Arabian Nights

Updated: Jul 31 2005, 06:26am hrs
Lebanon isnt just about civil war and strife. Its also about a multicultural population, diverse religions and a variety of cuisines. Snuggled among the warring nations of the Middle East, it has imbibed much of its cultural consciousness from its neighbours. Lebanese food, for example, combines the sophistication and subtleties of European cuisines with the exotic ingredients of the Middle and Far East. The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of starches, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood.

A lot of garlic, olive oil and less fat items are used in the making of Lebanese food making it distinct and healthy. The cuisine is low in fat content and high in calories. Pomegranate juice is used. Also, the Lebanese cuisine uses no or very little spices, says chef Ashu Chug of Hookah, a New Delhi restaurant specialising in Lebanese cuisine.

Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten it is usually lamb. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil - its rarely that a meal does not include these two ingredients. Most often foods are either grilled, baked or sauteed in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts.

More of vegetables, burgul, couscous, olive oil, garlic, lemon salt, sumak powder, zatar, cumin and cinnamon powder are some special ingredients of Lebanese cuisine. Talking about special culinary style, roasting is done on grillers with charcoal. Earthen oven and other type of ovens are also used.

As Lebanese cuisine uses a lot of garlic, so the taste of garlic is most prominent. Mint is also used in Lebanese cuisine. So the taste of garlic and mint helps recognise the cuisine while aroma of cumin and cinnamon powder and mint also makes Lebanese cuisine instantly recognisable, says Chug. Some of the delicacies appreciated by the Lebanese on festive occasions include Sheesh Touk, Adana, Arayes, Phalaphal, Shawarma. So, get your taste buds working overtime!

Recipes

Starter: Hummus
Serves: 4
Ingredients
1.Chickpeas 250 gm
2.Salt .
3.Garlic 10 gm
4.Lemon Juice 1 No.
5.Sesame Paste 2 tsp.
6.Chopped Parsley 10 gm
7.Sumak 5 gm
Method
1.Soak Chickpeas for 24 hrs
2.Over boil and drain
3.Blend chickpeas in a food processor with sesame paste, garlic, lemon juice and salt
4.Serve thick hummus with olive oil in centre garnished with chickpea, parsley and sumak
Starter : Felafel
Serves: 6
Ingredients
1.Chickpeas 500 gm
2.Fava Beans 500 gm
3.Parsley 100 gm
4.Cilantro 100 gm
5.Garlic 40 gm
6.Onion(Green) 100 gm
7.Cinnamon 1 tsp
8.Cumin 1 tsp
9.Salt 2 tsp
10.Paprika powder 1 tsp
11.Green chilli 15 gm
12.Black pepper 1 tsp
13.Baking powder 3 tsp
14.Oil 5 cups
Method
1.Soak the beans in water for 24 hours, then drain well
2.Mix all ingredients except (salt, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, black pepper, chilly & baking powder)
3.Grind in a food processor.
4.Add to the mixture salt, pepper, baking powder.
5.Leave mixture aside for 30 mins, then knead it. 6.Divide the kneaded dough into equal size balls. Make them round and press them to take the shape of a cutlet.
7.Heat oil in a deep pan and fry them till golden brown colour.
8.Serve Felafel in Pita Bread pockets with chopped onion, mint, pickle and garlic dip.
Main Course
Moroccan Lamb Stew
Serves: 1 Portion
Ingredients
1.Cous Cous 75 gm
2.Chopped Parsley 20 gm
3.Chopped Onion 20 gm
4.Chopped Garlic 10 gm
5.Red Pepper 15 gm
6.Green Pepper 15 gm
7.Yellow Pepper 10 gm
8.Broccoli 10 gm
9.Tomato 100 gm
10.Olive Oil 20 ml
11.Salt 10 gm
12.Cumin Powder 5 gm
13.Fennel 10 gm
14.Black Pepper 5 gm
15.Mint 5 gm
16.Lamb Diced 200 gm
17.Lamb Stock 50 ml
Method
1.Soak CousCous for 30 mins
2.Saute onion, garlic, pepper and cous cous, put it in a mould and keep it aside.
3.Saute onion, garlic, fennel, broccoli, pepper and lamb in lamb stock. Add seasoning.
4.Demould the cous cous and add lamb in the centre. Garnish it with chopped parsley and mint.
Dessert: Baklava
Serves: 8
Ingredients
1.Filo Sheet 250 gm
2.Butter (Clarified) 450 gm
3.Sugar 350 gm
4.Almond 100 gm
5.Pistachio 60 gm
6.Walnut 40 gm
7.Cardamom powder 20 gm
8.Clove 10 gm
9.Bay leaf 2 gm
10.Cinnamon Stick 5 gm
11.Water 500 ml
Method
1.Make a sugar syrup with bay leaf, cinnamon & cloves.
2.Blend all nuts with sugar and cardamom powder.
3.Arrange filo sheet with clarified butter in a baking tray, 16 layers of filo sheet followed by layer of nuts then 16 layers of filo sheet above it.
4.Freeze the preparation, then cut into square pieces and put a piece of clove in the centre of each piece.
5.Bake at 250F till it is light golden colour on the top. Pour sugar syrup over it. Serve with icecream.