Friday, September 14, 2007

Pickles and Pikelets

When I was in Tokyo in July I stayed with my very smart and artistic cousin. Our fathers are brothers, from a quiet family that's a bit Jewish, a bit German, a bit English, and above all, very very proper. My cousin went for something completely different - she married into a huge, noisy, expressive and emotional Lebanese family, and she's never looked back. It was really wonderful being with her in Tokyo, where she'd lived for just a few months. But she had a grasp on the language after some intensive lessons, so we managed to find our way around without too much embarrassment.

After a day's hard gallery-ing and shopping we'd go home to the apartment she shares with her gorgeous husband and their three lively children, and she'd conjure up the most amazing Lebanese feasts (her mother and sisters in law taught her to cook when she first got married). In fact, apart from the bento boxes that I had for lunch at the conference I went to at Tokyo University, I ate mainly Lebanese food while I was in Japan. And what what food it was, so good, made with so much love, that I never once wished for sushi.

So, I have her recipe for Lebanese Lenten kib'be (kib'be a'raahib, or monk's kibbe) and in a rare cooking moment I'm going to attempt it tomorrow night. I've just been up to my local Middle Eastern deli to get some of the ingredients, the most exciting of which is a jar of mackdouce - pickled eggplant stuffed with red pepper and walnuts. This is served with the Lenten kib'be (a sort of nutty "pie" with a potato crust) along with lemon soup, green salad, and radish relish. Watch this space.

It's Ramadan, and the deli had some special things on offer:

like these mouth-watering bags of pickles - soaking in this briny liquid are cabbage, whole chillies, chunks of cauliflower, beetroot, and red capsicum...

and these, the softest of fluffy pikelets, sold with a tub of sugary rose-water syrup in which to dip.


genevieve said...

Yuuummmm. Your beautiful cooking in the later post is gorgeous too. A lot of work, that food, isn't it. We have taken our kids out for Lebanese before and the waiters said that the women in their families spent all their time cooking! So much dicing and mincing and filling...and SO delicious. I'm going to try that soup, thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it has taken me a year to find this entry! Konnichiwa o'genki? LoL, very funny - big, beautiful & boisterous Lebo-Aussie Japanese family. Goodness, what a combination! Fantastic Kib'be Meredith. I am soo pleased that you gave it a go, and the results look amazing. Well done!
BTW 2 fantastic new vegetarian restaurants opened up in Yoyogi Uehara (our neighborhood) just after you left: veggie paradise; (they just hosted a cooking school by raw foodie bryan au)
and Kanbutsu cafe;
(their Japanese bean curry is mild and nutty on a lovely bed of brown rice and traditional pickles -simply to die for). The girls also run a cooking school upstairs. We often stop for lunch here or stop here for a hand dripped organic coffee and bread and honey or/and japanese pickle plate;

And we now shop at our local organic grocer ( who has a restaurant) where we buy one of there more popular items, lebanese olive oil soap! How funny;

Maybe we will have to share these newest treats on a return visit to Tokyo, but this time with Richard.
Miss you, ja mata!