Yesterday, one of my readers asked about the Lebanese 7-spice mixture asking what it was made of and if I had a recipe. I remembered making it one year at WOF but for some reason I couldn’t find the recipe. So, I looked in some of my Lebanese books but I drew a blank. Then, I went online but most recipes included fenugreek which is a definite no no, so, I resorted to calling my mother in Lebanon. I knew she wouldn’t have a recipe – she would have given it to me otherwise for my Lebanese book where I only have a description of the mixture which varies from family to family and from one region to the other; the classic mix is made of ground black and white pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coriander. However, I also knew that she bought her spices at a great mat’haneh (a place where they grind spices as well as coffee and where they also sell pulses, and cheap drugs, grains and rice) near my uncle’s home in Achrafiyeh and I asked her to call them for the recipe. And being the best and most beautiful mother, she did. And for you Sam, here is the recipe which is slightly different from the one I describe in my book in that it has ginger!
I have this theory that however cosmopolitan and well-travelled you are, you always go first to the dishes you liked as a child. At least this is my case and even now, nearly 40 years after I left the home country, I always want to eat one of my favourite Lebanese dishes, mehshi silq bil-zeyt (stuffed Swiss chard in olive oil in Arabic), as soon as I see Swiss chard in the shops. I normally get my mother to prepare it for me because it is very time-consuming but she is in Beirut. So, I decided to take the plunge and make myself some when I saw fabulously fresh Swiss chard at Zeina in Moscow Road where I shop for my Lebanese ingredients.