For the winter issue of The Carton magazine, entitled A Proustian Memory, a piece of writing that I submitted was published and I couldn’t get any prouder to be part of such cultural publication. This piece revisits my memories of the period of Saint Barbara’s day through Christmas with scents, sights, and flavors.
UPDATE: I have updated some of the photos on December 2, 2016. Excuse me for having the three-year-old photos. I will change them once I can take new ones this year!
Happy people in the streets.
Kids are collecting candy (and money) and roaming the streets in masks.
This is how we celebrate the day of Saint Barbara. It is not Halloween and I might not know how it all started and what’s the4 original story but it’s a tradition we love.
Bear with me for I’m gonna go with my personal opinion here. If you’re uninterested, skip this paragraph.
I’m not sure how this day was celebrated, but I’m pretty sure it contained less ugly and scary masks and costumes. We used to go visit homes in groups dressed up in costumes ranging from cute, funny, adorable to regular. We used to have fun confusing people trying to guess who we are. They would start guessing, with the help of a list of questions in their heads: a relative, a friend, someone they know, the familiarity of the shoes, the dress, the height, who is accompanying us, who we sound like, and the list goes on until someone cracks the code and our identities are revealed one by one.
It used to be fun. Our relatives give us money and strangers give us candy. We save the money for Christmas.
Now most of the children dress up in scary, mutated, dead (and undead) costumes. People greet each other with happy Halloween and they decorate in a way that St. Barabara’s day is replaced with Halloween.
I don’t like how this is turning. Don’t get me wrong, I like Halloween and the tradition that goes around it even though we don’t relate culturally. Halloween IS about being scary to ward off unwanted spirits.
This is how we celebrate St. Barbara’s Day (From Wikipedia)
Enough with me ranting.
Our tradition on this day is sweets.
LOTS OF SWEETS
Like it’s any different elsewhere, hehe.
My mom this time has prepared my favorite: whole wheat berries infused with anise, mixed with sugar, topped with coconut shreds and adorned with almonds, raisins, and ground pistachio and walnuts. Mine always has less sugar because I like to enjoy the full flavor of the wheat and anise.
The other type of sweets we prepare is a’atayef. It is a cup-wide pancake-like dough filled with ashta, clotted cream, sprinkled with coarsely ground pistachio or walnuts and drizzled with syrup. It can also be decorated with orange blossom petal jam.
I love it when we make these sweets at home. I feel a certain bliss that can’t be found when you buy them ready-made. One of my goals on this blog is to be able to gather as many recipes and keep that bliss by make everything I can at home.
My friend Christelle from Health and Horizons has prepared this whole wheat berries for breakfast and her baby loves it. I love it her recipe too. It’s really delicious and healthy (if you skip, reduce or replace the added sugar) as a breakfast or an afternoon snack.
A’atayef w A’ameh (Stuffed mini pancakes & Whole wheat berries desserts)
A’ameh (Whole wheat berry dessert)
- 500g whole wheat berries (I prefer with skin on)
- 2 tbsp whole aniseed
- Coarsely ground pistachios
- Coarsely ground walnuts
- Whole almonds (soaked overnight then peeled) or blanched almonds or almond flakes
- Shredded coconut
- Pine nuts
- Sugar (average of 1 tbsp for every cup of cooked wheat)
(none of the above is mandatory, feel free to omit or add whatever you feel like. You can skip sugar or use honey or any other sweetner of your choice)
- Rinse wheat berries
- To infuse the wheat with aniseed, either wrap the amount of aniseed in a piece of
- cloth or cheesecloth and add to the cooking pot or boil separately, skim and use the water to cook the wheat berries
- Cook for around an hour, till the wheat berries are done
- Cool then scoop into serving bowls
- Stir in sugar and top with coconut shreds, nuts and raisins
- Store the remaining wheat in an airtight container in the fridge. Could last for about 4-5 days
Could be served warm as well
A’atayef with Ashta
- 1 cup Flour
- 1 cup Water
- 1/2 tsp Yeast
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 tbsp milk (optional: use nut milk instead)
- Ashta (clotted cream) (get the recipe from Taste of Beirut)
- Coarsely ground walnuts
- Coarsely ground pistachios
- Simple sugar syrup
- Mix the dry ingredients then add water and stir
- Just like pancakes, heat a skillet or non stick pan
- Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture into the pan and reduce to medium heat
- As the bottom browns, the top gets bubbly and porous and starts to set; it’s done
- Remove from heat and cool separately
- To fill, scoop a teaspoon of ashta on one side of the rounded dough
- Close one end of the dough and press to seal it shut
- It should look like a cone or a cornucopia, like the pictures above
- Sprinkle or press the nuts on the ashta and drizzle (or drown) in syrup and serve immediately
Store the remaining dough in an airtight container with a plastic sepratation between them
- It’s better not to fill the dough ahead of time but rather make to order
P.S. Fresh Ashta doesn’t have a long shelf life, so use it quickly