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15
Dec

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/33222252[/vimeo]

It’s time for me to start travelling again. I have much more fun on my travels than when I am holed up in my loft, however gorgeous it is. And it is not in Shoreditch that I am going to push the door of a normal looking building to find rather good looking young men making yufka the way their fathers and grandfathers did before them. Or mothers and grandmothers as they would have done in earlier times. These guys were working on the ground floor of a regular building in Gaziantep in south eastern Turkey right next door to my favourite ice cream place, Ozgüler. I would have missed them if it wasn’t for the big sign advertising yufka. Unlike filo, yufka is slightly baked after being rolled out.

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10
Oct

sheep's tripe-before cleaning copy

The last time I bought sheep’s tripe in London was fifteen years ago when I was testing recipes for The Fifth Quarter. It looked black and rather off-putting but I desperately needed some, so, I bought it. My mother, who was in London helping me, took one look at it and announced she couldn’t use it. It was just too dirty and would need too much scrubbing to clean up. So, we threw it away. And here I am today, giving tripe another try. I got the two stomachs in the picture from a wonderful Greek butcher up in Green Lanes. They are cleaner than those I bought so long ago but they are still pretty smelly and I have just spent half an hour cleaning them and stripping lining and fat off them — something we don’t need to do when we buy them from our butcher in Beirut. Tomorrow, I will finish cleaning them and will stuff them. I will post the recipe and pictures once I am done. So, stay tuned!


17
Sep

fresh dates-1 copy

I live in East London and have done so for the last ten years but for some reason, I still go West for my Lebanese shopping. I could easily go North to the Turkish shops in Green lanes, and I do sometimes but Zeina in Moscow Road remains my favourite Lebanese shop, not only because they have the best and freshest produce and meat but also because they bring in all kinds of wonderful fruit and vegetables when they come into season. You remember the lovely fresh pistachios from a few posts back. Well, the pistachios are even better now. More mature with the shell more open and the nut plumper. I have to add here that my friend Pierre Antaki, the secretary of the Académie Syrienne de la Gasstronomie, remonstrated wtih me for not mentioning that these pistachios were more than likely to have come from Aleppo (the name in Arabic is fistuq halab meaning the nut of Aleppo) where some of the world’s best pistachios come from.

In any case, I went to Zeina a couple of days ago to buy meat to make kibbeh bil-saniyeh (baked kibbé) and  they had  fresh dates. These have been in season for a while but like the pistachios, they are just coming into their own just now and they looked  particularly good that day.  So I bought some and I couldn’t resist eating half of them on the tube on the way back home while thinking back to the days when my father used to bring us huge straw baskets filled with the same fresh dates from Iraq where he spent time building roads and bridges. It’s funny, I do not remember eating them, just the  sight of the spectacular baskets filled with  bunches of gorgeous yellow dates.  If you live in London, do go to Zeina or any other Middle Eastern store to buy some dates. And if you would like to read a little more about dates, go to this article which I wrote recently for one of the FT magazines: