On cooking and more

In the spirit of respecting one of my new year’s resolutions, last night I cooked the Mexican dish Chili for the very fist time. I know, I know, it is not that complicated, but take it easy on me I’m still learning. The most unique thing about my endeavor last night was substituting sour cream (an almost non-existent item in this part of the world) with Labaneh (a Middle Eastern yoghurt cheese). The result was divine.

Still on the issue of making food, I thought I would share with you this picture series:

The wrap begins Brigitte peeks in Some words of advice The finish line Four down, 100 to go

Yes, the images you see are real and have not been altered. Click them for enlargements. This is me rolling grape leaves in an effort to master the art of making the famous Middle Eastern dish Warq w Kousa (stuffed grape leaves and zucchinis). For some reason I thought I would never see such a day since I have always thought of myself as a career woman (whatever that means). But while I was in Jordan, Brigitte and Zizo (the master) both encouraged me to take on the challenge of making this dish and I complied. It was great fun! To hell with the career, I’m all for making food!

16 thoughts on “On cooking and more”

  1. I have gotten Labaneh here. It is WONDERFUL!! A combo low carb and middle eastern store here carries it. Don’t ask me, it’s AMERICA!

  2. I must say the chili was absolutely fantastic. Mixed with Lebaneh it was heavenly. If only I could record the machinations up to the unveiling, it would touch all who saw it.
    The wife has never seen or tasted chili so she asks me, she looks on the web trying to get some reference. When she told me about “water” in the recipie and expressed concern because I expressed worry she was certain her efforts were doomed to failure 🙂 🙂 But of course, I was wrong ;P and I’ve learned to keep my big trap shut until the finished product is presented.
    Her care and her love of all things cooking is just fantastic. So it was no surprise to find that the chili turned out to be not only good, but the best thing she’s made so far, simply zaki kteer. And she is finding that cooking is not anathema to career. It has proven a wonderful respite.

  3. Oh, one other note of interest. The wife is seen here with sister Brigitte watching and encouraging her. Only 8-10 hours later Brigitte gave birth to Michael. Maybe it’s just me, but that is amazing. One minute cooking and instructing, then off birthing. 🙂 Those Twals are some amazing folks 🙂

  4. I am glad the chili turned out delicious. As for the nonexistence of sour cream in that part of the world, labaneh (not mdahbara) seem to offer the best alternative; however let me suggest adding a little bit of yogurt to it when needed, I would say not more than 15% of the total quantity. My experience with certain batches of labaneh has been that they tend to be drier than others.
    A favorite dish to “cook” when I am alone is chili cheese fries.
    Basically get some french fries (you know how to cook those right? wink wink), top them with chili and add a Mexican-style cheese blend on top. If a Mexican cheese blend is not available, try using a combination of Colby-Jack and cheddar cheeses. Allow the cheese to melt (you may need to stick it in a microwave or a hot oven) and enjoy.
    w Sahtein w Afyeh
    Tomorrow’s dish: 3ijjeh 😛

  5. BTW, I once brought waraq dawali for lunch to the lab. Everybody seemed to be mesmerized by the idea of eating grape leaves. But the funniest comment I heard was from a labbie nextdoor “What’s that? Sushi?!”

  6. Those photos of you & Brigitte and the grapeleaves are priceless! Keep up the good work, kids.

  7. Hi Natasha and Jeff.. ( Jeff, I am begining to think I know you. I read so much about you in this blog)
    I caught up reading the new entries. First congratulation on the new addition (Michael). Second glad you guys enjoyed your trip to Amman.
    I may add to Jeff’s comment about Natasha’s abilities to “wrap grape and cook Chili are amazing” and its attribution to Twal reference.
    I agree, however, I think the Matalka half may also have contributed to her amazing abilities, skills, good looks, and other journalistic attributes. I am not bragging…Just telling the truth…OOOH! the Matalka shyness raising its head…..Okay I admit it..I am bragging..sorry Natasha couldn’t keep the shy lid on. lastly, a reminder to email me with the info so I can update the family tree.

  8. Okay, I love this dish and my mom as well taught me how to make it. Its fun to make although it can get tiring after an hour.
    Hey Natasha, did you put Sanat in it? That makes it all the better. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is lambs tongue. And its not like you grind it and stuff it in the grape leaves. It is the whole tongue cooked in the pot with the dish. ummmmmm
    Hey Iyas (Jameed) try taking the stuffed grape leaves with a couple of lambs tongues to school and see what happens. I took in that dish one day into work at my campus paper and the other editors didnt know what to say. 🙂

  9. Linda,
    You have no idea how basic I am with my food, and by that I mean the basic food groups and the basic parts of the plant/animal. One of the most embarrassing moments was when my father-in-law (he was not my father-in-law then) invited me over for some “delicacy” of legs of lamb. I could not force myself to look at the food. So the idea of tongues is simply outrageous 🙂
    I would rather keep my fellow labbies wondering how Arabs managed to roll cabbage.

  10. Linda,
    I have to agree with Jameed. I really can not even look at these lamb delicacies which include: tongue, brain, legs, testicles, etc! I don’t know how you can eat them! You are a real Saltieh!

  11. Oh come now, and you call yourselves Jordanians? 🙂 I was not even born in Jordan and yet I can eat lambs tongue. Hey, I only eat the tongues. That other stuff, well lets just say I am not that sultiah, hehehehe. Yeah cabbage is hard to roll. But I learned a trick when I help my mom make malfouf: Flatten the the bumps (i am not sure what the scientific word is for those bumps) as much as possible.

  12. Teesh –
    Great stuff and congrats!! I knew it was in you all along..
    A couple of (unsolicited) pointers if you’d like:
    1. Carrefour here carries sour cream – try the Doha one
    2. Debs Rumman (Pomegranate Molasses) is an AMAZING addition to Warag and Kousa (also Yalanjee and Malfoof)
    Miss you – email me with your latest news..
    P.S. Apple Seed started nursery today but I won’t be updating the blog for a while since the site I upload pictures onto has been blocked by the UAE.. Go figure! I must wait until someone (hint hint hint to ‘Hubby’ and ‘MMM’ volunteers to help me move my blog and pictures somewhere..

  13. Natasha and Jeff, congrats on William!(IQBAL INDKUM) I had hoped to call and meet you when you were in Jordan, but we had a wild schedule too. Hope Brigitte and Mark said hello for me.
    I learned how to cook in Jordan! I also use labaneh mixed with an egg for a ricotta cheese substitute in lasagne.
    Have you heard to freeze your cabbage leaves and thaw to make rolling malfoof easier? and cut the rib out.
    My favorite substitution is “Iraqi Chip Cookies”. Get a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, make the brown sugar by adding one T Baghdadi Dibbas Tamer to the cup of white sugar. Then use chopped dates instead of chocolate. Delicious and a great way to support Iraq in stomach and spirit. 😀

  14. shu giving up work for laf warq aanab?! Wli, what is happening to you? I told you what you need-that trip to Beirut and a certain sahra! But Jeff, you are absolutely right about Brdigette-it is incredible that she was doing something as back-breaking as making warq aanab and then giving birth hours later! My mother’s water broke when she was pregnant with by youngest sister as she was making shish barak, another dish which also takes a ridiculous amounts of time and effort.

  15. Richard Zeien

    Is chili Mexican. I thought it was American. I’ve never seen chili in a Mexican restaurant. Its possible though. But, I thought it came from the Southwestern US. Of course even if it is Mexican we(Americans) can still claim it as our own. Thats the great part about being a nation of immagrants. Everything is your heritage. I can even claim Jordain food as my own.
    — Richard Zeien

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