Cooking with flowers in the Lebanese mountains

Last month I went to a small village in the Lebanese mountain called Ouyoun. The name, in Arabic means ‘the sources’. Lush with greenery and tucked away amidst pine and oak trees it is tranquil and picturesque. I followed the road to the end of the village where the tarmac came to an end. I parked and walked to Nadine Maroun's nursery which she runs together with her friend and partner Zizi Jureidini.   Two women dedicated to cultivating plants without the use of fertilisers and chemicals they have set Zina Fine Herbs to produce herbs, micro leaves and edible flowers.

The set is artisanal and Nadine who is passionate about her work, spend the day planting, cutting and propagating.  She grows garlic chive, marjoram, basil, lemon thyme, tarragon, oregano, dill and more.  A large cover keeps the rain away. She also grows micro leaves that are so tasty. 
Keeping bugs away and harvesting delicate shoots is no simple task but Nadine does is with passion. Creative, she devised her own watering and harvesting systems. At the end of our visit she kindly sent me home with a range from her produce. 
The brightly coloured miniature flowers, aromatic herbs and fine micro salad leaves are a wonderful addition to many dishes. From rocket tabboule to borage flowers and tuna pasta, the possibilities are infinite and I had fun devising and trying out different recipes which I will share on this blog. 

Tuna, caper and lemon pasta with borage flowers

With their delicate taste borage leaves and flowers and tinge of fragrant freshness to this easy to make dish

350 g spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red chilli, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, the core removed and finely chopped
4 anchovies in oil
Zest of one lemon
5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
5 to 6 borage leaves, finely chopped
250 g good quality tuna in olive oil
1 tablespoon capers in salt, rinsed
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 to 12 borage flowers

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

In a pan, heat the olive oil and sauté garlic and chilli for 1 minute.  Add the anchovies and reduce to a paste with the back of a spoon. Add lemon zest

In a bowl, flake the tuna with a fork and mix with capers. Transfer tuna to the garlic and chilli pan and cook just for 1 minute. Add lemon juice and chopped herbs and remove from the heat.

In a large pot bring water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente (about two minutes less than the time indicated on the package). In a small bowl, reserve 60 ml of the cooking liquid and top it with extra virgin olive oil. Using a fork, mix briskly to form an emulsion.

In a colander, strain pasta and return it immediately to the pan; add water and oil emulsion and mix well until absorbed. Add the tuna blend and toss to combine.

Serve at once.

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