Mirelle Glor: By day a gemologist, and at home, the finest of Lebanese cooks.Come make cheese with her.
by Joanna Sable | March 2017
Mirelle Glor was born in Lebanon and moved to Montreal with her family when she was just four years old. The family moved in the mid 1970s because of the civil war in their country. Throughout history, Lebanon has been know as the “Paris” of the Middle East. The city is structured with beautiful boulevards and wide streets. The architecture and its people are elegant and sophisticated. Therefore, it comes as little surprise that a country whose first language is Arabic, and second is French, would find comfort in this Canadian province. Mirelle’s father and uncle were jewelers by trade and were first to come to Canada. Once jobs were found the family joined within months.
Mirelle met her now husband, George, a distant relative and family friend, as an arranged marriage. Yes, it is hard to believe that this happens here but it does and a great thing too as George, a gem setter and also in the jewellery business is an incredible man (and I might add, the two of them are very dear friends).
This article was never to be an article. For ages I have been bugging Mirelle to teach me how to make this wonderful squeaky, salty Lebanese Fresh Cheese. I guess she got a headache listening to me beg and off went George to get 50 whole fresh cheeses from Grande Cheese. Mirelle called me and invited me to an early dinner and cheese making. Now, you never miss an opportunity to eat Mirelle’s cooking so it was an easy yes.
Chatting with their now all grown up and incredibly bright daughters who I have known since they were young, was, as always delightful. The conversation turned towards who influenced Mirelle, as she is known in her Lebanese circles as one of their best. I was sure I would hear as always Mama or Grandmother, but no. When Mirelle married George at 19, he brought her to Toronto to live with him and his mother. It was she who taught Mirelle all her secrets. George’s history is of Syrian and Turkish descent, so the food with all these magnificent influences is divine.
A lavish spread of raw beef Kibbeh, served with Turkish Lahmacun, flat bread covered in thinly smeared meat spread and baked and crunchy radishes and fresh hot peppers to cut the richness. We also had Mahshi Cousa and Mahshi Har that are Lebanese style stuffed zucchini and red peppers. Each Middle Eastern country makes stuffed vegetables but they are all just slightly different. Every summer Mirelle processes baskets of special peppers to be stuffed and turned into pepper paste. A crisp salad rounded out this glorious feast.
- 1kg raw flank steak that has been super finely ground. Best to go to a Middle Eastern store for this. It must be very cold so do not remove from the fridge until ready to use
- ½ sweet raw onion in a large dice ½ inch
- 1 cup bulgar
- ½ cup hot pepper flakes
- 400ml fresh red pepper paste, found in Middle Eastern stores
- sea salt and Pepper to taste
In a large metal bowl, place all the ingredients and mix well. Add the meat by the handful, mashing and blending as if you were making hamburgers. The idea here is almost to kneed the meat like a bread dough creating elasticity. Continue to add the meat and mix, blend and knead until everything including the onions becomes almost paste like. This process is about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and then lay the Kibbeh out on a dish that has been in the freezer. Please see the photos for a quick visual technique.
I loved that Mirelle let nothing go to waste so when we had had our fill of this incredible creation she had eldest daughter, Angela, roll it into mini patties and bake for the next day's lunch.
Now, on to the most important thing of the night; cheese making. And I must tell you, I will make this again and again it was so easy. This family makes a ton and freezes it, but, I am breaking it down to a more manageable size.
Jibineh with Nigella Seeds
You will need:
- two large cutting boards, or something similar
- an old sheet or tablecloth
- plastic garbage bags
- a baking sheet lined with paper towel
- a colander
- 3 rounds of fresh cheese
- Nigella Seeds, aka black cumin
- Sea salt
Cut cheeses into thirds, salt liberally, place in a bowl covered overnight (24 hours is best).
The next day, place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Have the first board lay on top of spread out garbage bags on a super clean floor. Cover with the tablecloth or sheet halfway so that the other half of the cloth can cover the cheeses that will be placed upon it.
Now place the cheeses only eight hunks at a time of what will fit comfortably in your pot. Let cook for two minutes, the outside of the cheese should start to feel quite melty and the middle feel softened. Drain with a slotted spoon into a colander.
Run each piece of cheese while hot with a scant amount of nigella seeds, approximately ¼ teaspoon per piece. Place onto the sheet, top with the rest of the sheet, top this with the other cutting board and then step on the entire thing to press the cheese flat! Mirelle had George do this part, it is such fun but we did have to tell George not to stand there too long or we'd end up with pancakes.
The cheese should be about a 1/3 of an inch. Now, place it on the baking sheet lined with paper, as it must be quite dry. This lasts for a week in your fridge, or three months in your freezer.
How to eat this delight? Well, Mirelle and George make it into a breakfast Panini with dried mint, chili flakes and olive oil. All the girls love it with ripe cantaloupe. I serve it to my friends with warm lavash bread and savoury jams like Apricot Rosemary.