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nuhud al-adhra copy

Anissa: Time for a guest post by the great Charles Perry. This time it is about an edible virgin, or to be more precise her breasts. Don’t worry, I am not being prurient and there is nothing obscene about these breasts. As Charles explains, Mediterraneans and Arabs have this habit of calling sweets after charming female attributes. Another example is z’nud el-sitt (lady’s wrists, which are slender rolls made by rolling filo pastry around qashtah, the Arab equivalent of clotted cream). The rolls are then fried and dipped in syrup. Quite delicious as are the medieval virgin’s breasts. By the way, Charles is sorry about the picture not being perfect but I am sure you don’t mind. His entry is, as always, fascinating.

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balluneh-emile bakery-emile copy

Just back from visiting my mother in Lebanon and because I hadn’t been for nearly two years, it was a rather nostalgic visit. I did things that I used to do when I lived there like going to the bakery to make manaqish for breakfast. It wasn’t any of the bakeries of my youth in west Beirut because my mother now lives in Balluneh in the mountains but I love Emile, her new baker, just as much as I loved our bakers in Hamra even if Emile doesn’t use firewood. His dough is wonderful though and people bring their own topping or filling (a very common practice in Lebanon) for him and his worker to shape and bake manaqish, fatayer and lahm bil-ajine.

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melwi-17 copy

If you are having breakfast in Uzbekistan, you would probably be eating Charles’ scarab pasta but in Morocco you would feast on melwi, an amazing multi-layered bread which is a kind of mille-feuille in that the dough is layered with fat except that the technique is very different. And here, in black & white pictures, is how Bushra, who I worked with in Marrakesh, makes Melwi.

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This may well be my last post from my trips to Iran and it is a problematic one because even though I took the clip above, I don’t remember what the filling is nor what the bread is called. I don’t even remember what it tasted like and you can see from the not so flattering picture of me (taken by my lovely friend Alimo who showed me around on my first trip) that I did taste it. Perhaps Alimo will come to my rescue or one of you will and tell me what that filling is, also the name of the bread. My feeling is that the filling was either ground sesame or walnuts but I may be wrong. Looks delicious though, and yet again you can’t but admire the dexterity of the baker. I should have waited to film him stamp the bread with the beautiful implement which you can spot to his right. I will definitely buy one when I return. I will also film the whole sequence and take proper notes!

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