I am in Amman, Jordan again, soaking up the autumn sunshine, catching up with my many, many Circassian Jordanian relatives and, of course, eating a lot. I’ve never been in Amman at this time of year and so I’m making new culinary discoveries as we drive around the crowded and very dusty streets. My jeans are tighter already.
The aunties have all been busy making jams from their gardens’ fruit trees. Mostly plum and apricot – jars as gifts to us when we stop by to say hello. Here my mother-in-law spoons it onto flatbread with labneh, a delicious thick strained yoghurt. We ate this as part of a meal I dream about while I’m back in London. We stop at a little storefront not far from home and pick up a paper bag full of freshly fried little falafel balls, a tin of hummus, another of ful and a spicy green chili lemon sauce to pour over everything at will.
I don’t think anyone here lives a caffeine-free life. Everywhere you go you are given the option of coffee or tea. The dignified gentleman in this picture offered me cardamom scented tea as I entered the Movenpick Spa at the Dead Sea. Heaven.
On the drive back from the Dead Sea truck after truck had stopped along the side of the highway to sell beautiful pomegranates.
Nuts and dried fruits are abundant. A man had a small set-up on a busy side road and came to my window offering a taste of dried figs stuffed with walnuts. They are delicious and I love the way the strands of pale figs look.
This young man was making flatbread in an outdoor wood-burning oven on the sidewalk. I so envied his skills as he formed the bread by slapping it on a round pillow-like mound and then hurled it (by hand) onto the inside walls of the oven. Done after just a couple of minutes, the rounds come out of the oven crispy and pockmarked with charred dough-bubbles. Delicious!
On Saturday afternoon this little cafe up on a hill looking over downtown Amman was filled with couples on dates. A man walked around the room with tongs and charcoal to keep topping up their sweet-smelling hookas. I love the intricately painted ceiling and stained glass windows. I think what makes it stand out is that there’s a lot of wood here, it softly embraces you in what otherwise often feels like a very hard, unrelenting city full of white concrete and sand. I drank one of my beloved mint lemonades – fresh mint, ice, sugar and lemon juice blended together into a slushy. I get it everywhere I go.
My final delight of the week came in the form of a shawarma. Now, because of the New York Times article back in 2009, Reem Shawarma in the Second Circle, is the place to go, but I don’t like lamb all that well and that’s all they offer. We asked around and were told about a spot that serves a spicy beef pastrami-like meat in their shawarmas. How amazing is that?? I insisted we go immediately and it didn’t disappoint. The meat was spicy and crunchy, the pickles added some zing and the sauce kept the whole wrap together. Toasted on the grill, I’ve found my new favorite fast food.
I’ve got a couple more weeks here so lots more to uncover as we roam around (including a day in the kitchen under the watchful eyes of the ladies of the Circassian Women’s Association). I’ll keep you posted on it all as it comes! I can’t wait.