Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bird of Fire

Yesterday, I was reading a "peaceful and friendly" part-Israeli blog - ‎East Med Sea Peace- cheering the fact that the Lebanese were capable ‎of making political humor out of their tragedy… the old arabic verse, ‎‎"Like a bird dancing out of Pain" came to mind. The bird is Lebanon, a ‎Phoenix.. Much as it dances out of joy in its better days, it dances out of ‎pain in times of hurt... It dances to shake off the ashes.

The Phoenix bursts into fire, then rises again, do the shrieks sound like ‎laughter? Maybe they do. Just like southern mothers who welcome ‎their fallen children back home with a "Ululation," and hide their tears. ‎Somehow their cries resound of pain, a different sound of joy that says: ‎‎"Happy to have you back, torn, wounded, ...dead.. happy to have you ‎back no matter what."

Only with laughter can we welcome back our Lebanon.. our precious ‎little Lebanon.. a secret legend says that with echos of laughter we can ‎herald in tomorrow. Legend says that the smiles in this little rock called ‎Lubnan turn into clouds, and rain back droplets of life..

For its sake, for Lebanon's sake, we tread on our hearts, we swallow our ‎pain, we hide our wounds, and hang our bloody clothes as cheerful ‎banners, we dry our tears and spread the white salt and perhaps throw ‎into air our last ration of rice to bring Lebanon back, we stand up and ‎cry:

O Joy! O Joy! Rise Lebanon, Rise!

For its sake we shall live, and for its name we shall laugh.‎

Recipe: Mjadra Hamra A La Sud Libanaise

Ok, this will sound like a surprise, but during the war I promised Lydia to post the recipe of Mjadra Hamra, a southern Lebanese dish, served with southern Lebanese Salad.

There you go, I had to ask my mum for a favour, and now I cannot seem to get her to stop asking questions: whom is it for, why do you want to know, do you want me to make some now, are you revealing our cuisine secrets to enemy sources, yada yada yada.. I had to pretend I got what she was saying.. I hope I got it right!!

Recipe of Mjadra Hamra:
1 cup of red lentils
¾ - 1 cup of Borgol (Crushed Wheat, you can use large grained Couscous if you have no other choice)
1 large onion
2 large table spoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of Salt

For salad
1 or 2 large red tomatos (chopped into large cubes)
Green onions (or a small onion, chopped into wings)
Cucumber (1 or two, chopped into relatively large circles or cubes)
Lemon Juice (according to taste, half a lemon squeeze will do)
Oil (Olive Oil, of course)
Dash of Vinegar
Soumak (don’t ask what that is, I don’t know the English translation, it’s a zesty herbal powder which gives great taste, it's not crucial, but great to have)
Dried mint (a dash)

Salad is easy, chop it all, dump all on top of all, shake well before use. When you're done chopping, put the salt and the dash of dried mint leaves and soumak and mix.

For Mjadra

Boil the red lentils until they are soft. Not mush, they should keep their shape, but they should be soft.
Put the olive oil and the finely chopped onions and stir fry until the onion turns dark red/brown. Dry off the oil. Careful, the shade quickly turns from gold yellow to charcoal black, it's a critical process!
Remove any excess water from the Lentils; water level should be equivalent to the surface of the lentils.
Put quarter a cup of the lentil water on top of the fried onions (make sure you dry the oil or else it will splash). Wait for 5 minutes. Anyway, less oil is healthier.
Put the onion/water mix back onto the lentils.
Add the borgol (dry)
Add salt (careful, if it's too little, you can add some to the salad, when the water dries up, it might turn out to be very salty).
Simmer on very low heat, keep mixing with a fork until the lentils are relatively dry, you should smell something nice. (says mum.. if you smell burning, try again – that's what I do when I'm in charge of the kitchen).

The red colour of the Mjadra is from the stir fried onions.
Serve with salad on the side, or with yoghurt. (Yoghurt + dried mint leaves+ salt + cucumber cubes). If you get hold of Markouk Bread (thin Lebanese Bread), then your are lucky, if not, less carbohydrates won't hurt!

Can be served hot or cold.