Mama G’s Lebanese Spiced Rice
Despite coming from a Lebanese background where most daughters find their way in the kitchen relatively early on, I’m not the typical foodie who grew up cooking from a young age. My mother loved the kitchen, it was her sanctuary! So much so that I wasn’t allowed to step foot in it or help her. I was quite spoilt growing up in the sense that it was not until my late teens, at the age of 16 or 17, that I was even allowed to peel a potato. Mum is very particular in the way she cooks and I would stand in the kitchen doorway and watch her create and invent her dishes from the simplest of ingredients. It’s only now that I have my own family that I realise I have inherited this from her, how like her I am and in some ways, I am following in her footsteps.
My mum was single parent and I grew up with one sibling in a tiny apartment in South Sydney. We didn’t have extravagant meals or big spreads growing up, but I watched my mum utilise every single ingredient she had on hand and creating special meals from leftovers.
I didn’t really learn to cook at all until I got married. I was literally thrown in the deep end! My husband discovered he was in for a real ride with plenty of burnt dishes and overly salted foods! However, I did begin to learn and to execute dishes that I have now recreated hundreds of times and which happily now inspire others. Because of my own experience, my main aim has been to inspire and help newly-weds and young mums create easy recipes.
My nickname ‘Mama G’ goes back to one evening when I made my husband baba ghanouj. He thought it was the best-ever and started calling me Mama Ghanouj! It’s stuck and most people call me that rather than Tagrid now!
I have decided to share one particular recipe which has a strong connection to my childhood, a recipe that is often ‘recycled’ to make another meal. It is ‘Hashweh’ which means ‘Stuffing’. It is a Lebanese Spiced Rice which is traditionally used as a stuffing to stuff whole chickens, vine leaves, zucchinis, eggplant and more. My mum would use the leftover stuffing mixture, add stock to it and cook it to create a delicious dish topped with almonds and served with Greek yoghurt.
The second dish I want to share is another one close to my heart. It is called ‘Namoura’ which is a semolina cake soaked in sugar syrup. My mum used to save the crunchy bits which stuck to the edges of the baking tin because she knew I loved them! I remember sitting down with her one afternoon when I must have been about 15 years old and I asked her for the recipe so that “when I get married I can make it for my family”. She gave me a quick recipe off the top of her head with rough measurements, I wrote it down on a piece of scrap-paper and hid it in the drawer of my bedside table. It sat there for years until I was about to be married and packing my things to move into my new home, I found it. I have cherished this recipe and this memory as a special gift from my mum ever since. My kids now love it just as I do still – and I save the crunchy bits for them too!
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First brown your mince, once colour has changed add the onion & cook for 10min.
Add all your spices & stock cubes, cook for a further 2minutes.
Add the rice along with 5 cups hot water, bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to lowest & cook for 18-20min.