This image and recipe comes from a new book, Lebanese Home Cooking, by Kamal Mouzawak, the founder of Lebanon’s first farmers’ market.
Lebanese Home Cooking, from Quarto Eats, has all my favourite food words in its title. In the 1980s a friend took me to a Lebanese restaurant in Soho and I was knocked out. Every dish appealed in new, refreshing ways. Tahini, beans, yogurt, lemons, olive oil, garlic. These are now my favourite ingredients. Versatile and health-giving, they are always in the kitchen.
Writing about the Lebanese market founded in 2004, The New York Times says that Souk El Tayeb (“market of good”): “reconciles Lebanon’s warring factions through their common love of their food.”
Kamal Mouzawak writes: Food is a window – “the best way to look into people’s lives.”
Make food, not war.
Kamal Mouzawak is full of practical wisdom and inspiring encouragement. The recipes are simple. He says souk food is easy and fast – how I like to cook.
Tahini sauce – Tarator
Garlic 1 clove or more
240g tahini (sesame paste)
Juice of 3 lemons
1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Crush garlic with little salt, add to tahini in the bowl, and add the lemon juice. Tahini will thicken so continue stirring with a fork and add more lemon juice if needed. The mixture will be smooth. Season with salt to taste, blend in olive oil and serve. Good over dark leafy vegetables.
Fava bean stew – foul medamass
I love the addition of quartered lemons to this fava bean stew.
120g small brown beans
1 onion peeled halved
Handful split yellow lentils
1 lemon plus juice of 2 lemons
80 ml olive oil
Ground cumin and salt.
Soak beans overnight. Drain. Add onion halves, garlic and lentils. Add water to cover by 2 fingers. Cook beans for several hours to be mushy. Add quartered lemons 20 minutes before the end. Take off heat and add lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and salt to taste.
Souk food – soul food.
PS On the subject of tahini sauce, I came across this amazing recipe by UK chef and co-owner of Wahaca, Thomasina: Tagliatelle with blue cheese, tahini and caramelised onions. Straining the yogurt and adding tahini makes this into a luxurious and creamy dish, yet it is light too. Comfort food – recommend!
The original recipe (serves 4-6). Here follows my mini-version:
Cook 900g sliced onions slowly (25 mins) in 4 teaspoons olive oil + 30g butter. Cook 450g pasta (I use buckwheat noodles), adding 300g frozen peas in the last three minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and peas but keep 250ml of the cooking water. Strain 450g of Greek natural yogurt. (I added the residual ‘yogurt water’ to the pasta cooking water because I hate waste.).
Put pasta in a bowl. Beat reserved pasta water into strained yogurt, and season. Then add to pasta, so it absorbs sauce for a few minutes. Add more of the cooking water gradually until you have a “silky pile of pasta”. Crumble 100g blue cheese over your luxurious pasta pile, and top with the caramelised onions.
And, finally, a picture of Rafic’s (see comments) Lebanese restaurant in London. Mezza of Lebanon (1968 – 2004) was at 262 Kensington High Street, near Holland Park.