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muhammarah: bell pepper and walnut dip, a true levantine taste

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A pure Levantine treat, Muhammarah is yet another celebration of the magical world of walnuts. And besides being a perfect vegetarian choice, its rich flavours and texture make Muhammarah extremely hard to resist. So my guessing is, once you try it, you would always want to serve this delightful mezzé on top of your food menu next time, and every time, you have guests.

With the right ingredients, muhammarah is extremely easy to prepare yet so impressive serve. Make it in advance and keep it refrigerated till served sprinkled with good quality olive oil and pomegranate arils.

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the heavenly food of pomegranate jewelled aubergine mutabbal

 

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Mutabbal is one of my all-time favourite food, and when well prepared, I will have it anytime, anywhere…and all the time! An incarnation of simplicity yet richness, aubergine mutabbal is fresh, healthy, and needless to say, yummy.

You can prepare this mezze dish one day ahead, and thus save time for the preparation of other food, if any, on the actual day of serving it. As well, you would need to taste the aubergine to make sure it is not too bitter for food preparation. And while you may come across different ways and ingredients used in the preparation of this beautiful levantine mezze treat (different recipe here), mutabbal will always contain its one and only main ingredient, aubergine.

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For the Recipe

Ingredients

mutabbal:
1 medium to large eggplant, roasted
1/3 cup yogurt
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt & pepper to taste

topping:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup chopped sparsely

  • Start by cutting the roasted aubergine into halves or quarters and then removing the skin using a knife. Move the aubergine onto a chopping board and chop it roughly (you can process the aubergine in a food processor, though not too much. But I personally love the bulky texture created by chopping the aubergine rather than processing it). Once chopped, move the aubergine onto a sieve and allow it to drain for about 15 minutes in order to get rid of the maximum amount of its juice.
  • Meanwhile, mix the yogurt, tahini, and lemon juice in a small bowl, till you get a smooth paste.
  • Move the chopped aubergine into a medium bowl. Add the yogurt and tahini sauce, crushed garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Then mix all the ingredients till well combined. Keep it refrigerated, up to one day, till serving it.
  • To serve the mutabbal, move it onto a serving bowl or relatively deep plate. Sprinkle with olive oil, chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds. Enjoy!

Bon Appétit!

Fruit & Date Mini Tarts

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Today I’m sharing a very simple recipe that I experimented a while ago and which turned into the most wonderful and extraordinary tart, a Fruit Date Tart with Custard Cream filling. 

The tart shell is rather soft and not crusty, as it would normally be. And if well stored, you can keep the tart shells for a few days, which means they can be prepared ahead of time. And while you can prepare any filling of your choice, I opted for a light and delicious custard cream filling that suits the tart perfectly. As for the fruit toppings, they can be any of fruit of your choice, but for me, Raspberries, Blueberries and Pomegranate seeds felt to be the perfect choice. Not only they are wonderful companions of custard cream in general, but they also taste great with this particular tart, and they provide the tart with beautiful and balanced vivid colors.

 

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For the Recipe:

Ingredients

Tart Shells

75 g shelled pistachio

75 g almonds

200 g stoned dates, 

1 tbsp olive oil, plus some extra oil for working the tarts


Filling

1 cup milk

1 tsp good-quality vanilla extract

3 egg yolks

75 g caster sugar

2 tbsp corn starch 

80 ml double cream

Fruit Toppings

About 400 g fruits of your choice

  • For the tart shells: pour all ingredients, in a food processor. Process untill mixture becomes ground and crumbly. Using the extra olive oil, grease the base and sides of 6 10-cm spring tart tins. Then divide the date mixture among the tart tins making sure to spread the mixture as smoothly as possible to cover the base and sides of the tin.
  • For the Custard Cream filling: Mix the milk and vanilla extract in a small pan, over medium heat. Stir continuously. Bring to a boil then remove from heat.
    In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch using a hand-held electric mixer. Keep whisking till mixture is smooth and pale in color. Pour the milk gradually over the egg mixture stirring continuously.
    Pour the mixture into a clean pan put over low heat. Continue to stir till custard gets a thick and smooth texture. Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl. Cover the custard with cling wrap and refrigerate till ready to use. When ready to serve the tarts, whip the double cream till it becomes light and fluffy. Add the whipped cream to the custard and stir gently till custard cream is smooth. 
  • Gently remove that tart bases from the tart tins. Divide the custard cream among the date tarts. And top with your choice of fruits! Indulge!
    Bon Appétit!

 

 

Mini Mnazzallet Batenjane – Aubergine Bites

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Mini Mnazzallet Batenjane

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The beautiful world of Levantine Cuisine

I can’t believe it’s taken me forever before finally being able to sit down and write this post (food was prepared, shot, and happily devoured more than a week ago :)). But last week was so busy it would have been totally impossible for me to write down not even one single letter. For as you must have most probably guessed by now, kids were off from school for a whole week and things have been a bit too crazy around at home. But happily, they are back to their beloved school now and life is back to normal this week. So here you go with a beautiful dish that I have been waiting impatiently to share on the blog.
And while I bought those baby aubergines with the intention of preparing mini Moussakka bites (I guess this will have to come in a future post), I ended up preparing a similar dish, suggested by my husband, and which I’m glad I made: Mnazzallet Batenjane. Mnazzallet Batenjane is normally made of fried aubergine slices topped with meat and chopped tomato, hence the similarity with Moussakka.
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Mini aubergine halves soaked in salty water

Besides being delicious, these heavenly bites (it hardly takes two bites to devour them) can be prepared the day before (mise en place of the ingredients) and then assembled the next day (or when it is time for them to be served). And they are perfect food option for gatherings and get-togethers. And the final touches of pomegranate and parsley sprinkles not only enriches the dish’s colors but also flavors.

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Fried mini aubergine halves

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Mini Mnazzallet Batenjane right out of the oven and ready for the final touches

For the Recipe
Ingredients
 
6-7 baby aubergines, halved & soaked in salted water
oil for frying
300 g minced meat
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried mint
1 tsp sweet spices
1 tbsp good quality pomegranate molasses
salt & pepper to taste
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp pine nuts
Seeds of half a pomegranate
a handful of roughly chopped parsley leaves
  • Remove the baby aubergines from water and discard of any excess water.
  • In a medium pan, heat oil for frying. Fry the baby aubergine halves till golden brown (I personally like them fried, but grilling the aubergine halves in the oven is another way to prepare them). Place on kitchen paper to get rid of excess oil, and set aside till meat topping is ready.
  • In a wide frying pan, heat the olive oil and then sauté the onion. Stir continuously till onion is caramelized. Add the minced meat. Cook for a few minutes before adding in the molasses, spices, and dried mint. Give it a good stir and continue to cook till meat is thoroughly cooked.
  • Heat the oven to 180°C. Lay the fried aubergine halves on a non-stick baking tray (or you can cover a baking tray with parchment paper as I did). Divide the meat on top of the aubergine halves. Top them with the chopped tomato & pine nuts.
  • Place the tray in the oven for about 15 minutes (pine nuts would start to get golden brown). Remove from oven and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds & parsley leaves. Serve immediately and indulge!
      Bon Appétit!
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Heavenly mini bites