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My name is Suzana. I currently live in Malta with my wonderful husband Johny and I’m happy to share my culinary journey with you through this blog!
I was born to a Syrian father and Polish mother, and grew up between Damascus (Syria), Vancouver (Canada) & Beirut (Lebanon). My childhood was a bit all over the place, but allowed me to experience alot of interesting things including culture, taste and perception.
Full disclosure, I never really was into food until very recently (erm… when I got married!). Having a hungry husband who was used to ordering pizza every night kind of forced me to sharpen my knives, take some courses and order up some cooking books. After I got the basics down, I started asking my relatives and friends about dishes from my homeland – which leads me to today – sharing my journey of cooking with you!
How I Started Cooking
I started cooking by reading cookbooks mostly, and trying to learn what it is about cooking that made food taste great. I mean, anyone can cook if they follow a recipe – so how come not everyone is a chef? I started cooking everyday, from different cuisines such as Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian, Japanese & Greek etc. I also started to understand the different taste profiles that each chef has and how their recipes are constructed. Building blocks you might say into building flavor in each and every culture.
My father would always give me less than stellar ratings when I used to cook dishes from exotic cuisines. He always complained that I never cooked any Syrian food. I told him that I was bored of Syrian food – I’ve been eating it all my life! I wanted to try new tastes, flavors and experiences. It always amazed me how his palette could not adapt to the exotic tastes or even come to appreciate them. Years later – I’ve come back to my roots and started to appreciate the Levantine foods from my childhood. I found myself cooking them more and more for my husband and myself – and really aiming to perfect them everytime.
Additionally, I started to create my own recipes from these classic passed-down Syrian / Arabic dishes – ones that suited my taste palette. These recipes always stayed true to the core of the Levantine flavor – however I had my own tips and tricks under my sleeve as well! Please feel free to explore my recipes and the step by step instructions I provide.
My Cooking Style
I used to be one of those people who micro-measured every ingredient and would go out and buy a $10 ingredient to just use half a teaspoon of it for one recipe. I was obsessed with getting the recipe just right, and worried that leaving out something would completely change the dish and render me a failure. Oh how have times changed!
Now you’ll find me more often than not ditching my measuring spoons and cups and doing that ‘measuring by eye’ thing I used to see all my relatives do (and have a mini heart attack everytime they do it!). After a bit more experience, I learned that my eyes are really a measuring tool – and I’ve actually tested this a few times to see if I was crazy or not!
Additionally, I like to use fresh ingredients and whole toasted spices. Luckly, I currently live beside an organic garden, so I can go get my produce everyday. On the other hand, living on a small island has its drawbacks, as a lot of Arabic ingredients are very hard to find. It was only a few months ago that a pita bread company opened up here! But these all add to my curiosity in exploring how to create the basics of Middle Eastern cuisine from scratch (I am still trying to perfect my pita bread recipe!).
When I started to cook, I liked to take the long way in doing things, like making pasta from scratch and grinding meat myself. I do it to learn technique and also as a form of meditation. I still do some of these things, and they will be reflected in some of my recipes – but please don’t think you need to do them as well! The good thing about doing things the really long and gruesome way the first time – is that everytime you make the dish later on using store-bought ingredients, you’ll really enjoy & savour the time you saved! You’ll feel a bit like superman/woman.
My recipes are a mix of passed down verbal directions, research from cookbooks and blogs and lots of trial and error! Rest assured however that I have made every single recipe on my blog many times to ensure that it’s consistent and still tastes good!
In terms of flavour, it is very much a Damascus taste – which I would describe as a ‘taste’ that I would savour eating at any of my aunt’s or friends houses in Damascus. It’s really something you cannot describe, but as an example, take the dish Mulukhiyya. The way I make it in my blog is a very typical Syrian way, where the leaves are fried whole and eaten as a bush. This contrasts with the way Egyptians make the same dish, where they puree the leaves and eat it more as a soup.
Why I Started This Food Blog
- to keep track of all the dishes that I used to eat in Syria and in the Middle East
- To document my journey in cooking as I get better and better
- To create a collection of recipes and family favorites so that my kids can have it one day
- To share some of my favorite recipes with my friends & family instead of sending them very long whatsapp messages!
- To bond with my family & friends over food – especially with the older generations who have tips & tricks under their sleeves
- Because many people told me I should 🙂