What to cook?
I love cooking. But thinking of what to make each day is quite a chore. I generally get out some vegetables from the fridge and make them into anything that comes to my mind. It's like following my instincts and the ingredients are always throw as you go. That was the main reason for me to start blogging and maintaining a record of recipes which otherwise I would never be able to recreate. Unable to recreate a recipe especially if it turned out wonderfully good the first time is a frustration that I'd experienced several times in the past. But not any longer!
It's understandable that a vegetarian like me wouldn't be able to replicate much of world cuisine in her kitchen, given that meats are a substantial part of many an ethnicity. This led me to a search of vegetarian recipes from around the world. My first stop being Lebanon. With a broadband connection and a laptop, you don't need a visa or tickets to do this thing called arm chair travelling. And what better way than cooking up a meal from there to complete the experience?
Lebanese food quite resembles a healthy Mediterranean cuisine. Fresh vegetables, fruits, olive oil, garlic and white meats form the base of this cuisine. Ingredients unique to this ethnicity are Tahini (sesame seed paste) and pomegranate seeds. The latter is probably related to the fact that Pomegranates were first found and grown in the Persian regions.
The meal starts with a mezze - which includes hot and cold starters. A typical mezze would include Baba Gannouj (Roasted eggplant with sesame paste), Hummus, Falafel, Shanklish (Goat cheese served with salad) and Kibbenayeh (Ground lamb's meat served with cracked wheat).
Main course is generally meat based so that is quite beyond the scope of my experiements :) Desserts like baklava are ofcourse extremely popular and well-loved by most of us. There is another popular dessert called Mahallabiye that is a kind of milk pudding made with almonds and pine nuts. Sweets are generally had with strong sweet cardamom flavoured coffee!
My love at first bite with Lebanese food started in Basha which was a Mediterranean eatery in Rochester. Sadly, its no longer open now. The Mezze, a Basha rice full of raisins and other exotic flavours, their lentil soup was so good that any time we had to go out for dinner, I didn't have to think twice. It was in London that I had the Fattoush for want of something vegetarian and I wasn't at all sad for choosing it. If yoy happen to be in central London, this is one of the VFM places serving fresh salads, falafel, pita breads and loads of other stuff.
Since I make Baba Gannouj pretty often, I thought I'd make Fattoush and a variation of the roasted eggplant dip.
1 large onion - cut vertically into a cross and remove each layer out from the 4 pieces
3 medium sized tomatoes - large bite sized pieces
2 medium cucumbers - peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium capsicums - deseeded and cut into pieces
1 pear - peeled and cut into chunks
4-5 slices of bread - toasted till very crisp and broken into big pieces
I also added some segments of an orange like pinkish-fruit, the name of which I can't recollect now.
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Paprika to taste
Bring all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. Mix with your hands with gentle pressure so as to release juices from cucumbers and tomatoes. Refrigerate for an hour or so.
The bread will soak up the juices from the vegetables, fruits as well as the spices and the bits of soggy bread will be the best part of the salad. However you can use the crispy bread pieces just before serving if you want to add a crunch to the salad.
Serve this salad along with chips / pita bread and some hummus & Baba Gannouj for a light weekday dinner. A glass of wine wont be a bad idea.
This time I made Baba Gannouj with the added flavour of fresh coriander. To accompany this, I rolled out a few chapatis with the leftover atta, cooked them on the tava till done on both sides. I then cut the chapatis into 8 pieces each, coated them with some olive oil and herbs. This went into a 250 C oven for 10 minutes to get crispy almost fat free chips.
Lebanese food, Fattoush, Salad, Fat free, Baba Ganouj