World Cooking – Lebanon

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Lebanon
Progress: 34/193

I am not one for the idea of ‘love languages’, but if I had to make a guess at mine it would probably be around making food (so if someone can tell me which that aligns with, I’d be thankful). I bring this up as, continuing in the recent theme of posts about my husband’s birthday, the choice of today’s food nation was entirely in his hands – so obviously he chose Lebanese food.

It’s cool to be doing Lebanon immediately after doing Libya as I’m going from a country that has Levantine food as an influence to one of the two countries sat in the epicentre of the Levant cultural region. Picking food from this area to make for a Lebanese feast was really hard because there is just SO much to pick from. Do I go mezze, do I do grilled meat, do I make a bunch of desserts?

In the end, this list of food that I made with two ideas in mind. Firstly, would it be something my husband would enjoy as his birthday meal. Secondly, I won’t regret not saving this for other Levantine countries later on. Needless to say, this batch of food for Lebanon may just be some of the best I have made so far.

Starters: Baba Ghanoush and Labneh

If I had known just how easy it would be to make my own labneh then I would have done it years ago. I was given a cheese making kit two Christmases ago and I am finally using it for the reusable cheesecloth inside. So all I did was mix some salt and garlic into some Greek yoghurt before hanging it up to drain for little over 24 hours. Then you just decant, pour some olive oil and sprinkle some herbs over it and it’s instant food joy.

Then there’s the homemade baba ghanoush decorated with black olives and sumac. Since I don’t have a barbecue there wasn’t too much of a chance that I was going to get the smokiness that I desired, but by following the recipe from Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen hte  I ended up with some very delicious dip. Even if I had to make burn my fingers whilst pealing 700g of baby aubergines because that’s all they had at the store.

Both of these dips were so much easier to make than I had expected – much like the things that I made for mains.

Mains: Fattoush and Lahm bi ajin

Of all the dishes I made for this Lebanese feast, this fattoush salad is the one that surprised me the most. It’s one of those that shows just how a salad can be interesting, varied and delicious. Following the recipe from A Cedar Spoon, not only did I make my own pita chips for the salad but this is a gorgeous mix of cucumber, romaine lettuce, radish, parsley, mint, tomato and salad onions with a wonderful oil-lemon juice-sumac dressing. It even maintained the taste when eaten as leftovers for dinner later in the evening. Definitely one to be making again in the future.

Okay so these little Levantine pizzas were something that my husband specifically asked for. These lahm bi ajin (also known as sfiha) are made from a fairly simple pizza dough-style base with a topping of meat, tomato, a beautifully fragrant mix of spices and a liberal sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Following the recipe from 196 Flavors, I ended up making ten of these which went down very well at lunch and later when reheated for dinner. As a basic recipe there really is so much you can do to bend it to your tastes, which I plan to do at some point in the future.

Looking at the statistics, it’stime for me to pay another visit to either Europe or Africa. On the one hand, I have yet to tick off a Scandinavian country, but on the other I did just purchase a box of fufu flour for my eventual return to West Africa. Guess it’ll just be what takes my fancy.

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