middle eastern flavors: 5 posts

Gifts From The Silk Road

One of my favorite stores in Brussels isn’t a chocolate shop. It’s not even a fabulous perfume treasure trove called Senteurs d’Ailleurs. It’s a supermarket at Rue de l’Escadron 35 called FreshMed. Technically, it’s not even in Brussels proper, but in Etterbeek, one of the 19 communes that make up the metropolis. It’s a store offering a vast selection of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods, with a smattering of Baltic and Polish products.

incense-cat-burner

FreshMed isn’t a fancy store; it’s a place where the aesthetics are provided by the towering pyramids of fresh vegetables and fruits, not an overly creative interior design. I like this simple and unpretentious approach. Here you can find fresh tarragon and pomegranates, stock up on Greek retsina and Lebanese arak, and then load up your cart with homemade foods: tiny Syrian pies, Turkish-style pizza, hummus, tzaziki, olives and 10 kinds of feta. Then there are shelves of Iranian floral waters, Cretan dark honeys and Moroccan amber scented soaps. It’s a journey down the Silk Road within the space of a few supermarket aisles.

Continue reading →

Scented Mementos: The Story of the Porter and the Ladies of Baghdad

The Iraqi capital Baghdad is associated today with devastation and sectarian violence, and every time another story of this troubled city unfolds on the TV screen, perfume is the last thing I usually think about. And isn’t it frivolous and unnecessary anyway? But then I remember a scented memento given to me by an Iraqi friend. “In our culture, we give a fragrant flower to sweeten the pain of saying goodbye,” she said. We were in New York then, and there were neither scented roses nor jasmine, so instead she gave me a small bottle of orange blossom water. Every time I use it in my cakes or tea, I think of Muna.

 bread-seller

The tradition of sharing scents–sprinkling guests with perfume or giving them small scented gifts as they depart–has ancient roots, and with few modifications, these practices continue today. Even as Iraq has been undergoing dramatic upheavals, some things remain the same and provide a thread of continuity which becomes even more essential when nothing else is certain. When Muna describes the fragrances made by her relatives, she doesn’t just describe the sweetness of jasmine or the medicinal sharpness of saffron, she tells me about her mother and grandmother and other women who left an indelible mark on her.

Continue reading →

Brussels Flower Carpet and Cafe Blanc : Lebanese Orange Blossom Drink

750,000! That’s how many flowers it takes to cover Brussels’s central square, the Grand Place. Every other year a carpet of colorful begonias is laid out in the historic city centre, the vibrant and extraordinary spectacle that turns the plaza into a fairy tale vision. It’s not hard to embellish the Grand Place, which is often voted as the most beautiful square in Europe. Ornate Baroque guild houses and Gothic town hall buildings line its periphery, and side streets bearing names like ‘butter’, ‘cheese’, ‘herring’, etc. reflect its origins as the main marketplace of old Brussels. Today the shops are still around, although most of them hawk chocolates and tacky souvenirs. But the Grand Place retains its majestic aura, and it’s easy to understand why this place is still one of the busiest tourist sites in the city.

I first visited the Grand Place on a cold winter day when the square was all but empty. Like much of Brussels, its beauty left a strange impression on me of something grandiose, but aloof. It took the flower carpet for me to see Brussels in a different light–more colorful and more joyful. What a delightful thing it is to block the main square for several days just to decorate it with thousands of petals! All this for a few evanescent moments of beauty.

Continue reading →

Belgian Journal : Coriander Scented Chicken Kofta Kebabs with Mint Chutney

The more time I spend in Brussels, the more I understand why the Surrealist movement gained a momentum here. The fact that a city of less than 2 million people contains a dozen governments should already tell you something. There is the European Union government, the Brussels region government, the French Community of Belgium government and its Flemish counterpart, each of which has its own representatives. If that weren’t enough, Brussels consists of 19 municipalities, each with its own mayor and laws. It’s no wonder that each trip to city hall leaves me with a minor nervous breakdown.

On the other hand, the diversity of people that Brussels attracts is the best thing about the city. You can cross the city on foot in a couple of hours, but sometimes turning onto a new street makes you feel as if you are in a different country. When it comes to food, the choices are limitless. Whether you have a craving for moules frites, the famous Belgian specialty of mussels and fries, for Sicilian cannoli or for something as exotic as mwambe, a Congolese chicken stew with peanuts, you can discover it all quite easily.

Continue reading →

Musabbaha Whole Chickpea Hummus Recipe

Hummus, a creamy paste of chickpeas and tahini scented with lemon and garlic, is rightly one of the most beloved Middle Eastern dishes. Similar chickpea pastes flavored with cinnamon, ginger, parsley and olive oil are mentioned in medieval Arab cookbooks as early as the 13th century. In recent years, hummus and baba ghanoush have become the emblematic dishes for pan-Middle Eastern cuisine. Yet, despite its ubiquity, when properly made, hummus offers one of the most comforting and satisfying dishes with its complex interplay of flavors and rich contrasts between spice, tartness and creaminess. In addition to the commonly encountered creamy hummus, Middle Eastern cuisine offers a number of interesting regional variations, out of which the Syrian-style hummus, musabbaha, is one of my absolute favorites.

Continue reading →

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Amalia in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017: Thank you so much! I tried both, EDT and EDP in fact, EDP is the one that is nearly finished now. I also have tried the solid form in store,… August 23, 2017 at 5:34am

  • Krista Conley in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017: Helo! So happy to have found your site! I have been searching for a replacement for La Perla, the original, which I wore for years. Prior to that I wore… August 22, 2017 at 7:49pm

  • Theresa in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017: Thank you for your reply, Andrea! I thought it would be a fun exercise for people to think about sun-related perfumes. Now that I’m thinking about it, didn’t Lagerfeld have… August 22, 2017 at 6:51pm

  • Sylvie Bordet in Postcard from Paris: Eau du ciel… (After checking, I see that this is actually a real perfume – I don’t mean to imply anything about its effects, it just seemed like a funny… August 22, 2017 at 1:15pm

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2017 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved.