It was, to coin a phrase, la jam de la jam.
In fact, I could get all biblical about it and accuse Nidal Rayess of having saved the best jam ’til last, but the truth is I am just thankful for what I can honestly say was a higher jam experience.
We visited Nidal’s dairy in Jdita a couple of weeks ago, as part of the Taste Lebanon tour, where, among other things, they make labneh (or strained yoghurt) and halloumi cheese from their own cow’s and goat’s milk, as well as making a range of preserves.
Nidal Rayess: one man and his cheese
In France and in French cuisine, Parmentier is code for potatoes.
Find a dish adorned with that name and it’s bound to feature potatoes as its main ingredient. Antoine Augustin Parmentier, after whom such dishes are named, is somewhat of a hero when it comes to the potato in France. He was the man who, back in the late 18th century, was chiefly responsible for popularising the consumption of potatoes in that country. These days in Paris you’ll find an avenue and a metro stop which also bear his name. What’s more, if you’re a potato head like me, you’ll skip the Eiffel Tower and pay them a visit instead.
Avenue Parmentier, 11th Arrondissement, Paris
The unfortunate thing about holidays is that, by definition, they must come to an end.
I’m physically back from my tour of Lebanon but mentally, I’m still several hundred miles to the south and east. And it seems a particularly cruel irony, as Eat Only Irish For A Week approaches, with its challenge to eat only Irish-produced food and use Irish-produced ingredients, that I am surrounded by the edible spoils of my foreign travel. There’s jam made from rose petals, bottles of orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses, bags of za’atar, sumac and freekeh, blocks of labneh, halloumi and more. None of it is remotely Irish – you need look no further than the arabic script on the labels to confirm that particular fact.
Lebanese preserves (or mouneh) at
Rayess Trading in Chtaura, east of Beirut:
Sadly my suitcase was not quite big enough to fit them all...