Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Little Foodies Arabia - Lebanon

In the book Arabesque, Claudia Roden explains why Lebanese cuisine is so well known. Representative of food throughout the Middle East, often when a Syrian restaurant opens in London it calls itself a Lebanese Restaurant. This is possibly because most people will have heard of Lebanese food but she puts this down to the Lebanese being great entrepreneurs, making the best of their food heritage, and they were first people in the Middle East to develop a restaurant trade which spread to Europe and the rest of the world in the 70's and 80's. Both books (edited to include links to Amazon so you can see what I'm talking about), Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf and Arabesque make fascinating reading.

Sambousek Bi Jibne - Little Puff Pastry Cheese Pies
Taken from Claudia Roden's Arabesque. I halved the recipe as didn't want 32 pies. If you want the full recipe and instructions then please refer to the book. Below is what we used.

250g puff pastry, flour for rolling out, beaten egg for brushing the pies prior to cooking.
For the filling: 125g mozzarella, 125g feta, 1 egg (beaten)

I took the pastry out of the fridge about an hour before we used it.
Blend the mozzarella in a mini food processor. With a fork mash the feta in a bowl. Add the blended mozzarella and mix together using the fork. Add the beaten egg and mix well.
Heat the oven to 200C.
Roll out the pastry very thinly on a floury surface. It's easier if you cut the pastry in two and work with them separately. (We cut out an even number of medium size hearts and then larger circles using a cereal bowl.)
For the circles place a spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Dab water around the edges of the pastry with your finger. Then fold over the pastry to make a half moon shape, matching up the sides and press down firmly to create a seal. Transfer to a baking tray.
The hearts needed a top and a bottom. If you're doing shapes that need a top and a bottom then put a little of the filling in the middle of your shape, dab water around the edges of the pastry with your finger, then place the top pastry over the filling, making sure that the edges match up with the bottom. Press the edges firmly together to make a seal. Transfer to a baking tray.
You can use a fork to press around the outside. Beat an egg then brush the tops . Bake in the oven for approximately 12-20 minutes until puffed up and golden.
Some of the filling spilled out on a few but we just trimmed them off to neaten them up a bit.

120g bulgar wheat
Half a large red onion, peeled and VERY finely chopped
Approximately 8 medium size tomatoes, finely chopped
Large bunch of flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped
Bunch of mint, washed and chopped
Juice of two lemons
6 tablespoons of olive oil

Cook the bulgar wheat in a pan of 600ml of boiling water for 15 minutes, pour into a sieve then rinse with cold water. Let it sit to drain as much as possible. When ready to use, squeeze out any excess water by pushing down in the sieve.
In a separate bowl mix the red onion, tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper then when ready to serve add the bulgar wheat and mix thoroughly. (I forgot the flat leaf parsley this time and it was still good so if you're not a mint fan it doesn't matter, add whatever you like).

I just wasn't in the mood for following a recipe so we made our own slow cooked lamb dish using flavours inspired from the Middle East.
Pomegranate and Red Pepper Slow Roasted Lamb
Approx 700g diced lamb
1 tin chopped tomatoes (and water to fill the tin)
1 large onion peeled and chopped or two small
1/2 an onion peeled and chopped
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 roasted red pepper from a jar
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses
1 heaped teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of oil for frying
Small handful of chopped fresh coriander to add on serving

Turn the oven to approx 175C, medium heat.
In a mini blender/processor add the pomegranate molasses, smoked paprika, lime juice, roast red pepper, ground cumin, garlic and the half of an onion. Blitz to a fine paste.
In a large heavy bottomed pan gently fry the large onion. Move to one side and add the lamb to brown. When the lamb is browned add the paste from the blender, let it bubble for a couple of minutes, keep stirring. Add the tinned tomatoes, fill the empty tin with water and then swill this around the blender to get the last bits of paste out then tip into the pan. Bring to the boil then cook in a medium heat oven for approximately 2 hours. Just before serving add the fresh coriander and stir through.
We served this with the Tabbouleh above. It got very big thumbs up from all!

Strawberry Jam Tarts with rose water and orange blossom water
Now these would have been a triumph if I hadn't totally messed up by putting too much jam in. Also I should have used shortcrust pastry and not puff but I was trying to be economical and use up the puff pastry from the cheese puff pies... Oh well. they still tasted great and as Little said 'Minus infinity looks but top tasting'.
I wont bother with a recipe, all I did was add a few drops of rose water and orange blossom water to some jam, mixed it up well then filled some pastry cases. You can see the disastrous results below. I like to show you my mistakes too!

There will be more Arabian inspired food later in the week.


Sylvie said...

Wow, you've been busy in that kitchen of yours. What a great looking meal, I especially love your heart-shaped cheese pies.

Asha said...

You won't believe this Amanda! I made Lebanese Lentil soup and Khoubiz to go with it this week planning to post at FH next week for an event!:D
WOW! What a great looking dessert, love Bulgur salad, so full of Parsley and Lemon juice, yum!:))

Joanna said...

I'm so interested in what you say about Claudia Roden's midddle eastern books. I have a copy of Arabesque, which is wonderful, as you say, and also her book of Jewish food, which is a work of extraordinary scholarship. But not Saha, I'm afraid there's too much repetition (that's certainly true of a couple of her Italian books which I have) ... do you think they are both worth having? Or is one enough?

Love the look of your little cheese pies


ames said...

Oh my gosh, that lamb!!! I'm drooling...

Margaret said...

I look forward to seeing more Arabian food.
Recipes that say for 32 pies is a little OTT don't you think.
Pleased to see you have your foodblogging feet back again. Mx

glamah16 said...

I love Lebanesefood. Its the tastiest! My father went to University in Beirut so I learned to apppreciate it at a young age. All of it looks great, but I'mpartial this morning to those flaky cheese puffs!

Pat said...

Welcome back Amanda!!! Hope you are feeling lots better. The recipes look really yummy!!!!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hy Sylvie, it's our anniversary so it was all about heart shapes...

Hi Asha, I'll be looking out for those.

Hi Joanna, sorry I should have made it clearer. I wrote about Saha the day before, it's by Greg and Lucy Malouf I'll update the post. It's a really great book.

Hi Ames, thank you for stopping by, the lamb was really good, leftovers the next day even better.

Hi Margaret, thank you, it's good to have my feet back again.

Hi Glamah16, thank you, the cheese puffs were great. Small wasn't so keen on them though.

Hi Pat, thank you, I spent the whole of yesterday cooking - it was really nice to feel enthusiastic about cooking again.

Thank you for your comments.
Amanda x

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wow, what a come back spread!
I'm wild to try the cheese pies - uh not 32!
And oh goodness those jam tarts ...

Marie said...

Glad to see you back posting Amanda! I have missed you! I trust you're feeling better now. I love those little pastries. Wow, they look good, but then it all does!

Peabody said...

Cheese pies? Sign me up!

joanna said...

I've been wanting this book forever - and now I want it even more! I'm definitely going to try the cheese pastries.

And by the way, I really love this 'around the world' idea of yours!

Great Big Veg challenge said...

I am glad that you are feeling a little better - hope your recovery continues.
These dishes look delightful - and my children love Lebanese food so we will be trying them out.

Baking Soda said...

I love lebanese food! I'm on the lookout for Arabesque too... hope to get it somewhere for a nice price.
The pastries would go down here easily (all 32 of them I'm afraid ;-D)

Andrea said...

Those sambousas look so delicious! I love good Lebanese food, they make the BEST hummus!

Kelly-Jane said...

I've been so wanting to try those cheese pastries from Arabesque, and they look gorgeous! As does everything else. Looking forward to more Arabian travels :)


Deborah said...

I'm thinking I need to visit Lebanon now! Yum!

Nora B. said...

Hi Amanda,
Look at you! You seems to be back in full blog swing, so to speak. Fantastic! I hope to do the same soon. Thanks for your words of support. I am dusting the cobwebs and will be back in regular action pretty soon, I can feel it!

xx nora

p/s: are you still seeing the physio? If so, hope that it's going well.

ChichaJo said...

So happy to see you and your brood back with your cooking (and eating!) around the world! :) And what delicious dishes you are whipping up! I have seen both Arabesque and Saha and both a such gorgeous books...and both on my wishlist :) I have tried Roden's recipes from Vogue E+T though and they turned out great!

Can't wait to read more of your Arabian adventures :)

KJ said...

I love middle eastern food. It all looks so good. I could really do with one of those cheese pies right now.

Jeena said...

Wonderful, I love Arabic food especially Lebanese cuisine. Great post. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi, This sounds wonderful, I would I love it. Keep cooking, I'm sure little and small will really enjoy everything you do and also the experience of helping. They will certainly be every girls dream when they grow up. Just think, a man who can really cook and not just beans on toast. Love Mxxx

katiez said...

You had a busy day!
I'm afraid my mind fixated on those cheese-filled hearts! Mozzarella and feta together? Heaven in a puff. Bet the kiddies loved them.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Tanna, Definitely not 32!

Hi Marie, I'm feeling fit and healthy.

Hi Peabody, you're signed up!

Hi Joanna, We'd like to do it for real.

Hi GBVC, We're with you on that.

Hi Baking Soda, have you tried ebay?

Hi Andrea, we're going to make hummus this week.

Hi Kelly-Jane, give them a try, they're really good and great in packed lunches too.

Hi Deborah, certainly very tasty food.

Hi Nora, I've found a trained physio/pilates instructor. Finally going to be properly fit!

Hi Joey, they're both beautiful books.

Hi KJ, we love it too!

Hi Jeena, thank you

Hi Mum, thankfully we've got a good few years before we need to be worrying about girlfriends.

Hi Katie, it was busy but so good to be back in the kitchen for a good few hours.

Thank you all very much for your comments.
Amanda x

Culinary Cowgirl said...

Lovely...must make the cheese pies...they would be a great light meal with a side salad.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi CC, you're right. We had them the following day with salad and they were great. I have to admit I'd skipped lunch the day after that so I had one as an afternoon snack heated in the microwave with a little brown sauce on the side - that was really good too.

Amanda x


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