Sweet Middle East: Anissa Helou

Oh, I see!

I have a strong sweet tooth and often say it’s because my family name, Helou, means “sweet” in Arabic. In truth, that has nothing to do with it. Most people in the Middle East and North Africa have a serious penchant for all things sugary. Sweets occupy an important place in our lives, and every important occasion, rite of passage, or religious event has a specific sweet associated with its celebration. In fact, any occasion is a good enough reason to visit the sweets maker, whether to enjoy a snack while going about your daily business or to buy a treat to take to friends or family.

It’s possible that this love of sweet things is a result of the Muslim prohibition against alcohol, with sugar from sweets replacing the sugar derived from alcohol. Perhaps sugar (from the Arabic word sukkar, derived from the Persian shakar) was so plentiful…

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In Search of the Perfect Curry: Chef Rick Stein

Oh, I see!

Whenever I hear the word ‘curry’, I’m filled with a longing for spicy hot food with the fragrance of cumin, cloves and cinnamon. I see deep-red colors from lots of Kashmiri chillies tinged with a suggestion of yellow from turmeric. I think of the tandoor oven, and slightly scorched naan shining with ghee and garlic; of a bowl of dark dal to assuage the heat of the curry, a green chutney of coriander and mint, and a plate with a few tomatoes, cucumbers and sliced onions tinged with pink, all sprinkled with salt and fresh lime juice. At home I have a little sign I put on the front door of my cottage in Padstow which says, Gone Swimming. Maybe I’ll get one which says, Gone for a Curry. The sense of leaving home for something completely satisfying is the same.

The sign would have been there for quite a…

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