With the daring kitchen and the secret recipe club coming to an end and me no longer taking part in Darna magazine , I found my self looking for a new challenge, something to push me outside of my comfort zone into trying new recipes, meeting new people and learning more about all the hidden gems different cuisines have to offer.

Today’s post is my first challenge with the MENA cooking club, if you don’t know about it, here is a little background from their “about ” page:

Mena Cooking club was started for foodies worldwide who have a love of trying new things. You do not have to be Middle Eastern or North African or have a connection to them you just have to have an appetite to learn more about beautiful food cultures. We will go through the countries in alphabetical order with a host, choosing a savory and a sweet dish, then each member prepares the recipe of their choosing . Together we will share our creations and what we have learned. We hope to make new friends, learn more about food and just have fun.

Parda plau the ultimate Iraqi rice and pastry dish.jpg

I am really excited for this new adventure and I look forward to taking you along with me every month on a new culinary journey in the Middle East and North Africa.With fewer commitments on my plate , I also am really looking forward to blogging more frequently, working on my videos and youtube channel (please subscribe if you haven’t already) but most importantly reconnecting with many of my blogging friends who I have missed dearly.

The December 2016 Daring kitchen challenge was to make Dutch Oliebollen (commonly called Dutch Donuts). Traditionally, these little sugar dusted apple and raisin studded spheres of bliss are  eaten throughout the winter months in the Netherlands but particularly on new year’s eve.

I have missed so many daring kitchen challenges this year. I was determined not to miss this final challenge! But more importantly, a very dear friend of mine is from the Netherlands. When I saw the title of this challenge I just knew I had to make it, for her, so Margret if you are reading this, this post goes out to you.

Dutch donuts.jpg

I know that the picture is super tempting and if you like spinach and quinoa as much as I do, you will LOVE this salad but before getting to the recipe,I have some exciting things to share with you.

I was one of 5 winners in the HIPA  food photography contest.This is actually the first time that I have ever won a contest and it means the world to me. To know that I am at a level in my food photography (which has been my hobby and passion in the past 6 years) were I can actually win an international contest is beyond amazing!!

I am really thrilled and grateful to each and every one of you, my wonderful readers, if it wasn’t for you, I would have never made it this far in my journey. Thank you is such an understatement but know that I deeply appreciate each and every comment, every email, every time that someone tells me their friend or someone they know told them about my blog, it really makes my day!

Spinach-and-feta-quinoa-salad

The other exciting thing that I have been working on lately is videos! I have decided to work on a you tube channel and I would deeply appreciate it if you would subscribe, check out the videos and let me know what you think.

 

The part I love the most about exploring any cuisine is trying recipes that I would have never tried or would have never associated with that particular cuisine had it not been for this whole blogging adventure.

Today’s recipe is a great example of that.

Some call it Saudi Pizza, others called aysh abu laham (which literally means meat bread,you see, aysh is bread in the Saudi dialect and laham means meat). A recipe popular in the Hijaz area of Saudi Arabia, particularly in Mecca. This recipe was our Arabic flavor assignment for the month of June.

When Salma (this month’s  host ) revealed the recipe, I honestly had my doubts. Pizza and the traditional Saudi cuisine seemed like an odd mix (I expected a rice based main meal or a date based dessert or a cardamom scented drink) But it turns out that there is so much more to the Saudi cuisine than that just like there is so much more than pizza and pasta in the Italian cuisine

Saudi pizza (meat, tahini and chives galette)

When I posted the batheeth recipe, I promised you more recipes from the UAE and the Arabic peninsula and this is the first in a series coming your way over the next few weeks.

I have to admit that the popular Emirati recipes are growing on me, be it batheeth, Masoub, karrak tea or the long list of rice and spice dishes that are so popular here.

Today’s recipe is one that my kids got me to try. After a cultural day at school they came home super excited about masoub, logaimat and khameer bread (I know this sounds like gibberish now but I promise to dedicate a post to each and every one of these recipes)

Masoob by chef in disguise

What do you pack when you’re an expat at the end of your vacation back home and you’re getting ready for another year away from your family and friends?

How do you capture the precious warmth and joy that you feel in their company? what can you take to help you get through the months of nostalgia?

Whenever we go back home for a visit, my mum prepares a love package for me and the kids, there are always new books and DVDs for the kids,a few props for my blog, her signature cookies, maamoul, Zaatar, nabulsi cheese and this apricot jam. My son loves jam but in his book, no store-bought could ever come close to his teta’s homemade apricot jam (teta is Arabic for grandma).

For the first few months after the vacation, I am fine, I miss everyone, but I manage to keep busy and keep my mind off it. But as the year rolls by and we get to the last couple of months before the summer break I struggle with longing and little details like opening a jar of my mum’s jam, tracing her handwriting on the lovely notes she sticks to the lids can drive me to tears.

Apricot jam by chef in disguise