Category Archives: Persian

Cultured self-indulgence?

20140802-144700-53220089.jpgEach weekend, I try to get out and explore another facet of this small country.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a boozy brunch now and then, too, but if that’s all I did with my weekends, no amount of working out could keep the weight off.  More importantly, I’d have squandered an opportunity to experience the culture and history of a place I’d lived in for a full year.

One of those adventures also led me to a tasty discovery, basbousa.  Normally made with semolina, the woman running the museum cafe assured me that their version was gluten, dairy, and egg free.  It was so moist, tender, and sweet without being cloyingly so.  Sadly for me, the fact that yogurt is dairy got lost in translation.

Unfortunate reaction aside, the dessert did lead to another delicious experiment with nut flours — this time pistachios — inspired by a flavor combination borrowed from an Eid favorite, gulab jamun — cardamom and rose.  The result, Pistachio Cardamom Rose Basbousa, isn’t authentic Arabic, but to me, it captures the spirit of this island and the cultural melting pot that it has become over thousands of years.

Here’s the challenge:  the recipe has you cut the basbousa before drizzling it with the rose syrup to make cutting/serving easier.  It also means that, in mere minutes, once the basbousa has cooled, practically nothing is left to slow your consumption except will power and good friends.  Okay, at least you might feel a bit more cultured than you would after a boozy brunch…


Cooking in a whole new (old) world… literally

Lamb Koobideh Kebab I recently moved (temporarily) to Gulf for work. The weeks leading up to my flight were a bit nerve-wracking, not least because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to eat.

Not that that has ever stopped me from exploring local establishments before, but at least I can usually muddle my way through reading the menu and knowing the local words for the things I can’t eat.  If all else fails, I try to go somewhere I might be able to see the food being prepared.  Since I can’t read a single word in Arabic yet, as my first local meal, I decided kebabs were a fairly safe and familiar way to start this new culinary adventure.  My server recommended the mixed grill, a plate of grilled meats and kebab with Iranian, Iraqi, and Bahraini seasonings.  It came with a small arugula salad, a drink, and all the bread I could eat, which my colleague did his best to devour all on his own with a large bowl of hummus.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much meat in one sitting.  It was just too good to stop.

One of the kebabs really surprised me.  At first, I thought it was from chunks of meat like the others, but it turned out to be ground lamb formed around the skewer.  When I saw ground lamb at the market near my place, I knew what my first experiment would be.

Lamb Koobideh Kebabs

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