A classic recipe from my book, Lebanese Home Cooking. Tabbouleh is the Lebanese national salad, immensely loved, and included as a matter of course in even the most basic mezzeh. Don’t get me started on the indignities inflicted upon it abroad…
Some time ago I spotted, on the small pack of parsley sold at a local chain store that will go unnamed, the following pearl of wisdom: “Sprinkle it on your tabbouleh.” What. Tabbouleh is a parsley salad. What are you putting in it, if the parsley is just for sprinkling on top?!
Second point of astonishment: Cooking bulgur, as if it were rice. You don’t cook bulgur. It’s pre-cooked. You soak it, that’s all!
Stick to the amounts specified in the recipe below and you’ll get a good result, but let me highlight some important points.
- The parsley must be very finely chopped. That’s what makes it palatable in such a large quantity. You’ll be amazed at how much the bunches shrink down once chopped. A food processor can help, but be careful not to overdo it, the point is not to end up with something the consistency of pesto. The tomatoes are also diced small, but not in a food processor.
- There is relatively little bulgur relative to the parsley. This is not a bulgur salad.
- The amount of dressing is generous so that all of this dense-textured salad receives an adequate amount. Between the lemon, the juice of the tomatoes, and the oil, the bottom of the bowl will be soaking and that’s as it should be. Some people (*cough*) might even say they look forward to soaking bread in all the leftover dressing.
- Using a fork instead of lettuce leaves is fine. Changing the ingredients and still calling it tabbouleh isn’t!
A quick and different pasta dish, that could easily be a little more dressed up (I would also use the lemon’s juice, for instance, and probably toss in a few olives). Spaghetti and other similar pasta work equally well is you don’t have linguine at hand. Use olive oil instead of butter in step 2 to keep it vegan.
This makes for a very satisfying, versatile breakfast. It doesn’t take that long to boil potatoes so it’s reasonably quick, but steps 1-2 can just as well be done the previous evening (cover and leave on the counter overnight, there’s no need to refrigerate). Use 2T olive oil instead of butter in step 2 to make it vegan/dairy-free.
This is different from the inimitable “rabtet khubz” (bag of bread) from the bakery, but identical to the hot, puffed bread that is brought to the table straight from the oven at a restaurant.
A language note: “khubz” is just the Arabic word for “bread”, any kind of bread. It doesn’t mean this specific type unless you specify “khubz arabi”. “Khubz franji” is French bread, for instance. “Khubz marquq” is the traditional, super thin Lebanese mountain bread. And so on. Some people drop the general word in conversation (sometimes innocently, often pedantically) as if it were a technical term—don’t.
The dough used here is the Basic Pizza Dough, though you can substitute your favourite. Let the dough rise while you’re slicing and caramelizing the onions.
Mana’eesh (plural of man’oushe) are Lebanese street food at its best and come in a number of classic varieties you can order from tiny bakeries at every street corner. This one is a lighter version of the cheese type, which is normally made with fatty akkawi cheese (not easily found abroad anyway but mozzarella is close enough, though much less salty). I often fall back on this super easy recipe when I need to make food for a lot of people, or to take food with me, and it is always really well received. You can make a highly transportable version by spreading 4 circles thinly, spreading cheese on half and closing the other half over, calzone style (pinch the edges to seal). Then you can hike, climb and tumble all you like and the topping will stay put.
This recipe works particularly well with the Basic Pizza Dough, although you could use whatever dough you prefer, with or without yeast.
A favourite, made using the Basic Pizza Dough. If I have mushrooms on hand I slice a few and add them before topping with cheese.
This pizza takes some work, but it’s so worth it—a crowd pleaser every time. Its various steps don’t need to be made in one go: the leeks can be prepared 1-2 days ahead and refrigerated, and so can the cheese mix (so can the flavored oil, but that only takes 5 minutes so there’s little point).
It can be made with any dough; the Basic Dough makes for a thicker crust that is more filling (I’d still spread it somewhat thinly), but it can equally be made with a thin crust, lighter and quicker to make. Either way, half-baking it before adding the toppings ensures it bakes fully. Also, it’s far easier to eat this if you make smaller pizzas, as done here, rather than one large.
The feta makes it very savoury; if you prefer a milder taste, use ricotta instead.
This is my go-to pizza/flatbread dough recipe when I want a thick soft crust and I have time to let it rise. Sometimes I only leave it for 1/2 hour and it’s still just fine: I’ll prepare it first, put it somewhere warm while I prepare the other ingredients, and then get on with it. If it affected the result, I never noticed!
As shown below, you can freeze the dough when it’s ready, for future use. This is useful if you made more than you need, but it needs to thaw overnight, so it’s not really a time-saver. On the other hand, if you use baking powder instead of yeast, you have a thin-crust dough that’s ready to use immediately. In this case, make sure to spread it thinly.
Stumbling across a patch of poppies, a firework of red over a green or golden field, is the joy of my summer hikes. There is little danger of mistaking them for anything else. A few recipes:
I fell in love with foraging when I moved to the edge of the city, with fields and woods within a few minutes’ walk. Nature walks and learning the names of birds and plants had already changed my relationship to the living world around me; foraging introduced a whole new degree of intimacy, eating of the wilderness to make it part of the substance of my body. I started to experience seasonality directly (things grow when they grow), with the attendant acceptance and relinquishing of control, and also to acquire our ancestors’ instinct for where and when to find plants. There is also the wonder of the landscape changing constantly, of flavours not available in shops, and the relationship to place.
While I’m hoping these foraging notes of mine will encourage others to venture into the woods, this is not an invitation to see all of nature as a free buffet we are entitled to. Please be sure to start with the ethics and practical advice below.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, a biologist of Potawatomi heritage, offers precious guidance for respectful foraging in The “Honorable Harvest”: Lessons From an Indigenous Tradition of Giving Thanks (also a TED talk):
The canon of indigenous principles that govern the exchange of life for life is known as the Honorable Harvest. They are “rules” of sorts that govern our taking, so that the world is as rich for the seventh generation as it is for us.
The Honorable Harvest, a practice both ancient and urgent, applies to every exchange between people and the Earth. Its protocol is not written down, but if it were, it would look something like this:
- Ask permission of the ones whose lives you seek. Abide by the answer.
- Never take the first. Never take the last.
- Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
- Take only what you need and leave some for others.
- Use everything that you take.
- Take only that which is given to you.
- Share it, as the Earth has shared with you.
- Be grateful.
- Reciprocate the gift.
- Sustain the ones who sustain you, and the Earth will last forever.
To the above points, I would add:
- Err on the side of caution. Only pick plants you can identify with certainty, and let someone experienced teach you how to recognize the trickier ones. This is especially important for mushrooms! It is wise to learn about poisonous plants in your area in addition to edible ones.
- Avoid collecting from the sides of busy roads, industrial areas, near farms that spray pesticides, and other contaminated areas. Small amounts from such places may not be harmful, but the effect of heavy metals and chemicals can be cumulative and show over time.
- Refrain from collecting roots in the wild. Many are edible, of course, but when you collect the roots, you kill the plant, and the wilderness can’t afford this anymore. We have to be content with the renewable parts of a plant.
- What you need to go foraging depends on what you aim to collect. If you’re starting out and just picking what turns up at this stage, keep some paper bags on you (useful for most things) and maybe one small tupperware (for instance for poppy seeds or juicy berries). As you gain experience, you’ll know what you like and how to be prepared. A pair of snips and garden gloves are helpful for certain things..
I started drawing recipes a few years ago to make them easier to follow, both for my own sake and to spread the love of cooking around, and they have proliferated beyond control. I focus mostly on simple recipes requiring little to no exotic ingredients or kitchen gadgets, with the occasional jazzy number. A notable exception are traditional recipes, which tend to be slow and labour-intensive; all the more reason to make them more accessible through a pictorial treatment. (A good number have been gathered in recipe books, available in my shop.)
Here is the full list of my recipes posted to date, and you can also use the tags in the margin to look for specific requirements. Nearly all the recipes are vegetarian, so there is no tag for that. Sahtein!
- Walnut-Poppy Seed Pasta
- Penne Express
- Avocado Pasta
- Chorizo Pasta
- Smoked Salmon Pasta
- Lemon Garlic Spaghetti
- Penne all’Arrabbiata
Pizza & Flatbreads
- Basic Pizza Dough
- Spicy Egg Pizza
- Rocket-Chèvre Pizza
- Man’oushe bi-Jibneh (Cheese flatbread)
- Lemon-Leek Pizza
- Tandoori Butter Mushrooms
- Matar paneer
Sides and Salads:
- Courgette-Feta Fritters
- Orange-Glazed Potatoes
- Batata Harra (Spicy potatoes)
- Indian Potato Salad
- Stuffed Peppers
- Tabbouleh (Lebanese parsley salad)
- Lentil Salad
- Loubieh b’Zeit (Green beans in oil)
- Moroccan Orange Salad
- Labneh bil-Toum (Strained yogurt with garlic)
- Mango Salsa
- Waldorf Salad
Stews and Soups
- Dahl Soup
- Rosemary Chickpea Soup
- Tom Kha Hed (Thai coconut soup with mushrooms)
- Stewed Vegetables
- Aadas bi-Hamod (Lentils & Lemon Stew)
- Sweet & Sour Soup
- Soupe à l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)
- Squash-Coconut Soup
- Eggs with Minted Yogurt
- Hommos Balila (Warm chickpea salad)
- Banana-Oat Muffins
- Kadoo Pish Gaza (Courgette dip)
- Banana Eggs
- Pain d’épi (Wheat stalk bread)
- Irish Potato Bread
- Soft Pretzels
- Dinner rolls
- Olive-Herb Bread
- Quick Loaf
- Khubz Arabi (Arabic bread)
- Kesra (Moroccan anise bread)
- Vegan Lemon Cupcakes
- Chocolate Nut Cake
- Double Chocolate Brownies
- Orange-Poppy Cake
- Sfouf (Turmeric cake)
- Tres Leches (Three-milks cake)
Cookies & Bite-sized
- Simsimiyyeh (Sesame candy)
- Pirishkes (Honey poppy seed biscuits)
- Torticas de Navidad
- Pepparkakor (Swedish gingersnaps)
- Ghraybeh (Shortbread cookies)
- Apricot Crumble
- Lemon Curd
- Mohallabieh (Rice Cream)
- Blueberry Chocolate Mousse
- Mixed Berries Zabaglione
- Banana Bake
- Lemon-Poppy Seed Honey
- Mighli (Caraway cream)
- Turrón de Navidad
- Mákos Guba
- Anoush Abour
Pantry Basics & Preserves:
These are the basic ingredients in my cleaning cupboard: these are all I need to make all the cleaning recipes on this blog (sometimes with addition of kitchen ingredients). In addition to being non-toxic, they’re all easy to source with minimal or no plastic, which is equally important to me.
Bicarbonate/Baking soda (any grade)
You could almost use nothing but baking soda for all cleaning purposes, it’s so versatile. I order “Dri Pak Ltd Bicarbonate Of Soda” on eBay or Amazon, which comes in 500g cardboard boxes. (In the US, the omnipresent Arm&Hammer is also packed in card.)
A natural disinfectant and descaler, its smell disappears as it dries so don’t let that put you off. I used to buy distilled vinegar in glass bottles (and still for some uses, like descaling the kettle), but I now use my home-fermented kombucha vinegar for most of my cleaning. Live vinegar is less strong but smells better and spreads beneficial bacteria around, making it much harder for harmful bacteria to thrive.
There is nothing easier than liquefying a soap bar, so although this is an all-important ingredient, I never buy it, thereby avoiding both the plastic bottles and the inflated cost. Instead, I pick up soap bars whenever I come across one, especially the basic unscented ones: savon de Marseille, savon d’Alep, castile bar soap, which are wrapped only in paper, if even that. I also pick up scented bars but I reserve these to make handwash. I keep them all in my wardrobe (where they deter moths) until needed, and they go an incredibly long way: A 120g bar will make 1 liter liquid soap (4 cups)!
To make liquid soap: Bring water to the boil in the amount of 250ml (1C) for each 30g (1oz) of soap. Grate the soap and mix it into the boiling water till dissolved. Let cool 12 to 24 hours: it will thicken. Give it a vigorous mix to fully incorporate before storing or using it. You can always add some water if it needs thinning (if you do, tiny soap “beads” may form, but they’re only soap that’s not fully dissolved).
Any essential oil that’s safe to breathe can be used in cleaning, and I like to add lavender to my laundry soap. But here are three cleaning staples, used for their properties rather than their scent:
- Lemon: Disinfects and cuts through grease. It can be replaced with the fresh, strained juice of a lemon, but this reduces the product’s shelf life.
- Rosemary: Kills mold and mildew.
- Clove: The most powerful germicide/antimicrobial oil. Other good but less powerful germicides: tea tree, cinnamon, bay and thyme. These also extend the shelf life of the product containing them, by preventing mold.
Alcohol is a great sterilizer, and cheap vodka is easy to find. Mixed with water in equal portions, it does a great job of cleaning surfaces and appliances.
That’s it! Combined together in different ways depending on need, they leave my home feeling fresh without being as life-stripped as the surface of the moon.
Here are two more ingredients that I don’t use myself, but can be useful to know:
Citric Acid: This substance which is available as a white powder is found naturally in lemon and other citrus, so it’s actually edible. It’s also cheap and comes in cardboard (look for the brands Dri-Pak Ltd or Clean & Natural). Like vinegar, it counters water hardness, but it also creates foam (making it a major ingredient in bath bombs, for instance). Like lemon essential oil, it is antibacterial, antiseptic and efficiently cuts through grime. It makes a brilliant kettle descaler, but it can apparently take the enamel off toilet bowls, so check before using on other surfaces. Also note that while safe in general, it can aggravate pre-existing respiratory problems.
Hydrogen peroxide: I’m not too keen on this, but for those who feel the need for something more sterilizing than vinegar, this is a better alternative to the highly poisonous chlorine bleach. Available in pharmacies in small glass bottles, it can be transferred to a spray bottle to maximize its usefulness.
This is more than a dessert: in Lebanon it is traditionally prepared to celebrate a birth and also for Christmas (because baby Jesus). Ground caraway and even aniseed are not regular fare in Western supermarkets but you’ll find it in spice shops, Middle-Eastern shops, and if all else fails, try eBay, or just grind the whole seeds, which seem to be more common.
I’ll admit that this is not my favourite, but I love making it for friends who just had a happy event, and it is meant to be good for the mother after giving birth, with all these energy-packing nuts.
The Slovak Christmas Eve supper consists of twelve meatless dishes representing the twelve Apostles, and these bread balls sweetened by honey are one of them. It seems however that they predate Christianity, and in the central European Pagan tradition were made around the winter Solstice to communicate with the ancestors.
Ground walnuts can replace the poppy seeds; in which case, skip step 8!
In Hungary, the day-old, dry bread used for this recipe is kifli, a crescent-shaped bread roll (npothing to do with a croissant!) but any stale bread will do. It’s actually a good way to use bread left over from the holiday meals, if you’re happy to have it for Boxing Day instead, or it can be a way to use bread for breakfast similar to pain perdu (French toast).
These cinnamon starts are allegedly THE German Christmas cookie. The vanilla sugar that is required is simply a way of adding a vanilla flavour without using liquid. You can make your own (well in advance) by simply placing a vanilla pod in a jar and filling it with sugar, which after a few weeks will be infused with the spice.
Also known as finikia, these cookies are closely related to Lebanese maakaroun, though the latter are far less elaborate. They are an essential part of a Greek Christmas, but leftovers will comfortably last for a few weeks after, thanks to being soaked in syrup! Do not refrigerate, as that makes them harden.