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Friday, January 13, 2012

Syrian Cuisine

Syria is definitely for the People who have a 'World Tour' of Ancient Historical Places in their Itineraries & the Ancient City of Aleppo should be a Must Visit on that list!
Located in the Northern Part of Syria, a City like Aleppo is Fascinating not just because it is one of Oldest Cities in the World, but also because of its Varied History. The City’s Location was a Significant Destination for Traders on the Silk Road so as a Result Aleppo became one of the First Cosmopolitan Cities in the World Map
Must Visit the Most Famous Landmark of Syria 5000 Years The Citadel- Islamic Military Architecture Best Views of Old City

In the Present Day, as we enter into one of the Old Street markets of Aleppo, there is still the Old World Charm especially the Spice Market!
Aleppo is considered as ‘The Pearl of the Arab Kitchen’
Damascus is 300 Kilometres South of Aleppo, Modern Cosmopolitan, Fast Food Pattaya Mini Pizza which is a Tomato Sauce Red Pepper Base Pizza with No Cheese
Ready to Cook Packed Vegetables are available almost everywhere especially in the City’s Supermarkets!

Aleppo Region's 7 Spice Mixture called Baharat has equal quantities of Finely Powdered Black Peppercorns, Cinnamon, Cloves, Dry Ginger, Green Cardamon, Green Peppercorns & Nutmeg 
In Arabic, Baharat literally means a blend of select Spices & usually is bought Fresh to be used in most of the Syrian dishes like Salads, Meat, Vegetables & Rice!

Some Essential Ingredients in the Damascus Cuisine are:
1- Baharat or the Aleppo 7 Spice Mixture
2- Roasted Red Pepper Paste- Made with the Aleppo Special Red Peppers which are Simply Roasted, Peeled, Pureed, Fermented without Water. The Paste serves as a Spicy & Salty Common Base for many Dishes
3- Pomegranate Molasses is made with the Paradise of Fruits Pomegranate which is made into a Pomegranate Molasses, Dried, No Sugar Added
Sweet Sour Taste used in everything from Salads Meat Dishes
In the Local Plantation, Whacking Pomegranates produces the best Seeds
Sweet & Semi Sweet for Desserts, Sour best for Salad
Next Seeds are Squeezed for Juice by Pressing with Both Feet 
Cooking involves Simmering for 4 Hours


Damascus Shami Berries
Famous Fatiha made with Olive Oil Zaatar Pizza like Arab Bread also known as Manakish in Arab Countries
Sweets are made from Sheep’s Milk soaked overnight mixed with Semolina & Sugar Syrup spread & filled with Cream & rolled like Swiss Roll



Mezza is one of the Syrian food that may be called the Tapas of the Middle East
Mezza is a generous spread of small dishes, mostly eaten without cutlery, using flat Bread, Lettuce or Vine Leaves to scoop up Dips or to wrap portions of colourful Salads
Many new to the concept of Mezza mistake the generous amounts and endless array of dishes as the meal itself rather than a prelude to even more food! 
Amidst the social bustle and conversations of family and friends, it’s food to be tasted over an hour or two and reflects the culture of hospitality and generosity, where everything to do with food is presented on a large scale

Smokey Baba Ghanoush and Creamy Hummus, both well known in the West, are key elements of a traditional Mezza
Another favourite in Syria is Muhammara, a Spicy Red Bell Pepper & Walnut Dip made with Pomegranate Molasses

Popular Salads include Tabouleh (the famous Parsley and Burghul Salad often served with Baby Lettuce leaves to eat it with)

Fattoush that includes Toasted or Fried pieces of Bread with a crunchy mix of Fresh Cucumber, Radish, Tomato, Herbs; and Fateh, a Salad with Chickpeas, Yoghurt, Tahini and Garlic

Other finger foods are Golden baked Pastries filled with minced Meat and spices called Sambusic or Spinach and baked Lamb Pies called Sfeeha


Hot Pepper Dip (Muhammara) & Baba Ghanoush Aleppan Style:
Serves 2
Ingredients:
Big Purple Striped Aubegine/Brinjal - 2
Red Pepper Paste
Pomegranate Molasses
Paprika- 1 Tsp.
Cumin Powder- 1 Tsp.
Olive Oil- 
Garlic Olive Oil-
Puree-

Lemon Juice-
Tahina-
Sesame Paste-
Parsley-
Red Pepper-
Green Pepper-
Walnuts- a Handful, Roughly Chopped

Method:
Make Piercing in the Brinjal throughout to Assist in Steaming
Keep them to Grilll on Coals so that the Brinjal is Tender along with the Charred, Smokey Flavor
When Done, Keep Aside to Cool
Remove the Charred Skin & Chop into Bite Size Pieces
Put in a Large Mixing Bowl
Add Parsley, Red Pepper, Green Pepper,
Top it with Walnuts & Molasses
Meanwhile, the Red Pepper Paste is used as a Base with Pomegranate Molasses
Add Paprika, Cumin Powder, Olive Oil, Bread Crumbs
Add Garlic Olive Oil, Puree, Lemon Juice, Tahina Sesame Paste

Tips:
Use a Non Sugary Bitter Bread Stick & Freshly Crumble the Bread into a Fine Powder

One of the Famous Breakfast Dishes of Syria
Broad Beans Stew (Ful bi Laban) ‘Ful’ is Arabic for Fava/ Broad Beans

Ful Mudamas:
a Vegetarian Warm Broad Bean Salad Dish Served as a Breakfast or a Nice Supper
with Pulses being a Cheap Alternative to Meat
Traditionally Prepared with Tahina, Cumin, Garlic, Chilli, Olive Oil, Lemon Juice &
Served with a Variety of Warm FlatBread, Carrot & Slices & Some Pickles  
Fresh Pomegranate Juice is Less Acidic so can be used instead of Lemon Juice to top the Dish

French Desserts like Bava Aron Eclair Shokola Opera Ganace, Bechamel, Sauce Blanche, Souffle, Quiche & a fusion of Croissant with Cheese are popular as well

Stuffed Courgettes with Rice:
Fill the Courgettes with stuffing
Put the Courgettes open mouth up in the Tomato Gravy, Cover & Cook till the Knife comes out clean

Burghul (a type of cracked wheat)
Other popular dishes are based on Mediterranean vegetables such as zucchini and eggplant hollowed out and stuffed with meat and rice

The Syrian palate prizes the salty, tangy and sour flavours. Apart from the generous use of salt in cooking, cheeses like labneh, shankleesh and jibne baida satisfy some of the salty cravings. Lemon juice is common in all Mediterranean cooking but other key ingredients include Sumac (a deep red spice that adds a lemony taste to salads) & the slightly tangy fresh herb Baqli/Purslane (in English)

One of the distinctive ingredients found in Syria is Freekeh (young wheat that has been harvested and roasted to add a smoky flavour) It has a chewy texture like brown rice and is delicious served with meat or poultry
Syria also boasts truffles which are found in the desert and have a wonderful earthy flavour and aroma, though nowhere near as strong as those found in France.

Many Syrian expatriates miss the variety of food available on the streets of Damascus especially the sweets, filled with nuts, clotted cream called Ashta, sugar syrup and hints of rosewater and orange blossom water
Damascus Rose which features baked filo pastry and filled with ashta, then drizzled with syrup and crushed nuts, is just one of the sweet delights


Restaurant Style Food in Damascus
The Meal starts with a range of Mezze Dishes
Salad with Cheese from the Mountains that takes about 45 days to prepare
Beetroot Dish is from Damascus as old as 2000 years, is pureed mixed with Tahina Yoghurt
Raw Meat Fresh Cumin Chilli Mint Onion Pepper

Appetizers
Many varieties of Kibbeh
Ground Meat & Burgul filling

Classic Middle Eastern Dessert Harissa:
Dry Roast Semolina till golden add baking powder & toss to keep it from burning
Make Sweet Syrup with Water Sugar Lemon Juice Vanilla
Mix the Semolina with Syrup & Mix Well
Add Ghee now
Layer the Mixture in a Tray with butter paper
Let it chill in Fridge for 30 Minutes
Invert it cut in pieces & Garnish with Pistachios

Bakdash Ice Cream Parlour :
People from Jordan & other Arab Countries also come to enjoy the Local Ice Cream here
One must try the Favourite Flavour ‘Circle of Wonder’



Kibbeh bil Sanieh:
For Filling:
Onions Mince Meat
Heat Butter 1 Tbsp. Pine Nuts mixture added to the Filling & it is set aside to cool

For Kibbeh Mix:
Fine Bulgur Wheat soaked overnight & Drained
Add Salt, Baharat Spice Mix Onion Grated

Lean Minced Meat Lamb/Beef Cracked Black Pepper
Mash with hands into a smooth dough
layer of bulgur dough on a wide Baking Pan
add the Filling & Cover with Bulgur Dough smoothed as Top Cover
Drizzle Olive Oil cooks in Moderate oven for 25 Minutes
Serve with Yoghurt!


Sweets especially from Damasucs are made in huge batches & skills passed down through Generations like Ashta (Clotted Cream), Lady's Arms (Znoud al Slit made with Fried Filo with Ashta Filling), famous Damascus Rose (layer of Filo Pastry sandwich with Ashta Filling), Karabij Halab (Biscuit layer at bottom with layer of thick Marsh mellow Cream Topping Pistachio topping), World Famous Baklava!!


Baklava:
Layer Filo Pastry in a Baking Tin
Fill with the stuffing of Mixed Nuts ()
cut into Diamond shaped pieces carefully so that the top layer doesn't come off
Bake at 175-180 Degrees C for about 55 Minutes

Boil Sugar, Water, Lemon Juice, Orange Blossom & Rose Water
Pour the Hot Syrup over the Warm Baklava
Let it cool & then cut into Diamond shaped pieces





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