I’ve been in Lebanon for a month and a half now and I am starting to blow fuses because of the ridiculously slow internet connection. Apparently, there are only 3 other countries with worse internet than Lebanon and I was shocked to learn that internet in the Palestinian territories is actually much better.
Since my arrival to Lebanon, one of the projects I’ve been working on is the photography for a Lebanese cookbook that was first written about 20 years ago and is to be republished by the end of the year. I’ve been doing the cooking, styling, and photography and as you can imagine that has kept me a very busy girl. It has also left me with little time to get on with all my other work and when the internet connection decides to take a break every 15 minutes I get a rude awakening and the fantasies of ever moving back to this country turn into nightmares.
I DO love Lebanon BUT boy is it difficult to get any work done in this country. The pace at which everyone is running is so lethargic, especially now that it’s summer, and obviously limited resources and political instability never help matters either. I have the utmost respect for those achieving big things in this country against all these odds. The Lebanese really do have a great spirit of endurance…
And, of course good taste in food. Marrows or courgettes, squash, zucchini depending on where you are in this world, come in different varieties. Here in Lebanon, we get these beautiful greenish-yellow ones that are carved and then stuffed with a rice & minced meat mixture or meat is substituted with chickpeas or pine nuts during religious holidays, like lent. I personally prefer the vegetarian option, especially in summer when it can be enjoyed cold. Although, I’m always one to lean towards a balanced combo of meat and veg, when it comes to koussa it just is not the case. Anyone else feel the same way?
And, before my internet connection goes down again I’d like to wish everyone a RAMADAN KAREEM!
- 2kg of medium sized marrows
- 200g or 1 cup of short grain rice (also known as Egyptian rice), rinsed
- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch of parsley finely chopped or about 1 cup
- 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon of allspice
- 80g of toasted pine nuts
- 60ml olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1kg tomatoes or about 5
- 1 onion cut into medium thick ring
- 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato paste diluted in 1 cup of water
- water to cover
- 60 ml or ¼ cup of olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Pot- about 15 cm deep. Enough to hold the koussa and the water to cover them
- 10 mint leaves
- 5-8 garlic cloves
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Trim off stem ends and using a vegetable corer carve out the pulp. Try to remove as much of the pulp as you can without breaking the marrow. Sometimes you may accidentally carve too hard and get “cracks” that’s o.k you can still stuff it but just be gentle with it. DO NOT THROW AWAY the pulp. It is excellent in an omelet. You can also freeze it for later use.
- Mix rice, tomatoes, onions, herbs, pine nuts, olive oil and seasonings and use this mixture to stuff squash three-quarters full.
- Drizzle the bottom of the pan with olive oil and then layer with the tomato and onion rings and then arrange the stuffed marrows in layers over tomatoes & onions. Add tomato paste mixture, salt to taste and place a plate that fits into the pot so that it keeps the marrows compressed and limits them from wiggling around. Now cover with water. Bring it to a boil on the stove on medium-high flame and then reduce to medium-low flame (it needs to be simmering so adjust accordingly) and cook for about 45mn-1 hr.
- While the koussa is cooking, pound the garlic and then add the mint and pound further till a thick paste is achieved before mixing in the lemon juice. Add this to the pot at about 45 minutes. Essentially you want it to all simmer together for at least 10 minutes and the flavors to seep in.
- Once cooked (you can check by piercing the koussa with a fork it should be tender and the rice cooked) let it cool and serve cold atop Greek-style yoghurt. It tastes wonderful, cold from the fridge, the next day.