When the family get together it’s usually a time for lots of laughter, storytelling and plenty of hugging. My parents have never eschewed from showing their emotions openly. They are gregarious, warm and loving people and it takes only a few moments with them and friends quickly are enamored by them and captivated by their stories.
Stories! They do have plenty of those, especially my father who wraps tragedy and comedy in his storytelling so easily, I can hear the same tales over and over again and still they are as fascinating as they were when I heard them the first time.
Then there are stories that I’d rather not have everyone hear! They revolve around me and my slightly wilder younger years. My dad says he could write a book with several short stories just revolving around my escapades. I seem to have provided for many bodacious moments in the lives of my parents. Now when those stories are re-told, peppered with my dad’s love for drama, I expiate those escapades.
It was my over inquisitive nature and absolute thirst of trying something new that often got me into trouble. My thoughts would wander off and I would be so consumed in what I was trying to decipher or discover that the world around me would seize to exist. I was always running away or getting lost, creating some havoc for the people around me.
One of the more harmless stories took place in Lebanon. It was the summer of 1974, the year I turned two and a year before civil war rocked Lebanon. My father was assigned to an opening of a luxury hotel in Beirut and had been there for several months already. My mother and I were visiting - of course my own memory fails to bring up pictures and images of this period in my life, but my imagination paints elicit pictures drawn by the words of my parents’ stories.
Lebanon must have been a beautiful country before the civil war tore it apart. My mum was especially charmed by Beirut, nestled between green hills and the gorgeous azure colored Mediterranean Sea. She looked so serene and incredibly beautiful in a picture my dad took of her, barefooted on one of the sandy beaches. It was taken at dusk and the sky was a spectacular pink-grey, behind her the impressive skyline of Beirut.
My dad worked most of the day but the early evenings were reserved for us. They would love to roam the crowded bazaars, pausing at the little shops to sample some sweet baklava, nuts or cookies and sip on steaming glasses of spiced tea. The shops were a colorful chaos, lined with rolls of material, carpets, spices, tea and pretty much everything the heart desired. What captured my little heart were the toy shops that sold cheap, noisy toys in gaudy colors, bringing sparkles into the eyes of little boys and girls. My dad has a picture of me looking up at a doll in one of these shops. Little did he know at the time he took that picture was, that doll would play a major role that afternoon.
Apparently it was hard for them to get me to budge from the shop. That doll, her shiny long blonde hair and the fact that she could open and shut her big blue eyes entranced me from the first moment I saw it. I have vague memories of that doll - but she was older, slightly more battered and a bit bruised in my memories. Her hair did not shine like it did in that picture and her dress was a faded red. My father sweet talked me away from her that day and as they turned the winding streets of the bazaar, I kept looking back.
It must have been in a moment where both of them were distracted. My mother chatting to her friend who had joined us and my father bartering with a man in a shop for a carpet. When they realized, it was too late. I was gone. Today, as a mother myself I finally realize what they must have felt. My son has inherited my genes of getting lost and wandering off in thought.
My mother must have been a wreck. Each corner they turned ignited by the hope that I would be standing on the other side, were shattered when all they found was another long winding and over crowded street. The bazaar was a labyrinth of narrow streets, criss-crossing along a wide area. A little girl of two had no chance. Just as my parents were about to give up hope and call the police, my dad told my mother to give it one last try. He had an idea.
How right he was! As he finally found that street, where that toy store was, he also found me standing there with the blonde haired and blue eyed doll in my hands. The doll was winking at me every time I tilted her, making me squeal with joy and forgetting the world around me.
That doll accompanied me through my young life for several years.
The Monthly Mingle this month is being hosted over at Dirty Kitchen Secrets and it’s no surprise that Beth wants us to Taste Lebanon. My own dish is not a traditional Lebanese dish but it is inspired by the flavors of Lebanon and the stories my parents tell me about the beautiful country.
I adore warm salads like this with a bold fusion of sweet, tart and nutty flavors. The succulent and tender lamb marinated in herbs and garlic adds another exquisite level making this a perfect dish to enjoy at any meal. My secret ingredient is in the vinaigrette - a nutty and outrageously delicious pumpkin seed oil.
Warm Lentil Salad with Dried Cherries, Feta and a Herb Marinated Lamb Fillet
Printable version of recipe here.
For lentil salad
250g Puy lentils, cooked according to packet instructions and kept warm
200g feta cheese, crumbled
60g dried cherries
1 small potato, steamed and cubed
100g bacon cubes, fried
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
100g radish, quartered
3-4 spring onions, sliced
handful rucola leaves
Glug of olive oil
Glug of raspberry vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Drizzle of pumpkin seed oil
Drizzle of honey
1 teaspoon mustard
For lamb fillets
2 Lamb fillets
100g olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
Mix of herbs, rosemary, thyme, marjoram
Fleur de sel
Fresh cracked black pepper
- Marinate the lamb fillets in a marinade made with the 100g olive oil, garlic clove and herbs. Rub in fillets with mixture well and set aside for a few hours.
- Season the lamb fillets with fleur de sel and some cracked pepper, then heat a non-stick pan until very hot and smoking. Fry the fillets on all sides until nicely browned, then reduce the heat and cook for a further 4-6 minutes or until they have reached the desired degree of cooking. Remove fillets from pan and wrap in aluminum foil. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing.
- In the meantime prepare the salad by tossing together the cooked lentils, dried cherries, steamed potato cubes, bacon, cherry tomatoes, radishes and spring onions gently with a wooden spoon.
- Make the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth homogenous and thick. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and cracked pepper to taste.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the lentil mixture. Stir gently so that the lentils do not get squishy. Add the rucola leaves, toss quickly and sprinkle with feta cheese.
- Slice the lamb fillets and serve with the warm lentil salad.
A dish that will truly awaken your senses making you experience them like never before. What I love about the entire dish is that it is versatile and can be made using several varieties of lentils, ingredients and the lamb can easily be substituted with chicken if that is what you prefer. The dried cherries balance the nuttiness of the lentils with their sweetness. I added bacon to enhance the powerful flavors - and let’s be honest, bacon makes almost every thing taste better. It’s the pumpkin seed oil however that I adore. The intense nutty taste paired with honey, olive oil and a raspberry vinegar makes each forkful a memorable experience.
Hope you will be joining us this mingle and tasting Lebanon with Beth and me. You still have till the 18th to send Beth your dishes.
I’m really excited to share some great news. A few months ago I was asked to join a team of experts (that’s what we are called) and write articles for Glenfiddich Explorers. The team come from different walks of life sharing an exciting aspect of life they specialize in. So, you’ll see a wide range of fantastic articles and lists created by many talented people. I was asked to collaborate with them as their food expert! My first article is all about Decadent Desserts around the world. Come read all about it and share your decadent desserts with me over at Glenfiddich Explorers.Legumes and beans on WFLH:
|Indian Chickpeas with Spinach||Creamy Butter Beans and Leeks||Mum's Creamy Black Lentils|
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