Apr 22, 2009


A while back, when I had shared with you the methods of making home made labneh balls, I promised to also one day (and the day has now come!) write up a post on magdous. Now what on earth is magdous?
Trust me, whenever I pronounce the word "magdous", people give me that famous inquisitive curious look, you know the one with an eyebrow that's lifted a bit higher then the other (something I don't know how to do, even after practice looking in front of the mirror). When I show them magdous, the reaction is even more comical (for me at least)..."ummm... what are those dodgy looking things of an unidentified colour of a rather oval shape swimming in those jars?... you really expect me to try that?".
Yes people, unfortunately, magdous for those who are not familiar with this speciality, does not score well when it comes to first impressions. Visually at least. But taste wise, all judgements dissapear and plates are emptied in minutes. My point is that you really have to give magdous a chance before you prematurely decide to not give it even second thoughts. So the choice is yours now, you can either continue reading this post, or surf to another page...
OK, so I guess you are still here and curious to find out a bit more. Let me make an introduction: magdous is a quite common food speciality found accross the Middle East. It hasn't of course become as famous as some other specialties such as hummus or falafels, and I doubt you'll easily find it on the menu of a Middle Eastern restaurant. Magdous are basically baby eggplants, that have been drained and then stuffed with a delicious mixture of garlic, hot pepper, diced red peppers and walnuts (at least, that is the recipe in my family). It can be consumed in the same way pickles or olives are, or if you just fancy on nibbling on a little something, it is delicious on it's own with pita bread and a cup of black tea.
Of course, in the Middle East, it is easy to buy ready made magdous, but I've always enjoyed making it myself- as my grandmother and mother always have. For this, you need to be armed with patience, because its one of those "leave overnight" and "wait for a few days before consumption" recipes- but I think the wait is really worth it!
What I love most about magdous is the silky texture the eggplant develops, the delicious olive oil fragrance it becomes infused with, but most of all, it's crunchy and spicy interiour. With a small glass cup of black tea and soft pita bread, each bite reminds me of my childhood when I used to go visit my grandma, sitting on her balcony in the early evenings, watching people on the streets go by against a backdrop of an orange-ish blue sky, while being surrounded with pots of jasmine flowers hanging around the balcony that so beautifully perfumed the setting and accompanied my grandma's tender voice and the magdous' silky texture. It's one of those foods that have never been considered as lavish or fancy in the Middle East, but sometimes the most basic simplest things are what satisfy a hungry stomach in unforgettable ways.
Recipe for home made magdous (for 8 baby eggplants)
Baby eggplants
Olive oil (lots of it)
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup chopped red pepper
Chilli (quantity according to personal preference)
Cut off the stem of the eggplants, but keep the hat on. Boil in salted water for about 10 minutes. Remove, slice lengthwise, but not all the way through, it has to form a "pocket" that will hold in the garnish. Sprinkle insides with salt, close the eggplant "pockets" and layer eggplants gently in a large strainer, place a dish on top, and a bowl on the bottom. The eggplants will need to drain out their water overnight, so the water that will drip can fall into the bowl underneath.
The next day, in a bowl, mix the chopped walnuts, red pepper, garlic and chilli pepper. Peel the hat of the eggplants off with the sharp edge of a small knife. Stuff each eggplant with this mixture and close back gently. Be careful as to not rip the eggplants, they will have a very delicate texture at this point. Layer the stuffed eggplants in a clean and dry jar and cover with olive oil. Leave to rest for at least 3 days- ideally 1 week. When ready to be consumed, remove the magdous with a large spoon (not a fork, they will crumble!) and enjoy with pita bread! The jars do not need to be conserved in a fridge.

Apr 20, 2009


I am sure that sometime between yesterday and the coming days, there will be many food bloggers that will be sharing images and captions on the cooking involved and feasts enjoyed on Easter Day. Or you may have already noticed in the past days, some food specialties in the preparation for Orthodox Easter, such as special breads and biscuits. This year, Orthodox Easter was celebrated on April 19th. My family is Greek Orthodox, with origins stemming between Greece and the Middle East. There are points in common in the culinary habits both regions have for this festive day, but what is for sure is that there has to be a lot of lamb on the table. Because I grew up somewhat as a "third culture kid" , and with a somewhat strong French influence (due to my many years living in France), this year, Easter had a Greek, Middle Eastern and French touch (we can thank France for the fabulous wine we enjoyed for instance hehe). In anycase, there was a lot of food to devour for Sunday's lunch after a week of lent, much that wasnt photographed as it was all too mouthwatering and I believe no one was patient enough to wait for me to take photos and then let everyone eat the food (I guess all us food bloggers have been faced with this situation before, no?)
But one thing was for sure: no one was touching the lamb before I took a photo of it. Indeed, this year, I prepared the main course and every detail involved in it. A premiere for me, as I usually volunteer to take care of dessert instead!
So for this post, I'll be sharing with you my very own Easter lamb recipe... but before that, some snapshots on the last 48 hours...
Saturday night: I prepare the marination for the lamb, and let it rest overnight in the fridge. Then, I head off to church for the Saturday night mass at one of the Greek Orthodox Churches in Paris.

Lots of candles on this important day...
The Greek community is not huge in France, in comparaison with Australia for instance, but there were many people on Saturday night (Greeks but also many Lebanese too), hundreds I should say, with quite a big crowd having to wait outside of the church under the rain...
Then at almost midnight, the first lit candle appeared, and each person lights their candle from one another... Everyone wishes each other a Happy Easter and you can hear people saying "Christos Anesti" (Greek) or "Al Maseeh Qaam" (Arabic) depending on where they come from...both meaning, "Christ has risen". In Greek, you then reply "Alithos Anesti" and in Arabic "Hakan Kam" which means "Indeed, the Christ has risen".

It is Sunday morning, and I have actually set my alarm clock to ring on a weekend... Of course, I have to be awake to check on my lamb. It has marinated all night with a fabulous mixture of herbs (full details at the end of post). I ask my mom for some last minute advice, and then it is just me and this gigantic gigot d'agneau face to face...

After a good hour and a half in the oven, and luring smells making their way through the house from the kitchen walls, the lamb has made it's appearance, accompanied with delicious roast potatoes and crunchy vegetables (that I had prepared while the lamb was cooking).
I have to say, for a first time, I felt quite proud of myself with the way the lamb turned out...! At least by the looks of it, I have yet to taste it...

The slicing begins, I observe closely and in an almost paranoid/perfectionist manner how each cut looks like... For this kind of lamb, our family doesn't enjoy eating it "saignant" nor "à point" (meaning, we don't want to see any blood gushing out of the lamb while it's being sliced). Thankfully, there was not a drop of blood, it was cooked just the way we all love it and had an amazing tender texture and bursted with flavour.
I had bought a lot of fresh tomatoes, asparagus, snap peas, and carrots that were all first boiled (except the tomatoes), the placed in a deep dish drizzled with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic and salt before it went into the oven for about ten minutes... so that it could be enjoyed at the right temperature and get a nice toasty colour.
And voila! Would you like to try some?
Those Lindt rabbits are just way too cute, I had to get some.
To end things on a sweet note... for dessert, there was a lot of chocolate, but also my mom's signature orange-coconut cake, which has proved to be a smashing success year after year, amongst family or guests! It is a classic she prepares on big events, and we have never seemed to get bored of it!
If you would like to see images of how Orthodox Easter has been celebrated in certain parts of Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East, you can click here on the BBC News site or for a wider range of photos, you can check out Getty Images.
Easter lamb: (based on a leg of lamb weighing 2kg)
1 leg of lamb / gigot d'agneau
1 bundle fresh estragon, chopped
1 bundle thym
1 tablespoon mustard (preferably "moutarde à l'ancienne", the one where you can see the mustard grains)
A few bay/laurel leaves
Garlic cloves (according to your personal taste, I had 6 garlic cloves in total)
1 freshly squeezed lemon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper
3 mugs of hot water + 1 Maggi Kub d'Or (bouillon cube).
A few hours before baking (or if you can, preferably the night before): prepare the marination:
In a bowl, throw in all the ingredients stated above (except the lamb and laurel leaves) and mix well. Transfer mixture over the lamb, rub well, place the laurel leaves around and on top, and leave to marinate.
When ready to cook: take out the lamb at and let it rest at room temperature for 30min to 1 hour. Preheat oven to a high heat (about 300C) for 20 minutes. Indent the lamb with few small knive cuts. Dissolve the Kub d'Or in the three mugs of hot water, set aside. Lower heat to 200C, and bake for 60min to 1h30min according to personal taste (I baked for 1h30). During cooking time, make sure to check on lamb and take it out from time to time to drizzle it with a ladle of the Kub d'Or mix so that it doesn't dry up. You may or may not use up the entire three mugs, but that quantity keeps you on the safe side.
When ready, remove from oven, cover with aluminium and let rest for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Apr 10, 2009


At any point in time, us cooking & baking lovers, will always be faced with leftovers...and I'm not speaking about leftover pizza slices that some people enjoy eaten cold for breakfast (I never really got that?), I'm talking about leftover egg yolks, ganache, pistachios, orange zest, or, in this case raspberries. Do you remember the raspberry cheesecake I posted not too long ago? Well after the cheesecake was baked and devoured by all, I was faced with handfuls of raspberries leftovers...I could have of course eaten them plain (which I did, some of them), I could had made ice-cream, or a crispy tarte fine (thin puff pastry tart), or even raspberry jam... but for some reason, my leftover remedy has always seemed to be muffins! They just seem perfect in every way... they are of the ideal size whether for breakfast or to accompany of cup of coffee, they look alluring on a tray inevitably tempting friends & family who pass through the kitchen, they can transport themselves conveniently to picnics or to work... they are pretty to look at and easy to make, and loved by (almost) everyone!

So what on earth could had stopped me from making muffins with my raspberry leftovers?!
And take these almond-raspberry muffins as an sweet interlude until I get back cooking in my beloved kitchen that I missed so much when I was away in Cuba last week...!
Raspberry-Almond muffins:
For approx 12 muffins:
2 eggs
100gr sugar
100gr melted butter
50ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence or a vanilla pod.
140gr flour
70gr ground almonds
5gr baking powder
Pinch of salt
Handful of delicious raspberries
Shredded almonds for decorating (and for crisp!)
Preheat oven to th4/180C/350F.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Add the butter,milk and vanilla mix well. Add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt, mix well. Then gently throw in the raspberries and stir...gently! Transfer batter to muffin moulds (with containers, optionally). Fill moulds in 3/4th of the way. Top off with a generous layer of shredded almonds and bake for 30mins. Check with a sharp knife if well cooked, if not extend baking by intervals of 10mins, always at th4. Remove, and let cool.

Apr 9, 2009


Hello everyone! About just over a week ago I said I'd be away to a really interesting destination... a 10 hour flight away from Paris... where sunny temperatures were reaching 30-35C (I came back with a fab tan I must say!), where the people were consistently so warm and friendly... where every street corner was so rich with culture and history... where life is lived so differently from here in France (I came back feeling more grateful for everything I had), where (on the downside) food & cuisine is not a highlight (but the langosta is abundant and delicious thoug), and last but not least, a country where for many certainly, it is a real photographer (amateur or professional, whatever level you may be at!) is a real dream...

I was in Cuba for a week, in Havana to be exact, and that explains why I havent been on here lately! Here are some visual snippets for you!
However now that I am back, and having missed my kitchen a lot, I promise to be up with lots of delicious posts very soon! In the meantime, you can check out my Cuba photos here!