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I don’t know if I am the first ever chef-in-residence in a museum but I sure am glad I proposed to do it and was accepted as I am loving my time at Leighton House. There is something wonderful about feeling at home in a museum, and talking about or preparing food in such a beautiful place. Also, the people who attend my sessions are all very charming, and some like the group of Moroccan ladies who came this last Thursday also unexpected. Luckily, Alan Kirwan who runs Nour, had arranged to have the most charming young photographer, Kit Oates, take pictures of my session on spice mixtures and I thought I would share them here. All the photographs are © Kit Oates.

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One of the Moroccan ladies smelling dried rose buds

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Me talking to lovely Safia, a friend who cooks marvellous Iranian food.

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Some of the group sharing a funny moment.

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I loved this lady. She thought I was a sculpture when she came into the room before everyone then she jumped and let out a scream when I moved.

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This lady announced that she was a master at making couscous. I asked if we could all go and try her couscous. She said of course and I plan on taking her up on her word!

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The plastic bag in the first jar contains the Spanish flies which I found that morning. Nor sure if I am going to grind them with the spices or keep them forever. It is unlikely that I will find any others now.

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Trying to open the jar with the Spanish flies while my beautiful friend Lenore is looking on.

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And here I am showing Safia and Lenore the Spanish flies, still not able to open the jar. It took the muscles of young Kit to finally prise it open.

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Dried rose buds, Qatari Spice mix (with the recipe for it in Arabic), Emirati spice mix, ras el-hanout and my cards.

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A close up of my own advieh.

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A line up of some the spice mixtures. I have to say, Kit’s photographs are very lovely.

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Another close-up, this time of kammuneh, a southern Lebanese spice mix used in frakeh, a southern version of kibbeh where the burghul is mixed with wild herbs, spices and dried rosebuds before being used with the raw meat, either as a topping or mixed with it.

Many years ago, I saw a film called All the Vermeers in New York where much of the action takes place at the Metropolitan Museum. There isn’t much resemblance between what goes on in the film (which I don’t actually remember) and what I am doing in Leighton House but I have been remembering the film during my residency.

Next week is my last at Leighton House. I will be talking about pickles. Come and see me if you are around.


There is 9 comments on this post


  • Oh I do wish I’d been able to come. I had looked again at the dates earlier this week but still wasn’t feeling up to it. Darn lurgy. Glad it went well, Aunty!


  • Leighton would have been soooo pleased to find such a lovely group of Middle Eastern women having tea and discussing food in his parlor.

    Are you teaching liffit? I need to make a new batch, so please include your favorite recipe, or I can look it up in one of your books. I wonder what other pickles you like to make?

    Thanks for the photos.


  • it is in my lebanese book georgia and i will be doing liffit, and preserved lemons and not sure what else yet. will keep you posted. xx


  • je vais à Londres régulièrement et la prochaine fois fin janvier, pourrais-tu me donner des précisons ou des liens sur le Leighton house, j’aimerais y aller. Merci à toi


  • here you are marie claire http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/leightonhousemuseum.aspx – shame you weren’t there when i had my residency 🙂


  • Great pic on Kit’s blog! You look like The Mistress of Spices..:)
    that’s a movie i’ve been remembering while reading your post! It’s not that good really, but it features some nice scenes of spice concoctions and aphrodisiacs preparations etc..
    Leighton House looks gorgeous..i would’ve loved to see you in that setting talking about tasty things.
    Be well.


  • thanks abdallah. you are sweet. leighton house is totally fabulous. you must visit it when you are next in london. i’ll be gone but leighton’s work will still be there 🙂


  • What an amazing collection of photographs, I shall go off now to look up Leighton House!

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