As a dietitian and food lover I fully expect to be excited by new foods and recipes. Quiet frankly, for the rest of my eating days. But it’s rare that I am bowled over by a new way to prepare or eat a basic food. How about you? Have you ever had a light bulb moment when someone has shown you something so wonderful, yet so simple with food preparation? Let me tell you about my ‘aha’ moment and show you how to reap the health and weight loss rewards from enjoying almonds, Middle Eastern style.
Over the fence
The logical place to start my multicultural, foodie tour was with our fabulous Lebanese next-door neighbours. It’s the easiest way to absorb another culture from the comfort of your own living room….just live next door to a large family that’s life is deeply rooted in traditional food. Via coffee on the front deck, edible gifts off their grill and date filled pastry treats, I’ve already learnt a lot about Lebanese cuisine. I’ve got amazing continental parsley self seeded all over my garden. And watched with Abdul as the fruit on their fig tree slowly ripened…. “no not ready yet, best to wait”. So it’s no surprise to see that Slow Food Beirut are profiling traditional fig propagation. But by far the best cultural experience has been Fatima’s and then Leila’s wedding.
Sitting at the wedding table we enjoyed the usual pre-dinner nibbles including the essential garlicky hummus dip, pita bread and tabbouleh…but then I spotted these beautiful plump almonds. Several people around us were peeling the skins to eat, but others just nibbled whole. What made their texture so enjoyable? I had to ask Ali (several times over the beat of the drum). His reply. Simply soak overnight (well with a few Arabic words in between). So of course I had to try.
Buy a large bag of almonds and if you’re in Australia you may be lucky to receive this snack size carry tin courtesy of Australian Almonds. For my experiment I took a snack size 30g (well 29g) of raw almonds and simply soaked them overnight covered by water in the fridge. Next morning I woke up to see gorgeous plump almonds just like above, that now weigh around 45g. Well, I don’t know about you, but my appetite is already more satisfied by the sound of that.
Nuts for healthy weight
For a longtime nuts were a dieters foe, but they are now growing a powerful health story. Dietitians like me encourage a portion-controlled serve of nuts as a great mid-meal snack. Packed with essential nutrients like vitamin E, along with protein and dietary fibre, they will keep you satisfied for longer than many other options. And if you increase their volume with kilojoule free water, you’ll extend your snack time enjoyment and your satisfaction even further. You can read more on Nuts and weight management (Australian Almonds) and a whole lot more on nuts and health at Nuts for Life (Australian Industry Body). I hope my colleague Dietitian Lisa Yates APD from Nuts for Life leaves a comment. Love to know if it’s true that nuts were traditionally soaked to remove arsenic (no longer a problem in modern cultivars)? Or aid digestion? Perhaps you know?
Moreish to come
In Melbourne we are so lucky to have acclaimed chef Greg Malouf of Lebanese heritage and MoMo fame, plus a range of restaurants from local cafes to the high end, like the new Spice Market at the Hyatt (left). And the great thing about starting to research and document my culinary adventures are the tangents I take along the way. Like finding Fouad Kassab, Sydney-sider and blogger of all food, glorious, Middle Eastern food – The Food Blog.
So that’s just a little taste of Cultured Cuisine to whet your appetite. Love to hear comments below on your Middle Eastern Favourites? Got a recipe to share? Are you nuts about nuts? How do you spice them up? Oh and most importantly, a huge congratulations and thanks to Leila and Abdul, the bride and groom.