Barbara (Wheat Dessert )

Barbara is a porridge-like dessert that’s made by Syrian and Middle Eastern Christians every year on December 4th to mark the countdown to Christmas and in celebration of Saint Barbara. The story of this day goes back to when Saint Barbara disguised herself in different characters in order to escape the Romans who were persecuting her. She used to hide in wheat fields and witnessed a miracle as the wheat instantly grew to hide her steps. That is why we eat this wheat-based dessert on Saint Barbara’s Day.

The Syrian tradition is that each family makes this recipe and each will share a plate with the other neighborhood families. The fun part is that they would compare whose Barbara is the best of the year.

Wheat is the main ingredients for this recipe as Wheat is considered a symbol for life. One seed of wheat if planted can grew and produce more seeds.

The other ingredients are the licorice spices, anise, and fennel powder. Fennel and anise have a licorice sweet taste, therefore, the dish itself doesn’t require a lot of sugar, and for those who like it sweeter extra sugar can be added, spices also can be adjusted depending on your taste, you can start by less and add-on.

Arabic lentil soup "Shorbat adas"

Lentils were discovered in the Stone Age in at Mureybet and Tal Abu Hureyra in Syria. Lentil soup is mentioned in the biblical story of Jacob and Esau. In fact, lentil usage in Syrian cuisine goes back even further in history; originating in the Middle East, lentils are believed to be the first legume ever cultivated.

Lentil soup is highly nutritious, a good source of protein, dietary fiber, iron and is cholesterol free. Some doctors prescribe lentil soup for patients with liver ailments.

This lentil soup also is almost the official ramadan soup in many homes. It is nutritious,tasty and easy to make.

All you need is a squeeze of lemon juice and a few parsley leaves and you are in for a bowl of comfort food at its best.

Creamy freekeh with mushrooms and chicken

Freekeh (pronounced free-ka or free-keh) is one of the ancient grains popular in Syria, the Levant and in North east Africa.

Simply put, Freekeh is roasted green wheat. The grains are harvested while still soft, young and green, then parched, roasted, rubbed to get rid of burnt husks then the grains are dried.

The name Freekeh is actually Arabic for (that which is rubbed)

Freekeh has at least four times as much fibre as some other comparable grains, and consists mostly of insoluble fibre. It also has a low glycemic index and is very high in protein.

These kinds of fusion recipes are quite popular in fancy restaurants here in Syria. This one in particular is either called Freekoto (a play on freekeh and risotto) or (freekeh bil fakhara) which means freekeh cooked in a clay pot because restaurants often serve this in clay pots for that traditional Syrian touch.

In this dish, the freekeh adds texture and a nutty earthiness that balances the cream well. The mushrooms and chicken add layers of flavor.

Baklava Baked Apples with Nuts and Honey

Baklava Baked Apples is a sweet apple cored in the middle and filled with baklava dough, nuts and honey, then baked perfectly.

It is Syrian classic flavored healthy dish which combine the smooth taste of honey with walnut and of course, the pure joy of pistachio. It is heavenly aromatic and tastes very very delicious.

These easy baked baklava apples are the perfect combination of spices, nuts, honey, and of course apples. Be sure to make more of the filling and serve it on the side, probably with an extra scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Semsemeyah (sesame seeds bars)

Chewy sesame seeds bars are pretty and delicious crunchy treat for sesame lovers made with few ingredients.  They are common in many Mediterranean countries with a variety of names, Pasteli in Greece and Semsemeyah in Syria.

These sesame honey candy is a great gluten free snack that can be ready in less than 30 minutes.

It is so common in Syria during religious celebrations.

You can make it with almost any nut of your choice (pistachios, almonds, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts or a combination of nuts), but sesame seeds is the original.

Sugar and honey are the main sweeteners here and make the glue to hold all the seeds together.

A little bit of water to help sugar dissolve in honey and the lime juice to help prevent crystallization.

Vanilla extract is optional.