Saturday, 24 October 2015

Lebanese Home Cooking Review and Giveaway

The title struck me as I adore home cooking, recipes that are enjoyed by families and Lebanese cuisine is one that I am not familiar with, so I was, understandably excited to receive my glossy copy of Lebanese Home Cooking by Kamal Mouzawak and published by Quarry books. It was only when I read the sub title: "Simple, Delicious, Mostly Vegetarian, Recipes from the Founder of Beirut's Souk el Tayeb Market I began to think could I cook anything from this book. 
Vegetarian food is not really my number choice in cuisine and I rarely cook a meal without meat, I took a breath and opened the cookbook. The contents page included photographs and all the recipes are in English alongside spelling in (what I believe to be) Arabic which I found charming. My thoughts changed when I saw the Mujadara and Stews recipes. I also gained insight to a cuisine that do not feature heavily in  the high street of restaurants in the UK.  Mujardara, for example are cooked lentils cooked with rice, a grain and topped with onions. There is also a fascinating insight into the cuisine of Lebanese cooking and also the regional difference in North and South of the country.

The chapters in Lebanese Home Cooking is split into:
Kibbeh - recipes include Armenian Lentil Kibbeh and Fish Kibbeh.
Grains - dishes to try include Bulgur with Tomatoes and Peppers and Smoked Green Wheat with vegetables.
Mujadara - recipes to try include Southern-Style Split Lentils with Rice and Red Beans and Bulgur.
Stews - dishes to try include Okra Stew, White Butter Bean Stew, Stewed Green Beans and Spinach Stew with Pine Nuts.
Vegetables - dishes to try include: Eggplant Fatteh, Fried Taro with Chickpeas and Onions and Eggplant in Spicy Tomato Sauce.
Salads and Breads - recipes to try include: Bread Salad, Thyme Bread and Cheese Pies.
Good Friday Food -  dishes that caught my eye Homemade noodles with Lentils and Kibbeh with Chickpeas
Souk and Street Food - recipes to try include: Eggplant dip, Hummus and Falafel.
Sweets - dishes to try include: Turmeric cake, Fried Biscuits in Scented Syrup and Sesame Bars.

I've tried a couple of dishes from this book including the spinach stew with Pine Nuts (I used flaked almond) and the BEST hummus ever. I wanted to try the Okra stew but my local market sold out of okra by the time I got there (I never knew there was okra in Lebanese cuisine!) so that's the next on my list. I must share the recipe for hummus, you will never buy shop brought ever again, I have eaten it most days this week. Rich, creamy and thick, simply gorgeous.
Spinach Stew

Spinach Stew

 Kamal Mouzawak states that hummus is the definitive non-home food, a dish a good restaurant is measured by, one which should not have an overwhelming taste of tahini or lemon and one must have a fine enough consistency. The recipe stipulates for dried chickpeas, but being time pressed I used tinned chickpeas which worked fine - of course skip the soaking if section if using tinned chickpeas.

Hummus - Serves 4
18 ounces (510g) dried chickpeas
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons (150g) tahini
3/4 cup (175ml) lemon juice (around 6 lemons)
olive oil

Soak the chickpeas in water to cover for 10 hours. Drain, put in a pot, add fresh water to cover and then set to cook over low heat till very tender.
Some purists would take off the chickpeas outer layer or peel after soaking (by crushing the grains in a  kitchen towel) and then boil the peeled chickpeas - it makes the end result "finer". To cook the chickpeas well the easy way is to add baking soda  1tsp per 1 cup/200g chickpeas to the cooking water. 
In a food processor, place the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and salt to taste and mix long enough to obtain a smooth, silky paste. A hummus should have the constancy of a dip and not be too thick nor too runny.
Transfer to a bowl, let cool and firm up, and serve with a generous drizzle of olive oil and the accompaniments of your choice.

The lovely people at Quarry Books are offering one lucky reader of my a blog a copy of Lebanese Home Cooking.

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