Nadine Chamaa, mother of three children, now all grown up, has lived in Lebanon for the last 15 years, after spending time in France and Romania. She wears multiple hats in her professional life as a culinary stylist, certified color consultant, food blogger (www.kitchenbabe.com), and digital content creator on Instagram.
“My presence on social media started six years ago when my children went abroad for their studies,” Nadine recounts. It came about because “I have loved cooking since I was young” and “enjoyed replicating recipes and having fun in the kitchen.”
She explains how she was equally fascinated by the world of colors, undergoing training with the color specialist Kate Smith and later venturing into color consulting herself. The harmony of these two passions of hers, colors and recipes, culminated in the launch of her first Instagram post showcasing her labneh sandwich.
She implements the diverse skill set that she acquired having enrolled in training courses for digital photography, food photography and food styling in Italy. After these various pursuits, Nadine tells us her Instagram account “unfolded naturally from there.” She says “Photography aligns with my creative side, and explaining a recipe resonates with my practical side.”
On her account ‘The Kitchen Babe,’ which boasts nearly 24,000 followers, she places a strong emphasis on “freshness and innovation wherever possible, using colors that exude joy, fresh ingredients, spontaneous ideas, and making unique recipes more accessible.”
Nadine is not afraid to showcase her culinary mishaps either. “I do this so that my followers can avoid repeating them,” she explains, recognizing the bond this fosters between her and her audience. “I share experiences that I think will be valuable,” such as “a handy tip, a happy moment, a beautiful composition or a great story.”
Given that recipes and visuals hold equal importance to Nadine, posting a single video demands an extensive eight-hour process, involving recipe creation, set preparation, shooting various sequences, and editing them. “I used to post daily for several years, sometimes even twice a day, but since the economic crisis and the pandemic, I’ve had to reduce to posting twice a week on the grid,” she explains. However, thankfully for her followers, Nadine still finds the time to update her Instagram stories on a daily basis.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 people
Difficulty level: Moderately easy
1 large onion
2 cups basmati rice, well-rinsed to remove starch
2 bay leaves
Zest of half a lemon
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup dried apricots
¼ cup dried figs
A handful of toasted almonds
A handful of toasted pistachios
¼ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp four spice mix
½ tsp saffron threads
Step 1- Steep a few saffron threads in a small bowl with 4 cups of water.
Step 2- Cut the dried fruits into small cubes and toast the almonds. Shell and toast the pistachios for crunch.
Step 3- In a non-stick pan, melt butter and gently sauté the spices, taking care not to burn them. Immediately add the rice.
Step 4- Sauté the rice in the butter, add ¾ of dried fruits, ¾ of almonds and pistachios and lemon zest.
Step 5- Strain the saffron and pour the water over the rice. Add salt and cook over a medium heat. Let it boil, and as the water level aligns with the rice, reduce the heat completely, cover and let it cook slowly. Generally, each cup of basmati rice requires two cups of water.
Step 6- Serve the rice in a dish and decorate it with the remaining dried fruits, almonds and pistachios.
Step 7- Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top and it's ready to serve!
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour.