Food Safari and Lebanese

July 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just saw Luke Mangan in the hairdresser!! We were in separate rooms but he walked past me when coming into the back for a wash and scalp massage. The curious thing is that shortly after he returned to his seat a bowl of coco pops were carried into that room…and an empty bowl retrieved after he had left…I wonder if the chef of Glass, Sydney is snacking on cereal in the cutting chair, maybe he likes his chocolate milkshake crunchy? Anyway I would have asked for a photograph except my camera was at home charging for tonight’s dinner, and I also would have felt like paparazzi – it’s bad enough that I’m stalking the poor guy during his beauty time and posting it here on Blushing Strawberries. Wanting to photograph chefs “without makeup” makes me fear that three years of journalism education are going down the basin with my chestnut highlights.

I also realised that whenever I’m at the hairdresser I turn into one of those girls who can’t think for themselves, making comments like: “umm I don’t know, what do you think?” It’s something about professionals that makes us doubt our own minds – this guy tells me he is a trained hairdresser and I suddenly forget that I stopped looking good with bangs in the early noughties and hit puberty. As a pilates instructor I have been on the influencing end as well, my clients will ask for advice on everything from hip flexor stretches to whether All Bran should be eaten everyday and whether or not I think dentist X-Rays are safe (no comment – see your doctor!) It’s something about the term professional that makes us think we should defer our better judgement to these people. How many times have you ordered the ‘chef’s recommendations’ from the menu? If you’ve ever watched Ryan Reynolds in Waiting you might think twice about asking advice from a waiter who has been instructed to sell the fish because it only has one good day left…oh the perils of eating out!

Of course asking for advice can often be rewarding. The highlight of my day was found in BWS (Beer Wine Spirits) on Oxford St where the shop assistant not only helped me choose a suitable white for a house-warming gift, but was divine enough to go downstairs to the storage room and find two promotional wine glasses to include in the package – and then told me to pop by tomorrow for a tasting of Taylors Promised Land between 4pm and 7pm. I came away with two bottles of wine, two glasses, a Friday afternoon planned and a smile on my face!

Now enough chatter and let’s hit the food run!

This week I cooked Lebanese for the first time, using the Food Safari cookbook that NB bought me for Christmas (if i could have any job in the world it would be Maeve O’Maera’s). It took me 3 hours from start to finish, plus overnight marinating time for Chicken Shwarma and soaking chickpeas, I also managed to burn half our lebanese pita breads and set off two smoke alarms – the first time I have shown a kitchen weakness infront of NB…oh the shame. BUT! In the end we ended up with enough food to leave us both round-bellied and I would like to say satisfied (we continued to eat for the whole duration of When Harry Met Sally so something must have gone right). Whether it’s worth a second run when we can so easily dine out at Almustafa or get tubs of hoummus and tabbouleh from the local deli this jury is still out. Why don’t you have a go and tell me what you think, love to here from you…


“Wherever you go in Lebanon, there is a waft of fragrant spices and fresh herbs…If you’re in a Lebanese home you will be treated like royalty. Two steps through the door you’ll be greeted by beautiful baking smells or the intense, fresh scent of parsley being carefully cut for tabbouleh – and it will be a miracle if you get any further without being offered food”

-Maeve O’Maera Food Safari

Hoummus makes about 4 cups

This traditional hoummus recipe is a lot more chickpea-ish than what you would usually buy, the following recipe is from Greg Malouf but you might like to tweak it with fewer chickpeas and more tahini, lemon and garlic.

The day before you wish to make the hoummus, place 500g dried chickpeas in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 10cm or more. Add 2 tbs bicarbonate soda and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, rinse the chickpeas, return them to the saucepan and cover with more water. Bring to the boil then simmer for approximately 1-2 hours, until the chickpeas are soft and shedding their skins.

Drain and allow to cool.

Place the chickpeas in a food processor and blend until soft and creamy. Add 1½ tbs tahini, 1 tbs lemon juice, 1-2 garlic cloves, 2 tsp salt and blend again until mixture is smooth. Scoop into a serving bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil into the well and sprinkle 1 tsp sweet paprika and finely chopped flat leaf parsley on top.

Before you use any Lebanese food, you make the sign of the cross over it and say “Bis mis Salib” (In the name of the Cross)

Tabbouleh Serves 4

Tightly bunch the parsley in your hand ready for a cutting is crucial, as is using a very sharp knife to help you shave the parsley as finely as possible.

Gather 1 bunch fresh parsley in a tight wad in your hand and finely shred the leaves with a very sharp knife, almost in a shaving action. Do the same with a handful of mint leaves. Wash the chopped herbs and drain well.

Squeeze juice of 1-2 lemons over 2tbs fine burghul and leave to soften for 10minutes.

Combine parsley and mint, softened burghul, 3-4 medium tomatoes (diced) and 4 spring onions (finely chopped) in a bowl.*

Season with salt and pepper, add olive oil and mix with your hands (Lebanese cooking is all about using your hands – feel the textures).

*Can be made ahead of time up to here but dress just before serving.

Respect the ingredients that you cook with – they are a gift and precious

Kafta Serves 10-12

Use the best quality mince you can find. If you don’t have metal skewers, do what I did and shape them into patties.


  • 1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 500g minced lamb
  • 500g minced beef
  • 1 large onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Into a bowl and use your hands to combine and knead the mixture until smooth.

Dampen your hands with water and shape the mixture around metal skewers or into patties,

Barbecue until cooked though and golden brown.

To serve, split open some flatbread, fill with tabbouleh and top with kafta.

The flavours in Lebanese cooking are very simple so be exacting about your ingredients – find the best quality/freshest produce you can get your hands on to give yourself the highest chance of success.

Bis mis Salib.


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