living shop sign - full length copy

It’s not often these days that I come across a shop sign that I love but I saw a great one recently, while walking through the souks of Aleppo. It wasn’t your average enseigne but rather a beautiful young boy sitting on a stool by the entrance of a rather elegant shop, decked out in almost every single item of traditional Syrian clothing, from the sherwal (baggy trousers that have been translated for westerners at different times by great couturiers), to the embroidered cap, to the striped gilet and striped tunic. He sat there quite impassive, neither ushering people in nor doing or saying anything to encourage would-be buyers to go inside. I looked at him quite intrigued, wondering why he was dressed this way then it dawned on me that he must be advertising the clothes and fabrics inside the shop. And he was!

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2-karabij-dividing pastry copy 1-karabij-dividing pastry 2 copy

For those of you who have read my last post on natef, here is the promised recipe for the pistachio cookies — in Aleppo, the filling is walnuts and the cookies are served warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon on the natef — which I will be demonstrating this Sunday at the World Chef Showcase in Star City, Sydney. I have to say that the semolina we pinched from the kitchens at Sean’s (one of the hotel’s restaurant) was the best I have worked with. I must check the label on the canvas bag to see who milled it. In any case, here is how you make the cookies as demonstrated by my mother in Ballouneh in Lebanon. And please don’t mind her black fingernails. They are not dirty but stained from peeling too many fresh walnuts!

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sheep's head

Or to be more accurate in a pick up van on the street. I love these startling sights that are quite common throughout the Middle East. I was in Aleppo I think when I spotted this poor animal. As luck would have it, I was with Jason Lowe who doesn’t need introducing, and only he can make something so gruesome look so beautiful. I love this picture and it’s a perfect follow-up on the lamb testicles post to illustrate the quick passage from freshly slaughtered to the butcher’s counter.  The sheep was about to be unloaded at a local butcher who was going to skin and butcher it.


ful medammes copy

Another great trip to Syria with a wonderful group. We had great fun despite being driven by possibly the most stubborn and moronic driver ever. He and his uncomfortable bus (supposedly VIP) were the low point of an otherwise lovely trip.

As usual, the food was delicious with one of the great hits being breakfast at my favourite fawwal (ful medammes specialist) where lovely Hajj Abdo makes the best ever ful medammes. Like Hanna, Hajj Abdo is a wonderful old man who’s been making ful medammes for over fifty years; and he is still personally in charge of the making and serving of his speciality. Here he is in action. What you see him doing in this clip is what he does, almost non-stop, from 7 am to 3 pm every day.

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