makdous and filling

makdous recipe

If I was told I had to ditch my uni job and enter full time work immediately, and that I could have any job I wanted, I’d probably choose a food magazine job – like a test kitchen chef or stylist (and I’ll attempt to fill in the photographer’s job when they’re on sick leave, too 😉 ) I mean it’s about time one of our food mags brought an authentic middle-eastern blogger into their kitchen to make things not often made… Oh when will we be recognised?! 😉

makdous jar

huh? what’s makdous? click the pic above find out! 🙂

Well… I mention this as I’ve been itching to try out a couple of things: making magdous & making a Syrian breakfast spread to photograph. Since I haven’t picked up my camera properly for many months now, I thought to combine the two opportunities and give my hand a go at styling and photographing – as though I was doing it for delicious. or Gourmet Traveller.

a typical syrian breakfast spread

…a typical Syrian breakfast spread… and that magazine shot I was aiming for 😉

So the story begins back in June of 2011 when my grandma who’d come all the way from Syria took me through the steps of making magdous. I captured her step by step technique and posted it here, and since then I’ve had so many messages & comments from people who’ve given it a go. (If this is your first time, I’d use that post for reference as my post below is more of a reflection of how I went making them alone.)

Naturally, I felt like it was time I gave it a go myself – to see if I could practice what I preached and if my grandma’s recipe really was as amazing as I’d made it out to be. And of course, over 4 years on, I’d developed a gnarling craving myself.

So, without further ado, here’s how I went solo…

makdous and filling

…makdous & its filling spiced with paprika, drizzled with olive oil & served as a dip with pita bread…

Yields: 12

Ingredients:

12 small eggplants

2 large red capsicums (bell peppers)

100g walnuts

2 -3 cloves garlic

~ 3/4 cup salt

~ 800mL olive oil

Method:

Begin by lining a saucepan with a tea towel or cotton cloth.

Pop your eggplants into the saucepan and wrap the cloth around them.

eggplants in saucepan

Add just enough water to immerse them – do not overfill as water may spill out while cooking.

Add a plate/small lid on top of the eggplants, enough to cover the entire pot. Bring the water to a boil then add a weight (mine was a smaller saucepan with filled with water; a heavy marble mortar could do the trick, too).

steps 2 and 3

Cook on medium heat for about 40 minutes, or until all eggplants are soft. (Personal note: some of my eggplants were still hard at 30 minutes, so I returned the saucepan for another 10. During cooking, you should keep a close eye on the saucepan as the water level will most likely rise (softer eggplants, more of your weight in the water = water displacement!) You may need to scoop some out and keep your weight in check to make sure it doesn’t move/fall.)

Once ready, drain from the water and leave eggplants aside to cool.

cooked eggplants

Once cooled, remove the green leaves from the tops of the eggplants.

Prepare a plate of salt for dipping. Beside it, line a sieve with a tea towel/cotton material.

making makdous

When the eggplants have cooled, cut a small slit along the centre (vertically).

Push through your index finger and rip any seeds/tissue (inner flesh) so as to make space for the stuffing to come later.

Dip your finger in the salt and spread along the slit (inside and out).

Dip the top of the eggplant in the salt and place it in the lined sieve.

Repeat this for all the eggplants. Be generous to avoid spoiling your eggplants!

Fold over corners of the tea towel/cloth in to cover the eggplants. Place the sieve on top of a plate. Place another plate on top of the eggplants (to act as a platform), and place a heavy weight on top.

draining the eggplants with weights

Here you’ve created a pressurised draining method to get all the water out of the eggplants.

Leave aside for at least 3 hours. You can leave these overnight so long they stay away from direct sunlight and the fridge! (Personal note: I didn’t stuff mine until 3 days later, so after the first night I put them in the fridge).

In the meantime, prepare the stuffing by adding chunks of a red capsicum into a food processor and lightly pulse with garlic cloves until finely chopped but not pasty/creamy.

Drain the excess water from the capsicum through a fine sieve pressing down with a spoon, or drain with cloth, you really want it as dry can be. Use your hands & paper towels to squeeze out any excess water.

eggplant stuffing

Place your filling in a bowl. Add finely diced walnuts and a pinch of salt. Mix, cover and set aside to allow the garlic to infuse.

making makdous steps 10-14

Remove the weight and check on your eggplants – now they should be ready to stuff.

Find the slit but be careful not to rip it any bigger than what it is already.

Stuff eggplants, using your finger to push the stuffing out of the way (left and right) so as to be able to fit in more. It should reach just about the size it was originally! Repeat until finished.

(Personal note: The original recipe calls for the same sieve to be lined with a dry tea towel. Once stuffed, place eggplants inside, wrap, add weights, and let drain for another 2-3 hours max before transferring to a jar. Now I forgot to pressurise my eggplants a final time, but they worked out anyway. Phew.)

Add eggplants into a jar that will cosily accommodate them. You want to stack the eggplants so they’re squashed up a little against each other and not swimming solo in oil.

Once filled, add olive oil to the jar and place in a cool, dark corner in the pantry without closing its lid. In fact, put the lid on the jar upside down!

(Personal note: back in 2011 grandma told me a reaction will take place which will cause the oil to spill over if the lid is on tightly. I managed to ignore her advise and close the lid of the jar. And sure enough within 2 days I had a pool of oil all over my pantry shelf. Put your jar in a bowl first, and check up on your magdous daily. The spill also could have happened to me because I didn’t give the eggplants that final pressurised drain.)

Now relax for a week and let the flavours infuse. Then pick up a bag of Lebanese bread as magdous are “mashed open” with it and eaten with the bread and a hot cuppa tea.

mashing open a makdous

…mashing open and enjoying a makdous…

No waste: once empty, use the oil to add an incredible tangy flavour to your other dishes when cooking. Spice left over filling with paprika, drizzle with oil and serve as a dip with pita bread.

Allergy? My partner can’t have walnuts (or pecans), so I split the stuffing and used almonds instead for his. I infused them in a separate container. If you’re allergic to walnuts but can have pecans, they’re the next best thing to use.

So… will you be brave and give these cured eggplants a go?

 

peach, raspberry & banana smoothie

The summer’s heat is really getting to us and the poor A/C is barely keeping up. We’re burning up in the heat, but I think we really need to install some insulation to save burning our pockets on the electricity bill, too! 😉

In light of summer, though, I thought I’d share with you a delicious summer smoothie. I’m so obsessed with smoothies, I could have them all year round, not just in summer!

 

This smoothie is packed with deliciously moist peach, plump raspberries and sweet banana. I add vanilla ice-cream to give it a smooth, creamy texture, but low fat yoghurt would work as a great substitute for the weight-conscious.

 

Before I move on to the recipe, I want to share with you an eBook. Oh no, it’s not my own one – not yet anyway! I was browsing the cookbooks here when I came across Modernist Cuisine (you can buy it through Inkling). I really loved this one because it’s jam-packed with droolworthy recipes and imagery. eBooks have actually become a big thing on my list of things I love because they’re so nice to flick through and many of them are interactive as well. Perhaps it’s coming from a girl who spent all her uni life behind a monitor, but as much as I love my printed cookbooks, I can’t help but stop at the e- ones. What do you like better? e-s or prints? 🙂

 

peach, raspberry & banana smoothie

 

Serves: about 2 tall glasses

Ingredients:

1 ripe banana

1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1 ripe yellow peach, skin on (adds a delicious texture and flavour)

1 cup skim milk (full cream, lite, do as you please)

3 – 4 heaped scoops of ice-cream (might add up to about a cup even!)

 

Method:

Place roughly chopped banana and half the milk into a blender and blend until smooth. This is a perfect little trick to make sure you don’t have any lumps of banana in your drink.

Add in remaining ingredients and blend lightly until smooth (don’t over-blend!)

Pour into glasses and serve with ice if desired, most importantly, cool and freshen up in the summer heat!

 

 

i heart cinnamon rolls

I really do heart them. So I made some in mini heart-shaped pans I bought from eBay (I bought six small ones).

The story goes: I saw MJs heart shaped chocolate cups she had bought from the shops and wanted to recreate these at home. I did for a chocolate mousse but one use for things as adorable as these is a waste. When I had some left over cinnamon rolls, I thought I’d make individual servings using my heart pans – and they turned out so adorable.

hearty cinnamon rolls

For those who celebrate Mother’s day, you could perhaps try doing this (just get your order in time if you don’t have any 😉 ). I’m a huge fan of cinnamon – so to give you any review on this recipe would be very biased. I probably also upped the amount of cinnamon in the recipe (but the original is below) and I added a very small pinch to the actual dough (because I can eat the stuff in teaspoons 😛 ).

 

With Autumn in full swing these buns are perfect served warm for breakkie – perhaps with a hot cuppa, too 🙂

hearty cinnamon rolls

 

Yields: ~21 rolls

Ingredients:

dough

4 cups plain flour

1/2 cup sugar

3 tsps instant dry yeast

1/3 cup melted butter

3/4 cup milk, warmed

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

filling

1/4 cup butter (can use upto 1/3)

1 cup brown sugar, fairly packed

3 tbs ground cinnamon

icing

1/2 pack Philly cream cheese

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted (pure icing sugar, icing mixture’s worked fine with me before)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract/essence

Method:

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and gradually add wet ingredients to form a soft, somewhat sticky dough.

Leave in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.

Meanwhile prepare the filling by beating the butter until creamy. Add in the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix until well combined.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius.

Punch and roll until about half a centimetre thick – keeping sure the bench is well floured and the dough is not sticking to it.

Spread cinnamon mixture over the dough and roll up lengthwise.

Cut into 2cm pieces, cleaning your knife as you go so it doesn’t stick.

Place rolls into pans and leave for another 1/2 hour to rise (I skipped this step because I wanted to eat them already and it turned out fine).

Bake rolls for 10-15 minutes until golden brown (and slightly browning at the edges).

Meanwhile make the icing by beating together with an electric mixer until smooth (gradually adding in the sugar).

Drizzle frosting when rolls are warm, and serve!

 

 

smoked salmon scrambled eggs

smoked salmon scrambled eggs

Today I thought I’ll do a continuation from the previous recipe… I want to share with you a quick and healthy breakfast (or brunch) I recently decided to try after discovering something similar to it. I’m a lover of smoked salmon (took me a while), and like the occasional scrambled egg.. so I found this recipe to be a winner for me, especially when I’m in a hurry and looking for something nutritious and filling – something packed with protein.

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

2-3 eggs (your serving preference)

3 tbs smoked salmon slices, chopped

1 La Vache qui rit portion, or 1 tbs of your favourite cream cheese

a dash of salt, pepper and oregano

 

Method:

Whisk the eggs and add the spices.

Place a non-stick pan on high heat and melt butter (I like to use oil instead).

Add the egg and cream cheese into the pan and stir through until the cheese melts, reducing the heat to medium-low.

Add in the smoked salmon pieces and stir through for a few seconds, until the salmon turns pink.

Remove from the heat and serve with pita bread, or baguette slices.

Devour!

perfect ‘pita’ pockets

Now that I’ve delved deep into uni, I thought I’d share with you a quick and healthy recipe I love to make… especially that I’m pretty much always short on time… It’s going to be one of my big and bold claims, that I invented this, because I’ve never before seen it anywhere… not in Google searches, on your blogs, or in recipe books! Let me know if you have, though, so I can pass on the title to its rightful owner 🙂

What I love most about this recipe is that it’s versatile, quick, and cuts down on the carbs (by doubling the amount of fresh veggies) when compared to the typical sandwich. I don’t know how you feel about the average sandwich, but I can’t seem to get it through my mind that 2 slices of bread, and some filling is enough for a quick lunch… especially coming from a Middle Eastern background, where lunch is rice, meat and a whole lot more. Doing my sandwiches this way, means I get twice as many, but only with the same 2 slices of bread…. let me know what you think of this way of making sandwiches 🙂 And remember to use what ever filling you fancy!

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

1 hard boiled egg

2 tbs mayonnaise

5 – 6 small iceburg lettuce leaves

1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced (8 slices)

2 slices white or wholemeal bread – not too thinly or thickly sliced

 

Method:

Toast the slices of bread until golden. If you toast them too much, they won’t open nicely.

Meanwhile, mash the hard boiled egg with a fork until it resembles course crumbs.

Rinse the lettuce leaves and roughly dice.

Cut the toasted slices of bread in half (I photographed this recipe so twice, so in the first few pics, I cut them as triangles, but the final images are when I cut them as rectangles).

Run a sharp serrated knife through the bread to make a pocket. Make sure you do the edges (near the crusts) and to shake out any crumbs to make more room for fillings!

Spread 1/2 tbs of good quality mayonnaise inside each pocket.

Add in a quarter of the mashed egg to each pocket.

Evenly fill each pocket with the lettuce and cucumber slices.

Serve fresh while the bread’s still crispy. I guess you could leave the filling out until it’s lunch time… what ever you do, please remember me while you..

Devour!

...just like this...

 

fancy fataayer bil jibneh

Ehm…

I-L-O-V-E-F-A-T-A-A-Y-E-R!

If it helps to read it like this, then: I LOVE FATAAYER! I can’t explain to you how much I love this fat-full, carb-full, little delight. Back home in Syria, on the days you feel like it, you wake up, wash up, wear your clothes and head down to the “bakery” and order x-amount of pieces of “fataayer”. The whole ritual is so appeasing; the crispy fresh air and the “exercise” you get completely remove any guilty conscious feelings you may have about eating haloumi cheese and white dough first thing in the morning, with a huge cuppa tea and three sugars (if not four, that is).

I must say, Arabs sure have good taste. Here Down Under, I’ve tried making this little pastry a few times, with every attempt bringing me closer to the ultimate fataayer “pie”. By ultimate, I must admit, I mean replica to the ones you get from the bakeries. And this might sound a bit silly, but why I’m stressing about it so much is because bakeries in Syria don’t do these pies in ovens, the do them in open fire ovens (like oo-la-la).

Below, so far, is the best recipe I’ve made. It replicates the original eye-shaped pies you get, and tastes almost like them. Like 90% almost. Only these ones that I’ve made are a mini version of the palm-sized pies you get. Perfect for hors d’Oeuvres parties.

Yields: 20

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/3 cup + 1/8 cup warm water

1/8 cup plain yoghurt

1/8 tsp instant dry yeast

2 tbs olive oil

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

10 sprigs parsley, chopped

1 3/4 cup finely grated haloumi cheese

 

Method:

Place the cheese and parsley into a bowl and mix to combine.

Add flour, yoghurt, water, oil, sugar, salt and yeast into another bowl and knead for a minimum of 5 minutes to form a pliable dough.

Set aside to rise for 40 minutes.

Lightly grease two baking trays and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Break the dough into golf-sized pieces and roll into thin oblongs.

Place a levelled tablespoon of the haloumi cheese along the centre of oblong.

Fold over the long sides and pinch the two ends to form an eye shape.

Press down firmly (on the whole pie) with the palm of your hand, then transfer onto a baking tray.

Repeat this until the dough and mixture is finished.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges become golden.

Set aside to cool slightly before serving.

Devour!

ebullient breakkie egg

Serves: 1 (or 2)

Ingredients:

2 hard boiled eggs (they must be freshly cooked and hot)

10 sprigs parsley

1 small onion (use red onion if you can’t withstand the tanginess)

salt, pepper, paprika, baharat or your favourite spices to taste

 

Method:

Peel the eggs and mash roughly with a fork.

Finely dice the parsley and onion and mix together.

Add the parsley and onion to the egg and top with spices.

Mix in well and serve for breakfast with a toast or pita bread.

Delicious when eaten with fresh mint leaves and sipped tea.

Devour!

divine double choc muffins

So you may have seen my other divine double choc muffin recipe, the one I made as per a recipe request.

Yes, that one is really yummy… but my gosh, this one is really good, too!

I want to thank Steph yet again for her chocoholic-ness and amazing recipes. I’m glad she’s doing all the hard work for me! 🙂

I just thought I should let you know, on a different note, about my vis-comm subject. Remember the “photos of a cookbook” whiteboard project, well, this was the ‘work in progress’ video I had to submit. I was so stuck for music so I just used a bit that I found years ago, and loved. If you could suggest one for my final portfolio video, then I’d be very happy!

Just a note, I cropped off the title slide, so the music is a bit out of tune in the beginning! 🙂 And please disregard that really dark photo, I accidentally turned down the opacity and didn’t know about it!

And now, for the double choc muffin recipe, adapted from Steph’s awesome blog….

Yields: 12

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup chocolate chips

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used the powder)

1 teaspoon espresso powder or  instant coffee

1/2 teaspoon salt

I love it how the choc-chips don’t sink to the bottom!

Method:

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius (375 F).

Line a muffin tray with paper cups (prep for 12 muffins).

Lightly spray the paper cups, and set aside.

In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Whisk together until well combined.

Here’s the checklist: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla extract, instant coffee, salt.

Next, in another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: eggs, buttermilk, butter, and oil.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients into it.

Use a (rubber) spatula to combine the ingredients together. Don’t overmix, but be sure to get all the dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl!

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. The cups will be very full.

Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean: don’t confuse uncooked batter with melty chocolate chips, though! The batter will be darker than the chips.

When completely cooked, transfer the muffin tray to a cooling rack and leave for 5 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the tray and leave to cool completely.

Serve with a cuppa for breakfast, lunch, or tea!

Devour!

Why would you buy a coffee machine if you could make coffee this good at home?!

convivial chocolate cupcakes

I can’t believe this recipe! It’s like the cupcake recipe I was after! But that’s not to say it will come further than the next muffin recipe I plan to make…

Why put a candle there? These cupcakes will fill the house with a divine scent of cocoa

What I love about this one, is that it’s so soft and airy, and it’s not overly sweet. In fact, there’s this very slight bitterness in it from the cocoa powder, but I LOVE that… especially when eaten with something sweet, like cookies and cream ice cream… 🙂 or strawberries… or more chocolate 😉

Excuse the messy presentation, but I was in a hurry to eat it 😉

This is definitely my type of recipe. Where you don’t sift the flour, and you chuck everything together in a bowl then mix 🙂 Too easy! Also just a note for cake lovers, the original method is to be a cake cooked for 30-40 minutes, I believe.

So… From where I first saw this recipe, over at Stephanie’s amazing blog, the cupcakes have lots of cream on top, and I’m assuming that’s what helps balance the bitterness. No one here fancies cream all that much, so I dusted most of the cupcakes with icing sugar.

Take these along to a picnic and your friends will love you for good

Steph, I think your stats must have shot up yesterday. I had the iPod  between my fingers and kept flicking through back and forth between your chocolatey recipes!

I’ve bought some buttermilk to make the other muffin recipe you’ve recently put up, so keep an eye out for that one. Until then, enjoy this one, I promise you it won’t fail you. Even Steph promises that, too, I’m sure… Right?

1, 2, 3, all for me!

Yields: ~ 30 to 35 (I think I made 33, I can’t remember, they disappeared within minutes)

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups plain flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used rice bran oil)

1 cup boiling water

You can’t hide from me…..

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 F).

Add the first 7 (dry) ingredients into a bowl and mix through.

Next, add the eggs, milk and oil, and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for a couple of minutes.

Mix in the cup of boiling water (I was scared, so here’s some reassurance: the batter will be thin).

Line a tray with paper cups, and lightly spray them.

Fill each cup with the batter, until about 2/3 full.

Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes.

You know the toothpick/knife/skewer method (if it’s clean, they’re done), or the bouncy method (when lightly touched, they spring back when cooked).

I had 2 trays in at the same time, and the one on top finished before the one on the bottom, which meant the bottom one was in there for some 30 minutes.

You can brush the tops with cream when they’re warm as suggested by Steph, but I didn’t do this. I dusted most of them with icing sugar once they had cooled.

The ones I hid in my secret stash of goodies, came out the next day moist and extra delicious (I didn’t have any sugar on them, though).

Serve with your favourite cuppa, ice cream, or just dig into with a load of frosting on top.

Devour!

radiant roti jala

When I first heard about this very gorgeous dish, I instantly wanted to make it. It’s SO easy!

But of course, I had to wait for the mail man to deliver my roti jala mould first….

So when I saw this:

And found this in it:

I was really glad. Until I found out that my mould doesn’t actually work…unless you put water in it.

So I set off with a metal skewer making the holes at the bottom larger. Until I scraped the 6 layers of skin I had near my thumb’s knuckle…glad I left 1 layer on. It really hurts still, though. I know I’ve got these genes from dad…he’s always improvising…and so am I.. but it rarely works out for me (unless it has to do with cooking, of course).

Still, after hurting myself, I couldn’t finish all the holes…so my roti jala mould didn’t work with me. Instead, I cut a tiny, tiny hole into a corner of a disposable piping bag, and made these rotis. But I’ve still got the pics and some tips on how to use a roti jala mould (if yours ends up working).

Apparently these rotis are eaten for breakfast in places like Malaysia…whereas in other countires, they are eaten with savoury food, like a curry for dinner. It’s really up to you on how you choose to eat them, but please don’t do this:

Yep, she’s that chocoholic I call Um Sirkees.

I hope you make this recipe and enjoy making it as much as I did.

I plan on doing it again really soon because everybody really loved it. And I’m sure that you, too, will love it just as much!

Yields: 20-25

Ingredients:

2 cups plain flour

1/2 can evaporated milk (about 197g from a 395g tin)

1 1/2 cup water

1 egg

pinch of salt (I used Masras curry powder instead)

yellow food colouring – optional

 

Method:

Sift the flour into a bowl – important step so you don’t get lumps in the mixture!

Add the salt/curry powder.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and evaporated milk until well combined.

Gradually add the flour to the egg and milk, whisking swiftly.

Add the water gradually to make it nice and runny.

Leave the mixture to rest for 30 minutes.

Heat up a large pan, lightly spray it if need be.

Place your roti jala mould in a little bowl or cup and fill it up half way.

When the pan is hot, bring the bowl and mould close to it.

Quickly place the mould over the pan and draw a lacy pattern with it.

As noted above: you can use a disposable piping bag with a very small opening – just don’t squeeze it tightly like you would when piping cream

Do this in a second pan if you have one – saves you lots of time.

Keep the stove on medium heat and leave to cook for 30 or so seconds.

Use a spatula to lift one side of the roti jala when the top side begins to dry up.

Flip it if you want to, or serve it up if you like it soft and moist.

Repeat this process until all your batter is finished.

But remember to get creative and express your inner artistic flare on the pan.

Serve with breakfast lunch or tea.

I would have loved these with a light drizzle of evaporated milk and honey.

Devour!