Marhaban everybody !
I'm here again, here, in my little blog which I really enjoy writing for you every month. This time, I'm writing about a country that has always intrigued me. Not only because is a beautiful Mediterranean country rich in history, traditions, cultures and religions but also for their wonderful cuisine (one of the best food in the Middle East), and such a nice wines! I'm talking about Lebanon!
The former home to the Phoenicians, Lebanon is packed with a whole lot of history.
Let me share with you some fascinating facts about Lebanon:
1. Before the civil war kicked off in 1975, Beirut was considered ‘the Paris of the Middle East’ , hub of culture, and a melting pot of thousands of years of history, Beirut was viewed as an alternative to the Cote d' Azur by the jet-set crowd.
2. Beirut has one of the Mediterranean's best beaches: The city's prime beach waits on the west side of the centre. Its sand and rolling waves are similar to those of Cannes, St Tropez, Barcelona and Valencia. Beirut is a Mediterranean city. On a hot day, it is as beautiful as any.
3. Lebanese cuisine is a Mediterranean, healthy and amazing cuisine that includes an abundance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, seafood, poultry, red meat and copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned by lemon juice. It is extremely tasty and appreciated by the palette because of the variety of spices and fresh herbs.
4. Lebanon makes wonderful wine! I want to invite you to learn with me a little bit more about a wine that I really appreciate, and the history behind the famous 'Chateau Musar'.
Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has evolved into a major wine-making region, with many wineries scattered along its wide, fertile expanses. Vines have been cultivated there for at least 6,000 years; the Phoenicians were instrumental in bringing vines and wines from Byblos across the Mediterranean. It has been famous, over the centuries, for being the agricultural heart of the Middle East.
The Hochar family’s philosophy of respect for the environment means that the 220 hectares of Musar vineyards are managed with minimal human interference and all the wines are made with minimal intervention.
Chateau Musar was the first producer in Lebanon to achieve organic certification for its own vineyards in 2006. Most are located in the Bekaa Valley, cradled between two mountain ranges running parallel to Lebanon’s Mediterranean coastline. Vines have been cultivated here for at least 6,000 years: the Phoenicians (seafaring ancestors of the modern Lebanese) were instrumental in bringing vines and wines from Byblos across to all of the areas around the Mediterranean.
Flanked by snow-covered mountains, and nestled at 1000m (3,000 feet) above sea level, the serenely beautiful Bekaa Valley is blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year, fresh mountain breezes and an average temperature of 25°C (encompassing snowy winters and hot summers). Remote and unspoilt, the Musar vineyards were ‘organic’ by default before the term was coined.
In the winery, ambient yeasts do the work of fermentation. The bare minimum of sulphur is used and the Chateau Musar Red wines are neither fined nor filtered.
To help you immerse yourself in the Lebanese culture and flavours I have today selected both the Chateau Musas 2014 and the estates second wine, Hochar Pere et Fils 2017 to enjoy with a delicious recipe! :)
Let me know if you liked it... sharing your photos or any comments, I will more that happy to read them / see you in the shop :))))
CHATEAU MUSAR HOCHAR PERE ET FILS 2017
The Hochar of this year is a ruby red in colour, bright and vibrant. Complex nose of red cherries, sweet smoke and cinnamon spice aromas. Cherry notes, subtle earthy characters on the rich, concentrated palate - it is all at once fruity, fresh and elegant, certainly a food wine with quite a long finish.
CHATEAU MUSAR 2014
A deep red colour, with aromas of sweet cherry, plum and dried fruit together with a subtle spice element and hint of tobacco. The wine has a soft, rounded mouthfeel with lots of flavour and fruit concentration – caramel, mocha, ripe red fruits which are supported with soft, velvety tannins and a spicy finish.
This is one of those exotic dishes that looks and tastes like you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen for hours…but actually, very little active effort is required.
Pilaf rice, so much yummier than just plain rice. It’s got just a touch of spices, (not too much because otherwise the flavour is too similar to the lamb).
- 1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp ground cardamon or sub with ginger
- 1 tbsp salt
- Black pepper
SLOW ROASTED LAMB
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 5 - 2 kg / 3 - 4 lb lamb shoulder bone in, trimmed of excess fat
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
- Lemon highly recommended
- Fresh coriander/cilantro leaves
- Yoghurt optional
- Preheat oven to 150C/300F.
- Combine the Spice Mix ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside 1 1/2 tbsp of the Spice Mix for later (to pan fry the lamb).
- Add the olive oil and garlic into the Spice Mix, then rub all over the lamb.
- Place the lamb on a roasting rack set in a roasting dish (Note 1). Pour the water in the base of the dish. Cover with a lid or double layer of foil.
- Roast for 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender enough to pull off with a fork.
- Remove the lid. Turn the oven up as high as it will go and roast for 15 - 20 minutes until the lamb is browned.
- Remove the lamb from the oven. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, then shred coarsely with two forks.
- Skim excess fat off the juices in the roasting dish then set aside. (Note 2)
BROWNING THE SHREDDED LAMB
- Toss the shredded lamb with the reserved Spice Mix (from Step 2 above).
- Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy based pan over high heat. Add some lamb (don't crowd the pan) and drizzle over about 3 tbsp of the pan juices. Cook until the underside is dark golden brown and crispy - about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (the juices you poured over will evaporate).
- If the lamb is cold, flip to warm the other side but do not brown too much (retains juiciness).
- Remove lamb from the fry pan, and repeat with remaining lamb, adding extra oil if required.
- To serve, drizzle with a squeeze of lemon juice (this makes a big difference) and top with fresh coriander, plus yoghurt (if using). Serve on Chickpea Pilaf (Rice).
- SLOW COOKER instructions: I prefer making this in the oven because the lamb gets a better crust but it can be made in the slow cooker too. The pan frying makes up for the browning you don't get. To make this in a slow cooker, slow cook on HIGH for 6 hours and only use 1/4 cup water. No need to elevate the lamb off the base.
CHICKPEA PILAF (RICE)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 1/2 cups long grain rice or basmati
- 2 cans of chickpeas 800g/28oz, drained
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 2 tsp garam masala powder or curry powder or 1/2 tsp coriander + 1/2 tsp all spice
- 1 tsp salt
- Black pepper
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent - around 3 minutes.
- Add the rice and stir until the rice becomes translucent, coated with the oil.
- Add remaining ingredients. Place the lid on and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Remove from the stove, leaving the lid on, and set aside to reset for 10 minutes.
- Fluff the rice up with a fork and serve with the Shredded Lamb.
Arak qaribana! See you soon!
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