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Some cooks blanch the florets for a couple of minutes before frying them, I don’t, because I think that blanching gives the cauliflower a mushy texture. The heat should be on a medium setting to allow the florets to cook thoroughly. You can serve it as a starter or as a light lunch, preferably hot or warm, at room temperature, whichever you choose, eat it within the day when it is at its best.


Serves 4.




  • 1 kg/ 2 lb cauliflower, discard the tough stalks then cut into smallish florets
  •  Enough vegetable oil to generously cover the bottom of the frying pan
  • Taratoor/ tahini sauce (See recipe in Sauces)




  1. Using a medium setting, heat up the oil in a frying pan.
  2. Fry the cauliflower florets, turning them from time to time until they turn deep golden brownish colour, you know they are cooked when you can easily prick them with a fork. Drain on a kitchen paper to get rid of the excess oil.

Serve with hot bread and tahini sauce. If you don’t like using sauce, sprinkle freshly milled salt and black pepper on the cooked cauliflower and eat it with bread and spring onions.  

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.

You can adjust the spiciness to your liking. It is colourful, easy to make and you can prepare it ahead of time. Above all, it makes a delicious accompaniment to any meal, vegetarian, vegan or meat and can simply be eaten on its own or as a starter. I normally go for small salad potatoes because there are faster to prepare, no need to peel them and when it comes to dicing: just cut them in half.


Serves 4




  • 550g / 1¼ lb potatoes scrubbed but skins left on.
  • 1 chilli or 2 if you like it hotter, finely chopped
  • 25g/ 1oz of fresh coriander, tough stalks discarded, the rest washed, pat dried and chopped.


For the dressing

  • 4 fat cloves of garlic peeled
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon  juice


  • Seasoning: salt & freshly milled black pepper




  1. If using small salad potatoes, 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. If using big potatoes, rinse them under the tap, then put in a saucepan and cover with water, add 1tsp of salt and bring to 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. You can prepare the dressing while the potatoes are cooking. Sprinkle some salt onto the peeled garlic and smash into a smooth paste. Add 3 tbsp olive oil, season with freshly milled black pepper and mix thoroughly.
  4. When you are ready to serve, heat up the remaining olive oil in a suitable sized saucepan and throw in the chopped chillies, stir fry for 30 seconds then add the prepared potatoes, followed by the garlic-olive oil mixture. Toss the potatoes around so they absorb the flavour of the ingredients and are re-heated. Stir in the chopped coriander, give the whole thing a good stir, add lemon juice and toss briefly. Take it off the heat, taste and adjust if necessary.

Transfer to a salad bowl and serve at once. However, it is also delicious served at room temperature or even cold.

Mhammarah, literally means reddened, in this context, it refers to mixing hot red chillies with walnuts. Pomegranate syrup is added to sooth down the fiery effect of the chillies. Suitable for vegans and everybody else, this recipe is very basic and works well as an appetiser (mezza) before barbecues, while hanging around and sipping chilled drinks like beer or white wine. The other good thing about this dip is that you can prepare it well ahead of time, which in fact helps the flavours to develop.

Traditionally walnuts are the main ingredients, but you can vary by substituting a quarter of the quantity with pine nuts.

Serves 4


  • 100 g / 4oz walnuts.
  • 1 or 2 red hot chillies (depending how hot you prefer it) finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Salt to taste


  1. Grind the walnuts to a paste or until relatively fine (if you like a bit of crunchiness), then tip into the serving bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with the spoon. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Keep it in the fridge if you are not eating immediately.
  3. Serve with Lebanese bread, fresh crusty bread also goes well too.

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.

The name of the soup derives from the verb khalata which means, mix things together. In this instance, it refers to the mixing of different pulses or beans together to produce an earthy nourishing soup, great for vegans. The amount given in this recipe is a suggestion, you can vary it according to your liking, you can even omit one of them if you don’t like it and increase the amount of the one you like or substitute it with lentils. Before mixing the beans, I tend to boil them separately because each type takes a different time to soften, especially haricot beans. Alternatively, you can speed up this recipe by using tinned beans, they work well. 


The dried broad beans I use here are the Lebanese ones which I believe have more flavour than others. They have a brownish colour and tend to be plumper but smaller in size than the ones that are usually available in general supermarkets. Tinned broad beans (or Foul Medammas) are also available in Lebanese grocers.  



Serves: 4 – 6




  • 75 g / 3oz chickpeas soaked overnight in water which is three times their volume, stir into that ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75 g / 3 oz haricot beans soaked overnight in water with ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75 g / 3 oz dried broad beans soaked overnight in water with ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2.25 litres / 4 pints stock made up from the juices of the beans and added water.
  • 75 g / 3 oz green or brown lentils (optional)
  • 20 g /  ¾ oz rice
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions thinly sliced
  • 85 ml / 3 fl oz good brand olive oil
  • Salt to taste and freshly milled black pepper
  • 1tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 30 g / 1oz fresh coriander chopped, you could also substitute it with parsley, chives or freshly chopped spring onions
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle (optional)




  1. Rinse chickpeas, haricot beans and broad beans then place in separate saucepans with three times their volume of water, add 1 tsp salt and bring to boil. Remove the scum, then cover and let them simmer until they begin to feel tender.
  2. When they are ready, drain them but reserve the liquid in a measuring jug, you may need to top it up with water to make up the quantity required.
  3. Heat up the oil in a deep saucepan (preferably non-stick), wide enough to mix all the ingredients, fry the onions for about three minutes, then add the three beans, sauté for a couple of minutes to give them a good coating, season. If you want lentils, you could add them to the mixture at this stage, do likewise if using tinned beans. Pour in the stock (or water if using tinned beans) and bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and let the whole mixture simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, the beans should be really soft, otherwise cook for longer. 
  4. Next, stir in the rice, check again whether you need topping up with hot water. Give the whole thing a good stir, simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the rice is cooked, taste again and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  5. Serve hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, scatter generously with chopped coriander or parsley or any herbs of your choice. Delicious with freshly baked crusty bread!

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.

Falafel is eaten throughout the Middle East usually wrapped in bread as a sandwich. It makes an ideal meal for vegetarians and vegans, it can also be served as a starter. The main ingredients are dried broad beans and chickpeas, the rest can be varied to suit your taste, for instance, if you don’t like coriander, you could substitute it with parsley or if you like your Falafel spicier you could add chillies. One more thing, it is important that the ingredients are dried thoroughly, otherwise the mixture will be too wet and mushy. In the end, we will be looking for a tasty mixture that binds firmly when you shape it. 


A great advantage is that once cooked, it freezes well. Once defrosted, it and can be reheated in a hot oven or microwave. 


Makes about 20




  • 200g/ 7oz skinless dried split broad beans soaked overnight in water with ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 75g/ 3oz chickpeas, preferably split chickpeas, soaked overnight in water with ¼  tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 medium sized leek washed, drained from excess water trimmed and chopped
  • 5 fat cloves of garlic peeled and smashed to a paste
  • 1 sweet red pepper washed and chopped
  • about 5 spring onions washed and finely chopped
  • 50g / 2oz coriander, rough stalks discarded, washed dried and chopped.
  • 1 or 2 chillies (optional)
  • 1 slice of bread (optional)
  • About 4 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • Bicarbonate of soda



  • Salt & freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 rounded tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice


To serve

  • Lebanese bread, allow 1 bread per person 
  • Mixture of sliced radishes, chopped parsley, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickled turnips
  • Tahini sauce or Taratoor (See recipe in Sauces)




  1. Soak broad beans and chickpeas separately in water, adding bicarbonate soda to each, leave them for several hours, ideally overnight.


  1. When you are ready to cook, rinse the broad beans, drain then and spread them on a tea towel to dry. Next, rinse the chickpeas, for the split ones, add fresh water and using your fingers rub the skins off and discard, rinse again the skinless chickpeas, drain and dry thoroughly. If you have whole ones, rinse and drain them then take whatever you can fit on a large chopping board, cover with a tea towel then bash them gently with a rolling pin. You will see that the skins come off, discard the skins, pick up the skinless ones and keep them to one side, it does not matter if they are broken because we need to grind them later. Repeat the process with the rest of the chickpeas, then rinse drain and dry.


  1. Now, put broad beans, chick peas, along with the rest of the ingredients adding 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda in a food processor. Process until you reach a mixture that binds together firmly. If it is too moist, shred the bread, add it to the mixture and process again. Taste and adjust taste if necessary, then cover and leave it to rest for an hour.


  1. Take a piece of the mixture the size of a golf ball, shape it into a patty about 4-5 cm/ 1½ -2 inches diameter and place it on a plate, continue likewise with the rest until the mixture is finished. Let the patties rest for 20 minutes.


  1. Heat the oil to about 190°C/ 375°F, dust each patty in the sesame seeds (this is optional) before dropping it into the hot oil, do likewise with the rest. Deep fry for about 3 minutes turning them once or twice until they reach a deep golden brown colour. Drain on a kitchen paper and keep warm until you finish deep frying.


  1. To serve: Open up the bread, leaving the other half attached, put the patties creating one row in the middle, top it with the salad of your choice then drizzle with the tahini sauce, flip the other half of the bread to cover, roll it up, wrap the bottom side with greaseproof or kitchen paper (to catch the excess juice) and eat. Alternatively, serve the falafel on a plate with a little salad, bread and sauce on the side.  

Probably each country has its own folk stories that symbolise a tradition they have carried over centuries and sometimes across continents, like Halloween. While the West celebrates Halloween on 31st October, we, Lebanese and the Levant have our own that we call Eid el Barbara, the feast of Saint Barbara on the 4th December. Venerated by the Church, Barbara is traditionally the patron saint of artillerymen, armourers and those who fear lightning. She lived in Asia Minor in the 3rd century AD and was beheaded by her wealthy father Dioscorus for rejecting paganism and converting to Christianity. If you want to read more about Saint Barbara, here are 2 useful websites.


Despite its religious root, the celebration of Saint Barbara has become more of a Halloween-like occasion. Children are allowed to disguise themselves and have fun playing tricks or scaring others. A bowl of boiled wheat is served to mark the occasion.


There are different versions explaining what has become a legend to tell the children on that day. One of them is that when the young Barbara confessed her new faith to her father, he decided to bring her before the Roman prefect of the town. In an attempt to avoid capture, she disguised herself as a poor woman and fled through the fields. She reached a hut where shepherds gathered eating boiled wheat, tired and hungry, Barbara accepted their invitation. However, one of them recognised her, he informed the Romans and eventually she met her fate.


Eating wheat on its own may sound plain, especially when we consider that perhaps, the root of the recipe goes back to the 3rd Century AD. Although, this dish has retained its essence, other simple ingredients are added to simply create a warm tasty dish that anyone can enjoy, especially on a cold spooky night.


Serves 6-8





  • 300 g / 11 oz wheat (some cooks use pearl barley, though it does not taste the same)
  • 1½ litre / 2½  pints water
  • 1 tbsp anise seeds wrapped in a muslin linen
  • Bowl of sugar to sweeten (optional)
  • 75 g / 3 oz  raisins
  • Orange blossom and Rose water
  • 60 g / 2 ½ oz of each pine nuts, walnuts, and blanched almonds.




  1. Put the wheat, aniseeds in a medium saucepan, cover with the water and bring to boil using medium to high setting. Boil for about 10 minutes, remove scum then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 40 minutes or until the wheat grain is soft to eat but not dry. It should be left enough of its own juice to serve it with. 
  2. Discard the anise seeds and serve the wheat hot with a little juice in small bowls, sprinkle few drops of each orange blossom and rose water. If you like to sweeten it, sugar should be mixed at this stage so it dilutes better. Divide the raisins and nuts equally and serve at once.

This is a simple salad that works well as a side dish or as a starter, the beetroot itself, especially when it is freshly boiled, has a full sweetish flavour that is fulfilling, with no fat content. It has many other benefits, for example, it is a rich source of fibres and carbohydrates. In fact the pigment that gives the beetroot its red colour, possesses antioxidant properties which can help to fight some diseases. If you can, try to buy small bunches that have small tender leaves, because the leaves are also edible, in addition, they provide iron, foliate and beta-carotene.

At home, we used to combine vinegar with olive oil to make the dressing. In this recipe, I substituted the vinegar with the balsamic one and added a ½ tsp of sugar.  

If you like to know more about beetroot, here are two useful websites:


Serves 4


  • 2 small bunches of beetroot with leaves
  • A pinch of salt

For the dressing

  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp sugar (optional)


Cut off the beetroot leaves, discarding any that are discoloured or tough, then wash thoroughly, drain excess water and dry.

Wash beetroots then transfer to a pan, wide enough to fit them, cover with plenty of water, add a pinch of salt and boil for about 30 minutes or until tender.

Once cooked, peel off the skin in a bowl of cool water, placing them as you finish on the cutting board. Slice the way you like, I normally quarter them, tip in a large salad bowl, then thinly shred the leaves. Add to the beetroot. 

Whisk thoroughly all the dressing ingredients and mix well with the beetroot mixture. Serve at once.


NB. If you think that the leaves are not as tender as you would like them to be, and you still want to add them to the beetroot, this is my suggestion: heat up about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan, add the leaves as whole tossing frequently until they have just wilted. Divide between four serving plates and top with the dressed beetroot.

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