Until just a few weeks ago, the words ‘Lebanese food,’ left me scratching my head searching for something remotely Arabic, other than Hummus. To my mind, hummus was a dip for Italian breadsticks and not much more, but after spending just a few hours getting to grips with the waitressing service at Amoul’s Lebanese Restaurant on Warwick Avenue, I was converted for life.
What surprised me the most was how fresh and healthy all the food was, as Amoul’s serves mostly organic food, prime cuts of meat, and ingredients shipped in from Lebanon by Amoul’s own family members.
Lebanese food varies from fresh and filling salads bursting with flavour, to warm wholesome homemade stews, and fresh curried fish.
During my first shift I ate the owner’s mother’s recipe for a type of chicken stew strongly infused with cinnamon, and served on a platter of perfectly steamed white rice.
From the salad bar, I also received a variety of take home treats, such as Tabouleh, which my boyfriend, who does his best to avoid vegetables at all costs, ate enthusiastically and went back for more. Needless to say Tabouleh has come up in many a conversation since!
I have yet to sample the Baba Ghannouj, a difficult and debated spelling from the Arabic language, but being a huge fan of aubergines in any form, I shall return to sate my appetite! That being said here are some of my favourites for your delectation.
To make a nice large pot of Baba Ghannouj, take 2 large aubergines and bake in a medium oven for about 30 minutes until the skin on the outside has gone crispy, but the inside is soft.
Leave the aubergines out to cool for 20 minutes, before scooping out the insides and letting them drain in a colander for a few minutes to get rid of the water.
Throw in a crushed clove of garlic, 1/3 cup of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of Tahini sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 teaspoons of olive oil. You can then mash by hand or put the mixture in a food processor, depending on how chunky or smooth you prefer your Baba Ghannouj.
Finally garnish your Baba Ghannouj with a splash of lemon juice and a little olive oil, and serve with toasted pita or warmed flatbread.
I like to refer to this as the lunchtime meatball, a vegetarian option perfect for popping in a wrap or tossing over some salad for a light but tasty snack during the day.
Simply fry off some onions and garlic in a little olive oil, tip into a bowl of washed chickpeas (roughly one can) with some coriander and cumin, and mash with a fork.
Add parsley and mixed herbs, followed by one beaten egg, which you must use to mould the mixture together. Make little balls from the mixture and flatten them slightly, before frying on a medium heat for three minutes on each side.
Finally we come to Tabouleh, my boyfriend’s only preferred salad. Tabouleh is simply couscous prepared with finely chopped vine ripened tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, fresh parsley and lemon zest.
Over the top, you should drizzle a mixture made up of six tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of lemon juice, one crushed garlic clove and some salt.