Walnut-Poppy Seed Pasta

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.

Man’oushe bi-Jebneh (Cheese flatbread)

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.

 

Lemon-Leek Pizza

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.

Aadas bi-Hamod (Lentils & lemon stew)

This hearty Lebanese stew brings me right back to my childhood. It is filling and can suffice as a main dish unto itself. You can also add a sliced carrot in step 3 for a touch of sweetness to balance the lemon, and/or reduce the amount of lemon.
My mom always makes a big pot and freezes most of it, so it freezes well!

Tom Kha Hed (Thai coconut soup with mushrooms)

This is a vegetarian and simplified version of Tom Kha Khai, a signature chicken coconut soup from North Thailand that I loved so much I ate almost nothing else during my stays there.
About the more exotic ingredients: Galangal is normally used instead of the ginger shown here, but they are close enough to be substituted, as the former can be hard to find. If you can’t easily get lemongrass (which should be fresh) and kaffir lime leaves, replace them with, respectively, the zest from 1 lemon and from 2 limes. It won’t be quite the authentic recipe, but it’ll be enjoyable enough!
Serve with rice to make it a main dish, or serve as a soup before the main.

Artichokes in Lemon

The instructions below assume you’re using canned artichoke hearts. If fresh, merge steps 3 and 4 and simmer till they’re fork-soft.
This is a flexible recipe: If you don’t want to use wine, just replace it with another 1/2 cup of stock; cilantro can be replaced with other fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage, tarragon etc. Don’t like lemon? (gasp!) You could leave it out altogether or replace it with another flavouring ingredient, such as a handful of olives or a chopped tomato, or other, but there you’ll have to see how it turns out as I haven’t tried it!

Salmon Sashimi Salad

This is both incredibly quick and quite fancy (and delicious, if you love sushi). Great when you’re entertaining but only have a little time to put together that special dinner. Despite the name, this is very much a main dish, albeit a cold one. Try pairing it with an actual salad, maybe with noodles, in a similar vein of Japanese flavours.
Make sure to use only the freshest fish for this: ask your fishmonger for sushi-grade salmon as that will be safe to eat raw.

Samke Harra (Lebanese spicy fish)

There are many variants on this spicy fish recipe back home. You can increase the chilli to make it fiery, or leave it out altogether; there’s plenty of other flavour for the recipe to hold without it. In the northern city of Tripoli, I’ve also enjoyed samke harra on the go, as street food, wrapped in bread!

Penne all’Arrabbiata

This classic recipe actually contains two in one. Steps 2 and 3 are for making a pomarola sauce, an all-purpose tomato sauce. It is great for freezing in portions, to be taken out and used either as is (and you can spice it up with some oregano and/or thyme), or to finish making the arrabbiata (steps 4 to 6). You could also prepare the whole thing and then freeze it, but I find that 4-5 are quite quick and worth making fresh. If frozen, thaw and heat through before adding the dry basil and black pepper.
Leave out the parmesan to keep it dairy-free!

Garlic-Lemon Spaghetti

This is one of my go-to recipes when I have no time, as I always have what I need to make it. Except pine nuts, which I’m happy to do without, and fresh basil, but adding dry basil in step 2 works well in that case. I also like to sauté dried chilli flakes along with the garlic. Bottom line, this is really easy to customize, and comes together in minutes.

Smoked Salmon Spaghetti

I source fish from my local responsible provider, and alongside smoked salmon proper, they offer the latter’s trimmings at a much lower price, which is good for not wasting food, and good for my wallet. From time to time I order a pack and freeze it, to bring out when I fancy this recipe. It is dairy-free if you leave out the optional cream. The pasta water in step 3 can be replaced with white cooking wine for added flavour.

Chorizo Pasta

This hearty pasta dish can be a good way of using up leftover chorizo (and you could leave out the mushrooms if you don’t have any on hand). If you also have a bell pepper you don’t know what to do with (I know I often do), cut it into bite sizes and add them in step 2.
Leave out the cheese to keep it dairy-free.

Avocado Pasta

This pasta recipe is fresh and creamy, very filling thanks to the avocado, and very adaptable: I make it without parmesan if I don’t have any at hand (leaving out the cheese makes it dairy-free), and use whatever fresh herbs I may have instead of basil. Feel free to use only half a lemon’s juice if you’re not big on lemons. It’s also an extra fast recipe, as by the time the penne are cooked, the other ingredients are ready for them.

Penne Express

A very quick and very satisfying pasta dish. I use the cherry tomatoes whole: this way they cook without releasing their juices, and you get that burst of flavour in your mouth instead. Penne or other short pasta are well-suited for this, but any pasta you have at hand is fine.

Cocoa-Glazed Mushrooms

This is one of my own original recipes. Don’t be put off by the odd combination of ingredients: this doesn’t taste sweet, or even chocolatey, but brings out the deep earthiness of the mushrooms (simple white mushrooms, or chestnut, work just fine). Just don’t go over the quantities indicated (particularly with the vinegar), to keep the flavours in balance.

Instead of rice, you could serve this with sourdough toast if you like.

Roasted Veg Risotto

My very first signature dish, at the age of 8, was something we called “risotto” but was in fact, looking back, a rather embarrassing affair of mixing tomato paste and canned frankfurters, mushrooms, peas into cooked rice. When I got back into cooking as an adult, it never occured to me to attempt it again, just like it would never occur to me to eat pasta with ketchup again (ugh!)On a recent visit to my brother and sister-in-law, I offered to cook for them. Was there anything particular they would like? To my amazement, his answer was, “There’s that risotto you used to make…”This recipe, then, is a grown-up version of that childhood favourite.

A few notes:

  • I made this recipe both with risotto (arborio) rice, which is the “proper” way, and with basmati rice. To my taste, the difference was not worth making a fuss about, and it tastes just as good. Therefore, if you don’t fancy standing over the stove stirring for 20 minutes, then use regular rice and in step 6 just pour all the stock in there, cover and let absorb.
  • The wine gives a real depth to the taste, but if you object to it, replace with more vegetable stock.
  • Omit the optional chorizo to make this dish vegetarian. Omit the parmesan to make it dairy-free and vegan.