11
Oct

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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19
Feb

iran-breakfast copy

As you may know from my previous post, I have a piece on Iranian food in Saveur and I thought I would continue with the Iranian theme with a post about a very typical Iranian breakfast I had in a modest cafe in Tehran which was just perfect. The barbari, the bread that is normally served for breakfast, had just been baked in the bakery next door — often the bakery and cafe belong to the same owner. The tea was local, from Lahijan, and my Iranian friend showed me how to sip it through a sugar cube the way they all do. Later, at the sumptuous Shah Abbas hotel in Isfahan, I sipped my tea through very elegant wafer-thin saffron-flavoured caramel brittles. The super fresh eggs were half-fried, half-scrambled with tomatoes and the curd cheese had been made by a neighbour. And it all came on a large, rather beautiful metal tray. If my bed had been nearby, I could have carried the tray back to have breakfast in bed!

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17
Feb

I have a story in the Saveur March issue about Iranian food. My first ever Iranian meal in London may have been an impossibly glamourous one at Ava Gardner‘s house (cooked by an Iranian friend of hers) which I describe at the beginning of my piece or it may have been an almost equally glamourous one at Alidad‘s house (cooked by his mother). Both meals were totally delicious. Since then, I have had many more fabulous Iranian meals — it is one of my favourite cuisines. Anyhow, the story is not yet online but it will eventually, like my previous one on Ramadan and Emirati food. Until then, I thought I would post a clip of bakers making lavash (or perhaps it’s nan-e taftoon; the difference is slight with the latter being a little thicker) in Tehran. Like elsewhere in the Middle East, bread is an essential part of Iranian meals and they have several different kinds. This one can be baked on a hot plate like the one in the top clip or in a tannur oven as in the clip below.

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