me in my kitchen copyI seem to specialise in dramatically changing the course of my life every few years, mainly for the sake of keeping it interesting. When I was young I did it every five years or so. Now that I am older, it is every ten years or so. This year I decided to change my life again. I sold my beautiful loft to downsize in London and upsize in Sicily where I plan to build my dream house. It wasn’t a rash decision. I have been wanting to build my dream house for a few years now; and I toyed with different ideas of where to do it. Syria was once an option! Then I considered California, also France and even Spain despite not speaking any Spanish. Then one day, I decided to go to the olive harvest on Mary Taylor Simeti‘s farm in Sicily and while there I decided that Sicily was where I would make this happen. The landscape and way of life there are very close to those in Lebanon and Syria where I grew up, but more orderly and with no risk of ISIS ever coming close. I had been to Sicily before but living on Mary’s farm in my own little casetta made me feel that the island was where I could feel I was going back home without actually doing so. And so it was. Mary introduced me to a friend of hers, Giovanni Matta, who took me to three different plots in one single day and the last one turned out to be the perfect spot. I must have been born under a lucky star!

my little domain copyHere is my plot with spectacular views of Trapani, the salt flats, Marsala and the islands.

my view-trapani copy

my casetta (1) copyAnd this old ruin will become my little house away from the main house. As much as I like the company of friends and family, I also like my own peace and quiet to start and finish the day. Next to my casetta, I will build a teaching kitchen where I hope some of you will come and learn to cook dishes, not only from the Middle East and North Africa but also local Sicilian ones.fiscal office-trapani copyAnd here is a picture of Mary and Daniela, the estate agent, walking to the tax office where I had to register to become a landowner in Italy!picnic in erice copyWhile this picture is of the picnic I gave for everyone involved in my getting my plot. It was after we had signed the final documents and I had officially became the owner of my little Sicilian domain. The first from the left is my very handsome notaio, then the two signore Palermo, who owned one part of the land. Behind them is Giovanni, who found me the land with Rossana, his partner ,peeking from behind Mary who is raising her glass to me who is standing next to Tonino her husband. And below is Mr Aiuto, the owner of the rest of the land. He was showing me the wheat a friend of his had grown on the plot. There were others too including Daniela, the estate agent, Gianfranco, a local architect, and Mr Aiuto’s daughter and her partner but they were on my side of the picnic table.mr aiuto copy

baby lamb copyAnd here is what you can  expect me to feed you if you visit: a leg of baby lamb (Sicilians only eat lamb when it is very young) with roasted potatoes. Both came from Delizie, a wonderful butcher and salumi place in Alcamo. In fact, it was the owner, Giuseppe Aleccia, who had arranged for the picnic panini to be made on the day and let me pick them up when the shop was closed. Some people think that Sicilians are not so friendly but I have found all those I have met absolutely charming. 

doha-veiled lady reading a text copyAnd in between plotting my future life, I was also busy working including several trips to Qatar where I was helping develop a food culture programme for the National Museum of Qatar.

koshari street kitchen copyI was also of course busy at Koshari Street. The picture above is of our chefs working away while I was telling them about possible new recipes to add to the menu.

logi & me copy2014 was also the year when I finally met my most favourite baby in the world, belonging to my lovely nephew and his gorgeous wife, Deva. His name is Logan or Logi as they like to call him. As you can see I am very happy holding him, which is rather odd for someone who is not at all into babies!

mena house copyAnd it was also the year when I became reality TV star as a mentor/judge on the Arab version of The Taste. I spent over a month in Cairo, installed in the most delightful suite at the Mena House hotel with a spectacular view of the pyramids, when not filming in the studio. I absolutely loved my stay there.mona's eyes copy And I loved my costar, Mona Mosly, who has the most beautiful eyes and smile which you can’t see in this picture but you can definitely see it if you watch the programmeosman copyAnd I found myself a companion, Osman (in the picture above), who brought me daily treats and who was so adorable, I had to take him with me to London.

the taste 2And here I am with my costars  on a huge billboard announcing the programme and below is a picture of us on set.the taste copy And finally I leave you with a picture of my new view in London. My new downsized pad may be very bijou, but it does have a lot of light and more importantly a view, which I didn’t have in the loft. I decided that from now on, I will only live or stay in places that have a view. One of my new year’s resolutions! And on this note, I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2015!   views 2 copy

There is 18 comments on this post

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Very interesting i simply love it and good luck in 2015 😉

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Anissa … what an inspiration you are!
    I came across your site looking for a recipe for Gallaba.
    I LOVE YOUR BLOG SITE. How creative and fun it is to see the electric photos on the side.
    It is very inviting . Then your infectious smile and demeanor is captivating. You seem so happy and energetic. Then that hair, that unique and gorgeous head of hair! I know my hair would look like that if I stop doing unnatural things to it. I am tempted. You seem so authentic and natural. would love to meet you opne day!!! Do you do any public events in the states?

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    thank you nawal. so glad to hear you like my site. i do come to the states regularly and sometimes do things. the best thing to do to find out about these is to follow me on instagram where i seem to live my life 🙂

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Wow and Thank you, I may never have met you but next to my Mom and Setu you have been a great inspiration on all things culinary and cultural. My mother gave me a copy of your book as a gift in 2008 and I never realized at the time that she had introduced me to a truly great mentor. Seven years later you are still a great source of inspiration and knowledge. I am so looking forward to chapter SICILIANO. Best wishes for an amazing 2015!

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i love the idea of being a great mentor, on par with your mom and setu. thank you mike and i also wish you an amazing 2015 🙂

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I want to buy pastry cup will you please help can I buy online or any suggestions or any store in us or London can sale that if you know pls give me
    address or phone number or website or any hint pls as soon as possible

    Thanks again


    Thank you

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i am afraid i can’t help you. i am in london and gaziantep is in turkey!

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Lovely Anissa. I can’t wait until your dream home is complete. You know how much I support the building of ones dreams, my friend

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    i know rebecca dear. nice to have your comment here 🙂

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Bonjour Anissa,
    Avoir des perspectives de cette dimension …Moi, je dis chapeau bas !
    Je te souhaite beaucoup de bonheur et de réussite avec le plein de santé, bien entendu.
    J’ai trouvé marrante cette histoire de changer ”son cours de vie” tous les cinq ans, ou presque…
    Nous voilà, au moins, deux à pratiquer cet Art….
    Pour t’aider à construire ta maison dans cet endroit de rêve, je crois savoir que parmi tes connaissances il y a une certaine ”Pritzker prize” ….Zaha Hadid !
    Sinon, j’aime bien, aussi, l’idée de rénover une bâtisse existante. Le charme d’une rénovation à l’ancienne et à l’italienne est un pur bonheur.

    Continue, cela te va bien.

    P.S.: Le petit agneau, on dirait un chevreaux (baby goat)….Je dis cela car, à chaque fois que je mange un délicieux chevreaux (quand il m’arrive d’en trouver…), je pense à ton blog. Je sais que tu affectionne, beaucoup, ce plat… (Encore un point en commun !)

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    merci nidal, et c’est vrai que zaha est une amie mais je pense que je vais etre plus modeste comme ambition pour ma maison 🙂 et c’etait bien un agneau. ils ne le mangent que baby la bas 🙂

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    sometimes late at night when i can’t sleep, I visit your blog for inspiration and it also makes me very calm and happy. For some reason, I never read this post before and reading it just now gave me the chills and made me cry. A beautiful happy ending to 2014. It is really what I needed to read to give me a boost of joy and positivity. You will always be a great mentor, teacher, and a friend. I just can’t wait to be your student in Sicily. it is one of the things I look forward to and will definitely keep me going in life. Many hugs and kisses to you.


  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you are so so sweet saad. hugs and kisses back 🙂 and go to sleep!

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377
    raghda kahhalhamzawi
    May 29, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Coucou Anissa je suis la soeur de ton amie d’enfance Sonia (bonnie and clyde ) ça me fait très plaisir de te voir réussir et rayonnante comme le soleil de notre moyen orient …

    Je suis aussi nostalgique de la Syrie et du Liban que tu puisses l’extrait l’exprimer .. J’habite Paris et Sonia Londres ..Il faudrait qu’on s’organise pour nous revoir..Fais nous signe quand tu sera dispo a Londres ou en Sicile .. Ca vaudrait détour ! bonne continuation bisous

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    je t’ai envoye un email raghde 🙂

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Hello, bonjour, marhaban Anissa
    I’ve just come to your blog from the Guardian site, tired of their recipes combining rose water, harissa, dried apricots, cumin and cardamom in one recipe (yes….). I adore Moroccan and middle Eastern food and live in Italy, with frequent visits to Morocco. Inetetsing htat oyu chose Sicily for your home. All the best with it and please keep writing your blog with REAL recipes!!

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I understand what you mean. and I must start blogging again 🙂

  • Notice: Undefined offset: 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thanks for your quick reply and for agreeing 😉 ! Looking forward to reading more soon!

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