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Dubai and Doha Detour

23 Jun

My travel westward to London included a necessary stopover in the Arabian Gulf to look for a new job opportunity. However, this brief pause in adventure travel wasn’t without a few interesting food discoveries. After all, I still had to eat.

Over the course of eight days, I fleeted across many offices to sell myself to potential employers. Working out free wi-fi hubs within the air-conditioned malls meant that healthy options were going to be difficult to find. This was even more challenging in Doha where buckets of fried chicken, burgers and pizza were in abundance. On most days I skipped lunch, opting for a Starbucks “light” frappuccino of some sort. However, dinner usually included something more substantial and by then I would be famished, especially if I’d been running in the desert heat.

In Dubai where I had already been twice, we dined at Meshawi a renown Lebanese Restaurant where the stand-out dish was pan-fried chicken hearts with a pomegranate molasses sauce. However, the tuna steak at the Belgian Beer Cafe, ravioli at Rosso and noodles at Wagamama were at best average. In Doha, we focused on regional food including Mamig Armenian/Lebanese, Alsoo South Indian and the delights of Yemen at Bandar Adan. All three restaurants were fantastic and possibly the best in their category. I also tried camel at a Moroccan restaurant in the Souq which I can only describe as being similar to goat, but only much softer.

My overall food experience made me think about reevaluating my food expectations in preparation of a move to the region. The fortunate thing is that the availability of organic produce and ingredients are on the rise so cooking the dishes I love will be possible. In terms of dining out, I will definitely have to lower my expectations and be prepared to try many restaurants. You may have noticed that very few vegetarian options were mentioned. This is representative of the regional consumption habits. Here vegetarians need to either choose from the limited options on the menu or request that they omit meat where possible.

I’ll leave you with a few photos. Unfortunately I wasn’t armed with my camera in every occasion so I wasn’t able to show you all the dishes. Have you unearthed anything interesting food lately?

Next stop London…stay tuned

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Lebanese Feast

6 May

In early April, I blogged about making cheese and the search for my cooking mojo. It was a two-pronged attack: to return to blogging after a long absence and rekindle my love for cooking. I’m glad to say that I feel inspired again to both blog and cook. I’m even getting excited about the opportunity to share my food and travel experience with you in June.

I also promised to post about the Lebanese Feast which I was planning for an overdue dinner with a handful of friends. As with all my dinners, the diners get to choose the cuisine. The other options included Asian, Brazilian, Pizza, Mexican, Vegetarian, Vegan or low-n-slow. But choice is not the only thing. Suffer from a food allergy? Just say so! Don’t like tomatoes? I will prepare a non-tomato based dish. I feel it’s my duty to please everyone, something I’ve inherited from my mother. Thankfully I didn’t have to cater to special dietary requirements this time.

The Lebanese Feast menu included:

Mezzes

mezze

Clockwise from top left: Pistachios, Labneh, Tarator, Olives & Fetta Cheese

Main & Sides

lebanese feast

Clockwise from top left: Baba Ganoush, Tarator, Labneh, Kibbeh, Tabouleh, Fatoush, Homous (I ran out of time otherwise I would have included Falafel too)

Desserts

Baklava and Mafroukeh

I don’t have recipes for each dish because I’ve made them so many times it’s almost instinctive. However, the recipes for the desserts were sourced from other blogs (links provided below). The Lebanese don’t usually make desserts at home but not having the luxury of “sweetery” nearby meant I had to make it myself. I was happy with the result considering it was my first attempt.

I have included a glossary for those who aren’t familiar with Lebanese food at the footer of this page and can provide recipes if interested, just let me know ;).

Step-By-Step Pictorial Guide

Baba Ganoush

smoked eggplantpeeled eggplantpeeled eggplant with garlic

tahinibaba ganoushbaba ganoush 

Fatoush

pomegranate extractfatoush dressingfried lebanese bread

making fatoushfatoush salad

Tabouleh

(For recipe click here)

tabouleh

Kibbeh

making kibbehkibbeh mixture

making bottom kibbeh layerkibbeh layers

filling over bottom layertop layer on

kibbeh ready for baking

Baklava

(For recipe click here)

orange blossom waterlayering baklavarolled and chopped baklava

baklava ready for bakingcrushed raw pistachios

baklavabaklava tray

Mafroukeh

(For recipe click here)

dry roasting semolinaroasted semolina

sugar syrup with orange blossom watermafroukeh topped with ricotta and almonds

 

Glossary:

Baba Ganoush – smoked eggplant dip with tahini, lemon juice, garlic & salt

Baklava – sugar syrup coated puff pastry stuffed with nuts & flavored with orange blossom water or rose water

Fatoush – peasant salad of cos lettuce, radish, fried Lebanese bread, tomato, cucumbers & dressed with a pomegranate extract, lemon, olive oil & salt dressing

Kibbeh – baked layers of ground lamb, wheat, basil, onion, spices and filled with lamb mince, pine nuts, onion & mint

Homous – chick pea dip with tahini, lemon juice, garlic & salt

Labneh – strained yoghurt almost with a consistency like cream cheese

Mafroukeh – roasted semolina mixed with sugar syrup topped with clotted cream & crunchy almonds

Orange Blossom Water – essentially distilled water from orange blossom flowers for scenting syrups

Tahine (Tahini) – sesame seed paste

Tarator – tahini sauce with lemon, garlic, vinegar, water & salt

Warm Wheat & Beet Salad

25 Feb

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There is something that I love about wheat. Perhaps it’s versatility. I mean, think about how many ways we can use this ingredient. What about the endless wheat flour recipes like bread, cakes, biscuits and cookies? Then there’s couscous, breakfast cereals and of course, beer!

A nice way to really taste this grain is to eat it in it’s original form, or as close as possible to it. I’ve been lucky enough to have had that chance thanks to my middle eastern heritage. There are many Lebanese dishes which contain crushed wheat both coarse or fine. It’s what turns lettuce, tomato, parsley and mint into Tabouleh, and, mince into Kibbe. Neither of those two dishes would be as distinct without out the star ingredient, wheat.

This is a recipe which I made up using my love for wheat and beets. The nuttiness of the wheat shines through and ties all the other vegetables together. Similar to my Pearl Barley Beet Risotto, it’s very easy to make but you will need to soak the wheat overnight in water. Use whatever spices that you like. Serve it warm or cold. With or without meat. It’s up to you. If you make it, let me know what you think.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 small chilli, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of baby peppers (1 or 2 bell peppers)
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of whole wheat soaked in water overnight, then strained
  • 1 handful of green beans, blanched
  • 3 medium-sized beets boiled for about 45 minutes, skin peeled
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • A handful of parsley or mint, or both, chopped roughly
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
Meat Option
  • 2 lamb loins per person
  • double the spices above

Directions
Dry fry all seeds in a non-stick pan, then grind in either a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Set aside.

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Roast peppers in a hot oven until skin starts to blister. Make sure you turn over once the tops are slight charred, then cook the second side. Take out, place in a strong plastic bag and seal. Allow to cool then remove skin, seeds then set aside.

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In a non-stick pan or wok, fry the garlic in olive oil, then add chilli and spice mixture. Stir through for a minute or two.

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Add the wheat, green beans and then shred the beetroot over the top. Stir through and cook for a few minutes until beetroot is incorporated well.

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Switch off the heat, then add peppers, parsley/mint mix and stir through.

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Serve warm or allow to cool if you want to serve it cold. Garnish with more parsley, mint, lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.

Meat Option

For the meat option, trim fat and bone off the loin. Rub with olive oil then the same spice mix above. Pan fry to your liking then pile on top of the wheat

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Extra Pics

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Non-traditional Christmas Lunch

8 Jan

On Christmas Day, I hijacked mum’s kitchen for the day. Lebanese food was off the menu because I wanted my parent’s to try something different. However, I included a lamb shoulder with roasted lemon thyme potatoes as backup (lucky I did). Beef isn’t very common in Lebanese cuisine and Lamb is a sure way to a “lebo’s” heart. Besides, my dad is a fussy eater and I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Roasted bell peppers, refried beans, guacamole and salsa were also on hand to stuff the warm flour tortillas and go with the juicy slow-roasted meats. By slow-roasted, I mean that I roasted the lamb shoulder for six hours in the oven at 120C (250F). I smoked the beef ribs on the gas barbecue, lid down also for six hours and mopped them over the last hour to develop a sweet crust. The meats were literally falling off the bone. I also roasted Portobello mushrooms after mum had stuffed them with parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs (I failed to keep her out of the kitchen completely).

Feedback was positive with the exception that dad thought that the ribs tasted “too fatty” and “smoky”. But hang on a second, isn’t that how they’re supposed to taste??? His tortillas ended up being stuffed with lamb, guacamole and salsa (I rolled one of these too and was surprisingly pleased with the combo).

What did you have for Christmas lunch or dinner or both?

refried beanschristmas lunch

roasted lamb shoulderroasted bell peppers

tomato salsasmoked beef ribs

lemon thyme potatoesguacamole

Blog training wheels…and Lamb Shoulder

10 Jun

As you’ve probably gathered, this is my first blog. Luckily, I’ve managed to find my blog training wheels! Slow and steady I shall ride this blog bike to ensure a smooth introduction into the world of blogging.

It’s been a lazy Sunday and after a hectic week abroad in the jungle of PNG, I decided to just sloth around for the day. I decided to kick off with setting up this blog and eventually moved on to more rewarding activities like grocery shopping and cooking of course.

I came across lamb shoulder and couldn’t go past it as it’s as rare as hen’s teeth in the average Australian supermarket. After deliberating on how I should cook it, I decided to stick to the basics. Besides, I was not feeling overly experimental as I’d already planned to try to make a hybrid cottage cheese after the lamb entered the oven. Lamb loves rosemary and garlic, they’re a match made in heaven. So here goes….

2kg of lamb shoulder

Take it out of the wrapping, pat dry with a paper towel and then score the fat side with a series of cuts.

Rub the lamb with olive oil then season with cracked pepper, sea salt, chopped up rosemary and garlic.

I don’t have a roasting pan so I used this baking tin with a bed of celery sticks.

The lamb should be covered with foil and tightly sealed to lock in the moisture. Preheat the oven to 180C and cook the lamb for at least 3.5hrs.

A small snack whilst the lamb is roasting: Thin rye pita with shavings of Parmesan drizzled with Lebanese extra virgin olive oil.

After 3.5 hours at 180C. Time to squeeze half a lemon all over it and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Another close up…

The meat should pull away with a fork. If you find that you need to use a knife, its not cooked enough.

The lamb can be served with roasted vegetables and/or mashed potatoes. I chose to use it as a filling for my tortilla with pickles, baby tomatoes, rocket, a dollop of yoghurt then finished it off with some sumac and a squeeze of lemon.

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