Chickpea Fatte / Fattet Hummos

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a lady called Catherine, telling me that she bought both Lentils and Chickpeas, cooked many of the recipes and was pleased with the result. She also kindly offered to share her own chickpea tips, which help make them more digestible. I followed her instructions and found them useful.
Here is what she said:  (obviously she bought the French version):

'1. On peut les amener à ébullition quelques minutes dans leur 2e eau de trempage, puis écumer, les égoutter, les rincer, et les remettre à cuire définitivement dans une 2e eau salée.
2. J'ajoute un petit morceau d'algue kombu (3 cm environ) à la 2e eau de cuisson, en plus du sel. C'est une algue qu'on utilise en cuisine japonaise (pour la soupe miso par exemple). Elle ne donne pas de goût aux pois chiches mais apporte des minéraux et est réputée pour les rendre plus digestes.'

This is roughly what it means:

Stuffed vine Leaves or Mehshe Warak Inab

Food has it's own unsuspecting language; we use it everyday not only to nourish but also to bring people together, to express affection and to break barriers. When my Lebanese cousin married his Italian girlfriend, he took the Libaliano concept to an extreme.   To celebrate this momentous event, I hosted a lunch for family and friends. It was on the first day of spring and the weather promised sunshine and the option to sit out in the garden.

We started the celebrations with champagne and nibbles. I made pastry triangles filled with spinach and pine nuts - fatayer, which I served warm next to, minced meat and pine nut pastries or lahm bi ajeen. Later we ate rakakat bi jebne- crisp filo cheese rolls and - my favourite- pumpkin kibbe- plump little rolls made with burghol and pumpkin, stuffed with Swiss chard and walnuts.

Passatelli Asciutti

I had never thought of passatelli asciutti until last week, when I tasted them in a restaurant up in the Dolomites. I had them served with melted butter, sage, pumpkin and radicchio: a true delicacy, an original alternative to the classic passatelli in brodo, one of my favourite soups from Romagna.

Fusilli Pepe e Zafferano

Fusilli Pepe e Zafferano
Black pepper and saffron pasta sauce

With two spices, a bit of butter and plenty of Parmesan, I created a last minute pasta sauce, full of colour and flavour.
My inspiration was the spaghetti Cacio e pepe, one of the most classical dishes from Rome. The flavour simply comes from cheese (cacio) and black pepper (pepe), but it is the addition of few tablespoons of starchy pasta water that creates the creaminess of the sauce. As I wanted a full creaminess, I cooked my pasta in a small amount of water to keep all its starch.  I chose fusilli, as they are easy to stir, but any other short pasta would have worked.
This is a different way of cooking pasta, which needs care but gives an extraordinary final result.

Risotto Radicchio e Pera

I enjoy playing with risotto and its countless variations. Even the traditional Risotto alla Milanese appears in three different versions in the first Italian cookery book  La scienza della cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene, by Pellegrino Artusi. Let's be inventive with this delicious and versatile dish.

The Libaliano Kitchen turns up in Milan

On Wednesday 19th February 2014, during the glamorous fashion week, Libaliano Kitchen showed up in Milan to present its books on Lentils and Chickpeas.

Kitchen Victim hosted us in their beautiful and cheerful space, where we served up a recipe tasting from our books.

Artichokes and Potatoes

Artichokes and potatoes is a classic combination for a delicate winter side dish. I cook the two ingredients separately, and I only combine them at the end to keep the individual flavours and textures. The fresh rosemary is the perfect binding with its pungent aroma.

Risotto's Secrets

Risotto giallo con porcini secchi
(Saffron risotto with dried porcini mushrooms)

Risotto is  global. Restaurants and Risotterie serve many varieties of risotto around the world.  Risotto is a comfort food so versatile that it pleases almost everyone and it can be easily made at home as well, if you know the rules and secrets. A perfect risotto needs to have the right texture and flavour.
The choice of ingredients is vital.

Our 'Chickpeas' Journey - Beirut, 5th November 2013

'Chickpeas: traditional and contemporary recipes from the Mediterranean' was published by Tamyras, almost to the day, a year after 'Lentils'. On 5th November 2013, we had a signing at the Salon du Livre Francophone in Beirut and we were delighted to see many friends, familiar faces as well as the unexpected visit of Valerie Trierweiler who promptly took our book and graciously posed for a photo holding 'Chickpeas' well in view!
The format of 'Lentils' proved popular so 'Chickpeas' looks very much the same with the addition of sweet recipes such as cakes, biscuits and puddings.

Fennel Salad Dressed in Red

The glowing fennel bulbs light up the market’s stalls in winter.  I like to buy quite a few of them; they could last for the week, inspiring flexible preparations: freshly shaved in a salad as a starter, added to any soup, stew and fish for sweeter and more digestible effects; steamed and simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or sautéed in oil and butter with breadcrumbs, as a side dish. Fennel is one of my favourite winter vegetables for many last minute meals.

Alpine Chestnut Cake

At the beginning of January, in a remote restaurant up in the Swiss Alps,  I tasted one of the most delicious chestnut cake of my life. Moist and soft, it had a full chestnut flavour and aroma. A delicacy I wanted to reproduce at home.
I was thrilled by this gastronomic challenge, as I could only rely on my eye, taste, culinary experience and memory. No camera, no phone to take pictures with and a chef openly reluctant about giving away his precious recipe. He only gave us one clue, that it was based on chestnuts.

Coconut and Spice Rice Pudding for a Peaceful New Year

A few days ago an explosion ripped Beirut apart. Another one took place today. 
On days like these, time stands still and the city's heartbeat stops. Death, debris and cries are echoes from the country's past. 

People continue their struggle to keep Lebanon alive. Some gave their lives for it. Others marched, wrote, harangued and spoke for it, never giving up, always believing that Beirut will remain and the city continues to flourish through art, through literature and through its food culture.