A Good Ol’ Chin-Wag
Coco: Do you have your own garden? What do find most difficult to grow?
Coco: Are you a shoe or handbag girl?
Coco: What do you refuse to eat?
Homemade with Love
No supermarket cakes and boxed frosting for this girl. She is an avid advocate for all-natural ingredients, cooking the way our grandmothers did. Everyone’s mom adds her own special little touch to a recipe. And in the West, young immigrants and second-generations incorporate new-fangled ingredients like spelt flour, chia and quinoa into the mix. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but somewhere along the way, the original flavours are lost. Joumana dusts off the books and returns old world recipes to their original glory. As such, her culinary library offers the how-to’s for Lebanese favourites, including my beloved Aysh al Saraya. As sexy as its name, here is a luscious treat fit for a sultan, but surprisingly ready in a snap.
Something of a Lebanese version of bread pudding or tiramisu, Aysh al Saraya is a treat made of luscious cream on top of syrup-soaked bread, wrapped in the scent of rose petals and orange blossoms. Unlike most Middle Eastern recipes, this one is quick and easy, which means it won’t be long before you can actually enjoy it. So, put the kettle on and let’s get started.
Aysh al Saraya
Note: A few drops of green food coloring will make the pistachio pop, but I prefer to keep everything natural. Joumana would agree.
Source: Taste of Beirut
1 round loaf white bread or 20 slices sandwich bread, crusts cut off (use the bread crumbs if you are making individual servings, it is easier to manage)
9 ounces sugar (1 1/4 cups)
4 ounces water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
1 tablespoon of rose water
2 cups of ashta (recipe follows) OR ricotta cheese (whole-milk or light version)
1 cup or more of pistachios
If you are using a whole bread, you will cut off the crust on all sides and place the bread in a pan that fits its size. The thickness of the bread should be about one inch (2 1/2 cm) If you are using sandwich bread, use a food processor (or your hands) to obtain small pieces or medium-sized crumbs and place in the dish of your choice.
Place the sugar, water and fresh lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and let it boil for about 15 minutes stirring, until the caramel takes on a pretty golden-brown color.
Right before the caramel takes on that color, boil around one cup of water in a teakettle nearby. When the sugar is the color you want, place the saucepan in the sink, and while holding your face safely away from the pan, start adding very slowly the boiling water. Be very careful to avoid getting burned.
If using a whole bread, place the bread in the pan and cook it in the caramel until the caramel is absorbed. If using breadcrumbs, place them over the caramel and let the breadcrumbs absorb the caramel and cool, cooking them if necessary over low-medium heat, or in the oven till absorbed.
Homemade clotted cream or ashta:
2 cups half-and-half or a mixture of milk and whipping cream
2 slices of sandwich bread
2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons orange blossom water and 2 teaspoons rose water
Cut off the crusts of the bread and cut in small dice or pieces.
Place the half-and-half and the bread on medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
After about 10 minutes, the bread will have dissolved into crumbs and started melding into the cream. Continue stirring until it is steaming. At this point, add the cornstarch and water mixture and stirring constantly let the mixture thicken for one or two minutes. Add the flavored waters and stir about 30 seconds more.
Cool the ashta.
Fast and easy method using ricotta cheese :
Add to the ricotta cheese the orange blossom water and the rose water, beating slightly with a fork. Use as you would the clotted cream. Use 2 cups of ricotta cheese.
Place the caramel-soaked bread (or crumbs) in the dish or ramequins that you selected, tapping gently to even out the top surface.
Cover the bread with a generous layer of cream or ricotta cheese. Place in the fridge for thirty minutes or so.
Cover the top creamy layer with finely chopped pistachios. Do not substitute any other nuts, if you want to stick to the traditional dessert.
//widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js Food is the foundation of any culture. It sets the scene for gatherings where old friendships are renewed and
new ones are born. Recipes carried from generation to generation remind young ones of their family’s heritage. This is especially true for Middle Eastern families like mine that have been displaced due to political turmoil. The best dishes express admiration and evoke memories of happy days. We cook with love for those we love. This is how I was raised and stands true in my family to this day. Whenever I miss my grandmothers, I put on my favourite apron and head for the kitchen to make one of their recipes. Then, I feel like they are standing right there next to me.