The Mediterranean secret; the “F” words

Marcel Shamshoum writes about the quality of Mediterranean food, also offering a unique recipe.

Marcel Shamshoum
14th October 2019
Image: en.wkipedia.org
Over the past 10 years or so people around the world have been obsessed with what is called the Mediterranean diet. But why? What is it? What makes it special? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Here is everything you need to know about Mediterranean cuisine and culture, plus an easy recipe to share with your friends on a Sunday dinner! 

The Mediterranean’s strategic geographical location, resources, temperate weather and multiple religions have been a motivation behind thousands of years of colonialism, occupations and trade. These have resulted in a deep historical and cultural interconnectedness of the Mediterranean.  Now, Mediterranean living, food and travel have become the interest of individuals from all over the world.

"To me Mediterranean food can be anything as long as it stays simple, fresh, organic and humble"

However, what makes this area special is a secret beyond its strategic location and amazing weather. It is the shared values of the people living in it, represented by solid family relations and heritage. It is also the fun and festivities in celebrating holidays and harvests brought together over natural, simple and wholesome foods made with lots of love. These elements are what I call the Mediterranean Secret: The F words; family, festivities, fun and most importantly FOOD. To me Mediterranean food can be anything as long as it stays simple, fresh, organic and humble.

Mediterranean cuisine is a very broad term, as it includes very unique dishes from very unique places like north African e.g. Egypt and Morocco. Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, south of France and where I’m from, the middle east, mainly Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. All these places may seem very different. However, they all share the same core ingredients; most importantly olive oil.

Which reminds me, Its October! Which means olive harvest season in the Mediterranean region. Freshly harvested olives are finely pressed to extract a beautiful green liquid called olive oil. And while we’re at it here are some important health benefits of olive oil. It is a fantastic source of antioxidants, it decreases bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases the good cholesterol (HDL). Consuming more olive oil could decrease the risk of heart disease.

Now to the main part of the article which is an easy recipe to share with your friends on a weekend inspired by the Mediterranean!

Syrian Kebab with Aubergines (Kebab Halabi)

Serves 6-8

This recipe originates from Aleppo, Syria. It has a very unique shape and taste. This is completely different than an ordinary kebab that you get on a Saturday night. This could be a good replacement for your traditional Sunday roast.

Ingredients:

1 kg ground lamb

1.5 kg aubergines

1 kg tomatoes finely chopped

2 bell peppers

2 chilies

2tsp tomato sauce

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Meat seasoning:

1 chili

2 medium onions

Parsley

1 tbsp. Allspice

1 tbsp. Nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Start with seasoning the meat. Chop your chili, onions, and parsley super fine; add them to the meat. Then season with allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix really well.
  2. Cut your aubergines into circle pieces about 1cm thick.
  3. After that, chop the tomatoes, bell peppers and the chili roughly because they are going to be like a bed for the kebab.
  4. Add the roughly chopped vegetables, tomato sauce, salt and pepper to a baking pan.
  5. Using wooden skewers arrange the kebab by putting on a piece of aubergine followed by some meat. Repeat the process until the whole skewer becomes full. Then place them on top of the vegetable bed in the baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake in a preheated oven at 180̊C/356̊F, for about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the aluminum foil, and bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Serve with pita/flat bread.
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