Syrian Cuisine: Tahini

 

Roasted Beet and Tahini Dip

Roasted Beet and Tahini Dip

 

 

In our most recent series we are having a look at the cuisine from the Middle East, specifically Syria. And one of the first things we notice is that there a few ingredients that pop up quite often, so we should get to know them, how to access them or prepare them and have them handy. Za’atar, preserved lemons, and sesame oil feature prominently in the culinary traditions of Syria, and today we are examining another must-have ingredient; tahini. Continue »



Perennials: Early spring blue

Ajuga in flower

Ajuga (or Bugleweed) is a common groundcover with exquisite blue flowers.

The rejoicing starts when the first perennials start blooming in the garden. And the fact that so many are blue—one of my favourite garden colors—is an added bonus.

Vinca's masses of blue flowers are a welcome sight in spring.

Vinca’s masses of blue flowers are a welcome sight in spring.

One of the first to bloom is vinca, (at left) a dead easy to grow ground cover that grows in shade. Roundabout now it’s completely covered in little blue flowers that bumblebees are happy to see. Be careful, it’s a true ground cover, so don’t plant it where you don’t want it to spread. It does well in the shade, and that’s another plus of vinca.

Another of my favourite spring blue-bloomers is Pulmonaria. It gets its common name lungwort from the circular pattern on its leaves that look a little like a cross section of a lung. The species comes out in flowers that are pink and blue. There’s also a fully blue variety, ‘Blue Ensign’. Bees really love them, and you can’t blame them, it’s their first meal after a long winter sleep. It’s an ideal garden perennial that the bees can feed from early in the season.

Continue »



Syrian Cuisine: Preserved Lemon

 

IMG_0738

 

One of the most indispensible ingredients in Middle-Eastern cuisine is preserved lemon, a must-have for so many dishes like tajines, hummus, labneh, salads, couscous, grilled lamb and stewed chicken, the list goes on and on. So many dishes from Syria and the Levant are improved, enriched and brightened up with this fantastic condiment that once you get used to cooking with them, you’ll want to chop up a little preserved lemon in almost everything you make.
This means you’ll want to have a jar of preserved lemon handy, and lucky for us all, making and keeping preserved lemons is ridiculously quick and easy. Caveat: you have to wait a month before using them, so why not make a batch today and enjoy them in early June and for the rest of the summer! Continue »



Queen Elizabeth Cake

 

IMG_0700

 

It’s Queen Elizabeth II ‘s birthday on April 21. Last September she became the longest reigning British monarch, eclipsing the 63 year reign of her great- great grandmother Queen Victoria. Elizabeth’s coronation was in 1952, so she has been Queen for 64 years. And on Thursday she turns 90! Considering her mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon lived to be a hundred and one, it looks like Liz will be with us for a while. Long live the Queen indeed! Continue »



We Are What We Eat: Iron

 

 

This guy ate well!

This guy ate well!

 

Continuing on in our “We are what we eat” series, today we have a look at one of the more noble and press-hogging elements that we absolutely cannot do without; iron. The name itself conjures images of strength and power, mass and might. Human history even has an Age named after it! By mass, iron is the most common element found on this planet, and the fourth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. It is an essential element for most life on earth, and it is in our bodies, all of us, we are all iron men and women. Of course it’s not like our skeletons are made of cast iron, clunking around. In humans, iron is present throughout our entire bodies, on a molecular level. The amount of iron in our bodies is only 3-4 grams, distributed throughout the body in hemoglobin, tissues, muscles, bone marrow, blood proteins, enzymes, and plasma transport. The greatest portion of iron is in our blood, in hemoglobin. Continue »