Tag Archives: lebanese

Sweet Quince, Fennel Seed and Pistachio Sambousek Pastries

29 Oct Sweet Sambouseks

I made these little pastries using the Persian Quince Jam from last post but you could use any jam you like. I have used this lovely fig & honey compote before too which is great if you don’t like using sugary jams.

Sambouseks are little samosa-like pastries that are normally savoury and filled with meat or cheese. I made these savoury Fig & Feta Sambouseks before, so this is just a little step in a sweeter direction. The picture below is of the savoury sambouseks and demonstrates the folding technique.

Sweet Quince, Fennel Seed & Pistachio Sambousek Pastries Recipe

Makes 16-20 pastries. Vegetarian/Vegan.

  • 225 g (1 1/2 cups) white spelt flour (or normal)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) warm water
  • jam/compote/carne de membrillo
  • feta cheese or ricotta or queso fresco (optional)
  • honey or agave syrup
  • a handful of pistachios, very finely chopped

Sieve the flour sugar and salt into a large bowl then stir in the fennel seeds. Add the olive oil, mixing it in with a fork then make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the warm water. With your hand, fold the flour into the water, turning the bowl as you go until you get a sticky dough.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, 1 or 2 minutes. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment brushed with a little oil.

Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll the dough out until it is about 2mm thick. Cut out small circles about 3 inches in diameter (use a floured cutter or a glass). Lift the excess pastry away from the circles  and re-roll it and cut out more circles. Keep doing this until you have used most of the dough. You should get 16-20 in total depending on the thickness of your dough.

Put the circles on the lined baking tray and, using a teaspoon place a small amount of jam in the centre of the circle and top with a little cheese (if using). Lift up the two opposite edges and seal them above the filling. Seal the two other ends by pinching them together to create a four-cornered sambousek. (See picture above). They can be refrigerated at this point if necessary.

Brush the tops of the sambouseks with a little olive oil and bake for 15 -25 minutes until golden and cooked. Leave to cool slightly then brush the tops with honey or agave syrup and dip them in the finely chopped pistachios.

Serve the sweet sambouseks warm or at room temperature with a glass of fresh mint tea or Turkish coffee.

Enjoy!!

The Almost Perfect Deliciously Smokey Baba Ghanoush Recipe

21 Oct Baba Ghanoush

Unbelievably, this is the first time I have posted a Baba Ghanoush recipe. I love it – it is definitely one of my favourite things to eat but until recently I had not been happy with my own attempts a recreating the deliciously creamy smokiness of the excellent Baba (or mutabal) at my favourite Lebanese restaurant in Malaga.

Seeing this unusual aubergine growing by the side of the road featured in the picture below (no rude comments about its big nose please) and the incredibly cheap piles of gorgeous deep purple, brushed magenta or even lilac ombre specimens on sale at the market was encouragement enough for me to give it another go.

The key to really good baba is the smokiness. This usually comes from cooking the aubergines directly over an open flame until the skin is blackened and the flesh inside is very soft and collapsing when you squeeze it with tongs. The smoky flavour comes from the charred skin that permeates the flesh of the aubergine transforming it into one of the most delicious things on this earth. This is where my problem lies, I don’t have gas hob. I have a silly beep beep beep induction hob which is admittedly much easier to clean.

Or so he tells me.

I had read recipes before saying that you could get the same effect by grilling (or broiling US) them under a hot grill for 70 minutes. 70 minutes?! The idea of leaving something under a hot grill for 70 minutes scared me to death because I knew I would wander off and forget about them completely. So do you know what I did? I bought smaller aubergines. Genius I know. Instead of using 3 large aubergines that the recipe calls for, I use 6 or 7 baby ones. It’s so much quicker and I am less likely to burn the house down in the process.

The traditional way, if you have a gas hob, is to line underneath the burners with some aluminium foil, prick the aubergines all over with a sharp knife (you can use 3 large or 6 or 7 baby ones) then lay them directly on the flames, turning occasionally with tongs to make sure they are blackened on all sides and collapsingly soft inside. If you don’t have gas like me the recipe below comes  a very close second. Whatever you do don’t use roasted aubergines, the flavour will be very disappointing and nothing like the real thing.

Baba Ghanoush Recipe

Serves 4 as a snack with flatbread or crudities. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigel Slater

  • 6 or 7 small aubergines (mine were about 15 -18 cm long from the tip of the stalk to the bottom)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • the juice of a small lemon
  • 2 or 3 heaped tbsp tahini paste
  • 3 or 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • parsley or mint leaves to garnish
  • sesame seeds to garnish

Prick the aubergines all over with a sharp knife and cook under a hot grill (or over a gas flame), turning once the skin is blackened. Keep turning and leaving it to blacken on all four sides. The skin should be blackened and charred on all sides and the flesh inside very soft and collapsing when you pick it up with tongs.

Leave until cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthways and scrape out all of the flesh including any that is sticking to the skin (this is where all the flavour is). It doesn’t matter if some of the blackened skin gets into the bowl too this will be great for flavour.

Puree with a stick blender with the rest of the ingredients until just smooth (or still a little bit chunky) and then taste. Adjust the lemon juice, salt and tahini to your liking. To serve, drizzle with a little olive oil and scatter over some parsley or mint leaves and a few sesame seeds.

This is gorgeous served straight away still warm or at room temperature with some toasted flatbread or crudites for dipping.

This is one of the recipe from my first Vegetarian Mezze Cookery Workshop that I hosted yesterday at Pepe Kitchen in Benalmadena, Malaga. I would like to thank all of the lovely people who turned up to learn to cook and eat some of my favourite food, I really enjoyed it and hope you did too.

My next course is a Healthy Baking Workshop on Saturday 17th November when we will be making (and eating) tarts and  quiche made with spelt flour olive oil pastry, healthy sweet and savoury muffins including my favourite cherry tomato, pesto & goat’s cheese muffin made using wholemeal spelt flour and olive oil. Also my signature healthy breakfast or tea loaf made with flax seeds, oats, dates, raisins, honey and sunflower seeds. Hope to see you there…

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini, Yogurt and Mint Sauce

22 Jun Falafel Cake

It may surprise you to find that this is the first time I have posted a falafel recipe. Falafels are emergency vegetarian food, especially when out and about. Wherever you are there is normally a Turkish kebab shop that can save your life when starvation takes hold and you need something quick and tasty.

I have a theory though. A falafel conspiracy theory, if you like. I think that the falafels you buy in most Turkish or Lebanese restaurants or cafes are made out of a packet mix. I know, controversial. My reason for this slanderous outburst is sound and based on personal experience. Theirs hold together and mine, do not. See the picture below for an example of a very lovely falafel we bought from an Israeli vendor at the market.

 Along with a delicious tabouli salad, spicy tomato dip, broad bean dip and cheese and potato puffs. Perfect picnic food. For when your friends have very kindly allowed you to spend the day by their pool while they are away.

I also some bought some gorgeous gladioli and a big box of irresistible looking plums at the market. I see plum recipes coming up. Anyway back to the falafels.

Correct me if I am wrong, and I am sure you will, but aren’t falafels made from chickpeas? The ones you buy seem to be made from bulgur wheat or couscous. They have a distinctly grainy inside that looks and tastes nothing like a chickpea, cooked or uncooked. Am I the only person that has noticed this? Don’t get me wrong they taste great and I love them but pureed chickpeas they ain’t.

That’s my excuse anyway. I’ve tried with cooked chickpeas and dried, soaked overnight chickpeas. Whatever, I have always had a disaster. Either too dense, hard and chewy because I’ve added so much chickpea flour to make them hold together or too sloppy and they fall apart and disintegrate as soon as I start to cook them in the oil. Until now that is…..

…actually that is a little bit of a lie. The first lot of these I cooked in oil and they disintegrated as usual. Tasted good but had to be scooped into a flatbread and eaten.

My success came about through baking them rather than frying. Mould them into patties, dust with a little polenta or cornmeal, brush with a tiny amount of oil and bake for about 30 minutes. They are still not the most stable of snacks, you couldn’t throw one at someone from the other side of the pool, for instance but they are soft, delicious and a little crumbly.

And they taste of chickpea. Enhanced with a few herbs, spices and harissa. Perfect. You just need a little tahini yoghurt sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

Spiced Chickpea Falafel Cakes with Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

Serves 3, makes about 9, vegan, (without the sauce) gluten-free.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time 30 mins

  • 1 tin/jar cooked chickpeas (400 gr), drained, rinsed & dried
  • 50 g of fresh peas (not frozen too wet) optional
  • 25 g hazelnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  a big handful of chopped fresh herbs, I used, mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  • 1/2 tsp or more harissa paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • the juice of half a lemon plus wedges to serve
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • polenta or cornmeal fro dusting

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smoothish and it has come together. If you need to, add a bit more lemon juice to get it moving but not a lot. Taste and adjust seasoning. Mould into cakes and put in the fridge to firm up for a while or overnight.

When ready to cook preheat oven to 200 C. Put the polenta on a flat plate and roll the patties in it to lightly coat all sides. Line a baking tray with baking paper place the patties on the tray and brush very lightly with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly browned and serve with the tahini yoghurt sauce.

Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

  • 1 pot (125ml) Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini paste
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handfull of fresh herbs, chopped I used mint, coriander, parsley & oregano
  •  a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a pinch ground cumin
  • a pinch sumac (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust lemon & salt as necessary.

Serve the falafel cakes with the tahini yoghurt sauce, lemon wedges and some salad leaves. In a flatbread/pita or not, it’s up to you.

I might have to buy a packet mix for falafel just to find out if that’s what they use. Just to prove to myself really. If it’s not I can’t understand it, any ideas?

A Really Good Hummus Recipe

9 May Hummus Bi Tahineh

At last, I’ve found an authentic tasting hummus recipe that comes somewhere close to replicating the gorgeous hummus at my favourite Lebanese restaurants. Sure, I can make a half decent tasty hummus, have been making it for years, but I have never been to get anywhere near to the creamy smooth addictiveness of the professionals. Until now that is.

The purists out there are going to say that it’s not authentic because I didn’t use dried chickpeas that I soaked overnight. They would be right and next time I will. If I remember. That’s the problem you see, I am never that organised. I have the best of intentions but it never seems to happen.

That is what is so great about this recipe, it is fabulous even if you don’t do the soaking overnight thing. The secret to the smooth and creaminess is that you rub the skins off of the chickpeas. I’d never heard of that before. It makes such a difference to the texture and flavour of the finished product. It is lighter in colour, much creamier, smoother and less bitter. It is a little bit of a faff but so worth it for the end result, I promise.

Hummus Bi Tahine (Chickpeas with Tahini) Recipe

Serves 3-4 as a snack, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Desert Candy

Prep time: 20-25 mins with cooked chickpeas. If using dried chickpeas see the original recipe here

  • 1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp tahini
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • olive oil, cumin, sesame seeds to serve

Place the drained and rinsed chickpeas in a saucepan and cover them with water by at least an inch. Gently rub the chickpeas against each other with your hands in the pan. Do this for a few minutes. Skim off any visible skins from the top.

Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the chickpeas are very soft. Check by squishing one between your fingers, it should squish very easily. Remove from the heat and skim off any more visible skins but keep the cooking liquid as you will need it later.

 I actually removed the chickpeas from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and slipped any remaining skins off of the chickpeas. Fiddly but worth it.

Place the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and smush to a paste (you can also do this in a mini chopper). Add the tahini & lemon juice to a processor with the garlic & salt paste and blend until smooth and light coloured. Then add the skinned chickpeas and blend until very smooth. Thin the hummus to the desired consistency with the cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with more salt as required.

To serve, swirl the hummus onto a deep plate or shallow bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil. Finish with a sprinkling of cumin/paprika and a few sesame seeds.

Use warmed flatbreads, raw carrots, salted crisps (so wrong but so right) or even clean fingers when you run out of everything else, to carry the hummus to your happy mouth and smile.

Restaurant Review and Recipe: Muhammara – Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip

6 Jan Muhammara

This is my version of the Muhammara (or hammara) roasted red pepper & walnut dip I had at the fantastic Lebanese restaurant in Malaga, Samarkanda.

Everything that we ordered was amazing. The hummos was the creamiest I have ever tasted and the baba ghanoush (or mutabak) had that deliciously intense smokiness that I can never replicate at home because I don’t have a gas hob to burn the aubergines over an open flame. The tabouli salad was heavy on the herbs, just how I like it and the cheese briwat (like a samosa) heavenly. The falafels were really good but a step to far I think. We ordered too much as usual, I got a bit excited and wanted everything.

This was the first time I had tried Muhammara in a restaurant. I have made it myself before and used it to stuff these Muhammara & Feta Cigars (gorgeous). Samarkanda’s muhammara was much sweeter than mine and it was lovely because of it. They had used cinnamon and I was desperate to get home and try it, none of the recipes I had seen used cinnamon but it made such a difference t o the flavour.

Continue reading

Fig and Feta Sambousek with Homemade Harissa Sauce

6 Aug DCIM100MEDIA

The second wave of figs (higos) are just starting to ripen here now. This means that we have lots of figs.

We actually have a huge carrier bag full of them in the freezer that was given to us by our friend Leigh, thanks Leigh! Fig chutney was one of the first (in fact the second) recipe that I posted when I first started this blog last September. I’ve just made some more, it tastes great, really aromatic and spicy and it is amazing on a cheese sandwich.

We have just found a Lebanese restaurant in Alhaurin de la Torre called Beirut. It’s been there for ages and I don’t know why we haven’t been before because it has a huge amount of vegetarian dishes to choose from. We popped in for lunch on the way to the Viveros Guzman (an amazing garden centre) and ordered a vegetarian mezze called Katastroph to share.

Each little dish that they brought out was delicious. The hummus was the creamiest and the baba ghanoush was the smokiest that I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot. This was followed by a tabouleh, which was really fresh and was mainly fresh parsley (not a lot of bulgur) which is a good thing. The falafel were light and flavourful. All too often falafel can be heavy, dense and bland. Not these, there was an ingredient in there that I couldn’t recognise but was really familiar, something like fennel seeds, but not. All this was served with a really soft, light arab bread.

Then they brought out the thing that was, for me, the highlight. Sambusik (or sambousek) are little mini pasties, like samosas, but smaller. They seemed to be made out of the same dough as the bread and were stuffed with feta and onion or spinach and lemon. TO. DIE. FOR. Especially the feta and onion, like a mini cheese and onion pasty but softer. By the way I am not getting paid for this review, nor do they know that I am writing it. It is just something I had to share.

I researched it and found this recipe for the dough. It is not as soft and bread-like as theirs but it is really easy to work with, I added some fennel seeds to the dough for extra flavour too.

The fig chutney and feta combination was just born out of the fact that I have so much fig chutney and wanted to use it. It’s spicy sweetness contrasts really well with the salty, creamy feta. It would make a fabulous tart filling too. Just spread some on a puff pastry circle and crumble over the feta, cook at 220 C for about 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden and sprinkle over some fresh parsley to serve.

You could also use fresh figs as the base if you don’t want to bother making the chutney.

Those were the step by step pictures, in case you were wondering. This is the finished product.

I decided to make my own harissa sauce to go with this because, as you know, I have a mountain of chillis and it may be the only chilli sauce I haven’t made yet!

This sauce is hot so I mixed it with some greek yoghurt to serve with the sambousek.

Fig & Feta Sambousek with Homemade Harissa Sauce

For the harissa sauce:

Makes about 250 ml, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Taste Food

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tin/jar (200 gr) roasted red peppers, and any juice (I used piquillo peppers), roughly chopped
  • 3 red chillies, stemmed and finely chopped with seeds
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or more)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Toast the seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, but do not burn. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grid to a fine powder.

Put the peppers, chillis, garlic, ground seeds, tomato puree, olive oil and parsley in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding more oil or tomato puree, if necessary, to get the desired consistency. Season with the salt & black pepper and taste (a tiny amount). You may want to add more salt or a pinch of sugar. Pour into a sterilised bottle/jar, seal and keep in the fridge until needed.

For the Fig & Feta Sambousek:

Makes about 16 small pastries, vegetarian

  • 225 gr (1 1/2 cups) flour (I use Atta wholemeal), plus extra for dusting
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fennel or cumin seeds
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) warm, not hot water
  • fig chutney, see my recipe here
  • 100-150 gr greek feta, cut into small cubes
  • fresh parsley leaves
  • sumac (optional)
  • olive oil for brushing
  • harissa sauce (see above)
  • greek yoghurt

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, then stir in the seeds. Add the olive oil, stir it around then make a well in the middle and pour in the tepid water. Fold the flour into the water, turning the bowl as you go until it forms a sticky dough.

Flour the work surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and no longer sticky about 2 minutes. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll out the dough to about 3mm thick. Cut out small circles (I used a water-glass) about 3 inches diameter. Lift the excess pastry away from the circles, re-roll it and cut out more circles, you should get about 16 in total.

Spread the circles on your work surface and put a teaspoon of fig chutney in the centre of each one. Top this with a small cube of feta, a parsley leaf and a small pinch of sumac.

Lift up two opposite edges and seal them around the filling. Seal the two other ends, pinching them together to create a four-cornered sambousek (see pictures above). They can be refrigerated at this point.

Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Brush the baking paper with olive oil and place the sambousek on the tray, you may need two trays. Brush them with olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Mix some harissa paste and greek yoghurt together, tasting until you get the right balance for you. Top with some fresh parsley leaves.

Serve the hot/warm sambousek with the harissa yoghurt sauce and sprinkle over some more fresh parsley.

Thanksgiving Mezze Part 1: Butternut Hummus

22 Nov

This is one of the dishes I will be serving as part of my Thanksgiving mezze. I am English and live in Spain but this year I have decided to “adopt” the Thanksgiving concept and cook a fabulous dinner for some people I would really like to thank for their support over the last year.  The positivity I feel and gratitude I need to express is something I would never have imagined possible at this time last year. I feel more healthy, happy and alive than ever and for that I am truly grateful…  Thank you!

Anyway back to the mezze, as Thanksgiving is a time for sharing, I thought that a mezze would be the perfect thing. A delicious vegetarian feast in the middle of the table for everyone to pick at and enjoy. I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Hummus on this amazing blog www.tasteofbeirut.com  There are so many delicious recipes that I want to try on this blog but the Pumpkin Hummus was just perfect for Thanksgiving. I have adapted it slightly by using butternut squash instead of pumpkin which I roasted.

Roasted Butternut Hummus Recipe

Adapted from a Taste of Beirut recipe

Serves 4 Vegan

  • 1/2 butternut squash 750 gr plus
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes
  • the juice of 1 & 1/2 lemons
  • 4 cloves garlic minced with a pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp tahini

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Scrape out the seeds from the squash and spread them out on a sheet of foil, picking off any stringy bits of squash then set aside. Cut the squash into small pieces (about 1 inch triangles) and put them on a lined baking sheet/tin. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt & black pepper and sprinkle with good pinch of chilli flakes then toss everything together with your hands so evenly coated. Roast the squash on the middle shelf of the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until  tender. Put the squash seeds on the bottom shelf of the oven (on the foil) and toast for about 10 – 15 minutes until slightly browned. Sprinkle with salt and leave to cool.

When the squash is tender, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before pulling off the skin. Blitz the squash with a stick blender or pulse in a food processor until smooth-ish.

Mix the minced garlic with the lemon juice then add the tahini and stir to combine well. Add the tahini mixture to the squash and blitz again to combine. Taste for seasoning, add more salt if necessary.

Place in a serving dish sprinkled with the toasted squash seeds and serve with leek & cumin seed flatbreads (see my recipe) or with some lavash or pita triangles.

This is the ultimate dip for me – all the flavour of hummus with the added sweetness and colour of butternut squash. I’d make double if I was you, it disappears really quickly….

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