Typically baba ghanouj in the western world is the wrong kind or rather wrongly named..what the world calls Baba ghanouj is actually called Muttabel in the levantine region .I know this because I was taught by the master Jedi of Lebanese food when I worked in Dubai. While that is great in itself , it is not Baba ghanouj..which we will try to make today .
so this forms part of Mezze which are different kinds of appetizers/dips/fritters /baked stuff and so on .
Eggplant 🍆- look for a plump one not too large mind U as those sometimes contain lots of seeds , let’s say -1 medium sized one about 300-400 g it’s not an exact science like bread making more like alchemy..add a drib of this or that. You need to stab this several times with a small paring knife ..think evil thoughts and let it out. The reason to puncture the skin is to make the cooking easier and let the steam escape. Then you roast this over an open flame, gas or charcoal, U could roast in the oven but doesn’t get the smoky aroma then. You need to turn it during the cooking process so the skin gets completely black and burnt, but don’t fear have some faith. Once this is done put it in a steel bowl and cool down.then you peel all the black burnt bits off and discard the stalk as well. wash and drain so we don’t get bits of carbonized eggplant skin in out diet.The burnt bits are great for your worm farm or in your garden.Then you take your favourite knife and again with the evil thoughts chop it up for 1 min and 28 seconds ( not really, but it’s good to put random times to see if the people are really reading). We need it roughly chopped and in a mixing bowl
Capsicum red is nice-1/4 /50 g chopped evenly please this time .. everything can’t be rustic
spring onion green and white -2 / 40-50 g washed well and chopped
Parsley flat leaf/ Italian the curly stuff has no flavour- 1-2 sprigs chopped doesn’t have to be very fine but not very chunky ..
lemon juice – to give a hint of tartness ..U figure out how much you like
Extra virgin olive oil which has a good taste and aroma -2 T roughly
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic cloves -2 peeled and crushed really fine this time – this is good to do with the salt and the flat of your knife .
Cumin powder – 1 g / large pinch
Mix everything in a bowl , taste to see if you like it..arrange it neatly in a nice ceramic bowl and garnish / drizzle with some pomegranate molasses just a little because this can be quite acidic/ tart and some more Ev olive oil. No irritating foams and gels here , this is food which is heart warming not just fancy pants impress the Jones kind.
eat with bread of some kind, pita bread triangles to scoop it up ,or foccacia or khubz Afghani / which is like pide bread topped with sesame seeds.You can find bread recipes here or make one which you have used before..
All of mine do work .They might not be the prettiest buttons in the box but they certainly work .No filters, no Dramas or pretty faces in the background.
I first ate shawarma or kebab/ doner as it is also called in Dubai ,in 2000 when I’d moved from Madras ( yeah was still called Madras then).There were a few places which used to sell Shawarma and the better amongst them was the Lebanese village / bistro , which unfortunately no longer exists . So for those who don’t know the Shawarma has come from the Ottoman Empire and each country from the Levant region proclaims that their version makes the bestest version.
So we have lots of chicken / layered with the skin on on a vertical spit/ thick skewer which either slowly rotates or is rotated by hand so each side gets heated and then is sliced of so you get thin slices of cripsy ( no it’s not a typo)chicken and some soft bits ..which then goes in a warm pita bread/ khaboos which is like a wrap but better tasting , a smear of garlic sauce( toom), sliced tomato( panadura in Arabic ), some mint( Nana), some pickled cucumber or pink turnips( don’t ask me why pink, they use beets apparently), and soggy french fries,
Chicken boneless skin on 1kg..this is important, we need the fat from the skin to melt out and keep the meat juicy.if you can get only legs that’s even better, they can stay better with the intense heat..
White vinegar 50ml
Orange juice from 1orange
Clove powder Pinch.
Cinnamon powder -1tsp
Sliced raw onion 100gm
Green cardamom 2-3
Chicken stock powder 2gm
Mix all marinade ingredients and bash the chicken a bit to make all the ingredients penetrate better . In any case it needs to sit for a few days to to make it better..the vinegar almost half cooks the chicken..in most of the levantine countries they use a spice mix called Baharat shawarma, but you are better off making your own.
Next keep in the fridge well covered otherwise everything is going to smell of the spices and stuff.
Fast forward to day 3.. if you are stressed for time , atleast keep it overnight . Cook in the oven with a roasting pan lined with baking paper ( listen to me, it makes clean up simpler). Temp 200 C for 20-.move it around after about 15 mins ..and allow to rest in oven after turning it off.
then shred it up when cooler and roll up in the pita ( you can make your own, if you are slightly cuckoo like me), or go help your brother in need buy buying his pita bread in the packet , with all the paraphernalia i mentioned before..
chick peas dry- soak overnight with a pinch of baking soda- 200 gms
fresh parsley- few sprigs – enough to make the mixture nice and green and give it a burst of flavour
fresh peeled garlic cloves – 4 nos.
lemon juce- from 1 lemon
salt – to taste
white onion peeled- 1 no
sesame seeds- about 2 tsp/10 gms
now drain the chickpeas, and grind to a semi smooth paste, without any water,(ok maybe 20 ml or so) but with the onion, parsley, and the garlic. add in the lemon juice, the sesame seeds and season with salt.
form into about 20 gm patties and deep fry till browned and cooekd through.
serve with tahina sauce (tahina thinned down with some natural yoghurt ) called taratoor sauce in lebanon/syria
This is the one served with ouzi or the arabic styled roasted lamb.its really aromatic and flavourful.
Our lebanese chef Ibrahim Hadla, would make this really well and i learnt how to do it by watching him.After that i would usually make this for 900 odd people on New years eve buffet.!! in a huge 300 ltrs tilting braising pan.Now i know you might not have that at home so this is modified to suit your home kitchen.
you will need
lamb mince- 200 gms
onion chopped- 1 no / 150 gms
garlic- 2-3 cloves chopped
baharat powder- 1/2 teaspoon ( you can make this one at home and use for shawarma etc, needs cinnamon, cloves, some green cardamom and some pepper, quite strong on the cloves)
cinnamon powder as well again -1//4 tsp
black pepper powder-1/4 tsp
Gum arabic/ gundar/ gond/mistika – 1/4 tsp- pounded with some rock salt to a fine powder
Basmati rice- 250 gms soaked in cold water and washed well.
Saffron strands- 1/4 gm or less- toast in microwave for 15 seconds and soak with water first
oil+Butter mix-25 ml
heat oil and add onions and garlic, lightly brown and then add the mince, which has to be really well browned and caramelised.
then add the spice powders and stir fry even more. add bayleaf and the rice and continue to stir fry till the rice is well coated with the mince and the oil . that will make the rice grains quite separate and nice when the mix has cooked.add in the gum arabic powder.
Add in enough hot stock or water (you can add some chicken stock powder to cheat) to cover the rice and a little more still.
Top with the saffron which you must have soaked in a little water.(what you dint know that?.Then get out of here).
cover with a lid for about 10-12 minutes on a low heat .
Serve with roasted lamb as an accompaniment.you can top the rice with fried almonds, cashew, pistachio ..
For this delicious and sometimes gassy levantine dip you need chick peas, tahina(sesame seed paste),garlic, lemon juice or citric acid.and olive oil to top it off.
salt- to taste.
soak the chickpeas overnight with soda bicarb and plenty of water. the next day the soaking and soda will have softened the skins of the chickpeas.
These then should be drained and washed very thoroughly. Put it with some fresh water and cook, for really very long. Chef ibrahim hadla, would famously take one chickpea and throw it on the wall. it should be cooked so much that it will stick to the wall.
after they are cooked till really soft and mushy. drain and wash these very well in water.let them soak in a bowl of cold water and let the skins float on top.take these skins off and discard.
Then you need a good food processor.like a food chopper, moulinex or any similar ones. at work we used one called robot coupe, which is the Mercedes Benz of food processors. start to blend .also add a few crushed ice cubes to the mix or really chilled water about 20 mls or so..
this will make the mixture very light and airy and fluffy.add in the tahina and garlic,salt and lemon juice.it should be slightly garlickly , and lemony, but most importantly very very creamy and smooth.
arrange in a flat- ish sort of dish nd then top it with some fruity good quality olive oil, and enjoy with pita bread.
this can be topped with toasted pine nuts or small cubes of lamb/ beef sauteed with onions garlic and some lemon juice as well.
Sahten as they say in arabic, or Bon appetit.
Dedicated to le petit fleur de liban!!!! god how much we laughed when chef ibrahim used to say that.
stories of foods from the world over, laced with a hint of sarcasm and some black humour, its not for everyone, but then never was meant to be..