Chef Feature: Manal Massoud

Your Lebanon Chef Feature: Manal Massoud

Manal Massoud was one of the first people we followed and became acquainted with when we first launched our Your Lebanon Instagram. We are inspired by her authenticity and beautiful presentations of traditional Middle Eastern dishes!

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Q & A with Manal

Please tell us about yourself:

Spending most of my life in Lebanon only expanded my love for food from all around the world.

I grew up with a Syrian and Palestinian background, and was introduced to different cuisines at a very young age. My family had a great passion for excellent food. Spending most of my life in Lebanon only expanded my love for food from all around the world. I learnt how to cook gradually. The first time I made stuffed vine leaves was when I was barely 12 years old. I was 16 when my sister was born and I insisted to make the “meghle” for all the family and friends! Being 16 and standing by the stove for hours was a big deal for me! Over the years, I’ve been collecting cookbooks and watching cooking shows that have allowed me to slowly polish my skills in international and local dishes. My greatest joy in life are my four children, who are the judges of my good (and sometimes bad) recipes. They motivate me to try new recipes daily. Each has a particular lifestyle and needs, and I try to accommodate that. From the super healthy, to the fried chicken lover, to the vegan… I’m always trying to come up with new recipes that make them happy!

Where are you from:

My childhood was a mix of Beirut’s vibrant streets, and Damascus’ narrow charming alleyways.

My family is split between Palestinian and Syrian. But I got married to a Lebanese after living in Lebanon most of my life. But growing up in a country of civil was a bit difficult. So when days got hard in Beirut, my mother would send me to Damascus until things cleared up. Eventually my childhood was a mix of Beirut’s vibrant streets, and Damascus’ narrow charming alleyways.

Where are you currently residing:

Beirut.

What is your favorite Middle Eastern dish to make:

It really depends on my mood!

I love all middle eastern dishes and it’s so hard to choose! From Kebbeh, to stuffed vine leaves, to Mloukheyye… It all depends on what’s in season and who is eating with me!

Do you prefer traditional Middle Eastern dishes or Modern/fusion Middle Eastern dishes:

My personal twist is serving the dish in a new modern way, but keeping the flavors intact.

I always appreciate the new twists in Middle Eastern dishes as they are one of the reasons why the middle eastern food is now popular all over the world. However I always prefer a traditional dish. When something is perfect, why try to fix it?! My personal twist is serving the dish in a new modern way, but keeping the flavors intact.

Manal’s Koussa Mahshi (Stuffed Eggplant in Zuchinni)

What do you love most about cooking Middle Eastern cuisine:

That the cooking process is a social experience. It’s not just about cooking it, its preparing it. It is rare to have this sense of community or family in other cuisines.

Whether its from preparing the “mouneh” or the actual meal preparation. Dishes like stuffed vine leaves, kibbeh, and others require so much work and time that everyone around the house pitches in to help. Even the trip to the nearest bakery to prepare “manakeesh” one that includes meeting the neighbors! It is rare to have this sense of community or family in other cuisines.

What is your favorite Middle Eastern restaurant (anywhere in the world):

I love the old-school restaurants.

Like Mounir, Mhanna and others. You can’t beat a beautiful view, great memories and traditional food!

What is your favorite food blog:

I got introduced to Nivin through Instagram.

And I am so happy I did! Her instagram is amazing Palestinian delights. Her blog carries a lot of her recipes. She never disappoints with the amazing pictures and recipes. https://nivskitchen.wordpress.com/   [Nivin’s Chef Feature Page]

 [What is a must have tool in your kitchen for making Middle Eastern food:

Your hands! No better utensil!

Have you tried a tabbouleh mixed with hands? A whisk always comes in handy though. 😉

What advice do you have for someone just starting to find their way around the kitchen:

Don’t be afraid!

Will you fail? Maybe a couple of times. But each failure is one step closer to your perfect dish.

What nostalgic candy bar would you grab on walks to the local deken when you were a kid:

Tarboush! What a delight as a kid!

 

I am so grateful for the community of friends I got introduced to through Instagram. They are my insta family! – Manal Massoud

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