Amar al Deen or Amar Addeen is a combination of two words in Arabic: Amar (moon) al Deen (the religion). Amar al Deen or Amar Addeen is basically made from sheets of dried compressed apricots, usually sold in packets of 500g/1lb 2oz.

In order to prepare the Apricot Drink Sharab Amar al Deen, the apricot sheets: amar addeen should be soaked for several hours, it is customary to serve the drink at Iftar during the holy month of Ramadan as it is refreshing. Arabic ice cream makers also use it to flavour their ice creams because it gives a deep apricot colour and an exquisite taste.

Compressed Apricot Sheets

Compressed Apricot Sheets

Traditionally, pine nuts, pistachio nuts and almonds are added on top before serving. In addition, almonds with the skin on are preferred to blanched almonds because once soaked, they plump up bringing a fresher sweeter taste which complements the drink.

Makes about 1.2 litres/ 2 pints


  • 500g / 1lb 2 oz Amar Addeen
  • 1 litre/ 1¾  pints tap water
  • 4 tbsp rose water
  • Sugar to taste (optional)
  • 25g/1oz pine nuts soaked for a couple of hours in cold water
  • 40g/ 1½ oz almonds with the skin on, soaked for several hours in cold water. Alternatively, blanched almonds could be used: no pre-soaking is required.
  • 40g/ 1½ oz pistachio nuts


Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors cut across the folding line of the sheets then cut again into small pieces and put in a large deep bowl, pour the water over, cover with clingfilm and let them soak for several hours, preferably overnight. After that period of time, the amar addeen pieces should have softened, give the mixture a good stir then tip into a saucepan. Using a gentle heat, simmer, stirring occasionally until every bit of amar addeen is dissolved. Alternatively, blend the mixture in an electric blender until smooth. Taste, and if you like it sweeter add sugar to taste at the final stage, then give the mixture a good stir or blend again. It should feel smooth and velvety, equally important, it should have the consistency of a pouring cream. If it is too thick (as that depends on the quality of the apricots), thin it down with more water.

Finally, if using heat, let the mixture cool slightly before pouring it into a jug, pop it into the fridge and let it chill for several hours before serving it.

To serve: peel the soaked almonds, next, tip ice cubes into the serving glasses before pouring the chilled amar-addeen drink over. Sprinkle the nuts on top and enjoy, however, if you are allergic to nuts, you can omit them.

What if you cannot find amar-addeen?

Dried apricots give a similar effect. Prepare and follow the instructions as described for amar addeen, however, you need to add sugar to sweeten it, about 50g/2oz for 250g/9oz dried apricots. I also noticed that you need to increase the amount of water (almost the double of what is required for the same quantity of amar addeen). Importantly, if you want to achieve a smooth texture, once the apricots are thoroughly blended, strain through a sieve, chill then serve.

Apricot Drink Sharab Amar al Deen

Apricot Drink Sharab Amar al Deen

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Lebanese Potato Salad, Batata Mtabbaleh maa Hamoud wa Toom is a classic summery dish and can complement any type of barbecued meat or seafood, it is also delicious on its own as a starter.

Lebanese Potato Salad, Batata Mtabbaleh maa Hamoud wa Toom

Lebanese Potato Salad, Batata Mtabbaleh maa Hamoud wa Toom

Serves 4


For the salad

  • 450g/ 1lb potatoes
  • 200g/ 7oz tomatoes washed
  • 3 small spring onions or 1 small red onion
  • 25g/1oz fresh mint, leaves only washed and patted dry

For the dressing

  • 3-4 fat cloves of garlic peeled
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste & freshly milled black pepper


  1. If using small salad potatoes, you get the best flavour by steaming them. To do that, pour boiling water into a saucepan fitted with a steamer, tip the potatoes into the steamer with one or two sprigs of mint. Cover, and using a medium setting let them steam for 25 minutes or until cooked. You can test them by inserting a skewer in the centre which should feel soft. Discard the mint, then transfer potatoes into a suitable sized-bowl and cover with a clean cloth so it absorbs excess steam, and helps the potatoes to keep a nice texture without getting mushy. This should take roughly 4 minutes, then cut them into halves.
  2. Alternatively if using big potatoes, leave the skin on, rinse them under the tap, then put in a saucepan and cover with water, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a medium setting, cover and let them simmer, for nearly 25 minutes or until when inserting a skewer, they feel tender. Drain the potatoes and let them cool down before peeling off the skin. Cut them into bite sized chunky pieces.
  3. To prepare the dressing. Sprinkle a little salt over the garlic and crush to a paste then whisk in the lemon juice and olive oil. Season, taste and adjust if necessary then transfer into the serving bowl.
  4. When you are ready to serve, tip the prepared potatoes into the dressing. Finely, slice the onions then add to the potatoes, chop the tomatoes and tip them including their juice into the mixture. Now, gently mix all the ingredients, taste and adjust if necessary. Roughly, chop the mint and scatter all over the Batata Mtabbaleh maa Hamoud wa Toom salad, serve at once.

I like to serve this Lebanese Potato Salad, Batata Mtabbaleh maa Hamoud wa Toom while still warm, however, it is also delicious served at room temperature or chilled.

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Kofta with Burghul or Kafta Khashkhash topped with sauce ready to serve.

Kofta with Burghul (Kafta Khashkhash) is made with burghul. It might surprise you that it is classified as kofta or kafta although it does not include parsley like traditional kofta. Khashkhash means poppy but actually, it has no relation to the ingredients, however, the verb it derives from khashkhash means rattle or crackle, since this kafta has to be grilled therefore, it could be an explanation: crackles as it cooks over an open fire?

Once the kofta or kafta is cooked, each piece is wrapped with a grilled aubergine slice, topped with a spicy tomato sauce then served. Therefore, three main components make this dish: the Kofta or Kafta mixture, grilled aubergine slices and tomato sauce. It may seem lengthy, but in fact, it is easy, the kofta or kafta mixture as well as the tomato sauce can be prepared ahead of time

Serves 4


For the kofta or kafta khashkhash

100g /4oz fine burghul

One medium onion.

500g/ 1lb 2oz minced lamb or beef.

2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed to a paste.

1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano (optional).

1 tbsp olive oil and extra to brush the kafta if needed.

A couple of Lebanese bread.

For the aubergines

About 700g/ 1½ lbs large aubergines washed, skin on.

A little olive oil to wipe the grill or griddle.

For the sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced

1 pepper (any colour) medium sliced

400g / 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes

300-400ml/ 10-14fl oz water

About 90g / 3½ oz fresh coriander, washed, dried then roughly chopped


Salt to taste &freshly milled black pepper

Allspice, ground cumin, ground coriander and ground cinnamon,

Chilli powder (if you like it hot)


Food processor. 12 long metal skewers. Ridged grill or griddle: not essential only for ridged look


Preparing the kofta or kafta khashkhash

Before making the kafta, soak the burghul for about 20 minutes squeeze dry then use.

Quarter the onion then process to fine in the food processor. Next, add in the meat and season with salt, freshly milled black pepper, 1 tsp of each ground cumin, ground coriander, allspice, ½ tsp of ground cinnamon, ½ tsp chilli powder (if using it) and crushed garlic. Process briefly to mix, then add the burghul together with the chopped oregano (if using), 1 tbsp olive oil and process again until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, and you have a paste like mixture. Taste and adjust if necessary. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and pop it in the fridge to rest for half an hour before using it. In fact, kafta mixture can be done a few hours ahead of time and kept in the fridge until ready to grill.

Shaping the kofta or kafta khashkhash

First, have a small bowl of water to moisten your hands when needed. Divide the kafta mixture into 12 equal balls. Now, put one ball in the palm of your hand (lightly wet) and holding one skewer in the other hand, wrap the meat around it. Lightly, squeeze the kafta upwards and downwards to distribute it evenly, leaving gaps on both ends of the skewer. Tuck the edges neatly, then place on a rack ready to go under the grill or on the barbecue. Repeat the process with the rest of the kafta balls.

Grilling the kofta or kafta khashkhash

Preheat the grill or barbecue, for either method, use medium heat. Now, open up the bread and put on a plate, keep handy. Grill or barbecue the kafta for about 6-8 minutes turning it from time to time until all sides are cooked, if you notice it is dry, brush with oil. Once done to your satisfaction, slip the skewered kafta inside the bread. Gently, Press the top bread layer over and pull out the skewers leaving the meat warm inside the bread.

Kofta with Burghul or Kafta Khashkhash on the BBQ

Kofta with Burghul or Kafta Khashkhash on the BBQ

Removing the skewer from the kofta

Removing the skewer from the kofta

Grilling the aubergines

Wipe the griddle with a little oil and start preheating it. Wash the aubergines then cut the stems off and discard, slice them lengthways about 1cm or ½inch  thickness. Grill the aubergine slices on both sides until slightly charred and cooked. Keep warm.

Aubergine slices on the griddle.

Aubergine slices on the griddle.

Cooking the sauce

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan then tip in the chopped onions and cook for about 2 minutes, next stir in the garlic and cook for one minute before adding the sliced peppers, chopped tomatoes and water, stir to mix and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened: not too much, season with salt, freshly milled black pepper, ½ tsp of ground cumin and chilli (1 tsp if you like it hot). Taste and adjust if needed, take off the heat. This sauce can be made ahead of time and simply re-heated, adding the chopped coriander last.

Serving the Kofta with Burghul or Kafta Khashkhash

Allow 3 pieces per person.

Put one slice of aubergine into the serving plate, top with 1 kafta and roll, repeat the process with the two remaining pieces. Pour over the warm tomato sauce and serve with Lebanese bread. This is the traditional way of serving Kafta Khashkhash, however, it is also delicious eaten with any type of potato salad (see my recipe to follow).

Kofta rolled in Aubergine

Kofta rolled in Aubergine

Kofta with Burghul or Kafta Khashkhash topped with sauce ready to serve.

Kofta with Burghul or Kafta Khashkhash topped with sauce ready to serve.

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Raw Salmon Kibbeh Salmon Nayyeh or Nayeh

Raw Salmon Kibbeh

If we can eat raw Salmon or Tuna at the Japanese restaurants, why can’t we have them the Lebanese way as Raw Salmon Kibbeh/ Kibbet Salmon Nayyeh or Nayeh? However, and although the title says raw salmon, in fact, it is not because I use the lemon juice which apart from its flavouring element, its acidity also cooks the fish. Raw Salmon Kibbeh is a spin on the traditional Raw Meat Kibbeh called Kibbeh Nayyeh which is an integral part of the mezza.

For this salmon kibbeh, you need fresh fish not defrosted one. I like the taste of salmon or sea trout, but you can experiment with any fish you like and match it with the appropriate herb. Whatever you go for, it makes a tasty appetiser.

Serves 2-3


  • 150g /5oz skinless & boneless fresh Salmon
  • 1 baby onion finely chopped
  • 30g / 1 1/8 oz fine white burghul(cracked wheat)
  • 3 tbsp Lemon juice or to taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill chopped
  • Salt to taste & ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika or if you like it hot ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 20g / ¾oz raw pine nuts (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Equipment: mincer or food processor


  1. Rinse the white burghul then squeeze dry, keep aside.
  2. Chop the salmon, put into a food processor (or mincer) along with the lemon juice and process until finely minced. Add in the chopped onion together with the burghul, seasoning and process to mix all the ingredients to a smooth paste, taste and adjust if necessary. Finally, stir in the dill, process briefly and it is ready.
  3. Transfer the salmon kibbeh onto a serving plate and flatten it. Use a fork to make decorative dentations. Scatter the pine nuts over then trickle a little oil. Serve immediately.
  4. Serving suggestions: Toasted Lebanese bread, or trimmed spring onions go nicely with Raw Salmon Kibbeh.
Finger Fritters freshly deep fried

Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh is another traditional pastry prepared to celebrate Epiphany. Apart from that particular occasion, I have rarely seen Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh sold in shops. These are frequently confused with Lebanese doughnuts or oowamat / owwamat.

The recipe is easy to make, however, to give it a crunchy taste and prevent the inside from becoming doughy, Finger Fritters need to be deep-fried twice. Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh are suitable for most people particularly vegans, they can be served sprinkled with sugar or dipped in sugar syrup which should be warm: not too hot or cold.

Makes about 20


For the Finger Fritters

  • 125g / a little over 4½ oz all purpose flour
  • 125g / a little over 4½ oz fine semolina
  • 1 tsp ground aniseeds
  • ½ tsp ground mahlab (see glossary)
  • ½ tsp poppy seeds
  • 1½  tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp yeast
  • ½ tsp salt diluted in warm water about 150ml / 5fl oz (enough to bind the dough)
  • Vegetable oil to deep fry

Sugar Syrup/Ater

  • 1 full cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tsp rose water

Equipment: you need a deep fryer and preferably an electric mixer.


  1. To make the Finger Fritters. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl wide enough to let the dough rise later. Gradually, add in the salted warm water, mixing with your hands until you form a dough.
  2. Transfer the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes. Alternatively, you could do the whole process in an electric mixer using the dough hook, thus reducing the kneading time by half (to about 3 minutes). In the end, the dough should feel soft and elastic, shape into a ball.  Grease the bowl with a dab of oil and transfer the dough into it then cover with a polythene bag or cling film, but make sure that they are brushed with a little oil to prevent the dough from sticking. Leave it in a warm place for 1½ hours to rise.
  3. When the rising time is up, pick up the dough and put it on a lightly floured surface. Punch it to get rid of the excess air, knead briefly then shape into a long fat roll. Divide this into equal portions.
  4. Take one dough-portion and cover the rest. Using your hands, stretch and shape the portion of dough into a long thin sausage (see picture). Put it on a lightly floured hard surface such as cutting board (you need to cut it later) and cover. Repeat the same process placing the long thin sausage-like dough shapes neatly parallel to each other until you finish all the dough portions. If you can, try to keep them all the same length, it helps to cut them at equal lengths.
  5. Next, using a long sharp knife, cut the sausage shaped lengths of dough into 10 cm/ 4 inches, long pieces or fingers.
  6. Transfer onto a tray lined with baking parchment, cover and let the fingers rest for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the sugar syrup/ Ater.
  7. Tip sugar and water into a saucepan, using a medium heat setting, bring them to the boil stirring occasionally. Stir in the lemon juice and let the mixture simmer for about 4-5 minutes, until it reaches a stage where the syrup coats the back of a spoon. Finally, switch off the heat and stir in the rose and orange blossom water
  8. When the second rising time is up, heat the oil to 190ºC / 375ºF. If you haven’t got a thermometer, drop a small dough fritter into the deep fryer and if the oil bubbles around it, it is ready to use.
  9. Deep fry the fingers for three minutes turning them so they are cooked on all sides, you may need to do them in batches. Drain on kitchen papers. Keeping the oil hot, (starting with the first previous batch) repeat the deep frying for another three minutes, by which time the fresh Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh should turn deep golden and crunchy.
  10. Now, you can drain off any excess oil on the kitchen papers, sprinkle sugar on top and serve. If you prefer the Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh sweeter, dip them straight into the warm sugar syrup (you can always reheat it if it becomes cold), leave them to soak for 1 minute then take them out and they are ready. These Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh can be eaten warm or cold. Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh keep for approximately for two days.
Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh Place the long thin sausage-like dough shapes neatly parallel to each other.

Place the long thin sausage-like dough shapes neatly parallel to each other.


Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh freshly deep fried

Finger Fritters or Zlebiyeh freshly deep fried.



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Tomato Soup with Freekeh Shorbet Banadoura maa Freekeh

This tasty Freekeh Tomato Soup, Shorbet Banadoura maa Freekeh is made simpler and quicker by using ingredients usually found in the store cupboard:  tinned chopped tomatoes, stock cubes, freekeh and dried herbs. It is also versatile because both vegetarians and non-vegetarians can cook it as you could use either vegetable stock or beef stock. More effectively, the addition of freekeh gives it that nice nutty flavour which turns it into a warm comfort soup suitable for a wintery evening. 

Tomato Soup with Freekeh Shorbet Banadoura maa Freekeh

Freekeh Tomato Soup, Shorbet Banadoura maa Freekeh

The Freekeh Tomato Soup recipe described below makes two substantial portions. You can always double the quantity of the ingredients if you want more.

Serves 2

Ingredients for Freekeh Tomato Soup, Shorbet Banadoura maa Freekeh

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes weighing about 400g / 14 oz
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small to medium onion (about 100g/ 4oz) thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • Vegetable or beef stock cubes that will make 450-500ml/ 15 -17 fl oz of stock.
  • 30g / 1¼ oz freekeh whole or cracked: either would do
  • Salt to taste and freshly ground black pepper
  • To garnish (optional), 1or 2 tbsp of freshly chopped herbs such as mint, parsley, coriander, fresh thyme.


  1. I tend to process the chopped tomatoes in the food processor to give the soup a smoother texture, and I do that before cooking. You don’t have to if you don’t want.
  2. Using a medium setting, heat the oil in a medium sized pan then tip in the sliced onions and fry until just softened, a couple of minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute then pour in the processed or chopped tomatoes, mix in the dried mint followed by the stock. Give the mixture a good stir, increase the heat to bring to the boil, then reduce, cover the pan leaving a little gap and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the freekeh, especially if it is a loose one, to get rid of any dirt.
  3. When the simmering time is over, taste the mixture and season to taste then drain the freekeh and stir it in. Increase the heat briefly to bring the soup to the boil then simmer covered for another 15 minutes or more until the freekeh is cooked to your taste, some people like it with a bit of crunch, others don’t.
  4. Check again the seasoning and adjust if necessary, then serve as it is or sprinkle on top your favourite herb.

Enjoy your Freekeh Tomato Soup, Shorbet Banadoura maa Freekeh.

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Roasted Vegetables and Green Wheat Freekeh Salad

Roasted green wheat freekeh (also known as freeka, frikeh or farik) is rarely used in western cooking although it is one of the oldest food ingredients in the world. The story goes that roughly 2000 years ago when towns and cities used to fight each other frequently, an eastern Mediterranean city was threatened with being besieged. Fearing to die of starvation, the people of that city picked all the wheat while it was still green and stored it. Unfortunately, it caught fire and was burnt. However, out of desperation, they tried to salvage what they could. To their surprise, they discovered as they rubbed off the burnt external skin, that the wheat itself remained intact and edible, they called it farik (later freekeh or freeka) which meant in their spoken Aramaic language the rubbed one. Ever since, roasted green wheat freekeh has become a valuable grain for cooking in the Eastern Mediterranean and North African countries.

The old method of preparation of roasted green wheat freekeh is that once the young wheat stalks are harvested, they are stacked in bunches and dried in the sun, then roasted in the field over an open fire. The aim is to burn off the bristles and the kernel’s outer skin or husk, the moisture within the young grain will protect it from burning while the process endows it with a distinctive smoky flavour. When the roasted wheat has cooled, the grains are shelled by hand, dried again but this time away from the sun, then they are either kept whole or cracked. In fact, some farmers in rural parts of the Levant still use this method. Of course, modern technology had inspired farmers and enthusiasts to develop new techniques to prepare freekeh faster, efficiently and in bigger quantities, like the Greenwheat Freekeh Company.

Freekeh or freeka is very nutritious. Scientific research has proven that green wheat retains more vitamins, fibres and proteins than any other grains. In fact, this link  describes the benefits of freekeh, providing detailed tables of the green wheat contents.

The next link to a youtube video gives you an idea how roasted green wheat freekeh is processed by modern farming

Most importantly, freekeh has a distinctive smoky and nutty taste and it is versatile, it can be cooked as a side dish or as a main course. We Lebanese use it mostly in salads and with meat, while neighbouring countries as well as North African ones have their own signature dish, most of their recipes including the Lebanese ones are on the internet.

Here are my own versions for a salad suitable for all seasons and a heart warming soup.

Roasted Vegetables & Green Wheat Freekeh Salad,

Freeka maa al Khoudra

This roasted green wheat freekeh salad is quite sustaining especially if you are a vegan, as well as that, it goes well with barbecued or grilled meat it can be eaten warm or cold, either way it is quite tasty. It is also ideal for picnics or packed lunches.

Roasted Vegetables and Green Wheat Freekeh Salad

Roasted Vegetables and Green Wheat Freekeh Salad

For this recipe I used coarse cracked freekeh (freeka), but you can substitute it with a whole grain one which might take a little longer to cook.

Serves 4-6


For the freekeh (freeka)

  • roasted green wheat freekeh (freeka) 1¼ cups
  • 2½ cups water
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp dried mint


  • 3 or 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste & freshly milled black pepper
  • About 30 g/1 ¼ oz fresh coriander, rough stalks discarded the rest is washed, dried then chopped

For the roasted vegetables

  • 1 aubergine about 400g / 14oz washed.
  • 450g / 1 lb juicy tomatoes washed then quartered
  • 2 medium courgettes washed then cut into 3 cm / 1¼ inch chunks
  • 2 medium onions peeled then quartered
  • 1 each red and yellow peppers quartered seeds removed
  • 1 tsp dried mint

For the garlic sauce

  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & freshly milled black pepper

Equipment: 1 non-stick baking tray measuring about 30 cm x 22 cm (12 inches x 9 inches) and one non-stick medium sized saucepan.


Preparing the vegetables

Preparing to roast the vegatables for the freekeh salad

Preparing to roast the vegatables for the freekeh salad

  1. I like to drain the excess bitter juice from the aubergine, it helps to roast better and to absorb other flavours, but it can work without it. With the skin on, cut the aubergine into 3 cm / 1¼ inch chunks then sprinkle over about 1 tsp salt and mix. Transfer into a colander, fit on top a suitable plate on which you place a heavy weight such as tins of tomatoes and leave for an hour to drain away some of the bitter juice. Next, rinse under a tap of cold water then dry thoroughly with a kitchen paper.
  2. When you are ready to cook, pre-heat the oven (fan oven) to 210°C / 450°F.
  3. To make the garlic sauce. Crush the garlic to a paste then add the olive oil, season, and mix well.
  4. Now, arrange the chopped vegetables in the baking tin, sprinkle over the dried mint and mix. Next, drizzle over with the garlic sauce and toss in the vegetables so they are well coated, season again with salt and pepper and give it a good stir. Pop it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables start to brown round the edges.

To prepare the roasted green wheat freekeh

  1. Pre-packed freekeh is usually clean. If you have purchased it loose, it may contain some dirt, tip into a fine sieve and rinse a couple of times under a tap of cold water and drain well.
  2. Using a medium heat setting, heat the oil in the saucepan then tip in the chopped onion and cook for about 3 minutes. Next, add the freekeh (freeka) and sauté the mixture until all the grains are coated with oil, then pour in the water, add a pinch of salt, cayenne pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly, stir in the dried mint and simmer for about 20-25 minutes by which time the water should have been absorbed while the mixture remains moist and the grains have softened. It is worth checking the mixture when simmering, so if it is cooking dry, top it up with a little more boiling water. If using whole grain freekeh (freeka), increase the amount of water by roughly 85 ml/ 3 fl oz and simmer for a longer time. Once the freekeh (freeka) mixture is cooked, let it stand covered for 5 minutes before assembling the salad.

Assembling the salad.

  1. Tip the cooked freekeh (freeka) over the roasted vegetables, so the roasted green wheat freekeh would absorb all the juices and gently fork it in, adding the chopped coriander and drizzling along the dressing, so all the flavours mingle together. Transfer into a large salad bowl and serve.

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Stuffed Artichoke Hearts fresh out the oven ready for the table.

Stuffed Artichokes Mehshi Ardi Chowkee are a bit of a variation on the classic dish but make an elegant dinner without being too heavy. I used frozen artichoke hearts which come shallower than the fresh ones left whole for stuffing. They are literally heart shaped appropriately, so they fit in the baking tray. Their advantage is that they have a great texture and are time saving.

Looking through the different brands of frozen artichoke hearts, I realised that they require defrosting before use, then treat them as fresh, so please check the instructions written on the packaging. Some frozen artichokes might be partially cooked before the freezing process, if so, the cooking time should be reduced by half.

If you choose to prepare the artichoke hearts by yourself and leave them whole, then I suggest to increase the quantity of the minced meat to 200g/ 7oz.

The following website shows how to prepare fresh globe artichokes whole for stuffing.

Serves 4

Ingredients for Stuffed Artichokes Mehshi Ardi Chowkee

400 g/ 14 oz frozen artichoke hearts (net weight)

165 g/ 5½ oz minced lamb

1½  tbsp vegetable oil

1 large/ medium onion peeled then finely chopped

Seasoning: salt & freshly milled black pepper

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

30 g/ 1¼ oz toasted pine nuts

A dab of softened butter

For the sauce

450 ml/ 15 fl oz vegetable stock made with stock cubes and kept at room temperature

40 g/ 1½ oz butter

20 g/ ¾ oz flour

2-3 tbsp lemon juice or to taste

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (optional)


Equipment. Pyrex baking dish, large enough to fit all the Artichoke Hearts.


  1. Thaw the artichoke hearts according to instructions on the package.
  2. Rinse briefly the defrosted artichoke hearts then drop them in boiling water, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 12 minutes until semi-tender. Drain then, when cool enough to handle pat dry on kitchen paper.
  3. Prepare the stuffing, in fact you could do that the day before. Heat up the oil in a medium-sized deep frying pan and sauté the chopped onions for 2 – 3 minutes then mix in the meat, stirring from time to time to break the lumps. Cook until the meat is browned. Season with all the prepared spices, taste and adjust, give it a good stir and mix in the toasted pine nuts before switching off the heat.
Part boiled Artichoke Hearts ready for stuffing

Part boiled Artichoke Hearts ready for stuffing

Making the sauce.

Using a medium heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized pan, when it starts to foam, add the flour and stir continuously for one minute. Gradually, pour in the stock and bring slowly to the boil whisking all along with a balloon whisk until the sauce has thickened so you have a smooth velvety texture. Next, turn the heat to its lowest and leave the sauce to simmer for three minutes, stirring occasionally, at the same time adding the lemon juice along with seasoning. Taste and adjust if necessary. If using coriander which I think nicely sharpens the lemony taste, stir it in last after switching off the heat.

Assembling the dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/ 375ºF. Meanwhile, grease the baking dish with the softened butter, pour in enough sauce just to cover the base. Now, leaving enough room on the sides to pour the remaining sauce, arrange as well as you can fit artichoke hearts, the rest can be added later. Top generously each artichoke heart with filling, you may need to press the filling gently with a spoon to make it hold firmly. Next, slowly tip the sauce through the gap until finished. Lastly, arrange the remaining hearts in any gaps and top them with the remaining filling. Cover the dish and pop it in the oven, bake for 20 minutes then remove the cover and bake for five more minutes then take it out and it should be ready.

Stuffed Artichoke Hearts with sauce ready for the oven.

Stuffed Artichoke Hearts with sauce ready for the oven.

Stuffed Artichoke Hearts the last five minutes in the oven.

Stuffed Artichoke Hearts the last five minutes in the oven.

Stuffed Artichoke Hearts fresh out the oven ready for the table.

Stuffed Artichoke Hearts fresh out the oven ready for the table.

Serve while bubbling hot with freshly cooked vermicelli rice.

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Ardi Choki literally translates the thorn (choki / chawki) from the ground (ard), indicating that this plant belongs to the thistle family. Its initial growth is marked by a pretty purple flower head, while the thorny tips of the leaves is another noticeable thistle characteristic. You will find a good illustration of the Globe Artichoke .

It is worth mentioning that there are three types of artichoke plants which are unrelated: Globe Artichoke, Jerusalem Artichoke and Chinese Artichoke, however, my main focus here is the culinary usage of the Globe Artichoke in our cuisine. The two recipes below demonstrate our simplistic way of cooking artichoke as an appetiser or as a starter.

Artichoke benefits

According to the articles I read, globe artichoke leaves are valued together with the rest of the plant for their health benefits. Apart from their high fibre content and antioxidants, globe artichokes are praised for their properties in:

Cancer prevention

Increasing bile flow

Liver health

Treatment of hangover

Helping digestion

Reducing cholesterol

See also this article on the health benefits of Globe Artichokes.

When buying globe artichoke:

Make sure it is firm with tight fresh green leaves and feels heavy when you hold it.

A raw Globe Artichoke

A raw Globe Artichoke

How to prepare and cook a whole globe artichoke

  1. Place the artichoke on a strong cutting board, remove the toughest outer leaves at the base. Grip the stem and cut off most of it leaving only about 3cm on the artichoke.
  2. Trim the stem with a paring knife, removing any tough fibres surrounding the base. Some cooks prefer to trim off the thorny bit of the top of each leaf, I don’t.
  3. Now rinse the artichoke under a cold water tap.
  4. Next, fill a pan large enough to fit all the artichokes comfortably so they are covered with water, to which you add salt and lemon juice, some cooks prefer to cut a lemon into wedges and throw it in.
  5. Bring to the boil then drop in the prepared artichoke, making sure it is well submerged and let it boil gently uncovered for about half an hour to 40 minutes (depending on the size), or until you can easily pull away an outer leaf.
  6. Once it is cooked, place the artichoke upside down in a colander and drain well.

Globe Artichoke Leaves with Lemon Dressing

Ardi Shawki maa Salsit Hamoud.

This is a very simple and basic recipe that you could use as a tasty appetiser, which is very low in calories. Artichoke can be served warm, at room temperature or even cold as some people prefer. When you eat a whole globe artichoke, watch out for the inedible part called the hairy choke: simply scoop it out and discard.

Serves 4


  • 4 globe artichokes: allow 1 artichoke per person
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • About 1 tsp salt

For the lemon sauce

  • 1 fat clove of garlic peeled
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste & freshly milled black pepper


  1. Prepare and cook the artichokes as described above.
  2. Smash the garlic to a paste then simply whisk in the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust if necessary then pour the sauce into two small bowls.
  3. Place the artichokes on individual serving plates along with the sauce bowls and serve.
  4. Take one leaf, dip it into the sauce and eat the tip of it then discard. When you reach the hairy choke that covers the heart or fond, simply remove it with a spoon and discard, then dip the whole heart into the remainder of the sauce and enjoy: it is delicious!
The Globe Artichoke cooked and ready to serve.

The Globe Artichoke cooked and ready to serve.

Dip the Artichoke leaf in the sauce then eat the tender part, discarding the tough outer part.

Dip the Artichoke leaf in the sauce then eat the tender part, discarding the tough outer part.

The Hairy Choke still covering the Heart

The Hairy Choke still covering the Heart

The Globe Artichoke heart after removing the Hairy Choke

The Globe Artichoke heart after removing the Hairy Choke

Globe Artichoke & Mushroom Salad/ Salatit Ardi Chawki maa al Fitr

For this recipe, you need artichoke hearts which you can buy tinned, or prepare yourself, nevertheless, you can never beat the flavour of freshly prepared artichoke hearts.

I am not intending to explain how to prepare these artichoke hearts from scratch because there are good video clip demonstrations on the internet like on the following ones:


As for the mushrooms, I usually go for the chestnut ones because I like their nutty flavour.

Serves 4


4 artichoke hearts

120 g/ 4½ oz chestnut mushrooms, cleaned

1 small onion preferably red

3 tbsp of fresh chopped parsley

As a garnish base: A handful of mixed baby salad leaves such as spinach, beetroot leaves… washed and dried

25g pine nuts toasted (optional)


2 fat cloves of garlic peeled

4 tbsp lemon juice

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp sumac (optional)

Salt to taste & freshly milled black pepper


  1. First cook the mushrooms. Drop the prepared mushrooms into a small pan of simmering water, add a pinch of salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Next, drain the mushrooms and leave in the colander until they are easy to handle then quarter each one and transfer into the salad bowl.
  2. To cook the raw artichoke hearts. Drop the prepared artichoke hearts into a pan of simmering water to which you add salt and 1 tbsp lemon juice, making sure that they are well submerged, top up with more boiling water if necessary. Simmer the for about seven minutes by which time the artichoke hearts should be tender, then tip into a colander to drain. Slice them into chunks then add to the mushrooms
  3. If using tinned artichoke hearts, simply drain them from the brine, cut into chunks and proceed as above.
  4. Thinly slice the onion then tip into the salad bowl along with the chopped parsley.
  5. Whisk all the dressing ingredients, season to taste then tip it over the salad and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust if needed.
  6. Divide the baby leaves salad between the individual salad plates, top with the dressed salad and scatter the toasted pine nuts over (if you choose to do so). Serve at once.
  7. Toasting pine nuts: wipe a small frying pan with a little oil or butter, tip in the pine nuts and put on a low heat and let the nuts toast keeping a close eye and shaking the pan from time to time until they turn golden. Remove from the heat, transfer onto a small plate, they are ready for use.
Artichoke and Mushtoom Salad

Artichoke and Mushtoom Salad



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Other spellings: Shanklish, shanklish, shanghlish, shinklish, sorke, or sürke

Shankleesh which is part of the mezza, is a semi-hard cheese with a crumbly texture. How is it made?

Basically, it is a combination of cow’s milk and yoghurt (some cheese-makers also use goat’s milk). The milk is boiled then left to cool slightly before adding to it the yoghurt: each litre/ 1¾ pints of milk requires about 180 ml/ 6 fl oz of natural yoghurt. The mixture is then put on a pot stand, thus allowing the air to circulate evenly and it is left to cool down completely before transferring it into the fridge and keeping it there overnight for twelve hours. The following day, the milk-yoghurt mixture is put on a low heat, stirring it constantly until it reaches boiling point, then it is simmered for a couple of minutes before taking it off the heat. Once it has cooled down, it is strained through a cheese cloth, the remaining curd mixture is then seasoned with salt, pepper and chilli powder. It is then divided into portions which in turn will be shaped into balls approximately the size of a tennis ball. These are then stored in a semi-humid place until they are dry from the outside. Next, each ball is wrapped in greaseproof paper, then placed in a large jar or container and transferred into a cool place: the fridge for instance is considered to be a suitable place.  About two weeks later, they turn brown with the formation of a mould on the outside layer: an indication that the cheese has matured. The mould is then peeled off with a knife and each ball is rolled in dried thyme or oregano, or a mixture of both with chilli flakes added for the extra spicy ones. When this is completed, the shankleesh cheese is ready for use.

Buying Shankleesh: 

The golden rule is always go by recommended brand names. Shops or supermarkets tend to sell mostly the ordinary spicy Shankleesh.

Eating and storing Shankleesh:

Shankleesh does not require any seasoning as it is full of flavours. It keeps well in a glass jar in the fridge.  The longer it is kept, the harder it becomes and the flavour develops. It is also perfect for home freezing.

How the Lebanese eat Shankleesh

I am not writing a recipe as such, but here are some suggestions:

  • Shankleesh has a great affinity for onions and extra virgin olive oil. Finely chop a medium onion, preferably red, then take half of a Shankleesh ball and crumble it on top, drizzle generously with some extra virgin olive oil, mix and serve with Lebanese bread, also fresh crusty baguette goes well with it.
  • You could top up this basic recipe with more ingredients such as a finely chopped tasty tomato with a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley.
  • To add a perfect finish to scrambled eggs: crumble about 1-2 tbsp over two eggs, just a couple of minutes before they finishing cooking and enjoy with bread and a sliced tomato on the side.
White flaky inside of the Shankleesh

A Shankleesh ball cut in half, This shows the white flaky inside of the Shankleesh.


A ball of Shankleesh rolled in herbs as you would buy it

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