Lebanese Qatayef

I like to make this traditional Lebanese dessert for special occasions or if I’m really craving it and can be bothered to go through the effort. This is because it can be really tiring and just looooong in the kitchen. However, it really does taste great homemade if you follow this recipe ;). I read up a lot on this recipe online but couldn’t really understand the method, every site had different ashta (white filling) ingredients etc so I just called my mum and she gave me the best recipe and its super simple. You just have to be patient as it takes time. The following measurements are a lot and they are to be dished out around your family homes, friends, or given in charity.

Ingredients for the ASHTA (Ashta is the white filling (it’s like clotted cream)): 1 litre of whole milk, 300ml of double cream, 1 tbsp of sugar, and 5 tbsp of cornstarch. AND 1 tbsp of orange blossom and rose water.
Method: Pour milk first until warm. Grab a whisk. Add the sugar and cream. Then take some of the warm milk in a cup to melt the cornstarch (this is done so that it doesn’t clump when you add it straight to into the pot). Keep whisking and whisking until it becomes thick and your arm starts to hurt. Right at the end, add the orange blossom and rose water. Take off the heat. Whisk for another couple of minutes. Pour into a bowl to let it cool down and put it in the fridge. This should take around 30-35 minutes. Just keep going until the ashta is thick thick.

Whilst this is cooling in the fridge, we can prep the batter mixture for the mini pancakes.
Ingredients: 4 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of Semolina (smede), 4 and a half cups of water, 1 sachet of yeast and 1 tsp of Baking Powder.
Method: in the above order add the dry ingredients, then just mix until all combined. I used a hand blender to stop lumps from happening. 10 minutes before you pour the mixture onto a non-sticky pan you ADD the Baking Powder. During this 10 minutes; I left this to set in the fridge. The consistency is meant to be watery like pancake batter. It literally is like pancakes but mini.

Okay lets get to work. Now, heat a non-sticky flat pan and rub it with a tissue soaked in vegetable/sunflower oil or whatever oil. Using a jug to pour the pancake mixture to get a non messy perfect circle. Do a trial and see how long it takes to bubble and let it get golden on the bottom. I like them small to medium sized pancakes. Small are really cute and I usually count to three when I pour the batter. Once the pancake bubbles fully, remove it onto a clean towel and cover them with another clean towel. Do not flip the pancake, I repeat DO NOT. Just cook one side. L Do this until you’re fed up lol; or until the batter mixture is finished. I had a lot leftover so I put it in the fridge to make over the next couple of days.

Now that you have your mini pancakes, grab a seat and the ashta from the fridge and get to filling. Grab the pancake in your hand and a tablespoon in the other to fill it with ashta. Cup the pancake from one corner and pinch to close all the way to the middle. You don’t close it fully (you can if you want). Line them up on a nice platter/plate whatever you have in the kitchen. Then sprinkle some grounded pistachios on the ashta et VOILA. You have your QATAYEF. Repeat until you’re once again fed up, or done with the mixture.

We make a sugar syrup called ATER. This is 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of water, squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of orange blossom and rose water. You can also drizzle honey instead of this sugar syrup or nothing at all if you think this step will be too sweet for you.

If you want to be adventurous or do your own thing you can add your favourite nuts with the ashta such as walnuts, almonds, raisins. If you want to continue and close the whole pancake up you can. Do what you want… there are no rules to this! We put some dark chocolate spread in a few of them and it tasted amazing.

This dessert goes well with arabic mint tea or peppermint tea. I tried to explain this step by step and I hope it was clear enough. If not leave a comment and I will get back to you. I hope you love it and enjoy this traditional Lebanese dessert. Apparently it looks like cannoli. We can call it Lebanese Qatayef Cannoli.

The perfect salad for a spring weekend

This is super green and super delicious. I made this spontaneously and randomly it came out perfect. Here is the simple recipe for two people.

For the dressing (Put this all in a blender) :1 ripe avocado, 1 clove of garlic, 1 freshly squeezed lemon juice, a handful of fresh coriander, half a chilli or sprinkle some chilli flakes, 1 tsp of English mustard or American mustard, drizzle your fine olive oil, 1 tsp of black pepper and a sprinkle of salt. AND BLITZ TO A CREAMY PASTE.

I prepped the dressing whilst the pasta was cooking, you can literally use any pasta you have in your cupboard. Also, chop up 1 small red onion, some leafy greens you have in the fridge, open a can of tuna of your choice add all this including the dressing once the pasta has been drained and cooled down. Mix it well to eat or leave in the fridge for later.

And enjoy! You can take this to a picnic, a bbq, a gathering, lunch, after a dip in the sea, it’s so filling and yummy. I hope you make this and like it as much as I did.

The perfect Avocado Pesto Pasta for Spring (Nut free)

This dish is so fresh and yummy. It has such spring vibes. It’s super easy; quick; and minimum dirty dishes.

Serves 2-4 people. Cooking Time 15 mins. Pasta of your choice; I used spaghetti and fuisilli because during this time we can’t find pasta anywhere and this is all I had in the cupboard. If you want to make it vegan use zucchini spaghetti, spinach pasta, or whatever alternative out there for you lovely vegans.

I boil the pasta whilst I’m prepping the sauce. So go ahead and do that.

Sauce ingredients in a blender/chopper: 1 ripe avocado, a bunch of basil, a few sprigs of coriander, 1 lemon juice, a sprinkle of dried tarragon, 5 cloves of garlic, 5 large mushrooms and virgin olive oil (I eye measured this but I would 7 tbsp). BLEND!

1) Strain the pasta but keep some of the boiled water in the pan; add your delicious sauce to the pasta and mix. ADD salt, black pepper and a handful of Parmesan. By now you should switch off the heat and give it a good mix.

You may now serve. The mushrooms is used instead of nuts as it maintains that rich flavour and texture nuts can give & is very ideal alternative for pasta sauce. Please note if you like less garlic then add less and vice versa. If you want lemony go ahead add more or less. This is how I made it for my husband and I and we ate 3 full plates!!!

Hope you like this one, let me know what you think. I hope your staying safe and healthy during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Is being a Flexitarian the New Trend?

I know the topic of eating less meat or converting to a vegan/plant based/vegetarian diet has become somewhat “trendy”. We speak about this topic to almost everyone from our family members, friends and strangers during social interactions. 

I want to focus on the term flexitarian and why the majority might like to adapt this kind of diet. I am not isolating the vegans and veggies or whatever other category is out there BUT, for some of us we want to incorporate some sort of meat intake in our diet on a balanced scale. 

Flexitarian is someone who eats meat occasionally. It’s for someone who doesn’t want to completely cut out meat from their diet but adding more plant food instead. For example, you can be veggie all week and when the weekend comes you allow to have fish, meat or chicken (which is what my husband and I have done). However, you can choose to have meat once a month, once every two weeks. It depends on what you are really trying to achieve. 

Before I get into the health benefits of eating meat occasionally, your diet should not be one where you continue to eat processed food with lots of added sugar and salt. The benefits wont be so great and if you are planning to lose weight being a flexi that won’t be beneficial either for you. 

We have all heard of the research that showed people who ate red meat are more likely to die from a heart attack, stroke or diabetes. Why? Red meats (pork, lamb and beef) are high in saturated fat. Trans fats and saturated fats can increase your cholesterol and make heart disease worse. 

Having a diet where you eat meat (pork, beef, lamb) everyday that is processed, full of fat, with lots of carbs, high fat dairy food (cream, cheese, butter, margarine, lard), palm oil, processed snack foods (crackers, biscuits), fried food. Basically, everything that tastes good lol.

You are supposed to replace saturated fats with mono/poly unsaturated fats which is found in oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring, trout and nuts (nut butter). Meatless meals consist of legumes, vegetables, wholegrains, and fruits, nuts. 

Mini Chemistry lesson (back2school): Looking at the chemical structure of saturated fat, it is fully hydrogenated. On every carbon atom there is a hydrogen atom. The molecule is very stable and hard to break up. In our bodies it is more likely to stick to cholesterol as it is difficult to break down because of its long chemical chain of single binding carbon (-C-C-C-C). Enzymes in our body are able to break down these chains in our bodies however, because of the chemical structure of saturated fats binding differently with our body they are harder to break down. 

The difference of unsaturated fatty acid is that there is one double bond (=) between two carbons (C=C) this reduces the amount of hydrogen atom bound to a carbon atom. So it is not as filled with hydrogen atoms as a saturated chain. They have kinks in the chain because of the double bond making it easier to break the molecules up for our bodies to digest. 

So over time, saturated fats clog our arteries which leads to a poor oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. If you think about it like this, there is limited room for oxygen to flow through our arteries hence the sleepy/lazy/can’t move-won’t move of the sofa/I need a fizzy drink type of feeling to burp this meal off. Eventually, this will lead to a stroke or heart attack. 

Back to being flexi: When you reduce your red meat intake to a few times a month, you are helping your body maintain weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure to name a few. 

Positive fact #1: Meatless meals are less expensive, offer a vast variety of health benefits.  

Buying leaner cuts of meat or eating more of oily fish will let your body flow with unsaturated fats which is easier to break down in your body. 

You are also helping the environment. YES, it’s true. The level of deforestation happening right now in the world to be replaced by farms. Not only that, but the amount of water used to water the crops for animals to eat is unbelievably high. I don’t know if you know this, but the earth is running out of water. FACT: 1,799 gallons of water for one cow, OnE cOw! The carbon footprint of the meat industry is the highest. So, reducing your meat intake will help save the world. LITERALLY! 

When it comes to choosing your meat; make sure it’s non-processed, organic from a local farm in your area (they raise animals more humanely, don’t use antibiotics or hormones). As long as its lean cut of meat there will be less saturated fat on the piece of meat. Also, you can give organ meats a try. I will be posting delicious recipes on liver, hooves, testicles, brain….the nutrient content is so high you won’t believe it! AND avoid high heat cooking. 

The benefits of eating meat are; 

  • Great intake of collagen (via bone broth)
  • Improve bone density and strength of our bones
  • Better iron absorption (meat contains heme-iron (20-30%) which our body absorbs better than non-heme iron from plants (5-15%))
  • Naturally rich in proteins, and essential vitamins and minerals (Vitamin B12, B6, Potassium, Zinc, Selenium, Phosphorus Magnesium and more)

What I want to achieve for my family and hopefully for you is a balanced way of living. That we can get the benefits from consuming the right meat every once in a while, and to have a diet that is rich in fibre, omega-3, unsaturated fats etc. The balance is key. For the environment, for our health, our way of living needs a few adjustments to align it back to the way our ancestors lived. Their meat consumption in back in the day was not this high. And they lived a healthy lifestyle with a low rate of people being diagnosed with cancer, heart diseases and diabetes. They consumed a lot of legumes and vegetables. When they ate meat it was for a special occasion only.

Let’s be balanced :).