Beirut and back

Winter has most definitely arrived in Moscow.

I woke up this morning to read a toasty -10 on the thermometer and I’m finding it hard to believe that just a few days ago I was basking in the late Autumn sun in Beirut.

If you have never been to Lebanon I urge you to go.  It is incredibly easy to reach from Moscow – only a three and a half hour direct flight – and my goodness does a culinary treasure trove await! To taste is to believe.

I was doing rather a lot of the tasting part. Well actually not just tasting but diving in fork first.  Lebanese hospitality is unrivaled and unfortunately I spent a little too much time indulging and not enough time photographing the feasts (the groaning tables!) to share with you, oh well I’ll just have to make another trip back soon!

Here are just some of the delicious memories keeping me warm on this cold Winter’s day…

Each morning began with piles of piping hot freshly baked Mana’eesh, spread with za’atar (a blend of dried spices including wild thyme, sumac and sesame seeds) and lashings of olive oil.

Pit stop for a falafel sandwich, crisp and light and zinging with homemade pickles…

Through the fertile lands of the Bekaa Valley to majestic Baalbeck.  Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure, then known as ‘Heliopolis’ – The City of Sun, Baalbeck can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world, containing some of the largest and best preserved Roman ruins.

We barely passed another soul during our visit, a humbling privilege, simply breathtaking…

Baal’back is famous for these little pies (Sfiha Baalbakiye) filled with spiced minced lamb. They are the most addictive little morsels – we got through two boxes (!) – best eaten straight from the baker’s oven with a squeeze of lemon mmm

I think we made the camel hungry

This is my absolute, all time favourite ice cream.   Made with mastic (a resin from the mastic tree) the binding qualities of the resin give the ice cream a heavenly unctuous texture and a delicately perfumed flavour…

On to Byblos.  Founded around 5000BC it is believed by many to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. The years of practice showed in the perfectly fried Sultan Ibrahim…

Into the spice shop to load up with goodies to bring back to Moscow…sumac, black cumin, cardamom, rose-water, orange blossom water the list goes on and on and I have the excess baggage bill to prove it!

I shall be putting my bundles of Beirut treasure to good use in the coming weeks…

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