Cooking class – Lebanese treats
Last night I had the privilege of fronting a cooking class for a great group of people. We made, and then demolished, a Lebanese feast.
The class was held at Benchmark Stainless steel in Tuggerah. The owner there, Dean, donates his wonderful kitchen and dining area as well as his time for these classes. Paul from Soul Food Central runs the show, and also donates his time. Both men are committed Coasties and all-round good guys. All proceeds from the night go to Coast Shelter, a wonderful facility in Gosford which helps vulnerable people with a wide range of services - not the least of which is feeding them. For tonight’s class I am making a range of my favourite Lebanese dishes. When I say I am making them, I mean that I am talking about them and cracking the whip on Paul who has bravely agreed to be my commis chef tonight.
On the menu are baba ghanouj (a beautiful smoky eggplant dip); labne (a thick creamy yoghurt dip); flatbread; and marinated lamb skewers, fattoush and toum (white garlic sauce) with recipes for those below.
It was a great night. The intimate setting (only 8 in the class) means that there is a great opportunity for interaction between everybody. With drinks flowing freely and a feast at the end of the lesson, these monthly classes are great value. Look out next month for Colin Fassnidge (Four in Hand, My Kitchen Rules) as he’ll be taking the class. Be sure to look at Paul’s website for more information.
Lebanese lamb skewers
The longer the meat for these can marinate, the stronger the flavours. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking it.
Prep time: 20 minutes plus marinating time Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 4-6 as a main or 12 as part of a shared table
1 x 2kg leg of lamb, diced 3cm (your butcher might do this for you)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Zest and juice of ½ a lemon
Soak 16 bamboo skewers in cold water (alternatively you can use metal BBQ skewers).
Combine the lamb with the olive oil, garlic, black pepper and lemon zest in a snap-lock bag or large bowl. Refrigerate for at least half an hour, the longer the better.
Heat the BBQ or a grill plate to a high heat. Thread the lamb cubes on the skewers and BBQ, turning regularly, until nicely charred on the outside but still pink in the middle.
Serve with toum, flatbread or rice and fattoush.
This is a traditional Middle Eastern salad – vibrant, fresh and lovely, with the crunch of toasted Lebanese bread..
Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment
1 round Lebanese bread
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Lebanese cucumbers, seeded and finely diced
1 punnet of very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (or 3 ripe tomatoes seeded and chopped)
½ bunch radish, finely diced
1 green capsicum, seeded and finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
½ bunch mint, coarsely chopped
½ bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper (a pinch each)
Preheat oven 180°C (160°C fan forced) and brush the Lebanese bread evenly with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp. Cool completely and crumple in your hands into pieces.
Combine the rest of the salad ingredients and place onto a serving platter or bowl.
Whisk lemon juice and oil together and season with salt and pepper.
Just before serving, drizzle over ¾ of the dressing and toss to mix well. Scatter over toasted bread and finish with remaining dressing. Serve immediately.
Most Toum recipes require the oil to be added in a thin stream, creating an emulsion, similar to the making of mayonnaise. But this method is far faster and easier, and I get great results every time.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
Prep time – 5 minutes Cooking time – n/a
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 pinch salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg white
1 cup neutral oil (such as rice bran oil)
Place all the ingredients in a tall, narrow jug or cup. The ones that come with most hand-held stick blenders are perfect. Place the stick blender in the very bottom of the jug and turn it on. Leave the stick mixer going at the bottom of the cup until the mixture starts to turn white and fluffy. Slowly, draw the blender upwards. By the time the blended reaches the top of the mixture it will be white, fluffy and ready to eat!