Also known as fatteh for short, this breakfast/brunch is such a delicious comfort food I can’t even. If Arabic bread is hard to come by, you can make it or just use croutons. Laban and labneh are basically yogurt and strained yogurt; here they could both be substituted with Greek yogurt, which has an intermediate texture.
This staple Lebanese home dish hasn’t acquired the international fame of its close relative mujaddarah but is basically the same, minus mashing the rice and lentils. Personally, I much prefer this texture. It is a pleasingly earthy, rather bland dish and the fried onions are everything to make it delicious. But nothing prevents you from substituting leeks and spicing it up as preferred. Serve hot or lukewarm.
What to do after the harvest
- Rinse and they can be used directly, or refrigerated a few days.
- To store: rinse and spread out until fully dry.
- To freeze: rinse, pat dry and pile the leaves. Press into a jar (much like vine leaves) and freeze.
- Nibble as trail snacks, add to a salad or pickle like capers.
A few recipes:
- Tea for soothing a sore throat or dry cough: Gently simmer about 3t dried leaves or flowers in 1C water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink. Alternatively, soak plant parts in lukewarm water for a few hours before drinking. Combine with ginger to maximise mucus-clearing properties.This tea is also used for inflammations of the digestive, urinary or respiratory systems.
- Tender young mallow leaves can be used in salad like lettuce. Older leaves can be added to smoothies (a great way to consume it if you don’t like the taste), cooked like greens, added to soups as a thickener (or an alternative to seaweed). Melokhia, a hearty stew that is a classic in Egypt and Lebanon, can be made with mallow – recipe soon!
- Quick sauté: Sauté chopped garlic and onion in butter. Add sliced mallow leaves, season and fry till wilted. Use as you would use any greens.
- Khobbeizeh bi Zeit (Sautéed Mallow)
- Consumed directly or as tea, mallow can balance and relieve an acid stomach by increasing alkalinity.
- Crush mallow leaves to relieve nettle stings: they have mild pain-killing qualities..
- To make a poultice to heal wounds, bruises, insect bites or burns: Soak 2T of the dried leaves in 2C water overnight. Strain, soak a cloth in the gelatinous solution and apply to the skin. If you have access to fresh leaves, they can be crushed and applied directly.
This method of extracting flavour can be applied to all fresh (edible!) flowers. With strong-flavoured flowers such as lavender, use half the amount. Based on a recipe by Danielle Prohom Olson.
This is such an easy recipe – granted, I’m using an ice cream maker, but it’s possible to make ice cream without one if you’re willing to put in the extra work (personally I drew the line there – too much hassle for an imperfect result).
I substituted some of the lemon for elderberry vinegar I had made the previous summer. The flavour was great and it also contributed a pretty pink colour!
What to do after the harvest
- To store for tea purposes, simply rinse and spread out to let them dry (this won’t fully remove the sting so handle with care).
- To use directly, start by removing the stems (wearing gloves). The leaves can then be cooked (for instance added to a soup or stew for protein) or blended (if making a pesto or a dip): either method will eliminate the sting.
- To preserve, blanch the de-stemmed leaves for a few minutes in salted boiling water, drain well, squeeze out water, chop roughly and freeze. Keep the water to use as stock! It can be frozen too, if not using at once.
- Eat fresh as an energy-boosting trail snack. They tingle a bit but rolling them slightly between your fingers first will tone that down.
- To dry them, spread out in a tray and leave a week or so. The seeds are then easy to rub off the stems (I use my fingers but you can also rub between two sieves or the like. Don’t worry about the very fine stems). Store in a jar in a cool place. Sprinkle a teaspoon onto your breakfast as a tonic supplement. (I don’t like taking a teaspoon directly because the texture of a clump of dried seeds in your mouth is a bit odd.)
A few recipes:
- Tea: Put fresh or dried leaves in a pot and boil until the water starts turning green, or longer for a stronger brew (pouring hot water over the leaves is not enough to bring out the buttery feel of proper nettle tea). Optional: adding a few drops of lemon will turn it pink! If the season allows, throw in fresh bramble tops for a really good pairing.
- Quick sauté: Sauté sliced garlic in some butter (with a pinch of chili if you like). Add fresh nettle leaves, season and fry till fully wilted. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.
- General: Substitute fresh leaves for spinach in any recipe.
- Nässelsoppa (Swedish nettle soup)
- Ripe fruit packed with nettle leaves keeps fresh longer as mould formation is stifled.
- The leaves have a high nitrogen content: add them to your compost heap to boost the bacteria that break down the material.
- For the same reason, they make an excellent fertiliser: Fill a bucket with nettles (the whole plant can be used) and cover with water. Leave out for a week or so. The resulting dark (and stinking) liquid is rich in nitrogen: dilute 1 part to 10 parts water to use as plant feed.
What to do after the harvest
- Young leaves can be simply rinsed and eaten raw (think salad or smoothie.)
- Older, more bitter leaves are more palatable after blanching: add to boiling water for 2 min, then drain. Repeat if necessary. Such a treatment will take away some of the nutrients, but you can save the stock, which also promotes digestion.
- To preserve a large harvest for off-season enjoyment, blanch and freeze.
A few recipes:
Here are two recipes in one: a Lebanese recipe for stuffed courgettes, plus a recipe to use up all the courgette pulp you are left with. To make it vegetarian, I substitute chopped mushrooms for ground meat, to great effect. The koussa are usually served warm, and a dollop of yogurt goes wonderfully with them. They also freeze well!
(You’ll find this recipe in my book Lebanese Homecooking.)
I don’t know why anyone would buy a scrub, when there are so very many different ones to be made with simple kitchen ingredients. I’m working on a list of basic ingredients and their properties, but for now a note on the carrier oil often mentioned below: there are several suitable oils that can be used for this, so it’s up to personal preference and skin type. The simplest may be olive oil, rich in antioxidants, which is absorbed well and may already be in your pantry. Sweet almond oil is another nourishing and versatile one that won’t leave an oil film on the skin.
While coconut oil is used a lot for the consistency it creates, it’s not indispensable: it can be replaced with half the amount of carrier oil. The scrub will have a less pretty appearance, but be just as effective.
After posting the original traditional recipe last week, I attempted a vegetarian version using lentils instead of meat, with results that exceeded my expectations. Here, then, is a meatless version of this old favourite, and a very tasty way to eat more lentils. If you like it more saucy, in step 7 replace the tomato paste with 2C passata, with 1C boiling water (or stock).
I added flour because I wasn’t sure the lentils would hold together while frying, and didn’t want to take the risk, but it may not be necessary to add flour at all (let me know if you try it!)
When I was still living in Beirut, I regularly had lunch with my grandmother in her neighbourhood Thai restaurant. We never failed to order the pomelo salad for starters, a great favourite. Eventually the restaurant relocated and, for some reason, dropped the salad from their menu. My grandmother was still thinking longingly of it several years on, so I recreated it as far as I could remember, using ingredients easy to find locally. We were all delighted with it!
Skinning the pomelo is the laborious part, but the return is well-worth it. Any that is left over will keep a few days while getting even tastier as it marinates further. Make sure to return to room temperature before eating, to fully enjoy the flavours.
Note: Pomelos are far better known in Lebanon than they are in the UK, but they are readily available in London (look in street stalls, not supermarkets).
This is amazing as a warm salad, but is just as good at room temperature. The amounts of liquid and of bulgur need to be balanced (so there’s enough liquid to soak the bulgur but not so much the salad will swim), so if you change one, be sure to tweak the other. Adjust the heat to taste, and for an extra burst of flavour, try stirring in the finely chopped rind of a preserved lemon!
This recipe is modified from the book Mezze, by Barbara Abdeni Massaad.
This was a serious childhood favourite before I went off meat, and is included in my Lebanese Homecooking book (in my shop). If you like it more saucy, in step 6 replace the tomato paste with 2C passata, with 1C boiling water (or stock).
For an equally delicious vegetarian/vegan version, see this recipe.
Mallow (malva sylvestris), known in the Levant as khobbeizeh (“little piece of bread”, possibly due to the round shape of its leaves or its nutritional value) is out in force right now. Here’s a simple recipe for a mezzeh or breakfast, or as a side. Yum.
A traditional springtime recipe in Sweden, this soup makes use of the abundant young nettles shooting out at that time of the year. Nettle tops can be frozen for use later, though — and so can the soup itself. (At the time of publishing this post, nettles in the UK are flowering and seeding and it’s too late to harvest nettle tops, but it’s still possible to find some fresh shoots around the older ones).
To make it dairy-free, use 1T olive oil instead of the butter, and omit the crème fraîche. Leave out the egg as well for a vegan version.
For notes on ingredients, and how to make liquid soap from a bar, see Ingredients for DIY Cleaners.
A few essential cleaners, easily made from natural, non-toxic ingredients. For notes on the latter, and how to make liquid soap from a bar, see Ingredients for DIY Cleaners.
I knew nothing about this dish till I discovered it on the Food Heritage Foundation site. I had to try it and it was quite a revelation! It is a rural dish from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and other neighbouring countries, and solid fare – I imagine it would have come as a rewarding meal after a long day of physical labour. It’s very simple to make, the only trick being to break the eggs so close to the yogurt that they keep their shape as much as possible.
How can you cook yogurt without it curdling? It’s the cornstarch that does it*. You can mix it into the yogurt beforehand, or when adding the yogurt in the pan: either way, start stirring immediately and don’t stop (or hardly) till it starts boiling. Then turn down the temperature to a low simmer and you don’t have to stir constantly any more – or at all, in this case (but that’s unusual.) There are many dishes in Lebanese home cooking that involve cooked yogurt (laban, as we call it) and it’s such a delicious and filling comfort food.
*I have used, at a pinch, gluten-free flour, which usually contains cornstarch, rice flour and other starches that all do the job.
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.
Start with more information about foraging for mayblossoms.