No money, no mutton: Lebanon crisis upends Eid tradition

No money, no mutton: Lebanon crisis upends Eid tradition
People wait for their orders at a butcher shop in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli, as Muslims across the world get ready to celebrate Eid Al-Adha, July 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 30 July 2020

No money, no mutton: Lebanon crisis upends Eid tradition

No money, no mutton: Lebanon crisis upends Eid tradition
  • It is customary for the better-off to donate cuts of mutton to needy members of their community as a form of religious charity during the holiday
  • That might not happen this year in Lebanon, as the country is now mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Tradition dictates that Muslims donate cuts of mutton during Friday’s Eid Al-Adha festival, which would spell brisk business for butcher Abdulrazak Darwish but Lebanon’s economic crisis has cast a pall over his trade.
“This year has been the worst for us because of soaring inflation,” said the 54-year-old resident of the northern city of Tripoli.
“There is no demand for meat or requests from clients to slaughter sheep this Eid Al-Adha,” he told AFP from inside his nearly empty store near the city’s port.
Thousands of sheep are usually slaughtered annually in Lebanon at Eid Al-Adha — the festival of sacrifice — one of two major holy days observed by Muslims across the world.
It is custom for the better-off to donate cuts of mutton to needy members of their community as a form of religious charity during the holiday.
But that might not happen this year, as the country is now mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
The Lebanese pound has in past months lost around 80 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market.
In a country where most consumer goods are imported, that devaluation has had a huge impact on prices and the purchasing power of ordinary Lebanese.
In Darwish’s butcher shop, one lonely cut of mutton hangs from a hook. Fridges next to it are completely empty.
For the vast majority of people whose income is not in dollars, the cost of a sheep has more than tripled since last year.
Darwish says the price he pays his suppliers is already prohibitive and leaves him with “no margin to make a profit.”
Tripoli already harbored some of the country’s poorest but the combined effect of the monetary crisis and coronavirus lockdowns is sentencing thousands of families to hunger.
This has upset Eid Al-Adha mutton donations, said Sheikh Nabil Rahim, who connects wealthy families with the needy during the Islamic holiday.
“Donations have severely dwindled by more than 80 percent which means no mutton this Eid Al-Adha,” he told AFP from his office, a stack of religious textbooks piled on his desk.
“A big segment of the Lebanese population are now preoccupied with themselves and their personal problems as a result of the economic crisis,” explained the man who runs an Islamic radio station.
Sitting on a chair outside her Tripoli apartment, Mona Al-Masri said she is preparing for a frugal Eid Al-Adha this year because of the downturn.
“Our priorities have changed,” said the 51-year-old, explaining she is not planning to buy any meat for the feast, which usually abounds with lamb and mutton.
Instead, she will prepare dishes using lentils, vegetables and herbs, she told AFP, explaining she usually relies on donations for mutton.
“This year it seems no one is planning to distribute anything,” she said.
Eid Al-Adha will still be celebrated this year even though many mosques will not hold public prayers and travel restrictions will limit annual Hajj pilgrimages and traditional family gatherings for the holiday.
Butchers have faced further complication due to power outages that have increased as state failure worsens.
“We can’t buy large quantities of meat, not even during the holidays,” said Ali Hassan Khaled, a 50-year-old butcher in a low-income Tripoli neighborhood.
He said he usually slaughters at least 100 sheep for his customers during Eid Al-Adha, but this year he has only received 10 orders.
“This Eid Al-Adha, it seems, people won’t be eating meat and won’t receive their portion of mutton donations,” Khaled said, circled by several hanging carcasses.
Salima Hijazi, a 33-year-old Tripoli resident, is one of them.
The woman usually prepares stuffed vine leaves with mutton for the feast — a staple holiday dish. But this year, mutton is no longer on the menu.
“Our incomes are nearly worthless... and we are now forced to change our eating habits,” she said.


Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo

Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo
Photo/Supplied
Updated 08 May 2021

Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo

Where We Are Going Today: BoBoKo
  • All menu items are served with rice, homemade peanut sauce and sambal on the side

BoBoKo is an authentic Indonesian restaurant located in Jeddah’s North Obhur area and serves traditional items such as rice noodles, curry, satay, spicy sambal and more. Recipes are spiced up with Asian flavors and ingredients including ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk, and chili pepper.
Boboko is a rice basket made from bamboo and the restaurant’s dishes are presented on a freshly cut banana leaf, complementing the restaurant’s Indonesian vibes.
The dishes are inspired by names of Indonesian cities and what each of them is known for, such as Jakarta (chicken and meat), Puncak (meat only), Bandung (chicken only), Bali (not spicy), and BoBoKo Surabaya (vegetarian).
All menu items are served with rice, homemade peanut sauce and sambal on the side.
For vegetarians, the menu offers vegan options using plant-based foods such as silky soft tofu and bean sprouts.
One of the most popular appetizers is crispy krupuk, or shrimp crackers, a snack close to the hearts of older Saudis.
BoBoKo is open from Thursday to Saturday. For more information visit the Instagram account @bobokoindo.


Ramadan recipes: These glorious stuffed peppers are a feast for the eyes and appetite

Ramadan recipes: These glorious stuffed peppers are a feast for the eyes and appetite
(Shutterstock)
Updated 02 May 2021

Ramadan recipes: These glorious stuffed peppers are a feast for the eyes and appetite

Ramadan recipes: These glorious stuffed peppers are a feast for the eyes and appetite

DUBAI: Stuffing vegetables is an art relished by many in the Middle East. Peppers are easy to fill while others, like cucumbers, carrots and turnips, can be a bit more challenging. Humble vegetables are elevated to another level once stuffed and served with a tantalizing sauce. I love making stuffed peppers since their shape acts as the perfect vessel for any filling. Try a colorful yellow and red pepper combination for a dish that is a treat for the eyes and the appetite.  

Ingredients: 

24 mini bell peppers
1 cup short-grain rice (presoaked, rinsed and drained)
4 tsp clarified butter (or butter)
300g finely diced lamb or beef
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp all-spice
Salt and pepepr
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp dried mint
12 cloves garlic
4 cups (1 L) pureed tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup beef or chicken stock
1 lemon zest (optional)

Garnish ingredients:

Toasted pine nuts (or almonds), parsley or mint.
Serve with labneh or a mixture of 1/2 cup yoghurt and 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream.

Method:

1.       Preheat oven to 190˚C then place the rice, butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, minced garlic, 2 tbs dried mint, and salt and pepper in a large bowl, mixing well.  Add the minced lamb and mix it into the rice with clean hands.

2.       Fill the hollow peppers about three quarters full and place 1 tomato slice on top. Repeat for all peppers. Place the filled peppers in a deep baking dish.

3.      In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and sautée the sliced garlic for one minute before pouring in the puréed tomatoes. Add in the water, tomato paste, 1 tbs dry mint, fresh mint, parsley, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, salt and pepper.

4.      Pour the tomato sauce all around the peppers. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until rice is cooked. Serve hot with any extra tomato sauce and a sprinkle of your chosen garnish.

 


Actress Jameela Jamil to host empowering Instagram workout inspired by her ‘traumatic’ history with fitness

Actress Jameela Jamil to host empowering Instagram workout inspired by her ‘traumatic’ history with fitness
Jameela Jamil is known for her role as Tahani on NBC's 'The Good Place.' File/Getty Images 
Updated 01 May 2021

Actress Jameela Jamil to host empowering Instagram workout inspired by her ‘traumatic’ history with fitness

Actress Jameela Jamil to host empowering Instagram workout inspired by her ‘traumatic’ history with fitness

DUBAI:  May is Mental Health Awareness Month and actress Jameela Jamil has something special in store for her fans to mark the occasion.

The “The Good Place” star has invited her 3.4 million followers to a 30-minute online “exercise class where we wear pajamas, eat snacks and listen to disco while doing very silly aerobics.” 

The 34-year-old teamed up with her longtime friend and trainer for an Instagram Live “cringe fest” workout on Saturday in an effort to “take exercise back.”

“Watch me have the elegance of a walrus as I jump into happiness on Instagram Live,” wrote British-Pakistani-Indian Jameel ahead of the session. 

All that's needed to attend the virtual workout class was a delicious snack and a comfortable outfit. “Bring a delicious snack, baggy clothes and leave your eating disorder fears at the door because this can be a safe space away from the noise of toxic diet culture,” she wrote to her followers. 

Jamil, who became a household name with her activism and role as Tahani Al-Jamil on NBC’s “The Good Place,” routinely takes to her social media platforms to encourage people to respect and love their bodies.

She often gets candid about her struggles with eating disorders and body dysmorphia. 

“It’s taken me 20 years to get back into even light exercise because I’ve been so traumatized by my eating disorder history and how our society has weaponized exercise into being a tool of diet culture rather than something we do for our mental health,” wrote Jamil on Instagram. 

“The bralette tops and tight leggings and rooms full of mirrors and focus on definition, shape and size is just too much for me. It triggers old thoughts and habits. So, I do it in baggy clothes with light snacks (as in nothing that would make me throw up when I’m jumping up and down) and none of the emphasis is on my body, ONLY my mind. Doing this has revolutionized my relationship with exercise, my body, and my mind (sic),” she wrote.  

“It is disgusting that vanity has taken over exercise and that you’re made to feel like to even be able to exercise you have to show up thin and toned in revealing clothes. We need to TAKE EXERCISE BACK (sic),” she added.


What We Are Eating Today: Grandma’s Jar

What We Are Eating Today: Grandma’s Jar
Updated 30 April 2021

What We Are Eating Today: Grandma’s Jar

What We Are Eating Today: Grandma’s Jar

Grandma’s Jar is a homemade Saudi brand that offers authentic jam recipes for sweet-toothed connoisseurs that will make you reminisce over your tasty childhood recipes.
The home business was inspired by a grandmother who used to offer freshly made jam for every family breakfast during Eid, which everyone was eager to enjoy.
The fresh fruits are the main components of the heavenly jars. The healthy, natural jars are filled with just three ingredients: Cane sugar, fruits and lemon, without any pectin or gelatin.
They are available in eight different flavors: Strawberry and rosemary, mixed berry, mango, apricot, orange, cherry, quince, and the brand’s signature fig jam mix with nuts, sesame and black seeds.
Fruits used in Grandma’s Jar jam are taken from the business owner’s backyard. Seasonally produced, their fresh and cold mango jam marks the arrival of summer.
Their jams can be used in plenty of dishes, such as desserts, sandwiches and cheesecakes.
If you were thinking of Eid Al-Fitr’s surprise or gifting to family and friends, the brand offers three choices of smartly packed boxes, ranging from two to six flavors of your choice.
They offer shipment around the Kingdom too. For more information visit their Instagram @grandmasjar or their website: https://salla.sa/grandmasjar


London’s renowned Greek favorite Meraki offers Riyadh a taste of Greece

London’s renowned Greek favorite Meraki offers Riyadh a taste of Greece
Updated 29 April 2021

London’s renowned Greek favorite Meraki offers Riyadh a taste of Greece

London’s renowned Greek favorite Meraki offers Riyadh a taste of Greece
  • Meraki opens its doors in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Ask anyone in London where to find great Greek food and their list will surely include Meraki. The restaurant opened in the UK capital in 2017 and recently launched in Saudi Arabia.

“From the very first day we received an extraordinary welcome from our customers in Riyadh. Given that many people from the Kingdom have visited us at Meraki in London, we felt that they were looking forward to welcoming us in Riyadh too,” Meraki’s chef Athinagoras Kostakos told Arab News.

Meraki’s bright interior calls to mind the warmth and relaxation of the Mediterranean shores and has quickly become a social hub for the city by night — particularly in the lounge area and bar seating where guests can enjoy a mocktail after their meals.

Meraki’s bright interior calls to mind the warmth and relaxation of the Mediterranean shores and has quickly become a social hub for the city by night.  (Supplied)

We’d recommend reserving a table near the floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy the great views of the Faisaliah tower and the the city lights. They are the most popular seats, and tend to fill up very quickly.

So Meraki has the ambience and views covered, for sure. But the real question for any Greek restaurant is: How authentic is the food?

Meraki’s seafood is extremely fresh, which is always a good start. The excellent salt-crusted sea bass is a perfect example of the level of quality you can expect. The restaurant only orders around 30 fish each night, so if you’re a seafood lover reserve an early slot, because the limited supply sells out quickly.

Garides tiger prawns, served with a tomato mayo and herb lemon oil. (Supplied)

We begin our meal with a mocktail from the Meraki bar — famed for its unique blended concoctions. For those with a sweet tooth, we’d recommend the Anixi — a blood-orange and grapefruit base with butterfly-pea flower tea and peach shrub, topped with roses. The Heraklion is a refreshing, more-tangy option, with a mixed-berry base, oranges, peaches, and soda. Both drinks are not only delicious but definitely Insta-worthy.

Meraki offers hot and cold appetizers. Two highlights for us were the Meraki Tzatziki and the flatbread with tarama and zaatar. Order the pair and dip the extra flatbread in the fresh creamy homemade tzatziki sauce — you won't regret it. The tzatziki — mint, dill, and courgette mixed into fresh greek yogurt — makes the perfect companion to the soft-but-crisp bread.

Athinagoras Kostakos is Meraki’s chef. (Supplied)

As mentioned, if you’re opting for seafood for your main course, then the salt-crusted sea bass — which arrives at your table quite literally in flames for another great photo opp before being taken back to the kitchen for plating — is a great choice, not least because the delicious crisp fish, served with lemon-herb dressing and kale, can easily be shared between two or three people. But be warned: It sells out quick.

We also tried the juicy Garides tiger prawns, which are served with a tomato mayo and herb lemon oil. They were not bad, but nowhere near as good as the bass.

If you’re too late for the fish dishes — or if you’re not a fan of seafood — then you can’t go wrong with the the chargrilled lamb chops served with aromatic quinoa and fresh fennel. Ours were perfectly cooked, the buttery juices flowing out as we cut into the chops. The rib-eye steak is so tender it just melts in your mouth, and the accompanying chimichurri oregano and cherry tomatoes make for a surprising blend of flavors.

The warm cardamom-infused soft-baked cinnamon cookie is served with date ice-cream. (Supplied)

For dessert, we selected the warm cardamom-infused soft-baked cinnamon cookie, served with date ice-cream, the cold sweetness of which is the ideal blend with the chewy warmth of the cookie dough. It was the highlight of our meal.

Throughout the evening, the service was prompt and efficient, even though the restaurant was extremely busy, we were not kept waiting between courses and the staff were knowledgable and welcoming.

Kostakos told us that “each and every one of our team puts their soul, love and creativity” into their work. After eating at Meraki, we believe him.