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7 ways to a Lebanese kitchen

Pieces of grilled meat smothered in a yogurt garlic dip with the crunch from pickled veggies, neatly wrapped in soft pita bread – a shawarma is very difficult to say no to - like most other Lebanese dishes! Fresh veggies, dried fruits, a variety of meats, rustic spices and fresh bread are all an integral part of food from Lebanon. Right from stews to curries, snacks, starters and desserts, Lebanese cuisine is a plethora of flavours and ingredients. We run you through some absolute Lebanese food essentials so you can experience the Middle East in your kitchen through the pathway of food!


Pita – Well pita isn’t really an ingredient but it might as well be one considering its several uses. Pita is a plain flour flat bread that the Lebanese just can’t do without. Be it to scoop up curries and sauces, to enclose a piece of kabab or as a part of mezze, pita bread is an absolute essential. Eat it fresh and if you manage to have some leftovers the next day, fry or bake and use it to make a fattoush salad. All you need to bake a batch of fluffy soft pita bread is refined flour, salt, sugar, yeast and some luscious olive oil! Follow this recipe for pita bread and serve with a creamy hummus to understand why people are so crazy about it!


Hummus – Hummus, which literally means chickpeas in Arabic, is a spread that is made with chickpeas, in all Arab countries, with little twists to the basic recipe. The Lebanese version of this yummilicious recipe calls for you to soak and boil chickpeas, mash them in a food processor with some salt, lemon juice, olive oil and tahini ( sesame seed paste) and then you can devour it with just about anything – just like the Lebanese do!


Baharat – A mix of 7 spices essential to Lebanese cuisine, baharat is found in every home in Lebanon, just like garam masala is in India. The recipe and proportions for a baharat differs geographically, because every household has their version of it. Basic ingredients for a baharat - allspice, cardamom, cloves, coriander, nutmeg, paprika and cassia bark are ground to a coarse powder to make this super spice. Make a batch to store in your kitchen shelf and use in just about any Middle Eastern preparation or even otherwise! Another really popular spice mix is made with a mix of mint and thyme as main ingredients and is called Za’atar.


Burghul – Burghul or bulgar, as it is more commonly known, gets its name from a Parisian word meaning broken grain and that is exactly what it is. Burghul which are wheat grains - par boiled, dried and then ground, must not be confused with broken wheat. Burghul is used in several Mediterranean recipes like salads and soups and is an integral part of Kibbeh – The unofficial national dish of many Middle Eastern countries. Easily available in supermarkets use it in salads like the very popular tabbouleh in kebabs or instead of rice to make a lovely chicken or vegetable pilaf.


Eggplant in all its glory – Egg plant is to Lebabon what Aloo is to India. It manages to make its way into every meal and adds plenty of oomph to it. Baba Ganoush is a very popular traditional dip that is made with roasted eggplants. Mousakka is another popular baked dish made with a mix of veggies, mince and cheese, where eggplant is usually the showstopper! Mutabbel is a mouthwatering slow cooked dish again made with eggplant and tahini.  Besides these, eggplants are roasted, pan fried, baked, stuffed and stir fried to use in salads, soups, dips, and main course - so you can understand what a versatile and important ingredient it is in a Lebanese kitchen.


Meaty Treats – If there is anything that is a must eat in Lebanon; it’s got to be the kebabs and similar meaty treats. Starting from Kibbeh, which are spiced deep fried minced meat kebabs to skewers of shish touk (grilled pieces of marinated meat, often served with rice) kebabs are a staple in Lebanon. The most commonly used meat is lamb or goat. A non-vegetarian dish is a must in most meals; it could be in the form of a stew or bakes like a mousakka, mains like a pulao or just as a side to eat with fluffy pita bread and a gorgeous dip!


Baklava – Making Baklava is not difficult, but it is a strenuous process. Layering several paper thin sheets of freshly made buttery Phylo pasty alternating with a crushed nuts and powdered sugar mixture, baking it and then dousing it in sugar syrup scented with orange or rose blossoms makes a perfect baklava ! To make a delicious baklava without too much of the hard work, use store bought ready to use phylo pastry. You can add your choice of mild spices like cinnamon or cloves for an added bit of flavour.


With the most basic recipes and ingredients in place, browse through SanjeevKapoor.com for other delicious authentic and fusion dishes from the treasure trove of recipes that is Lebanese Cuisine.

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.