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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.

Baba Ghannouj or Batinjaan Mutabbal are the names used interchangeably for the same dish. However, the term Batinjaan Mutabbal summarises what it is about. Batinjaan is the Arabic name for aubergine, Mutabbal means flavoured or seasoned with, the aubergine in this instance is grilled giving it that wonderful characteristic flavour which is then enhanced by adding garlic, lemon and tahini paste.

Batinjaan Mutabbal or simply Mutabbal, as we Lebanese often call it, is an integral part of the Lebanese Mezza, but also makes a delicious accompaniment to barbecued meat or fish. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, most importantly, it is easy to make.

One tip worth mentioning is that when buying aubergines, look for the large, beefy and seedless ones, also, please do not attempt to liquidise the cooked flesh, mash it with a fork to preserve the texture.

Serves 4


  • 2 large or 3 medium aubergines weighing 800-900g / 2lb approx, it is not a lot, aubergines shrivel during grilling
  • 3-4 fat cloves of garlic peeled
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp tahini paste

To decorate

  • 3 tbsp pomegranate seeds (the sour ones) or the same amount of chopped flat leaf parsley.
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

You also need a shallow baking tray lined with aluminium foil.


  1. Pre-heat the grill medium to high heat.
  2. Wash the aubergines as they are (skin on without cutting any stems), then pat dry with a kitchen paper. Take a small sharp knife and make 4 incisions lengthways along the aubergines at 90º to each other, to prevent them from bursting. Place them on the foil covered baking tray and grill them for about 25-30 minutes, turning them every 8 minutes to ensure they are evenly cooked. At the end, we are looking for a blackened charred skin while the inside is soft, you will also notice the excess juices running out (see picture).
  3. Wait a few minutes for the aubergines to cool down, then cut in half lengthways and pushing aside the skin with the fork (see picture), scoop out the soft inside with a spoon and put it into a colander to drain out excess juice, leave it for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle salt onto the garlic and crush into a paste, then add the aubergine flesh, mix and using a fork mash gently to obtain a soft but not pureed texture (see picture). Next, stir in the lemon juice, tahini paste and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust if necessary.
  4. Transfer into 2 shallow serving bowls, fill evenly then make a depression in the middle (see picture). Decorate with the pomegranate seeds or parsley then drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Serve at room temperature with Lebanese or Pitta bread. This is best eaten on the same day but will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

The grilled aubergines

The grilled aubergines

The inside of the grilled aubergine

The inside of the grilled aubergine

The mashed aubergines

The mashed aubergines

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

Traditionally, when the Christians in Lebanon celebrate Epiphany, they eat and serve different varieties of fritters. Last year, I talked about O’wwamat /Lebanese Doughnuts (see recipe). This time, my recipe is about Ma’croon /Lebanese Fritters with Aniseed.

Ma’croon can be made with flour or semolina or both combined. The main flavouring ingredient is aniseed that gives it a festive aroma. It is very simple to make and is suitable for all eating habits. These are usually deep-fried then dipped straight into the sugar syrup, however, if you don’t like them too sweet, dip and then remove quickly. Ma’croon need the sugar syrup but you can alter the amount by reducing or prolonging the soaking time. I make my Ma’croon with both: flour and semolina because I like that bit of crunchiness created by the semolina. Ma’croon are best eaten when freshly made, like other fritters, they don’t keep for long.

Makes about 25 (roughly 6-7cm / 2½ inches long)


  • 1 quantity of sugar syrup/ Ater (see recipe)
  • 150 g / 5oz fine semolina
  • 75 g/ 3oz flour
  • ¼ tsp easy blend yeast
  • 1 tbsp ground aniseed
  • ¼ tsp Mahlab (optional, see glossary)
  • About 120 ml/ 4fl oz warmish water
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil to make the dough and enough vegetable oil to deep fry


  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl then add the remaining dry ingredients and mix well. Rub the oil into the mixture, then, gradually add the water mixing and kneading with your hands or dough mixer until you have a firm dough that you can roll. Cover with an oiled clingfilm and leave it at room temperature for an hour. Meanwhile, you could prepare the sugar syrup/ Ater.
  2. Shape the dough into a long roll (roughly ½ cm diameter) then cut it into pieces, (depending how small or big you want the fritters), the ones in this recipe are about 6 cm / 2½ inches long, therefore, I divided the roll into 25 pieces. Now, take one piece at a time and roll it on a marble or between your hands and give it the shape of a sausage or a plump date. Next, press this down onto a perforated surface like the cheese grater, or a colander with a large mesh (see picture) or any equivalent, to give a dimpled effect. Roll the piece with your fingers towards you so could achieve a dimpled pattern (see picture), place it on the plate and cover with a tea towel to prevent the Ma’croon from drying out, continue likewise with the rest until you finish all the pieces.
    Colander with a suitable mesh

    Colander with a suitable mesh

    Pressing the piece to get the dimpled effect.

    Pressing the piece to get the dimpled effect.

    The dimpled effect.

    The dimpled effect.

  3. Heat up the oil in a deep frying pan and when it is hot enough (enough for a small cube of bread to crisp in 1 minute), drop in as many pieces as the frying pan can safely take, allowing them to float around without being squashed, you may need to do that in batches. Fry, turning the fritters until they are golden, this should take about three or four minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain excess oil by placing them briefly onto kitchen paper, then transfer them while still hot into the pan containing the warm sugar syrup/ Ater. The Ma’croon need the sugar syrup but you can alter the sweetness by reducing or prolonging the soaking time.
  4. Remove from the sugar syrup with a slotted spoon onto a serving plate and eat at once.

    Ma'croon ready to eat.


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:

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.

It looks like cream cheese but in fact is strained yoghurt, the better quality the yoghurt, the better taste you get. Although Labneh is one of the traditional Lebanese breakfast dishes, it is becoming more and more popular as part of the mezza. When I took my visiting Irish friends to a Lebanese restaurant they liked it so much that they asked for the recipe which gave me the idea to include it in this section. It is very easy to make and not time consuming at all, though you need to prepare it the night before.

Serves 4-6


  • 500g/ 1lb 2oz tub of good quality yoghurt (usually called Greek Yoghurt)
  • About 1tsp salt
  • 2 large fat cloves of garlic.
  • Leaves of 1 small sprig of mint. Alternatively ½ tsp of dried mint
  • 1 fat black olive for garnish
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle.

You also need a cotton bag (such as a white pillowcase) in order to drain the mixture overnight


  1. Mix yoghurt with salt then tip it into the bag. Tie the bag and hang over a bowl or on the tap over the sink, so all the excess liquid is drained which usually takes about 12 hours. You should end up with the consistency of cream cheese.
  2. Transfer the strained yoghurt into a bowl scrapping off all the sticky bits. It should be smooth and spreadable, like a clotted cream. If you think it is too stiff add a little water, taste and adjust if necessary. Keep in the fridge
  3. When you are ready to serve, peel and smash the garlic to a paste then mix with the labneh adding the dried mint if you prefer. Transfer to a serving dish. Decorate with the black olive in the middle, if using the fresh mint chop it up and sprinkle over, finish off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Serve with Lebanese bread, try it also toasted.

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.

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