A Chickpea Degustation at Efendy, Balmain

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).


  • It is a grand idea! I just wish I could be there! Do you remember the place in Saida? Saida is where my grandmother’s family lived for generations/ although originally from the Chouf and I go there a lot in the summer to eat sweets at Al Baba and a falafel at the souk.

  • Wonderful, delicious idea, Fouad – see if you can use Australian Ord River Chickpeas – they are the sweetest ever and cook very quickly ‘cos they’re so fresh.

  • you can count me & Clive in!
    (and we’d never take part in anything “stupid”)

  • You’re a colossus of a cooking machine and because I also love chickpeas I’m there like a ninja in your closet (ie before you know it)

    Keep us posted buddy

  • I just found this website in a hunger fuelled interwebbing session, and I’ve just spent an hour looking though these wonderful entries, when I really ought to be getting started on the cake I’m baking today…

    Anyway, it sounds like it’s going to be an incredible feast. I think chickpeas are amazingly versatile. I’m indian, and so desserts, sweets, snacks, and main meals are no strangers to chickpeas, what so ever. As for desserts, my favourite has to be cardamom and cinnamon spiked, chickpea flour laddoos.

    Good luck with the event!

  • I’d be really interested in this dinner & would love to come along provided I’m cashed up at the time. I’m excited it’s at Efendy also as it’s somewhere I’ve not been but want to try.

  • Jealous, jealous, jealous!!!
    This sounds fantastic and if I could justify a flight and the cost of accommodation I’d be there in a flash.
    I don’t suppose you have thought of coming to Adelaide for something similar? We have a very fine Australian/Turkish chef here.

  • Truly Mediterranean recipe – hummus bi lahme. One may see its Middle Eastern but hummus has found its way to the heartland of Greece and Turkey too. Another flavor is tahini which is considered more ethnic.

  • Mate that sounds like an awesome idea. My wife is indian and her family also does some amazing things with chick peas from savoury cakes and breads to sweets, its such a versatile ingredient. I cant wait to see what you come up with. Count us in for your dinner 🙂

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