How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall

How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall | By Yaansoon IllustrationI usually arrange my gallery walls a bit haphazardly, but this time my husband and I went for more of a symmetrical arrangement to display my new oil paintings, along with these other food illustrations that I created in 2014 way before I started calling myself an illustrator!

So, this is a “themed” gallery wall, and the theme as you can see is Middle Eastern food, with a hint of gardening.

How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall | By Yaansoon IllustrationI might post each artwork individually in the future, but I just wanted to share the idea of creating a gallery wall that carried one theme as well as a cohesive colour scheme.

What I like about this wall is that it looks like a magazine. You have your full-spread paintings, as well as other smaller ones zooming in on the ingredients. Moreover, the arrangement falls into a grid, which my husband created using thin stripes of twine and tape just so we could see where everything was before we committed to nailing them to the wall.

There is also a bit of a space in the middle, which helps draw the eye to two separate areas… as if the wall is two magazine pages, and the spaces between the frames are filled with text. We do intend to fill the spaces with little trinkets and paintings, but we’re not sure yet as to what exactly.

How I Display Art: Oil Paintings and Food Illustrations Gallery Wall | By Yaansoon IllustrationWe had other art as candidates for the gallery, but these did not quite fit into our story. We wanted to create something that looked both aesthetically cohesive, as well as belonged to the same story line. We even had to change one frame and its background to make it fit into our scheme. At one point I wanted to include a couple of pattern-y watercolour paintings that had no food in them. They totally looked out of place and we had to remove them.

To be honest, I love creating gallery walls because they shed a new light on my work and create sort of an expanded context for them. It’s like being part of an editorial project or a wall “book” of sorts!

Well, I do hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post, and I do look forward to seeing you in my next one!

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New Blog Series – ‘Illustrated Middle Eastern Recipes: Food Stories by a Multi-Cultural Couple’

New Blog Series: 'Illustrated Middle Eastern Recipes - Food Stories by a Multi-Cultural Couple' | By Yaansoon Illustration

I’m very excited to share with you all my new blog series, ‘Illustrated Middle Eastern Recipes: Food Stories by a Multi-Cultural Couple,’ which will bring you mouth-watering dishes from the different cultures and culinary roots that my husband and I hail from.

I’ve already posted a recipe back in April for Turkish Pizza with a Lebanese Twist, where I shared with you all my husband’s yummy and homemade signature recipe. I also wrote that this savoury pastry dish is popular in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Armenia, and Turkey, and that there are so many versions for this boat-shaped pizza.

Which got me thinking – most Middle Eastern dishes come with localized versions, and essentially, recipes do vary from household to household!

My husband, being an excellent Italian home chef with Middle Eastern roots, has his own way of cooking dishes that I have slightly different recipes for. We’re always mixing and matching his version of a certain dish with the version I have, based on recipes and notes I have collected from my late grandmother. The results are always exciting and unexpected.

So I thought why not write about homemade Middle Eastern dishes that have more than one version, with focus on the most delicious varieties that we like to cook at home?

I also thought that this would be a nice idea for an illustrated blog series, which will also give me plenty of opportunities to expand my food illustrations portfolio, with focus on the kind of food my husband and I love to cook!

New Blog Series: 'Illustrated Middle Eastern Recipes - Food Stories by a Multi-Cultural Couple' | By Yaansoon IllustrationMulti-Cultural Middle Eastern Food

Although generally speaking people don’t usually deem North Africa as part of the Middle East, but I do have Moroccan roots that I have been reconnecting with for the past few months through my illustrations. This deep-rooted connection has been basically the inspiration behind the Tajine pot that I have included in my illustration (above) as I went on to create a logo-style badge for this new blog series.

As some of you may know, Moroccan food is completely different from Jordanian, Syrian, or Lebanese food. It follows a completely different rationale, and a different way of mixing the ingredients. Whereas the concept of sweet-and-sour is a staple flavour in the Moroccan cuisine, flavours that originate in the Levant are more polarized, often leaning towards saltiness or sweetness, and seldom the two together.

But what East and West of the Mediterranean have in common is the dominating language, which is Arabic. And again, Moroccan Arabic is completely different than Lebanese Arabic. It’s not only the dialect, but also the choice of words, and the structure of sentences, which I found to be quite interesting when I had the chance to visit Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

I want to reflect this multi-culturalism in this new blog series’ recipes, which I am really very excited about. I hope that in the coming weeks I will have the chance to put together a post or two from the Middle Eastern cuisine!

Until then, take care and I look forward to seeing you in my next post!

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Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationMaking stuffed grape vine leaves is probably one of the most time-consuming dishes in the Middle Eastern cuisine, but it also is one of the most delicious! Served hot with a dab of chilled yogurt on the side, many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern households cook this delicious dish on special occasions, or from time to time, as it most certainly is not your quick, every-day, go-to dish.

Although I am a serious foodie and cooking aficionado, I am quite impatient in the kitchen, a vice I am trying so hard to let go of. That’s why, creating an oil painting with my impressions of one of my most favourite dishes is more like the thing I would spend my afternoon doing. I guess I’d rather create art than spend the time creating this mouth-watering dish on a hot summer day!

This is the second canvas art I make after “discovering” my oil painting style. In a previous post, I spoke about how I finally found my oil painting style after taking a mini social-media and life-in-general break to really free myself from any distractions that may have been affecting my illustration style. I also got the chance to experiment with new materials, including a Cobalt Siccative medium that quickens the drying time of paint – by French manufacturer, Pébéo.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationThe Many Names of ‘Stuffed Grape Leaves’

There’s a bit of a confusion over the internet with regards to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern name variations of the stuffed grape leaves dish, or shall I say, dishes.

There are actually two main dishes that use grape leaves with some kind of stuffing in both the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Cuisines:

One is served hot and comes with a minced meat and rice stuffing (and is usually cooked with fat or Middle Eastern ghee, aka Samneh). And the other is usually served at room temperature or even cold, and comes with a rice and vegetarian stuffing, and is generally cooked in olive oil.

  • Where I come from, we call the hot dish Warak Enab, and that is the dish depicted in today’s painting. Other people call it Mehshi Warak Enab or Warak Enab Mehshi – Mehshi being the word for “stuffed.” In Syria for instance, they call it Yabrak.
  • We also call the oil-based dish Yalanji, which is the Turkish word for this savoury dish originating in this beautiful Euro-Asian country. Now, if you stuff other vegetables (like aubergine or eggplants) with the vegetarian oil-based stuffing the whole dish becomes Dolma, in Turkish.

Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves: Warak Enab vs Yalanji | New Oil Painting by Yaansoon IllustrationRecipes for Warak Enab, Yalanji… and Dolmathakia

Here is an excellent post by a blog I discovered recently, Orange Blossom Water, on Warak Enab and Yalanji.

And here is another lovely blog by a Lebanese lady, dubbed “Rose Water & Orange Blossoms,” where you can find authentic ways to clean and store fresh grape leaves, learn the technique to roll grape leaves, make Lebanese Warak Enab and Yalanji-style vegetarian grape leaf rolls. The last recipe uses chickpeas in the stuffing, which is also common in Turkey, but the recipe my grandmother and family uses has no chickpeas. This is how versatile and truly vast the Middle Eastern cuisine is!

I also found several other Greek and Armenian variations over the internet for the oil-based stuffed leaves dish. The Greek have a different recipe for Yalanji, which they like to call Dolmathakia. Instead of diced vegetables and rice, they keep it simple with rice, onions and herbs including dill, which is a Greek cuisine staple. Quick note… Dill isn’t used at all in the Lebanese and Syrian cuisines. I think it’s a new comer, and we may have the Egyptians to thank for bringing the Dill herb into the Middle Eastern pantry, thanks to their proximity to other Mediterranean nations.

So… do you have a stuffed grape leaves dish from your culture that you would like to share with us today? Please feel free to share your recipes, thoughts, and links in the comments box below!

Meanwhile, take care and I look forward to seeing you in my next post!

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Cookbook Food Illustration: Turkish Pizza with a Lebanese Twist

Cookbook Food Illustration: Turkish Pizza | By Yaansoon Illustration

Although it is called “Turkish Pizza,” this delicious pastry dish is popular in Lebanon,  Jordan, Syria, Armenia, and, of course, Turkey. There are so many versions of this boat-shaped pizza, however in this post, I will be sharing with you all, my husband’s signature recipe, and I do hope you will enjoy making it.

Turkish Pizza is better known as “Lahmacun” in Turkey, and as “Sfeeha” or “Lahm bi Ajeen” in Lebanon. Armenians have a spicier version of this dish, while Jordanians like a milder, meatier interpretation.

My husband’s recipe is extremely delicious and kind of light. Although many recipes out there mix olive oil in with the meat, this recipe is actually oil-free. It also depends a lot on one key secret ingredient that gives these meat pies their unique and distinctive taste, and that is “pomegranate molasses.” To my knowledge, the best kind of pomegranate syrup, known for its sweet and sour flavor, is usually produced in Lebanon, and often comes in medium-sized glass bottles with vintage-style labels.



  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 10g dried yeast
  • A pinch of salt


  • 450gm minced (ground) beef (or lamb)
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (aka, Dibs Rummaan, or Debs El-Remman)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper

Cookbook Food Illustration: Turkish Pizza with a Lebanese Twist | By Yaansoon IllustrationInstructions

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. Stir in the flour and a pinch of salt, and mix until dough turns into a well-combined ball that is still sticky. Cover the bowl with a moist piece of light-weight cotton cloth, or plastic wrap, and leave for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 240°C (450°F).

Now to the filling. Mix the minced meat with the onions, chopped tomatoes, pomegranate molasses and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with lightly floured hands, until dough is smooth and elastic – for about 10 minutes. Roll out into 24 ovals. Spoon some filling into each base, then sprinkle some pine nuts over each piece. Pinch together the two short ends of the dough to form a boat shape. Place the pizzas on a lightly greased baking tray (using olive oil). Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Now, serve with a dab of yogurt, and enjoy these scrumptious pizzas.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s food illustration and recipe… and as the Lebanese would say, “Sahtein o Afyeh” and Bon Appétit!

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