Culinary moment in Madrid

Four days in Madrid is not enough to get all the flavours of this addictive city. However it is certainly enough to give you a taste to come back for more. One restaurant is worth mentioning; El Imparcial Madrid. Created few years ago in the previous location of the newspaper El Imparcial Madrid (keeping the name was a genius decision), the restaurant is barely noticeable from the streets as the front shop is actually a concept store,  mixing cultural events with books, posters, gift items and so on. We would never have experienced it should our landlord not have recommended it.

Entering the place takes you through displays of funky books and artifacts. The stuff that looks good in a shop but looses parts of its charm once you take them home (am amazed at how attractive and cleverly displayed these places are).

To access the restaurant you take the beautiful stairs up to the first floor, greeted by eclectic decor on walls and hanging artifacts.

The restaurant is divided into one main large very lit room and several antichambres for more cosy environment. All furniture seemed to be taken from another era. Retro style. Mirrors. Gold bordered tables. Plush chairs. Round marble tables. Windows offering cosy view of the street and loads of light into the space.

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The welcoming and gorgeous setting makes it difficult to dislike the rest of the experience. The food menu is charming, with traditional spanish items such as Patatas Bravas, and Ceviche, but with a little twist transforming it into a delightful and urban feel. Nevertheless not an extraordinary culinary experience. The price bracket is correct, dishes ranging between 6-18 €. I would recommend to stick to the many starters and Hits dishes as they offer a myriad of flavours (in comparison to the extensive pizza list that were normal and a bit flavourless.). Our selection of dessert fell on a delicious crème brûlée with red fruits (2 tiny blackberries !).

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Ceviche de corvina con guacamango

A definite must when you visit Madrid, especially if you fancy places with a modern but retro twist and excellent wine.

Spain. Madrid. New building of the newspaper El Imparcial (The Impartial). Engraving. Colored.
Madrid. New building of the newspaper El Imparcial (The Impartial). Engraving. Colored.; Private Collection; (add.info.: Private Collection); Source: Bridgeman Images.

Back when it all started in 1908.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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how to keep slim for a sugar addict

It is not a secret. I love food. I love looking at it. I love thinking of it. I love making it. And you tell me to keep slim. Mission impossible. From my youngest age, where my female hormones kicked in and rounded my shapes, I remember being in love with bread, pasta, spinach pies and chocolate cakes. There was always a reason to bake or cook and invite friends over. Sitting in my childhood’s kitchen, mixing flavors and spices while discussing world issues with my closest friends are deep anchored memories.

My relationship to food is a mystery but not a totally strange one. Throughout the years,  food become also a remedy for boredom, for unhappy thoughts, a place that I knew would provide me with warmth, comfort and also gratification after a long tiring day (how many times didn’t I hide chocolate in the cupboards and then binge on them late night, between baby shifts and sleepless nights?).

Bad habits grow and stick like caramel. It takes tremendous effort, concentration, will power, focus, and stamina to break them, to live without them and finally to replace them by better ones. It can take years. Don’t believe anyone who says habits die after 7 days. They have no clue what they are talking about.

Am still struggling but I have found a way to sneak behind them.

Last year, at the peak of my weight (I had the same weight than when I delivered my daughter and that was without being pregnant; that’s when you realize that you have lost control and that some habits were just taking over), Facebook started sending me suggestions about a group called Whole 30 ( FB must be the biggest spy on this planet, how else would it know about my long terme diet struggle? :)).

Whole 30 is basically a detox plan that lasts 30 days. The rules are simple; you avoid certain food products for 30 days, which is the period your body needs to detox and get rid of bad habits (hmm). It also is meant to help you deal with your sugar dragon (later about that; it never goes completely away), get rid of toxins, clean your organism. The product groups are : Grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol.  Eat everything that is whole and not processed. Sounds easy?

whole 30 chart

Well, I did it for 6 months. Lost 9 Whole kilos. Felt amazing. Light. In control. Deprived from the constant need of food. Ate because I was hungry. I managed to stick to the plan for this long because it became easier and easier. A way of life. I didn’t think of calories, or counting. I knew what I could eat and what I shouldn’t be looking at.

Unfortunately Came Christmas.

One gingerbread cookie after another throw me slowly back to the crazy cycle of sugar addiction. It became harder and harder to say no. And my body didn’t listen to me. My cravings got back.

6 months later I am finding a middle ground between Whole 30 and letting myself indulge. A gourmet eater will never cease to love eating. But I can take “Whole 30/15/45” breaks in between and thus calm my rollercoaster.

What is your plan to stay slim? I would love to hear about it 🙂

For more info on Whole 30.

 

 

 

Back to Blogging :)

Good evening sweet people… Years have passed by without a word from me. I apologize sincerely for that. Basically I found a job that occupied most of my time, leaving little time to the creative mind and much less to this sweet place where I was happy to share thoughts and recipes with you.

It is 2018 now, and I am ready once again to write (this passion has never left me) and my paths have brought me back to what I love most; writing, cooking, photographing and sharing. I am starting a new journey, which might or might not bring me to write a cookbook with my cherished recipes.  This platform is going to be my testing ground where I will be posting anything related to this exciting endeavor.  I hope you will enjoy this adventure with me and I would appreciate any feedback related to the upcoming posts.

I salute each one of you and look forward to connect with you again.

Greetings from my balcony where coffee, sun, flowers and street vibes are becoming my best friends 🙂

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{bake} easy yummy date cake

Baking makes me think of other things…

Let me explain…

Living these days in Lebanon is worrisome. We are in the middle of an unknown era where each hour can change the lives of too many. Having experienced war since my 5th birthday (born and brought up in Beirut), waiting for the next car bomb to explode brings fearsome and very annoying memories to the surface. Mind you, i am lucky in so many ways but today my life is about raising two beautiful children and making the best decisions to ensure that they at least grow up with some sense of security and carefree moments.

So I turn to baking. Because baking is about smells, textures, the anticipation of flavours melting in your mouth, the mixing of ingredients who by magic turn into rewarding comfort food.

So here is what i baked this morning:

ready to be tasted
ready to be tasted
served with white tea! a treat...
served with white tea! a treat…

DATE CAKE

ingredients:

185 g dates (without stones) and cut into smaller pieces.

1 tsp baking soda

2,5 dl boiling water

90 g softened butter

115 g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence (or powder, works fine)

2 eggs

185 g flour

1,5 tsp baking powder.

how to:

The making is quite easy and forward.

In a bowl add the dates, the boiling water and the baking soda. Let it rest for 15 minutes while you make the rest of the cake. This will soften the dates and makes it easier to mix with the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, mix  with a mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon, that will make you burn extra calories!) the softened butter with sugar and vanilla. It should become a light brown homogenous dough. Add one egg at a time, and mix well. Then sift half of the flour and add it to the dough, by mixing with a wooden spoon (here i suggest avoiding the electrical mixer, as it will remove the fluffiness of the dough). Add half of the date mixture. mix again. then add the rest of the flour, the baking powder and the date mix.

Give it one last blend by hand(spoon) and pour into a greased cake pan, any form will do. I am using the round one with the whole in the middle. the result is beautiful.

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 35-40 minutes, in the middle of a pre-heated oven.

When baked let it rest for 10 minutes before you remove it from its form.

Sift white powered sugar sprinkle over the cake!

done!

Bon appetit!!!

the waiting room

Yesterday while driving home from work, my thoughts were about shopping or no shopping. During the day my phone beeped endlessly with enticing messages; up to 50% on your favorite shoe brand. 30% off on all new clothes. come and be the first to benefit from the sales… as we were the 2nd of January, I knew my bank account was happy and that I could afford splashing myself with “up to 50%” items and find stuff for my kids who seemed to be busy growing 1 size per month!

As trivial as my thoughts were at that moment, something tragic happened few kilometers away. A bomb exploded in Beirut’s southern neighborhood, blinding everyone around with its terrible light, site, noise and then silence. I cannot imagine what goes through the people around at that moment. I cannot imagine what they are seeing, hearing or feeling. smoke? sharp smells? raging flames? for a moment or so, time stands still. then chaos reigns. people start screaming, shouting, running…I don’t want to imagine.

Same moment. Two different levels of reality.

That was the 7th car bomb in 6 months in Lebanon.

Thousands of innocent (aren’t they always?) people destroyed and for ever scared. Houses, cars, shops, buildings destroyed. Dreams and hopes vanished.

Today I am debating with myself if I should go out dancing tonight with my friends. It feels weird that my reality was about entertainment while few kilometers away I know people are crying their loss, sitting by the bed of the wounded praying, cleaning up broken glasses, cursing. How can our realities be so far and yet we are so close. It is so surreal.

A friend once asked me: how do you stay sane in a world like this? how do you keep on living, working, sending your kids to school, while someone out there is planning yet another bomb. How can you just sit and wait?

That is when i realized that we (the Lebanese)  are all living in a waiting room. A place where we know something bad might be told to us or happen to us, a place where the unknown prevails. We wait for the next bomb and pray that none of us are in that street that day. We wait for Iran and the US to make their deals and stop tormenting us. We wait for the Syrian war to stop slaughtering its people. We wait for the Palestinians to finally get their piece of land. We wait for our kids to grow so that we can send them abroad to a safer world. We wait for the morning to rise so that we can start all over. we wait for the night to arrive so that we can shut the brain off and forget the horrors. All we do is wait. and wait and wait.

Meanwhile, we go dancing. We go praying. We go visit our parents. Who knows, maybe tomorrow will never come.

Beirut in Arabic; carved in concrete
Beirut in Arabic; carved in concrete

{christmas} expo at Caprice de Fil

Visiting a Christmas exhibitions in November makes you want to go home and redecorate on the spot! Caprice de Fil is the place to go if you need inspiration and if you have a sudden urge for Christmas! Entering the white little shop (5 minutes away from Antelias Church (15 minutes from Beirut Center) ) today was a sweet experience… walls and shelves were filled with little elves, angels, red and white christmas balls, hand made ornaments, and lots more…my children and I were touching every little piece and seeing it in our home! Needless to say that this was impossible as such beautiful ornaments come with a price… different prices for all budgets. the taste of products is exquisite, pretty, fresh and very Scandinavian…I felt I was in Denmark for a little moment…

What I also found remarkable is the wonderfully hand made ornaments; made by angels I would say,Lebanese Ladies living all over the mountains, working sometimes for months to deliver just one piece. Incredibly refined and lovely.

Here are some snapshots of the shop…

caprice de fil

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For more info why don’t you follow their facebook page:

or call them +961 4521710, or visit them at their shop in Naccache Antelias (Rabieh area), opened every day (except Sunday) from 10 am – 5 pm..

Enjoy …ho ho ho….

{cookies} by Leelou

lemon cookies

choco cookies

The idea was to make quick chocolate cookies from one of my recipe books; the choice fell on “how to be a domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson the great cake maker. I found a recipe that involved less than 5 ingredients, took 30 minutes to make including the baking, and less than 10 minutes to eat!

I then figured that such a recipe could be amended a bit, which is where my Leelou creative instinct gets a kick! what if I substituted the cocoa with a totally different flavor? I couldn’t go that wrong, especially that the base was proven to be good.

So here is the original recipe from Nigella Lawson, and next my adaptation;

You need:

2 cups self rising flour (if you have normal flour, then add 1 tsp Baking powder)

2 Tablespoon Cocoa powder

1 cup + 2 tbsp soft butter

7  tbsp sugar

a pinch of salt (I added this to give it an extra punch!)

  • Heat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius.
  • Mix flour, cocoa & salt together and set aside.
  • Cream the butter and sugar (either with a mixer, or the old fashion way; by cutting the butter in tiny bits in the sugar, then working it with a wooden spoon until it gets creamy ) add the flour mix to it and work the dough into a ball.  Make small balls out of the dough (walnut size) and place on a baking sheet. Then with the back of a fork press down the balls a bit; it will give them a flatter look and stripy design once baked.
  • Bake for 10-15  minutes. Cocoa cookies become very dark, and it can sometimes be difficult to see if they are done;that is why  I always take one out of the oven, let it rest for a minute on a cold surface and taste the consistency before removing the rest of the cookies. Place the cookies on a cold surface to cool down before indulging them!
  • Keep in an air tight container (preferably metal box; it keeps them crunchy).

Lemon and ginger version:

  • Substitute the cocoa powder with zest of a whole lemon and 2 cm grated fresh ginger.
  • If you do not find fresh ginger, use dry ginger instead; 1 tsp will do. Follow the recipe as above.

I am sure those of you who are venturous would like to try this recipe with other flavors; cinnamon spices, licorice, coffee are among interesting ones. The base of the recipe is so easy, even a child can make it. Try to be bold and let me know how it turns out!

Happy baking!