I don’t know if mehyawa (or mahyawa), a fermented fish sauce that has its origins in Iran and is used widely as a spread in the Arabian Gulf, will ever become a global ingredient but it deserves to be. Eaten on its own with bread (usually regag or tannur) or with other ingredients like the fried egg in the picture above, it could be considered an ‘umami bomb’. I can’t remember where I first tasted it but I am pretty sure it was at my wonderful friend, Maryam Abdallah. Maryam is a wonderful cook and the first ever Qatari TV chef. She is married to a Bahraini and gets her mehyawa from Bahrain. According to her and other friends, Bahrain is the place for mehyawa but I got mine from my wonderful friend, Sheikha Bodour al Qasimi, who has been (still is) my saviour whenever I needed to learn about Emirati cuisine. Also when I wrote my piece on camel hump for Lucky Peach when she gave me a whole baby camel! Anyhow, I was having an exchange with her sister Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi about mehyawa on Instagram where I rued the fact that I didn’t bring back any with me from Qatar (Maryam had offered to give me some but I worried about having a bottle of it in my luggage) and Hoor said she would arrange to send me some. Not long after Bodour’s driver was at my door with two huge jars of excellent home-made mehyawa.
I wonder if I will miss London once I leave. I will certainly miss bumping into friends, and sometimes friends I haven’t seen for years as happened the other day when I saw Paul on my way to Joel, my wonderful hairdresser who I like to describe as a hair sculptor. Paul and I met on a press trip to Sao Paolo where I had played truant, missing almost all that was on the program. To be fair I had been before. It was a nice surprise to see him again and we stopped to chat before Paul suggested I go with him to the rare tea lady where he was heading. Joel had called to say he was running late as he often does, so, I went. And I am glad I did. Not only did I bump into more friends there but I also discovered a new passion, dried almond blossom. Henrietta, who I knew virtually, showed us the incredibly beautiful dried blossom saying she was getting them from a new Spanish supplier and then offered to infuse some for us to taste. Flower teas are not new. We have z’hurat (a mixture of dried flowers) in Lebanon and Syria where we also infuse individual flowers, the Chinese have chrysanthemum and other flower teas and the Japanese have sakura but I had never seen dried almond blossom. My plan now is to grow my own almond trees in Sicily (hoping I can on my mountain!) to have my own supply, and to supply Henrietta, making a little money from the land. They are expensive but totally worth it and you will be able to order the dried blossom as of September (I think) from the Rare Tea Company.
I have been very lax about posting recently. A combination of deadlines and too much travelling but I am back now and I promise you not to forget my belly dancer of the month any longer. So, for this month, I am offering you a double bill: a beautiful dancer, Randa Makhoul, gyrating to the music of Mashrou3 Leila, my favourite Arab group. I didn’t know Makhoul but am glad to have discovered her. She is pretty, has a gorgeous body and dances beautifully. What more to ask of a belly dancer. Perhaps to have the class of a Tahiya Carioca but not many do, so, she will do, for now and at a later stage in other clips. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy her and Mashrou3 Leila as much as I do.
Every now and then, I eat in a restaurant where I have an absolutely perfect meal. Recently, it was at Lyle’s where James Lowe cooks beautiful dishes that are light, elegant and totally exquisite. A year or so ago, I finally ate at Faviken and Nilsson’s food was just as light and elegant and possibly even more pure than Lowe’s. In between, I went to Blue Hill at Stone Barns where I have been wanting to go for years but never got round to it until, that is, my new wonderful agent, Nicole, took me there to celebrate my joining her agency. Our meal there was also memorable, for the setting, the company and of course the food which was delightful, starting with this lovely arrangement of freshly picked radishes, each individually spiked onto a long wooden log. They were served alongside the crunchiest and most delicious ice lettuce (or ficoïde glaciale) which I was tasting for the first time, tiny baby carrots with their tender stalks and leaves on, asparagus, greens spiked into edible earth, a delightful drink and various delicate sauces to dip this incredibly fresh bounty into. Below, you can see some of the selection arranged on my plate — the dark blob is beetroot jerky — and I have to say vegetables never tasted so good, nor looked so pretty!