For the love of Kubbah!!! and you will love it


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I was looking to make this dish for a while and i decided that I would do mine a little different sand throw some stuffed veggies in with it. Why not right? So I made bulgar wheat kubbah and stuffed zucchini simmered in a garlic yogurt sauce and baked in the oven…..my husband then called it “Delicious” which is hugeeeeeeee only because he rarely if ever uses that word for anything, at all. I was cheesy all night and floating. I love to surprise him. I think some times I try to hard, but it’s ok. I will get over it, maybe. lol. Anyways, so back to this dish…it has flavor and lots of it. We grow our vegetables ourselves so it makes things taste that much better. I highly recommend any serious cooker to do so…of course, non serious cookers too…heck, anyone!! LOL…ok so here are the ingredients and the way to do it.

FILLING:

2 lbs lean ground beef

1 tbsp oil

2 medium onions finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp dried lemon

1/4 c fresh parsley

1/2 c pine nuts

I start this first by sauteing the onions until lightly golden and then adding everything else into the pot as well and turning it on low to let it cook all together. I know, some people are like “NOOOO” but yes, this is my way. I am a multitasker  so if I can do it, I will. While this is slow cooking on medium low, make sure you stir and bread up the meat really good.

Core out your zucchini and lightly oil the insides and outsides and set aside because you will lightly fry them before baking

BULGAR DOUGH:

2 cups of bulgar to about 1 cup of flour or farinah or even rice flour can be used….the bulgar should have been pre-soaked because it needs to be puffed up…so just soak it before hand. It needs about 45 mins to be done soaking.

After the bulgar is soaked, if there is a lot of water left in the bulgar, dump some of it out, you want to keep enough to make the dough…you can always add more water. I also add a couple tsps of allspice and a teaspoon of salt for the dough. Mix it all together and it should be kind of sticky but not too sticky. test it by rolling some into a ball and flattening it, if it starts to break apart, you need to add more flour.

Start stuffing!!!! Make a ball with your perfect dough and flatten it in your hands, scoop a desired amount of filling into the middle of the flattened ball and then pulls the sides up and over to reform a ball and enclose that delicious filling mixture.  Make sure it is sealed well and flatten a little to make somewhat of a disk. Lightly fry them as well.

You can now lightly fry the zucchini and stuff away!!!

Let all of that cool a bit before handling again, and make your yogurt sauce.

SAUCE:

2 c. yogurt

2 tbsps corn starch

1 c water

2 tsp crushed minced garlic

you can double this or whatever you feel is necessary for your dish

mix together very well

PUT IT TOGETHER!!

line your baking dish and start adding kubbah and veggies ….when finished, pour yogurt sauce over all of it and baked for about 40 mins at 350F…..

I served ours with saffron rice, but you do not need to

ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hummus…


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I love this, with almost everything. You can eat it alone, dip meats or bread in it..whatever you want to do with it, you can.  Add to the recipe flavors that you want whether it be to spice it up or give it a spin. The more tahini sauce, for me, the better. I love it. Here is a simple recipe to do it yourself , the canned hummus, or the hummus pre-made is just not as good.

1 clove garlic

1 (19 ounce) can garbanzo beans, half the liquid reserved

4 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons tahini

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

zataar and sumac, if you like, for garnish

In a blender, chop the garlic. Pour garbanzo beans into blender, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish. Place lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic and salt in blender. Blend until creamy and well mixed.

Transfer the mixture to a medium serving bowl. Sprinkle with zataar, sumac  and pour olive oil over the top. Garnish with reserved garbanzo beans.

Serve it with anything!! Warm flat bread is the best.

Znoud al-Sit (lady’s upper arm) which are cream filled pastry rolls


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Well, let me just say that his was my first time ever making or even eating these, but it will not be my last, insha Allah. Making them took time, of course…but these are amazing. They are a pastry type dough with a custard type, rose water flavored cream filling drenched in a sweet syrup…topped with coconut or ground nuts, even chocolate I suppose. They are perfect for anything. You can change the flavor of the custard too I am sure….but being my first time trying the recipe I decided to do as the recipe said. I am happy with my results. Highly recommend trying it.

the dough:

2 c flour

1tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 eggs beaten

2/3 c water

2 tbsp hot oil

flour for work surface and oil for frying as well

 

to make this dough, combine the flour and salt then stir in the eggs and water to make a medium soft dough…knead lightly

then drizzle the hot oil over the dough and knead lightly again and set aside for 10 mins

divide the dough into 22 walnut sized pieces, depends on preference also

sprinkle the surface with flour and begin rolling out each piece as thin as possible, you want them rectangular to make them into little cigar shapes.

when you fill them, you will roll them a little, tuck in the sides, and finish rolling. similar to grape leaves.

 

the filling

4 heaping tbsps of cornstarch

3 tbsps sugar

2 c whole milk

1 tbsp rosewater….orrrr if you want to change the flavor, use another of your choice

in a small heavy bottom pot, mix cornstarch and flour with sugar slowly stirring in milk until it is completely dissolved

on medium heat, bring to a boil until it becomes thicker but make sure to stir so as not to burn…7-10 mins total cooking time for this.

It should be similar to custard, thicker then pudding. Take it away from the heat and add your choice of flavor and mix it in.

 

syrup

2 cups sugar

1  and 3/4 c water

1/4 c honey

1 tbsp lemon juice

either 2 cardamom pods or 1 tsp rose or orange blossom water

combine all the ingredients in a small pot and let it boil, stirring with a wooden spoon.  set aside when finished

 

so, to put all of this together is easy….take the dough you have rolled and place custard in the middle. Roll them like cigars, tucking on each edge so there will be no leakage, and then finish rolling it until closed.

when you fry them, make sure the seam is facing down.

You can arrange them on a plate and then poor syrup on them or you can dunk them into the syrup like I did….works better for me.

I also garnished them with coconut…although you can garnish them as you like…I know if I put coconut on anything, my husband will eat it. Looool

I loveeeeeeeee this recipe, yes it is time consuming and work…but it is worth it.

Fatti Dejaj-Chicken Fatti (Syrian)


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So this is a new dish for us, never tried it or heard of it before I made it. I stumble upon this recipe and it looked delish…so I made it. My kids were looking at me like I was nuts, my husband was curious too..I am always scared to make a dish that they will not like. I make my husband taste everything I cook. I am paranoid I guess, but it hurts and bothers me when someone in our home eats and does not like it. I need to find ways to improve it….however, this dish was perfect and tasted soooo good. So here is the recipe I used for it. Good luck and happy eating!!!!

1 whole Chicken, roasted* (can also use chicken breast fillets if necessary, but not preferred)
3 pita bread rounds cut into bite size squares, deep fried till golden, set aside on paper towels to drain the oil
2 cups cooked rice (cook rice with chicken stock)
5 cloves garlic
1 clove garlic extra
1 Kg yoghurt
Salt & Black pepper to taste
1 cup toasted nuts (pine nuts, almonds & pistachio)
1 handful finely chopped parsley for garnish

TIP  There are many recipes to roast chicken, for this recipe simply:
Rinse chicken, cleaning the insides, pat dry, rub with lemon and salt. Place on baking dish. Crush 5 cloves of garlic then rub chicken with crushed garlic. Top with a dash of balsamic vinegar, black pepper and all spice to taste. Drizzle with a little olive oil. add 1/2 cup water. Roast in 450 F oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
Baste the chicken with the pan juices every 15 minutes so to stay moist. Add water to the pan if it starts drying out. To know if it is done check the thighs they should run out of juices, and the meat should easily seperate from the bone. Or an instant meat thermometer, should register 165-170F, when inserted in the flesh between the thigh and the body cavity without touching the bone or the bottom of the pan.
Once done set aside and when cool enough to handle seperate the meat from the bones in fairly big pieces. discard the bones and set the meat aside. You can use the pan juices as stock to prepare the rice.

Prepare garlic-yoghurt sauce
Crush 1 clove garlic add to yoghurt with salt & black pepper to taste. Mix well. Set aside, or keep in the fridge, till ready to use.

For serving fatteh it is best to use a deep, clear glass serving platter so your guests can see the layers. To create the layers: Place the fried bread at the bottom of serving dish in 1 even layer. Top with cooked rice in another even layer. Top cooked rice with prepared garlic-yohgurt sauce, then top yoghurt with Chicken pieces, toasted nuts & sprinkle with finely chopped and parsley. Season with a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper.

Serve at room temperature.

TIP   If you have leftover chicken even if not following the same recipe, you can still use it to prepare this dish. If you are pressed for time, this is a great dish to prepare really fast. You can always buy ready roasted chicken at days when you are racing against the clock and use it in preparing this dish.

German Chocolate Cake…just when you thought you were safe


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So, around these parts, we love cake…well not so much me or my husband, but for him, if it has anything coconut, consider it his. Which makes my life easier because if i want him to eat it…coconut on it LOL…so I tried this recipe and decided I love it. I hate boxed cakes because you can actually taste the difference, like…the actual cardboard. Maybe I am weird but my step-dad told me that once and I did not believe him until I did the test. I made 2 cakes, 1 box and 1 home made…bigggg big big difference. So, here is the recipe I used for this cake. Hope you enjoy it as much if not more then we did.

 

4 ounces (115 grams) semi sweet chocolate, chopped

2 1/4 cups (270 grams) cakeflour

3/4 cup (70 grams) unsweetenedcocoa powder(preferably Dutch processed)

1 1/2 teaspoonsbaking powder

1/2 teaspoonbaking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm coffee (or water)

1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk

1 1/4 cups (280 grams) unsaltedbutter, room temperature

2 1/4 cups (450 grams) granulated whitesugar

5 largeeggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons purevanillaextract

Coconut Pecan Frosting:

1 cup (240 ml) pecans

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 cup (240 ml) evaporated milk(can also use light or heavy cream)

3 large (60 grams) egg yolks, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups (150 grams) sweetened or unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Lightly butter and flour (or spray with a nonstick vegetable/flour spray), and line the bottoms of three – 8 x 2 inch deep (20 x 5 cm) round baking pans with parchment or wax paper.

In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In a small bowl, combine the coffee (or water) and buttermilk.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy (this will take about three to five minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine. Then add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated.

Add the coffee/buttermilk mixture and flour mixtures in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until the ingredients are mixed together.

Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30 -35 minutesor until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. (I like to rotate the pans about halfway through baking to ensure even baking.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Butter or lightly spray with a non stick vegetable spray a wire rack before inverting the cakes onto the rack to prevent the cakes from sticking. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

Coconut Pecan Frosting:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from oven, cool, and then chop fairly fine.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, egg yolks, butter, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, and when the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat (about 5 minutes). Stir in the chopped pecans, coconut, and vanilla extract. Let cool until spreadable (about 30-60 minutes).

To Assemble: Place one layer of cake (top facing down), on your serving plate, and cover with one third of the frosting. Place the second layer of cake, onto the first cake layer and frost with another one-third of the frosting. Then add the third cake layer and frost the top of the cake with the remaining frosting (sides of cake are left bare). The finished cake can be stored at room temperature for a 2-3 days or it can be refrigerated.

Serves 14-16 people.

Read more:http://www.joyofbaking.com/GermanChocolateCake.html#ixzz1quF7PpZi

Doulmah-stuffed grape leaves


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Doulmah is something that may be challenging to others, but once you actually do it a few times, it comes easy. You need to prep before you cook or you probably are going to forget something. Lol. With doulmah, in my opinion, it’s about how much time you have to combine the flavors and let it all soak in to each other. I cook doulmah very slow..not too slow, but enough that the flavor is always right on. Sure, I mess up, who doesn’t? Practice makes perfect, well…near perfect anyways. So, here is what you need to embark on your doulmah journey……..Oh..P.S….you can, of course, add or delete things as per your preference like more onion, no meat..and if you decide to go meatless, you can used lentils instead 😉

1 jar of grape leaves

2-3 lbs of doulmah meat (lamb or beef, or mixed and ground up)

1 bunch of parsley

2 med tomatoes

1 med onion

3 tbsp or more, or less noomi basrah-dried lemons crushed

1/4 c or more of dibis-date syrup

salt  to taste

garlic to taste

4 tbsp dill

2 1/2 c basmati rice-washed and soaked

1 c water

So what I do is, I saute my onions with the parsley a little bit just to open up the flavor, you could say. I then throw all the ingredients into a pan and let it all blend together. Cooking it on a medium heat until the meat is fully cooked, because by that time everything has sucked up the juices and flavors from each other and it already smells amazing….I then keep the heat on that temp and add the uncooked/pre washed rice and about a cup of water and let it cook all together until the liquid is gone but the rice is NOT cooked all the way, maybe just a little. Very important so your doulmah is not under cooked or soggy…yuck. Then, let the fun begin!!!! Let it cool a bit and set up a “rolling station” like we do at our home. Drain your leaves and pull them out slowly. *trick* to get them out without tearing them…wiggle them out. So now they are there and you can start looking through them for the biggest best leaves. Lay them shiny side down, or outer leaf down, and add some filling, bring the middle up and drag the filling back with it like making it into a small pocket, then fold the sides over and roll. Looking like small cigars. Layer them in the pot until you have used everything. Sometimes you have leftovers, and since I am not a waster, I freeze everything left over, except the leaves, and use it later. Why not right? Now, it is important to fill the leaves with water just to the top layer of doulmah bot not totally covering it, and use a ceramic bowl or plate that fits into the pot but not hanging out, to hold the doulmah in place so it will not float and press down some then turn it on to a medium heat until you see it boiling and then turn it down some to let it cook slowly, put the lid on it. When the liquid is gone, they are done. We serve ours with yogurt sauce, which is just yogurt mixed with garlic….very yumm!! I hope this helps you make your way to the wonderful land of doulmah!!!

Some history to read while you are sipping your tea


 

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I think one of the absolute coolest parts of Iraq is of course, the marshes. I love how the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers “marry” as my husband says…yet the do not combine. One is salt water and the other is fresh. Truly an amazing miracle from Allah/God. It also amazes me how Iraq Marsh Arabs build those houses that literally float around the marshes the way they do and they love like that!!! I mean yes, there are house boats and yachts….but not there. They are so natural and “earthy” it keeps me in awe when I look at the pictures. Can you imagine that? What if the house floated super far away?? It would terrify me….ahahahaaha! Random thoughts yes, but this is my blog so I am allowed for sure. 

So my in-laws are from the marshes as well, however not “in” the marshes. They have farms, which is very interesting to me because if I or we could live totally off the land, I so would. I really admire his family and everything that they do even with all the technology and “new” ways of life, they are still pretty much old school, so to say. Which is awesome.  So, I wanted to give some of the history of Al-Qurnah, Basrah…….which is exactly where my husband is from. It will not be boring…come and take a journey with me. 

Al-Qurnah, Iraq litterally means “the corner” so it says on wikipedia, and  is a pleasant little place 74 km north west of Basra at the very tip of the point named Shatt El-Arab where the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet; a strategic position that has been the scene of conflicts for centuries. As legends have it, Qurna is the reputed site of the Gardens of Eden. It has been said, it was once a city built by Seleucus Nicator I in honor of his wife Apamea, the general who succeeded Alexander the Great on the latter’s death on the Tigris. From the pictures I have seen, the tree of Adam is still there, and they have built a park around it as well. I can not wait to go and see it. 

The contrast of the lush south of Iraq with the rest of a country which is often too bare can be seen very well, and even better on side-trips up the rivers. Each river has a strongly defined character: the banks of the Euphrates are the more wooded and picturesque, and the Tigris is the busier.

The backwaters, creeks and side channels of both are exceedingly beautiful, and here one can get a glimpse of the fertility that must have belonged to Mesopotamia when it was a network of streams and when the forests abounded.

The region of Basra, the city of Sinbad the Sailorand the starting point of his famous adventurous voyages to the World, is, some would say, the most beautiful part of Iraq, outshining both the Persian miniature scenery of the central Euphrates and the cool, majestic north.

But Basra retains a romantic aura. So does the whole area of the south from Shatt El-Arab (the meeting point of Tigris and Euphrates rivers) up to Amara on the Tigris and Suq Eshiukh on the Euphrates: it is lush, watered, full of trees and gardens and canoes gliding on the mirror-surfaces of calm lagoons. It is an area of countless birds and a variety of animals. You feel that lions, possibly dragons or the Great Roc of A Thousand and One Nights may appear.

Basra is Iraq’s 3rd largest city and main seaport, situated 67 km to the north of the Arabian Gulf and 549 km south east of Baghdad. When you see it today, you will be reminded of the commercial importance it has enjoyed for centuries; endless ships shuttle back and forth on Shatt El-Arab.

Ashar is the heart of the city and the old commercial center; its covered bazaar and mosque mark the end of the creek that links it and the river to Old Basra. Upstream is Margil, the garden suburb fanning out from the forest of cranes at the wharves of the Old Basra port and the railway station; and a little further you cross to the island that faces the Shatt El-Arab Hotel, where Basra’s airport was sited until the 1960s when it was moved to Shuaiba. Here are flowers and palms and that blessed water that is the glory of all Iraq, but particularly of the south

Basra was founded in 637 AD by Utba bin Ghazwan on order from Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab (634-644 AD), as soon as the Sassanian capital at Ctesiphon fell to the Muslim armies. It was made into a military base, and a mosque was built there of mud and reeds. Of that and of the original palace nothing can be seen today. 

Basra looms into history once again with the raising there by Zubeir ibn Al-Awwam and Talha bin Ubaidullah of a force to resist the claim of Ali, the Prophet Mohammad’s cousin, to the Caliphate after the murders of Caliphs Omar and Othman. A battle took place outside Basra to the west and it resulted in the deaths of both Zubeir and Talha. Zubeir was buried on the battle-site and that is why the small town that has grown up there is called Azzubeir to this day.

Today the older parts of Ashar are still attractive. The covered bazaars is full of beautiful old-style houses with balconies leaning over into the narrow streets and beautiful wooden facades in the style of old Arab architecture (called Shanasheel). They have character and are worth wandering through. They are quite extensive; the shops are well-stocked; they smell of spice and herbs and coffee; there is an old-world atmosphere there.

Now, to me, I love the old buildings and the history. I like to search in them, and if they allow me to, when we get to Iraq, Insha Allah, I will!!! History by reading can get boring to me, honestly. But actually walking and touching things that are ancient……that is amazing. I can not wait.