless, there is something irresistible about them in that seaside setting. Perhaps it is to do with my Sicilian plans that I warmed to them, or perhaps it is to do with the oncoming spring. Anyhow, I decided to go for them as my belly dancers for this month and I hope you will warm to this rather surreal choice as much as I have!
I have been neglecting the blog recently. Too many things happening and too many deadlines but today I decided to prepare for you one of my favourite dips, the Iranian answer to baba ghannuge where grilled aubergines are mixed with caramelised onions and garlic and instead of tahini, kashk or dried buttermilk that provides both creaminess and tartness. A very interesting ingredients which you can buy in Persian shops either dried or already reconstituted in jars. I used the latter. And instead of drizzling the dip with olive oil, Persians use the much more luxurious saffron water as garnish together with a little of the caramelised onions and chopped walnuts which you can toast lightly to enhance their flavour.
I am very late with my belly dancer this month but it actually works out because I am going with today’s Valentine theme and giving you an incredibly charming Shammi Kapoor relating the story of how he fell madly in love with a belly dancer (Samia Gamal?) when he was very young. You don’t see any belly dancing in the video, just a couple of pictures of the belly dancer (?) and a delightful Kapoor telling the story of life really, and missed opportunities. The other side of Valentine!
Foraging has been all the rage for some time now but in many countries people have been doing it forever. In Lebanon, people go out in the spring to pick wild greens they call sliq and in Sicily, where I am right now on Mary Taylor Simeti‘s farm, they pick whatever is edible and use it one way or another. It was my first time there in February and I was surprised by how glorious the landscape was with almond trees in full bloom and the fields covered with yellow flowers, some of which are edible cavolicelli flowers with a slightly peppery taste. As I was admiring and tasting them, I suggested to Mary that we try them tempura style. She liked the idea and we picked some, together with sage leaves, a green cauliflower and a pumpkin to do a mixed tempura.