Category Archives: lebanese food

Deep Fried Lebanese Cauliflower with Tahini and Pine Nuts

Lebanese Cauliflower with Pine Nuts and Tahini Recipe

By | lebanese food, lebanon food, Recipes | 19 Comments

My father tells me the story of a Bedouin man walking on the street with ten dead crows. A walker-by, fascinated by the murder of dead crows, stops the Bedouin to enquire as to the reason he is carrying the birds. “They’re to be eaten of course”, comes the Bedouin’s simple reply. Slightly intrigued, but more horrified, the walker-by insists on finding out more information. “But surely crows can’t be eaten. They are foul creatures with tough, flavourless meat. Bedouins are truly strange folk for eating crows!” he answered. The Bedouin smiles and replies, “Crow’s meat simply needs a deft hand at cooking. First, you feather and clean the bird, removing its guts. Then you take the meat from the bones and discard the bones, as they impart a bad flavour. Then, you mix some flour, salt and cinnamon and cover the meat with it. After pan-frying the bird, you deglaze with lemon juice, and add some olive oil, garlic and coriander, which you fry until the garlic turns golden. Toss the fried meat back in, top with fried pine nuts and experience heaven with some bread and arak”. The walker-by replies, “Great recipe! Do you think it would work equally as well if I used my leather shoes instead of the crows?”

Okay, I admit it’s not the funniest story in the world, but I love my dad, and I love his stories. And this little tale makes for a nice lead in to today’s recipe, cauliflower with tahini and pine nuts. You must agree that cauliflower isn’t the most delicious of vegetables. Boiled, I may go as far as calling it insipid and even downright disgusting. I can’t swallow an unadorned floret of cauliflower without the tapioca rising in my gullet. But deep-fried cauliflower? Praise the Lord! Just like the inedible crow, some skill can turn this figurative frog into a delicious prince. This is the true essence of alchemy. Glittering gold from lowly lead, dazzling diamonds from dirty coal, wonderful butterflies from waggling worms. Paulo Coelho should have written books about this transformation instead. Imagine, white florets devoid of flavour, worthless and well-hated, diving down into the oil, a baptism of  fire, and rising once more, darker, crisper, and sweeter than any vegetable that ever took the plunge. Coat them with thick, creamy tahini, sharp with lemon and hot with garlic, top with fried pine nuts and experience heaven with some bread and arak.

Lebanese Cauliflower with Tahini and Pine Nuts Recipe


  • 1 Cauliflower, broken down to florets
  • ½ cup Fried pine nuts
  • Tahini Sauce
  • 1 cup tahini
  • Juice of 2 or 3 lemons
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Prepare the tahini by mixing the ingredients, tasting as you go, and diluting with water to get that thick, creamy consistency
  2. Heat deep frying oil on high
  3. When the oil is ready, deep fry the cauliflower florets in batches until the tops are brown
  4. Sprinkle with some salt, top with pine nuts and tahini and jump in

Six Hour Roasted Pork Shawarma Recipe

By | lebanese food, lebanon food, Recipes | 14 Comments

Pork. Has there ever been a kind of meat more versatile? Has there ever been a kind of meat that has been the subject of this much godly wrath? No. There hasn’t. Let me start by declaring my love for pork. Pigs are wonderful animals; apart from making great pets, and having loads of character, they are the symbol for nose to tail eating. Every part of the pig can be used in some delicious, mouth-watering way, including, well, a pig’s nose and tail. The meat is delicious, the bones make fantastic stock (and ramen!), the skins makes a cracking crackle, the fat affords itself to unbelievable roast potatoes, the blood makes bloody great black puddings, the offal is stuffed into sausages and terrines, the trotters walk with pride into any soup; and perhaps the greatest ingredient in the world, jamon iberico (Iberian ham) de bellota would not exist without the pig. I love pork. I truly do. But here’s the thing: in reality, I’ve only really started eating pork when I came to Australia. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone! Here’s why I’ve missed out on 20 years of porky delights.

Consider the map of Lebanon above, surrounded by the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Though feuding nations, the major religions of Lebanon’s two neighbours – Syria and Israel/Palestine (what’s the PC term?) – seem to agree on one thing: No Pork. Lebanon itself is a country that is around half Muslim, so fresh pork is never seen in the supermarket or at the butchers. Back when I was growing up, the only pork products one could get was stock standard ham and mortadella. At least, that’s what my father used to buy. The closest thing to fresh pork that I had tried was a wild boar that our friend and neighbour Mohammad killed on a hunting trip. Mohammad, as the name suggests, wouldn’t eat the wild boar, so he gave it to dad, his best friend. Dad got a Christian butcher to cut the pig up, and we invited the whole family over for a barbeque and a feast. It was awesome; the freshest of charcoaled, moist, full-flavoured free range meat – an experience to remember even 15 years later.

Cooking pork is not something I do too often, as I try to watch the waistline (expand). The tastiest bits of the pork are the fatty meats and the skin. When roasted for 6 hours, this pork shoulder becomes fork tender, flaky and just falls apart. You simply want to gnaw into it, crunching into the crisp crackling, sucking on the fatty under layer and shredding into the meat – but I did one better. When added to the fillings of a shawarma, our awesome roast pork makes a fine substitute for lamb. Lainy even thinks it makes a better shawarma than lamb does. Imagine the soft meat, the glass-like shattering crackle, the fattiness, all mixed in with creamy, lemony tahini, parsley, mint, sumac rubbed onions, pickles and a final punch of chilli. It doesn’t get much better. Try it. You’ll find you can’t stop till you’ve completely pigged out!

Six Hour Roast Pork Shawarma Recipe

I roasted my pork shoulder the Jamie Oliver way. It’s sooo good. Check out his recipe here. It’s worth mentioning that using a bread knife makes scoring the pork skin much more easy, if your butcher doesn’t do it for you. I have a bit of a lazy butcher.

Make the tarator by mixing crushed garlic with lemon juice, tahini, salt and water. It needs to be thick but not too thick. Try to balance out the flavours depending on your brand of tahini. Use a Lebanese tahini as we make the best in the world, of course. Get some Lebanese bread, add some onions that are rubbed with sumac (here sumac is optional), chopped parsley, chopped mint (not traditional but I love it with pork), the tarator sauce, the shredded pork, some crackling, pickled chillis and pickled gherkins or cucumbers. Ready, set, destroy!

Saj Bread, Labneh, Olive Oil and Mint Mille-feuille – A Dessert Inspired by the Classic Lebanese Breakfast

By | Bread, dessert, labneh, lebanese breakfast, lebanese food, lebanon food, Recipes | 11 Comments

In case you are wondering, yes, these greens in the picture are indeed garden weeds and not micro-herbs; I don’t have easy access to micro-herbs and thought these guys are small enough to do the trick. They look pretty though, do you agree? And another thing, I know this is not a mille-feuille, but let me have this one, please…

I’ve been obsessing about this dessert for around a fortnight now. I came up with the idea in a moment of brilliance (or insanity, call it what you may) and have been dying to make it. For my non-Lebanese readers, a little explanation is needed so that you get a full appreciation of the idea behind the dessert. One of the most, if not the most popular breakfast in Lebanon is a labneh roll. Lebanese bread or saj bread (paper thin bread cooked on an inverted wok, sold in Australia as mountain bread) is slathered with snow-white salted labneh, drizzled with olive oil and rolled up with one or more vegetables and herbs such as mint, cucumbers, tomatoes or olives. Labneh is a cream cheese (yes it is a cheese) made from removing the whey from yoghurt, resulting in a rich, smooth spread. The breakfast roll is salty, savoury and creamy but also light and fresh, a true representative of Mediterranean cuisine with its lavish use of olive oil, dairy, bread and fresh vegetables and herbs.

This superb, yet everyday sort of breakfast was the inspiration for a creamy yet fresh dessert. The labneh is mixed with some whipped cream to give a lighter consistency, and then sweetened with icing sugar. Then, rectangles of saj bread are brushed with butter and crisped up in a pan, with some pressure applied on top to keep them straight. The saj and labneh “mille-feuille” is constructed on a plate drizzled with olive oil butterscotch, then served with a mint leaf tempura; and there you have it: labneh and saj bread with mint and olive oil! An experienced pastry chef could have turned out something a bit more professional looking, but I had to make do with my crooked design skills. And I also wanted to make a tomato jam to go with it but I couldn’t be bothered, so please imagine that it’s there too.  See how the beautifully reddish orange hue of the tomato jam contrasts with the white?

Now unfortunately, I didn’t take note of measurements when I made this as it was just an experiment, but it was not hard to do once the concept was there. I have to admit though, the dessert exceeded all my expectations. The buttery richness of the labneh and cream is complemented by its sweetness and then offset by the yoghurt’s acidity. That’s why it’s important to use Greek style yoghurt labneh (and not that European style stuff). Then, the crispness and delicate saltiness of the saj bread intertwines with that creaminess, and the multiple layers create a textural explosion that is quite out of this world. The olive oil butterscotch added an extra layer of flavour, and the mint tempura is more a visual and textural addition than one of flavour; it’s just a bit of fun really. It may be worth noting that I made my own unsalted labneh using Meredith sheep’s yoghurt, which is more delicious as a labneh than it is as yoghurt. Sheep’s yoghurt has a sensational mouth-feel due to the high fat content and in my opinion makes a far superior labneh than cow’s yoghurt.

Saj Bread, Labneh, Olive Oil and Mint Mille-feuille Recipe

Now, being an IT guy, and seeing I didn’t really write down the measurements, here’s an “algorithm” as to how to make this dessert:

  • Buy or make your own labneh. Make sure it’s low salt. Making labneh is easy: strain Greek style yoghurt through muslin or on layers of paper towel, changing the paper towels when they are fully soaked. The result should be the consistency of cream cheese
  • Cut rectangles from saj bread (sold as mountain bread in Australia)
  • Brush bread with butter and crisp up in a pan on both sides. Press them down to keep them flat as they crisp up
  • Make the olive oil butterscotch by caramelising some sugar and olive oil and then emulsifying them with cream… Easy?
  • Whip up some cream until semi-firm peaks form and then mix with the labneh and some icing sugar. Adjust the sugar to taste. Don’t use too much cream or the labneh flavour will be lost. Maybe a 60% labneh, 40% cream.
  • Assemble as per the photo: drizzle the butterscotch, layer the mille-feuille with bread and labneh
  • Cover a mint leaf with tempura batter and fry until crisp and put on the side

Tradition vs Innovation – The state of Lebanese food and a Moghrabieh recipe

By | lebanese food, lebanon food, Recipes | 21 Comments

moghrabieh with black pudding, star anise poached chicken and a gewürztraminer reduction

A recent article I’ve read in the New York Times discussed the phenomenon of upholding tradition when it comes to Lebanese food. With the exception of a minority, Lebanese chefs, whether those in Lebanon or who are part of the Lebanese diaspora, focus on producing high quality, authentic Lebanese food. Restaurants seem to set themselves apart not by innovation but rather by the quality of the beloved staples of the cuisine. There is nothing to criticise about a nation who takes pride in its national cuisine, and where traditional food is held in high esteem, but it would be refreshing to see some imagination and flair in the Lebanese food scene. The omnipresent purist approach may be the result of many contributing factors, the greatest of which, to my eyes, seems to be a lack of education in the global food scene. I’ll give you an example, but please don’t judge us too harshly. On a recent trip to Lebanon, a childhood friend was opening a sushi restaurant. When I was told about this, I was quite impressed, and I asked how much it cost to hire a Japanese sushi master in Lebanon. I imagined it wouldn’t be cheap as I knew that it would probably take a Japanese sushi apprentice decades before they are considered a true sushi chef. My friend replied by saying that to hire Japanese staff was expensive and that the staff were actually Korean. Apparently, Koreans were hired because they were cheaper and, wait for it, “because they looked right”. This wasn’t a racist comment. Don’t get me wrong, we are a racist bunch, but this comment was simply an indication of the low level of knowledge the Lebanese posses when it comes to Asian cuisine.

Perhaps one of the greatest influences global gastronomy has experienced is the effect of Asian food, especially at the fine dining end of the market. Chinese and Japanese cuisines have greatly changed not only food aesthetics, but have introduced new ingredients and techniques that have crept into Western cuisines. You can clearly see the effect of Asian food on modern Australian, Spanish, American and French cuisines. Unfortunately, the Lebanese posses little insight into foreign food cultures. During the war years, Asia seemed too far, and though at our doorstep, Europe seemed even further. So Lebanese gastronomy stayed in a quasi-freezer state, and our sense of imagination became dull. Though the Lebanese enthusiasm for global cuisine has started to take over the country, there is still a long way to go, and I feel that without a big effort on behalf of the chefs to educate themselves, Lebanese fine dining will never be world class. Hummous will be hummous and waiters will always stack up dirty plates right there on the table.

Following this rant, I feel like giving out a recipe for a modern Lebanese creation of mine. I cooked this dish in my first ever secret dinner, and the photo was taken in low light, so apologies on the poor quality of the photo. This is a play on a well-loved dish called moghrabieh, but with a few different ingredients and techniques. Moghrabieh refers to dry, round pellets of pasta that got to Lebanon from North Africa. There’s a North African couscous called berkouke which is the size of a chickpea. Berkouke is better suited for travel than small grain couscous as it is less prone to spoiling, and it is highly probable that it was introduced to the Lebanese by North African pilgrims on their way to Mecca. My version of this dish gently poaches chicken in a stock flavoured with star anise. The stock is then reduced with gewürztraminer, a wine that I feel has the perfect flavour profile in that it is fragrant, slightly sweet, and low acid. The reduction is then monté au beurre, and flavoured with caraway, the traditional spice used for moghrabieh. I’ve used some black pudding to replace lamb, and it works beautifully. The boiled pasta is then mixed with chickpeas, caramelised confit onions, pan-fried black pudding and the chicken, and finished off with a glazing of the stock/wine reduction. It is sensational, if I may say so myself. If this dish ends up on restaurant menus, email me and let me know. I will be a very happy man.

Moghrabieh Recipe


  • 1 small whole chicken
  • 3 chicken carcasses
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 1 chopped celery stick
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 10 baby onions
  • 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 black pudding
  • 1.5 cup dry moghrabieh pasta
  • 1 bottle of gewürztraminer wine
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 2 teaspoons caraway
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Begin by peeling the onions. Then you can confit them by slowly cooking them in oil on low heat and then caramelising them in a pan, or deep frying them until deeply caramelised.
  2. Boil the chickpeas until done, but not too soft.
  3. Put the chicken, the carcasses, the star anise, the carrots, the chopped onions and the celery in a big pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the chicken is done, skimming any froth. Leave the chicken in until it is cool enough to handle. This will infuse the flesh with the flavour of the star anise.
  4. Take the chicken out and then strain the stock in muslin to remove any impurities. Discard the carcasses and the veggies. In a sauce pan, add the bottle of gewürztraminer to the stock and reduce until there is around 1/2 cup of liquid left. It should be nice and thick. I don’t thicken my sauces with flour and prefer to reduce my sauces. Add the butter off the heat, and swirl your saucepan to incorporate the butter. The liquid becomes thicker and glossier. Add the caraway, taste and add salt if necessary. Make sure you don’t add any salt until now as the saltiness intensifies as stock is reduced. Always add salt at the end when reducing a liquid.
  5. While the stock is reducing, boil your pasta in plenty of salted water and when cooked, put the chickpeas in there to heat them up. Drain thoroughly and keep dry and warm.
  6. Pan-fry discs of black pudding until nicely coloured. Cut the chicken into nice pieces.
  7. Ensure all your ingredients are hot. Mix the pasta and chickpeas with some stock reduction. Top with the chicken, black pudding and confit onions and drizzle with some more stock reduction. Sahtein.

White Beans with Tahini and Almonds

By | lebanese food, lebanon food, Recipes | 12 Comments

If you’ve tried to make hummous before (read recipe here), you might know that getting that creamy consistency is an elusive quest, with results varying from grainy to runny. But then again you would know that once that creaminess is reached, and the flavours of garlic, lemon juice, salt and tahini are in perfect balance, hummous is transformed from a simple dip to a culinary revelation.

The usual reason for failure in hummous is undercooked chickpeas. Hummous needs the chickpeas to be cooked so soft that a light squeeze breaks them down. This would mean around an hour and a half of boiling, which is a long time. Here’s where the humble white bean comes in. The beauty of the white bean is that it cooks in around half the time it takes a chickpea to cook. Once cooked, follow the recipe of hummous and you have yourself a delicious dip. Add some fried almonds on top and some olive oil and you’re in business. Now I’m sure the Lebanese make this dish, though I’ve never seen it made. If you’ve seen this dish before, let me know where and what you thought of it. If you haven’t, then you must try making it. It is seriously simple and so good, and goes beautifully with roast beef or lamb, or even on its own with a simple salad and Lebanese bread.

White Beans with Tahini and Almonds Recipe

Ingredients – These are approximate. Adjust to taste

  • 2 cups white beans, soaked for 6 hours then boiled until super soft and refrigerated till cold
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 tbsp of tahini
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup almond slivers, fried gently till golden brown (watch out, they burn quickly)
  • olive oil to use as topping


  • Whiz all the beans, lemon juice, tahini, garlic and salt in a food processor until creamy and has no graininess
  • Adjust the balance of ingredients until you like what you taste
  • Spoon into a bowl and use the back of your spoon to create a circular mote to contain the olive oil and almond
  • Eat with meat or salad or both, but definitely with bread
  • Awesome

Fast and Easy Toum – The Best Lebanese Garlic Sauce Recipe

By | lebanese food, lebanon food, Recipes, toum | 139 Comments

What you are about to read is a breakthrough in the toum making process. I have unlocked the secret to easy, fast and perfect toum. Since I’ve decided to share this invention, I have a feeling the world will owe me something good in return, apart from immortalising me in the memory of future generations. If you don’t know what toum is, you haven’t lived, but it’s not too late. Read my first toum recipe for background information about this amazing dip and then head to the first Lebanese charcoal chicken place you can find.

Now, you may have heard me make this claim before: the best toum (Lebanese garlic sauce) ever. And I still stand by it. But hear me out. My first toum recipe is undeniably a success story, having made possible what most of you thought was impossible: home-made Lebanese garlic sauce as good as any restaurant’s toum, made by a fail-safe recipe that needed only oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt. But I needed an alternative, and after months of pondering, I have actually found the answer.

Why a second toum recipe?

But, why do we need a second toum recipe, you ask. Well. Good question. There are three issues that I have with my first recipe:

  1. It takes so bloody long. Ten minutes of whizzing and adding thin streams of oil interchanged with lemon juice took so much discipline and concentration. It was all a bit too hard
  2. A good food processor costs an arm and a leg (and the occasional finger), and many of my readers don’t have one
  3. It produced such large volumes of toum that unless you had your 25 cousins come around for a bbq, you’d need to be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2 weeks straight to get through it all

What does the new approach give us?

So, with my new recipe, here are the technological advances I have been able to achieve:

  1. I have been able to reduce the necessary amount of oil required to make toum to 1 cup instead of 4 cups
  2. By using a blender (which is usually more readily available at homes) a food processor is no longer necessary
  3. Toum preparation time has been reduced to a maximum of 3 minutes, and the process happens without continuously worrying about using thin streams of oil as it can handle a much more heavy handed approach

That’s all good and well, but how does the magic work?

Well, inspiration came late last night, when I saw someone making mayonnaise using a food processor. I had thought that by now, people should know that a blender is a much easier option for mayonnaise (see here). I have been able to make mayonnaise in 1 minute flat. The blades actually create a sort of suction that uses gravity to its advantage and makes the emulsification process much more simple. I decided to use a blender, and an egg white (which is used by almost all Lebanese restaurants) to bind the oil to the garlic and lemon juice. The result is amazing, creamy, light, easy, and fail-safe Lebanese garlic sauce. Let the world know and share the love!

Fast and Easy Toum Recipe (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)


  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 egg white
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of iced water of which you will use around 2 tbsp
  • 1 cup of neutral oil, canola or vegetable oil (Edit: Since this recipe was published, I’ve come to understand that seed and commercial vegetable oils are highly inflammatory and largely contribute to heart disease and diabetes. I suggest using oils low in Omega 6 and high in monounsaturated fats. As neutral oils go, a high oleic sunflower such as this one would be a good option.)


  1. Put the garlic cloves along with salt and 1/4 of the lemon juice in the blender
  2. Blend on medium and scrape the sides down when the garlic goes flying everywhere
  3. Add the egg white and blend on medium
  4. Add half the oil in bit by bit. A thin stream is not necessary, but don’t go crazy. A reasonable, fine, steady pour is good
  5. At this stage, the emulsification should have taken place. If it hasn’t and the sauce looks like it has split, then something has gone wrong. You may need to remove half the amount, add another egg white, whizz away and re-pour what had already split. But if you take it slow without pouring the oil too quickly, it should be fine
  6. Switch to a slow blend, and add the rest of the lemon juice in slowly too
  7. Add the rest of the oil in the same fashion
  8. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of water. You will see the consistency change into something wonderfully creamy and light. Water seems to do wonders for the texture, I’m not sure why
  9. Taste it, praise the Lord, and write back and tell me how amazing I am