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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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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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I think the taste for this dish comes from using fresh fish stock, (not cubes) to which caramelised onions are added which in turn gives it a special aroma. Sayyadiyeh is usually served with a flavoured tahini sauce which I include in the recipe.

For the main dish, you could use any white firm meaty fish such as cod or haddock.


Serves 4.



For the fish stock.


·         450 g/ 1lb fish trimmings including skin and bones

·         Enough tap water to cover the fish about 1 litre/ 2 pints

·         1 medium onion roughly chopped

·         3 sticks of celery washed and roughly chopped

·         2 carrots washed and roughly chopped

·         Large handful of chopped parsley including stems

·         1 bay leaf

·         Salt and pepper


For the dish


·         Vegetable oil

·         500 g/ 1lb 2 oz  Cod or Haddock fillets or any other firm white fish

·         5 medium onions thinly sliced

·         225 g/ 8 oz rice soaked for half an hour before the cooking

·         ½ tsp of each ground cinnamon and ground coriander

·         1 tsp ground cumin   

·         Salt and freshly milled black pepper

·         A pinch of saffron

·         2 tbsp pine nuts (optional)

·         1 lemon quartered


For the hot tahini sauce


·         200 ml/ 7 fl oz tahini paste

·         200 ml/ 7 fl oz lemon juice

·         200 ml/ 7 fl oz water

·         4 fat cloves of garlic peeled

·         1 tsp ground coriander

·         2 green chillies, or more if you like it hotter, very finely chopped

·         3 tbsp fresh coriander chopped

·         Salt

·         1 tbsp olive oil




To make the stock.


1.    Rinse the fish trimmings and bones then put with the other remaining stock ingredients in a large saucepan, cover with water and using high heat, bring to boil. Remove the scum that forms then lower the heat, cover and let it simmer for 45 minutes, checking from time to time. Let it cool slightly before straining and reserving the stock. You need about 500 ml/ 17 fl oz to cook with. You can freeze any excess stock.   


To prepare the main dish.


2.    Rinse the fish under a cold water tap, pat dry with kitchen paper and lay skin down in a buttered oven proof dish. Sprinkle a little lemon juice and brush the fish generously with vegetable oil, season with salt and pepper. Cover and pop it in a 200°C/ 400°F pre-heated oven, bake for 10-15 minutes, then uncover, brush the top with the juices. On a medium to high setting, grill the fish for 3 minutes to give it a crispy texture. Let it cool before flaking it into chunky pieces. Keep warm.

3.     Heat up about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large to medium frying pan, fry the onions until caramelised, they should turn dark brown but not be burnt. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer onto a plate layered with a kitchen paper to drain excess oil. Meanwhile, you can soak the rice.

4.     Add half of the caramelised onion to the stock and bring back to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes. Fish out the onions with a slotted spoon then liquidise and return to the stock. If at that stage, you find the sauce is too thick, thin it down with water. Now, return the mixture to the heat, season with the spices, taste and adjust if necessary.

5.    Drain the rice then transfer into a medium saucepan, stir in a quarter of the chunky fish then add 500 ml / 17 fl oz of the stock, bring to the boil, cover then let it simmer for about 12-15 minutes until the rice has absorbed the liquid and cooked. Next, place the remaining cooked fish on top, cover for about 5 minutes before serving.

6.    While the rice is cooking, grease lightly a small frying pan and toast the pine nuts until golden. 

7.    Transfer the rice-fish mixture onto a serving plate, scatter over the caramelised onions followed by the toasted pine nuts and serve at once with wedges of lemon and the Hot Tahini Sauce on the side.


To prepare the Hot Tahini Sauce.


  1. Mix lemon juice with the tahini paste and gradually add the water with ½ tsp of salt, You’ll have a lumpy paste to start, but don’t worry, keep stirring with the spoon until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the sauce has reached a creamy consistency. Taste and adjust if necessary.
  2. Next, sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of salt and ground coriander and crush to a paste.
  3. Heat up the oil in a medium sized saucepan. Stir in the garlic paste along with the fresh coriander and chillies, using a medium heat, cook for 2 minutes then add the tahini sauce, stir the whole mixture to help the flavours to develop. If you notice that the mixture is too thick, you can add some water. When it is about to boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a heat proof jug and serve at once with the main dish.

The Lebanese way of cooking cauliflower is varied and my two recipes reflect that. The first one Arnabeet Me’ li (Fried Cauliflower) is the most popular, very simple, it consists of frying the cauliflower florets and serve it with taratoor/ tahini sauce (see Sauces section).


The second one Arnabeet Matboukh ma’ Kuzbara (Cauliflower with Coriander) is also easy, the florets are cooked in a very light sauce, finishing off with chopped coriander that complements the flavour of the cauliflower.

If you like to read more on cauliflower, here is a suggested website:

It is a quick dish to prepare. This can be eaten as a light supper and is ideal for vegans. Simple ingredients such as onions, garlic, tomatoes and coriander mingling with the cauliflower make this dish a delicious light meal. I use a few  tomatoes in my recipe, but some cooks stick simply to lemon juice, either way is nice. If you prefer to use lemon juice only, you will need about one lemon for the recipe below. Cook the mixture with half of the juice and add the remainder towards the end.

One thing to observe, because cauliflower naturally contains water, the sauce might become watery. If it happens, simply take off the lid half way through and let the excess evaporate. What we are looking for is a mixture that is moist, not too saucy nor dry.  


Serves 2-3




  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • About 7-8 cloves of garlic peeled and roughly smashed
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • About 300 g / 11 oz tomatoes skinned and chopped
  • 750 g / 1½ lb   (net weight) cauliflower rinsed and cut into florets
  • About  2 tbsp lemon juice or to taste
  • 25 g/ 1oz  freshly chopped coriander.




  1. Heat up the oil in the saucepan and sauté the onion for a couple of minutes, add the garlic and cook for one minute. Drop in the tomatoes followed by the cauliflower and stir fry the mixture for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and let the mixture simmer over medium heat for about twenty minutes or until the cauliflower is cooked. If, during cooking, you notice that there is too much sauce, take the lid off half way through to let the excess liquid evaporate.
  2. A few minutes before the finishing time, add the lemon juice, followed by the chopped coriander, check seasoning and serve at once with freshly cooked rice.

As the title indicates, once the dish is cooked, you tip it upside down and you will get a delicious unusual savoury cake. The basic recipe consists of aubergines, minced meat and rice. However, you can omit the meat and turn it into a scrumptious vegan and vegetarian dish, the recipe for this can be found at the end of this article. Although the preparation takes time, nevertheless, it is an easy dish to cook and well worth it. In fact part of the dish can be prepared in advance likewise the aubergines and the meat or chickpea mixture. One word of advice, make sure to soak the rice for 30 minutes before assembling the dish so it will be thoroughly cooked.

It is a popular dish across the Levant, therefore you might have seen or tasted different versions of it.

Serve 4


· 1 kg / 2lb 2oz aubergines preferably the large beefy ones

· 1 large onion finely chopped

· 450 g / 1lb lean minced lamb

· 60 g / 2 ¼ oz pine nuts (optional)

· 400 g / 14 oz tomatoes slightly ripened (optional)

· 2 red or yellow peppers (optional)

· Vegetable oil

· Salt & freshly milled black pepper, ground allspice and cinnamon.

· 175 g / 6 oz rice

· 400 ml / 14 fl oz water

· 60 g / 2 ¼ oz flaked almonds (optional)

· You also need a non-stick pan, not too deep, roughly 18 cm (7 inches) diameter the bottom lined with baking parchment, a medium-large frying pan and another medium one.


  1. Wash the aubergines then cut the stems off and discard. I like to keep the skin on, but you don’t have to if you don’t like it. Slice the aubergines into circles about 1cm (½ inch) thick, then layer them in a colander, sprinkling each layer with salt. Cover with a plate to which you add heavy weights (tins of beans or tomatoes will do), the idea is to drain out the bitter juices. Leave it for an hour, then rinse off the salt and juices under tap water and pat dry on absorbent papers. Pour enough oil into the frying pan and heat up using a medium setting, fry the aubergines until golden brown on both sides, you may need to do that in batches and top up the frying pan with more oil. Remove onto a plate layered with absorbent papers, so most of the excess fat can be absorbed.
  2. Next, using a medium setting, heat up about 1 tbsp vegetable oil or less (depending on the fat content of the meat) in a medium frying pan, add the minced meat and onions. Keep stirring as you fry, separating the lumps until the meat is well cooked and turns to a brown colour together with the onions. Stir in the pine nuts a few minutes before the finishing time. Take off the heat, season with salt and freshly milled black pepper, 1 tsp of each cinnamon and allspice, taste and adjust if necessary.
  3. Deseed and cut the peppers lengthways into strips 1½ cm (¾inch) wide, brush with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Using high setting, grill them until the edges just start to blacken slightly, turning them once. Keep aside.
  4. Skin the tomatoes and slice them into circles about ½ cm (¼ inch).
  5. Before you start assembling, make sure that you soaked the rice for ½ hour. This will help to ensure that it cooks thoroughly.
  6. To make sure that the finished ‘cake’ does not stick, line the bottom of the saucepan with a circle of baking parchment.
  7. Spread half of the meat mixture over the bottom of the pan that you have lined with baking parchment. Top it with about two thirds of the aubergines, also tucking them against the sides of the pan. Layer the peppers (if using) on top. Next, drain the rice and spread it over the peppers or aubergines, cover evenly with tomatoes (if using). Add the second half of meat and finish off with the remaining aubergines.
  8. Season the 400 ml of water with ¼ tsp of each salt, pepper, allspice and cinnamon. Pour slowly into the pan, and gently press a plate inside the pan, it helps to compress the cake to keep its shape. Cover with the lid and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, by which time, the water should have been absorbed and the rice grains have become swollen. Switch off the heat and leave the pan to stand for 10 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, toast the almond flakes (if using). Moisten a small frying pan with a little vegetable oil and using medium heat setting, shake in the almond flakes until they turn golden, be watchful because they tend to burn quickly. Keep them aside.
  10. To serve, use a shallow serving dish (preferably round) slightly larger than the pan. Remove the small plate from the top of the cooked cake. Next carefully run a palette knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Make sure your hands are protected because the pan will still be very hot. Now, turn the plate over covering the pan. Finally, while firmly holding the plate with one hand and the pan handle with the other turn the whole thing upside down and place on the table. Give the pan a slight shake or tap with a wooden spoon and the cake should separate from the pan. Carefully lift off the pan and you should be left with the cake on the plate, the baking parchment may stick to the bottom of the pan.
  11. Top the cake if you like with the toasted almond flakes and serve hot with green herby salad. Beetroot salad also goes nicely with it.
    Aubergine Cake

    Aubergine Cake

My Vegan version is as follows:

For the ingredients

· 1 kg / 2 lb 4 oz aubergines preferably the large beefy ones

· 3 large onions finely sliced

· 425 g / 15 oz can of chickpeas in water

· 75 g / 3 oz pine nuts (optional)

· 400 g / 14 oz tomatoes slightly ripened

· 2 peppers: red and yellow

· Vegetable oil

· Salt & freshly milled black pepper, ground allspice and cumin (cumin goes well with chickpeas).

· 175 g / 6 oz rice

· 400 ml / 14 oz water

· 75 g / 3 oz flaked almonds


1. Prepare and cook the aubergines as described for the meat version above.

2. Heat up about 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and fry stirring occasionally until they soften. Add pine nuts and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Drain the chickpeas and add them to the mixture, cook for another 5 minutes. Switch off the heat and season with salt, pepper, and 1 tsp of each ground allspice and cumin.

3. For the rest of the procedure follow as for the meat Aubergine Cake substituting the chickpea mixture for the meat.

It is one of my favourite dishes for the sweetness of fresh peas and carrots mixed with the juices from the meat and flavoured with orange peel, gives this wintery dish a distinguished taste. If you can’t find fresh peas, substitute with frozen ones. The other good thing is that this dish works well for vegetarians and vegans, simply, omit the meat and for more flavour add garlic. This dish is usually served with plain rice, another tip is that it shouldn’t come out too ‘saucy’, the amount of water I recommend is fine, however, if using tinned tomatoes which tend to be more watery, reduce the amount.


If you are interested to know more about peas and carrots, here are 2 suggested websites:


Serves 4




  • 1tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 300g / 11oz lean lamb meat cut into small cubes
  • 300g / 11oz carrots peeled and diced into small cubes
  • 4 cloves of garlic peeled and smashed (optional)
  • Peel of 1 small orange
  • 150ml / 5fl oz water (or vegetable stock if omitting meat)
  • 450g / 1lb fresh ripe tomatoes skinned or the equivalent of tinned chopped tomatoes,
  • Seasoning: salt to taste, freshly milled black pepper plus ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 500g / 1lb 2oz fresh or frozen peas




  1. To skin the fresh tomatoes, simply drop them in boiling water, leave them for one minute for the large ones, and 30 seconds for the smaller ones, then remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate, to cool slightly. Slip off the skin and chop.


  1. Heat up the oil in a deep medium sized pan. Stir fry the chopped onion for 1 minute then add meat, season with and cook until it is lightly browned. Mix in the carrots, garlic if using, orange peel and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. After that, add chopped tomatoes followed by the water or vegetable stock (if omitting the meat), and bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, after which you mix in the peas. If you are cooking frozen peas, you may need to increase the heat to boiling point before dropping them in. Simmer for another 15 minutes or until the peas are cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  


  1. Discard orange peel and serve hot with plain rice.

Although the title indicates Festive Chicken, you can also use turkey. Like in the West, the Lebanese eat both, depending on their preferences. Once cooked, the bird is usually presented on a serving platter surrounded by the glistening cooked rice, a layer of golden toasted nuts is scattered on top and that I believe is what gives it the special festive look.


When cooking a chicken, make sure that the bird is basted at regular intervals (depending on its size), so in the end you have a juicy succulent bird with a lovely bronzed skin. Also to achieve a thorough cooking of the chicken, allow 20 minutes per 450 gm / 1lb plus 20 minutes extra.



Serves 4




·         1 medium chicken (about 1.5kg / 3¼ lb weight), preferably free-range

·         35 g/ 1 ¼ oz butter softened at room temperature

·         About 150 ml /  5 fl. oz water

·         1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus 2 tsp extra

·         1 medium onion finely chopped

·         225 g /  8 oz long grain white rice (eg Basmati rice)

·         425 ml / 14¾ fl oz chicken stock

·         50 g / 2 oz of each pine nuts, blanched almonds and pistachio nuts

·         450 g / 1 lb plain yoghurt (optional)




·         Salt and freshly milled black pepper

·         1 tsp ground allspice

·         1 tsp ground cinnamon




·         You also need a deep roasting tin wide enough to fit the chicken.

·         A non-stick medium sized saucepan

·         A medium frying pan




1.      Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Rinse the chicken under tap water and pat dry with a kitchen paper. Rub the butter all over the chicken then season generously with salt and pepper. Now, pour about 150 ml / 5 fl. oz water into the roasting tin and place the chicken, cover tightly with foil and transfer to the oven on the centre shelf.


2.      Bake for about 1¾ hours basting the chicken three times with its juices. To test the chicken, prick the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer, if the juices run clear then it is cooked. If they are pink, put it back into the oven for a further 15 minutes before testing again and continue to do this until the juices run clear. Just half an hour before the finishing time, tip most of the juices from the chicken into a heat-proof jug, leaving sufficient amount to keep the chicken moist, pop the chicken back into the oven, uncovered this time, to give it a crispy golden colour. Put the jug in the fridge, while you make a start with the rice.


3.      Heat up the oil in a medium saucepan using a medium heat, sauté the chopped onion for about two minutes. Add the minced meat to the mixture, stirring from time to time and breaking any lumps. Half way through add the pine nuts, cook well until the meat is lightly browned. Now, stir in the rice, season with salt, pepper, ground allspice and cinnamon, cook for another two minutes. By this stage the fat in the jug should have separated leaving you with the jelly at the bottom of the jug. I prefer to remove the fat and to perhaps use it for something else later. Then top up the remaining jelly with hot water if necessary to make up the amount required for the chicken stock. Add this to the rice mixture and give it a good stir, bring it up to a gentle boil then lower the heat to a simmering point, cover the pan and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Once the time is up, take the lid off and cover the pan with a kitchen towel, let it stand for about 10 minutes.


4.      Heat up 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a medium sized frying pan, sauté the almonds and pistachio nuts until the almonds reach a toasted golden colour.


5.      There are 2 ways of serving. Transfer the rice into a serving dish creating a depression in the middle where you place the bird. Scatter the warm nuts on top of the rice and take the dish to the table where you carve and serve. Place the yoghurt on the table, so people can help themselves. The other way is instead of carving at the table, you simply divide the chicken into the required portions and place them on top of the rice.

This is a basic stuffing that requires three ingredients: rice, minced meat and pine nuts. The mingling of flavours inside the roasting chicken gives this stuffing a moist succulent taste. However, in order to achieve a better texture, it is advisable to soak the rice before stuffing the cavity.


The quantity below is suitable for a medium chicken (about 1.5 kg / 3¼ lb), serving four people.




·         100 g / 4 oz long grain white rice

·         75 g / 3 oz lamb minced meat

·         30 g / 1 ¼ oz pine nuts



·         salt & freshly milled black pepper

·         1 tsp ground allspice

·         ½ tsp ground cinnamon




·         Soak the rice in water for about 15 minutes, drain and keep in the colander.

·         Tip the minced meat into a suitable sized bowl, season then add pine nuts, the drained rice and mix well. The stuffing is now ready.

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