Category Archives: Recipes

Lebanese Yoghurt Fritters – Oowamat recipe

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As I was growing up in Lebanon, there were times when produce was hard to come by. The war created a siege around the country and shops didn’t always have stock. Bakeries would open a few times a month and hundreds of people would line up to get bread. Dad would take my oldest brothers with him to buy bread as there was a quota of 2 or 3 bags per person. We would also receive bags of flour, rice; legumes, oil, powdered milk, sugar, canned beef, etc, as form of national aid, or i’ashet. Power would go out for months on end as the fighting worsened, and even TV was a luxury. Once, my brother Fady and I were watching “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” on tape, and the power went off. The cassette player didn’t work on generator power because it was an old, power hungry machine. And so, six months went by: school finished, summer came, we played, read books, fought and reconciled, and then school started again; and then one day, out of the blue, the power comes back and what’s the first thing Fady and I do? Finish the last 10 minutes of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, of course.

You can imagine, when there’s hardly any fresh produce, things can get a bit less than imaginative in the kitchen. But imagination was never an issue in the Kassab family. When my siblings and I would ask dad to buy us cornflakes, he’d say, “Cornflakes? Just toast some Lebanese bread and mix it with milk”. Or when we asked for some donuts, he’d say “Donuts? Have mom make you some oowamat (Lebanese yoghurt fritters), or zlebiyeh”. I love dad. Pretty good solutions when his kids were being unrealistic in their demands. And guess what, we proceeded to have our Lebanese bread cornflakes and our oowamat donuts, enjoyed them and life went on.

Oowamat and zlebiyeh are two forms of fried dough, which in fact, and I admit this now, makes them very similar to donuts. What was good about them is that with the limited amount of items in the cupboard one could still make a decent dessert. Oowamat are made by mixing yoghurt, flour and yeast, waiting for the dough to rise, then deep frying them into beautiful round balls that are then dipped in sugar syrup. They are meant to be light and airy, but with a glassy crisp exterior. The sweetness comes solely from the sugar syrup and melds with the acidity of the dough and creates a tasty harmony. The sourness of the yoghurt makes the dough more like sourdough bread, but luckily, you don’t need three days to make these. It should take around 1 to 3 hours depending on the temperature for the dough to rise. You can make oowamat the traditional way, in small round balls around 3 cm in diameter by piping them straight into the hot oil; or, like me, you can have a bit of fun and make a free form fritter which I find makes for more crunchy “donuts” as it increases the surface area the dough has in contact with the oil. Oh, and by the way, I used agave syrup instead of sugar syrup, but you can use a medium consistency simple sugar syrup that can soak in as well as having a nice stickiness that clings to the outside shell.

Oowamat Recipe/Lebanese Yoghurt Fritters


  • 2 cups plain white flour
  • 2 cups Greek or Lebanese yoghurt (not that creamy European stuff that has no acidity)
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • Oil – enough to deep fry
  • Agave syrup or simple sugar syrup of medium thickness
  • Pine nuts to sprinkle on top


  • Mix the flour, yoghurt and yeast together and knead for a minute. The dough should be sticky but needs to be holding together
  • Wait for the dough to rise and double in size
  • Deep fry the dough in any shape you want and remove when golden red in colour
  • Soak in sugar syrup or agave for a minute and devour hot

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.

Thai Green Curry with Chicken Recipe

By | Recipes, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Thai Green Curry with Chicken

“What the hell is fish sauce?” he wondered as he read a recipe for Thai green curry with chicken. Fouad had only arrived from Lebanon a year before and all these strange ingredients in his shopping list seemed too foreign and dubious. His suspicions with food in Australia began when the chicken shop in Kingswood asked him if he wanted chicken salt with his chips. “What the hell is chicken salt?” was the beginning of a sequence of self-directed questions that mostly referred to unknown food stuffs, and the general structure of these questions became “What the hell is [fill in blank]?”. But on that day, the blank not only got filled with fish sauce, but with galangal, shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaf and Thai basil. None of these ingredients had ever been heard of or encountered in their raw form, and the first time Fouad had ever experienced them was three months prior when his new Australian girlfriend (now eight month pregnant wife with very cute belly) ordered a Thai takeaway. That included a green curry with chicken, curry puffs and chicken skewers with satay sauce, a condiment that Fouad thought was the bees knees and one that could possibly make him a fortune if he bottled it and sold it to his fellow citizens back in Lebanon.

And so, in an effort to impress his girlfriend, Fouad set out to the Woolworths at Penrith (pronounced Penrif), and sought the ingredients for a Thai Green Curry. Not surprisingly, half were not found, and as Fouad cracked open that bottle of fish sauce and took a good sniff, the pungent odor emitted from within turned his stomach. Quickly, a decision was made to halve the amount recommended by the recipe. Needless to say, the result was a disaster, a cheap copy, a doppelganger unworthy of association with the original. And so, in an effort to understand what went wrong, Fouad decided to educate himself in the art of Thai green curry.

The story above is, yes, you guessed it, Book 1 of  “The Adventures of Fouad and Thai Green Curry”. Luckily, eight years since then, I have been able to somewhat understand the various roles of the ingredients that go into a Thai green curry and now, I can safely say that I make a damn fine green curry. Fish sauce is no longer a stomach churning mystery, but rather an aromatic liquid used to add salt and complexity to a dish. Kaffir lime leaves have become one of my favourite ingredients and I use them fresh from my little tree growing on the balcony. They are awesome. My recipe for a Thai green curry is inspired by David Thompson’s bible, Thai Food. I can’t explain how important this book is. If you don’t have it and you like Thai food, you must go out and buy it, right now. Well, maybe after you finish reading this post.

The characteristics of a green curry are quite specific. First, it is a thin curry, which means you add thin coconut milk or chicken stock to the coconut cream. Second, it is green, which means green chillies are used. Third, the sauce need to be cracked, or seperated. That happens when the coconut cream is heated until most of the water evaporates and the coconut cream splits into oil and milk solids. Last, this is a hot and salty curry, not a sweet one, so sugar should not be used, though it is not uncommon to see it used. Confused? Don’t be. Avoid sugar.

Mr Thompson suggests that firm, slightly bitter vegetables work best with this curry. These include bamboo shoots, banana blossom or apple and pea eggplants. The issue I have with these types of recipes is that they ask for small amounts of ingredients that you wouldn’t usually keep at home. That said, they are nowadays easily available in Australia and making the curry from scratch is such a great experience. Give it a go and let me know what you think.


  • For this recipe I couldn’t find galangal at the shops so I used fresh ginger
  • I use Megachef fish sauce which is my favourite. You can find it in most supermarkets
  • I was not able to find green bullet chillies so I used long green chillies for color and flavour and red bullet chillies for heat
  • I didn’t have white peppercorns so I used powdered white pepper instead

David Thompson’s Thai Green Curry with Chicken Recipe (Ripped off then adapted)


Curry Paste

  • 3 tablespoons green bird’s eye chillies
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped galangal
  • 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped kaffir lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon scraped and chopped coriander root
  • 1 teaspoon chopped red tumeric
  • 3 tablespoons chopped red shallot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (I use the one preserved in oil as I find it less pungent)
  • 10 white peppercorns, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground

Curry Ingredients

  • 2 cups coconut cream
  • 250 grams sliced chicken thigh fillets
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 cups thin coconut milk or chicken stock
  • Handful green beans, tipped and cut in half
  • Handful Thai basil leaves
  • Kaffir lime leaves and 2 long red chillies (cut on a diagonal) for garnish


  1. To make the curry paste, in a mortar and pestle grind the ingredients for the paste in order from hardest to softest, ensuring each ingredient is fully pulverised before adding the other
  2. Crack the coconut cream in a sauce pan as described above
  3. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the paste (depending on how hot your chillies are) and fry over a medium heat, continuously stirring to prevent the paste from burning
  4. Add the chicken and continue to cook until the paste is fragrant
  5. Add the fish sauce and the coconut milk or chicken stock
  6. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and add beans and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked
  7. Garnish with kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil and chillies
  8. Serve with rice

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

Pistachio and Almond Milk Ice Cream Recipe

By | dairy free ice cream, dessert, gluten free ice cream, ice cream, pistachio ice cream, Recipes, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Pistachio and Almond Milk Ice Cream

It’s not often that one gets to create something unique in the kitchen. Most of our recipes are based on those created by others, with modifications and adjustments to ingredients and quantities. An ice cream or gelato recipe easily falls into this category whereby most approaches are derived from basic vanilla, but I think my almond milk ice cream (more correctly almond milk gelato) is bordering on the invention side. Well, perhaps. The great thing about using almond milk for gelato or ice cream is that almond milk is healthy, nutritionally dense, vegan and lowers your cholesterol. The trick, however, that while normal cow’s milk is totally understood when it comes to the frozen dessert, there are no easily available resources out there that explain how almond milk reacts in ice cream making.

Almonds and Almond Milk

As you may know, successful ice cream and gelato making is all about achieving a balance between sugar and fat, both of which play a part in ensuring the ice cream does not freeze to a solid block full of huge ice crystals and that it has a good, creamy mouth feel. Egg yolks add to the fat content and are the key distinguishing factor between an ice cream (contains egg yolks) and gelato (contains no egg yolks). Additives such as sahlep, cornstarch, xanthan gum or guar gum increase the ratio of solids to liquids in an ice cream, which lowers its freezing point without adding too much in terms of fat derived calories. Alcohol and egg whites are also useful, but result in a “slushy” ice cream if not carefully balanced. And so, my key target was to naturally raise the content of “good” fats in the ice cream by extracting concentrated, rich almond milk, and by further enriching it with the fats from the pistachio nuts. Then the sugars need to play their normal part. I used 80 grams of sugar and 80ml Agave nectar. I like Agave because it is low GI and it is already in a liquid state, which assists in lowering the freezing point. Thickening the mixture with cornstarch is standard gelato business and the result is a smooth, nutty and 80% healthy almond milk and pistachio gelato. Enjoy it before it gets too cold.

Pistachio and Almond Milk Ice Cream Recipe


  • 2 cups rehydrated almonds (soaked in water overnight)
  • 1 cup rehydrated pistachios (soaked in water overnight)
  • 80 g white sugar
  • 80 ml Agave nectar (or an extra 80 g sugar)
  • 4 cups water
  • 20 g cornstarch


  • Put nuts and water in a blender and wizz away
  • When well processed, strain in a cheese cloth, extracting every bit of liquid possible
  • Create a slurry by whisking the cornstarch with half a cup of the extracted milk
  • Heat the rest of the milk with the sugar and Agave and bring to a simmer
  • Add the cornstarch slurry and mix well. It will thicken very quickly, but you must keep stirring for around 2 minutes over the low heat
  • Put in a container, wait for the mixture to cool down and then refrigerate overnight. It will have a wobbly pudding like consistency
  • Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions and store in the freezer
  • If it is too thick, and your machine is not up to the task, give it a helping hand by stirring the ice cream in the machine with a wooden spooon. My machine has a crappy engine, and always needs a hand