With its origins in Lebanon, Lebanese food comes under the larger umbrella of Mediterranean cuisine. The food is known for being nutritious and utterly scrumptious at the same time. It includes plentiful whole grains and varied kinds of proteins including fresh fish, poultry, lamb and goat meat. A distinctive hit of garlic doused in olive oil, characterises the taste of many popular Lebanese dishes.
Healthy as it may be, Lebanese food is indulgent as well; with bold and fresh flavours seizing every mouthful! Bright colours adorn the food, making this cuisine a visual treat as well.
One doesn’t necessarily need to step into a fancy restaurant to get a taste of this exquisite cuisine. You can easily prepare a whole Lebanese themed meal from the sanctity and safety of your home.
Here are a few classic Lebanese dishes, that we feel will make a delicious menu to help drive away those lockdown blues:
1. Traditional Falafel
The authentic falafel is essentially a chickpea cutlet that is super crunchy and bursting with flavour! It is generally accompanied with pita bread and a fresh tahini sauce.
Note: Chickpeas need plenty of time to soak, the dish therefore requires a bit of pre planning so as to incorporate the soaking period.
2 cups of chickpeas (soaked overnight with enough water to rest over the chickpeas by 2 inches, along with ½ teaspoon baking soda)
1 cup freshly chopped parsley (stems removed)
¾ cup freshly chopped cilantro (stems removed)
½ cup freshly chopped dill (stems removed)
1 small onion peeled and quartered
8 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon black pepper (ground)
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sesame seed
Oil for frying
Drain the soaked chickpeas and dry them with a cloth
To a food processor, add the chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, dill, onions and garlic. Add all the spices too (black pepper, salt, cayenne, cumin and coriander powder). Run the processor till you get a fully amalgamated homogeneous mixture. Note- it will be rather coarse. Refrigerate the mixture for at least one hour
Once out of the fridge, add the baking soda and sesame seeds to the mixture
Make small patties of the mixture and keep aside
Heat the oil for deep frying
Fry the rested patties on medium heat till brown on the outside. (it takes about 3 to 5 minutes)
Take out the fried falafels, and place them on a kitchen roll, to absorb any excess oil
Serve hot, with a garnish of fresh coriander leaves.
A dish synonymous with the cuisine; is a party favourite too!
It’s healthy, delicious, kind to the waistline and super easy to make. Traditionally, hummus is served with pita chips and lavaash bread; but honestly it tastes good with pretty much everything! Which is why it is often served with freshly cut vegetables like carrots and cucumbers, as a dip in many houses. Here’s what you need to make this yummy treat:
3 cups of cooked chickpeas, peeled (soak the chickpeas overnight and then cook them on the pressure cooker for one whistle and then for 15 minutes on simmer)
6 garlic cloves
¼ cup roasted sesame seed (in place of tahini sauce)
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Drain and dry the chickpeas
Put the chickpeas, garlic, lemon, sesame seeds and salt in a food processor to form a coarse mixture
That’s it! Serve the deliciousness with the recommended garnishes and you will have an instant crowd pleaser.
3. Lebanese Man’oushe
The Lebanese equivalent of a pizza- the za’atar flatbread
Za’atar for the uninitiated is a delicious savoury blend of spices like oregano, roasted thyme, cumin, sesame, salt and coriander. It is easily available in the market, and can be made fresh at home as well. Cut Cauliflower, tossed in olive oil, za’atar and garlic- baked in the oven, is a quick and delicious starter to every Lebanese themed meal (or just any meal, if you ask me)
But getting back to the flatbread, here’s what you need:
1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour (maida)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Za’atar spice blend
For the dough
In a bowl add the warm water, sugar and active dry yeast. Set the bowl aside for the yeast to activate itself
In a wide platter, add the flour and salt. Make a well between the flour and add the activated yeast water to it. Begin needing the dough
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and continue kneading till you have a well formed soft dough
Cover the dough and allow it to rest for a few hours or till the dough is roughly double in size
Making the flatbread
Once the dough has risen. Uncover it and knead it again gently
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, with a baking tray inside it
In a bowl mix the za’atar spice blend and the remaining olive oil
Roll each dough to form a thick yet wide disk. Use your fingers to further spread the dough. Add the za’atar mixture evenly across the surface
Place the flatbread disk on the baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown on the edges
Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving. You can add any number of toppings to the flatbread, the most common one being cheese, and olives.
Now you know how to make the most delicious Lebanese platter. Share photos with us when you try your hand at these dishes at home.