Summer RoundUp #10: Jordan, Leen from {Culeenary}

Date settembre 3, 2010

It seems quite impossible, we have reached the last issue of my Summer RoundUp. It seems yesterday I had my first guest, yesterday the summer was just beginning full of premises and hopes, and now we are stepping into Autumn with the same mood of a warmer Jenuary!  This time, the guest blogger is Leen, a nice and clever girl I met in London for FBC10. She was there to learn as much as possible about foodblogging,  in order to open soon her own foodblog. She has already a very sensitive skill in writing and capturing precious moments with her camera. I hope this could be the first of many successful articles, thank you Leen!

Summer in Jordan, Leen {Culeenary}

Summers in Jordan are balmy and bittersweet. With scorching hot days and breezy nights, the overall climate is pleasant, and only a few places can compete with our fantastic weather. Most people spend their afternoons sipping mint tea in fragrant gardens, strolling around the scenic jasmine and honeysuckle scented streets of old Amman, or smoking the sweet and aromatic hookah pipe.

I associate everything with food, so my definition of a summer in Amman revolves around sun-ripened orchard fruit, outdoor evening barbecues, and delicious summer vegetable mezzes. One summer pastime that all Jordanians share is eating. Whether it’s buying boiled corn from street carts, nibbling roasted watermelon seeds, or savoring freshly peeled prickly pears, Jordanians eat what’s in season, and in summer that means a lot of street food.

This summer, however, is different.  It happened to coincide with Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting where people don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset), and while Ramadan has its own set of culinary traditions that I impatiently await, this year I got to fuse summer and Ramadan together (which is so much more exciting…and appetizing).

I decided that the best way to taste a city –at any point in time– is to walk its streets and see, taste and smell what people are buying to eat. I decided to start my walking journey in the First Circle, one of the older neighborhoods in Amman, and make my way downtown via the myriad antique staircases that lead down to the pulsating heart of Amman. As I journeyed down the steep hill, I passed tiny carpenting workshops, fabric wholesalers, a green grocer and a soap shop tucked away amongst the greenery lining one of the oldest staircases leading down to the city centre. As I walked down, the smells of my city wafted up, infusing my senses. The sweetness of toasted sesame, the tanginess of thyme, the warmth of Arabic bread and the buttery syrupiness of knafeh all hit me at once, making my mouth water.

The streets were bustling; men stood in queues waiting for their wares to be filled with hummus topped with emerald green parsley, and others carried oil-stained paper bags filled with piping hot falafel. As I walked further into the heart of the city, I noticed that almost every other person was carrying clear plastic bags filled with Ramadan juices: aromatic licorice, spicy tamarind and sweet mulberry juice. The vibe was frantic, and they were all making their way home in urgency, afraid of missing the sunset call to prayer, which is when people first break their fast with a short prayer, sweet dates and an ice-cold glass of water. This custom is followed by iftar which is the main meal in Ramadan and varies from one family to the next, but almost always includes the classic fattoush salad, a seasonal favorite, and sweet Atayef to finish off the day’s first meal.

As I ventured deeper into the heart of the city, things were getting more heated, there were a few bakeries that had flat grills set up on the sidewalk, with heat and a sweet floury scent emanating from them. They were grilling Atayef, the Levant’s equivalent of the American pancake that defines the food of Ramadan. The Atayef are sold half-cooked and are taken home to be filled with cheese, walnuts or even coconut, then sealed into semicircles. They are deep fried (or grilled) and topped with orange blossom syrup and served as a sweet ending to the typical day in Ramadan. I bought a kilo of Atayef and made my way home ready to fill them and break my fast, in a non-traditional way.


Fattoush

(Serves 5)

Prep. time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1 large loaf Arabic/ pita bread (or 2 small loaves)
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head, romaine lettuce, roughly chopped into 1-inch slices.
  • 3 tomatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 3 small cucumbers or ¾ English cucumber, cut into thin slices
  • 5-6 small radishes, cut into small pieces
  • 1 handful parsley leaves
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 handful purslane
  • 1 handful rocket
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • ½ tsp dry mint
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C.
  2. Using scissors cut the pita bread into 3cm x 3cm squares.
  3. Place bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and bake for 3-5 minutes or until slightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
  4. Prepare the salad, then place vegetables and greens in a bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients together.
  6. Pour dressing over vegetables then add the bread.
  7. Toss the salad until well mixed and serve immediately.

Atayef

(makes 15)

Cooking time  2 hours

Ingredients

For the batter

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cup warm water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter

For the syrup

(makes 3 cups)

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup orange blossom water
  • 1 lemon, squeezed

For the filling

Cheese filling

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tbs granulated sugar
  • 1tsp orange blossom water (optional)

Walnut filling

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ¼  tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)

Optional:

  • Orange blossom jam and/or pistachios for garnish

Method

For the batter

  1. Place the flour and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Then, in a small bowl, pour the water and add the yeast, dissolving it.
  3. Add the water and yeast mixture to the flour mixture and mix all ingredients very well. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes to ferment.
  4. Once the mixture has fermented, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Make sure to use a thick skillet so as to distribute the heat evenly.
  5. Once hot, grease the skillet with some butter, and using a ladle pour in the batter (about two tablespoons) to make a 10cm atayef.
  6. Cook the batter until small bubbles start to appear on the surface. Once the majority of the surface is covered in bubbles (about 1 minute and a few seconds), remove the atayef from heat and set on a baking sheet. Make sure you do not flip the atayef, it is not supposed to be fully cooked. The atayef should be uncooked from the top and slightly browned from the bottom. Repeat until all the batter has been cooked.

For the syrup

  1. Combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring until all sugar has dissolved.
  2. Once the mixture boils, simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the orange blossom water and the lemon juice and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until completely cool.

For the filling

Cheese:

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together, making sure they are fully combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Walnut:

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together, making sure they are fully combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

  1. Once the fillings have been mixed, place 1 tsp of either the cheese or walnut filling in the center of each atayef.
  2. Then, fold the atayef in half and seal it along the edge, forming a semicircle.
  3. Once all the atayef have been filled and sealed, heat the oil in a deep fry pot until it is hot (approximately 180C), then carefully place each atayef in the pot (one after the other) and cook for about 30 seconds each or until golden.
  4. Once cooked, drizzle some syrup on each atayef and serve while still hot.

Mulberry Syrup

(makes 3 cups)

Prep. time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 kg mulberries (you can substitute the mulberries with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries)
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • Food mill
  • Sieve
  • Sterilized bottle

Method

  1. Mash the mulberries in a food mill and strain the seeds out by pouring the juice through a sieve.
  2. Place the mulberry juice in a cooking pot, add the sugar and mix until all the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Wait until the juice mixture boils, and then wait for another three minutes. Turn off the heat and place the mulberry syrup aside to cool.
  4. Once cool, store in an air tight bottle and use to make mulberry juice.

To make the juice, add 1 cup water to three tablespoons of syrup (adjust according to desired sweetness). Add ice and serve!

Once again, thank you Ladies and Gentleman, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this summer so special!

  1. Jen – My kitchen addiction
  2. Mowie – Mowielicious
  3. Diana – Spain in Iowa
  4. Viz  – Desperate HouseViz
  5. Rachael – La Fuji Mama
  6. Ilva  – Lucullian Delights
  7. Meeta  – What’s For Lunch, Honey?
  8. Sarka – Cook your dream
  9. Paula – Bell’Alimento
  10. Leen – Culeenary
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4 Responses to “Summer RoundUp #10: Jordan, Leen from {Culeenary}”

  1. nina said:

    Awesome stuff. Simply divine, both recipes and photos!

    [Rispondi]

  2. valentina said:

    Everything about this post is magic: the words, the recipes, the photos..I’m so glad that Leen has finally started her blog. Can’t wait to read more.

    [Rispondi]

  3. Summer in Jordan | Culeenary said:

    [...] Even though I am new to the blogosphere, I managed to meet some amazing food bloggers earlier this year at a conference in London. One of the very special people I met was Guilia from Tuscany who was kind enough to offer me a spot on her blog Jul’s Kitchen this summer. She put together 10 different summer posts from around the globe. Her blog is superb, with mouth-watering photos and great recipes. Be sure to check it out and to read my post. [...]

  4. Aoun said:

    Leen – I love it

    [Rispondi]

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