I don’t know why I do these sorts of things. I can’t just write about food I tell you! For some reason, every 6 months or so, the need to be in a commercial kitchen cooking for a large group of people takes over me. It started with my secret dinners at Element Bistro (to which I stupidly invited SMH Good Food Guide editor Joanna Savill – luckily she loved it!). That was followed by 2 secret dinners at Fix St James, and then a dinner at Bistrode CBD last year with the Merrivale Group, a week or so after my baby girl was born. This year, it’s no different and though I already have a million things to do before I leave for Lebanon, I’m getting really excited about this year’s event: a degustation dinner with Sydney’s finest Turkish chef, Somer Siviroglu of the wonderful Efendy in Balmain.
The great thing about this dinner is the central ingredient we’ve chosen for it: chickpeas! On my last trip to Lebanon I was inspired by an experience I had at a little water-side restaurant in the ancient city of Sidon. The restaurant’s menu was completely based on chickpeas, the humblest of ingredients. At first, I found that strange and didn’t know what to think, but when the food started coming out, oh boy! It was beyond excellent. The dishes included stunning renditions of balila, fatteh bi laban, fatteh bi tahini, hummus bi lahme, all Lebanese classics, and several other chickpea based specialties whose name I can’t recall but which were extremely delicious nevertheless. I was also blown away with how different each dish was, and it struck me how versatile chickpeas really are. That experience has been brewing in the back of my mind and I’ve been contemplating organising this event for over 2 years now. Luckily, chef Siviroglu didn’t knock the idea back, snickering at my petty chickpea dreams, but seemed even more excited about it than I was!
This dinner will to give Sydney siders a taste of Lebanon and Turkey that they wouldn’t usually experience unless they travel to that part of the world. Somer and I will stick to tradition and won’t attempt anything too “chefy”. It’s about being authentic and giving you guys something honest, real and cultural, a little taste of back home. Desserts might get a bit creative, though, but I promise, no sweet hummus!
I won’t leave you hanging for long and will give you the full details very soon, so you could get in and book early. The photo above is a sneak preview of one of the dishes which I plan to include on the night. It’s one of my favourite chickpea dishes, fatteh bi lahme (meat fatteh). Instead of the traditional mince, I slow cook brisket for around 4 or 5 hours. The result is too good for words.
What do you think about this event? Leave a comment and let me know (that it’s not a stupid idea).