Tuck into these beautiful dishes from Lebanon, from mezze to fragrantly sweet dishes.

Sugar and spice and all things nice: that’s what Lebanese flavours are made of. Ranking amongst the healthiest cuisines in the world, it packs in big yet delicate flavours, and chiefly involves whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood – and a hearty helping of headily aromatic fragrance. At a time when eschewal (or at least reduction) of meat seems increasingly imperative for the preservation of the planet, it is all the more vital to explore diets which show off vegetarian or pescatarian ingredients to their best advantage. And whilst there are, of course, carnivorous dishes to explore, the country’s vegetarian food often involves the liberal use of lemon, olive oil and garlic; in short, just the way we like it. Mezze is a way of life in Lebanon, allowing guests to dip in and share; in our books, the most convivial way of breaking bread. Check out our eight favourite Lebanese recipes.

Main image: One Arab Vegan

Vegan Pumpkin Kibbeh


One Arab Vegan


No round up of recipes from Lebanon could reasonably start any other way than with kibbeh. The national dish, it is an art form and, by all accounts, takes plenty of practice to perfect. It is, then, a good job that we’re dedicated to the cause of making and eating it again and again until we can claim mastery; the kibbeh should be crunchy rather than dry and the spicing must be flavoursome without being overwhelming. Though typically, it involves beef or lamb, we love this vegan version, which is made with pumpkin, chickpeas and walnuts. Whether you cook them as part of a mezze spread or as a nibble to be eaten with drinks, do make more than you think you’ll need; they’re unlikely to hang around for long. Find the recipe here.


Hummus


As Easy As Apple Pie


Hummus is a staple of the Lebanese diet that has incontestably crossed over into the British mainstream; in 2017, Brits consumed 12,000 tons of the chickpea-based dip. It is, of course, readily available to buy in any supermarket, but where’s the fun in that? Why not ditch the plastic container and make your own? As food blogger Elena Tomasi notes, it’s incredibly easy and tastier than the shop-bought alternative. Plus, this way, you can add as much lemon/ cumin/paprika as you want to taste. Find the recipe here.


Fattoush


Ela Vegan


We love a salad with a good bit of crunch. This is a zingier take on a classic Italian Panzanella; rather than using past-its-best crusty bread, fattoush is made using baked or fried pitta, while the freshness comes courtesy of the parsley, mint, olive oil and lemon – all cut through with pomegranate molasses. The perfect salad as part of a mezze spread or to accompany some grilled fish. Find the recipe here.


Cous Cous With Toasted Almonds


Delicious


We may still be riding the crest of high summer (no matter how varied the season has proved), but the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is but a few weeks away. And when it arrives, we intend to be prepared with a few healthy and delicious comfort dishes. This lovely warming and filling soup will definitely make our cut, thanks to its gingery and cinnamon spices, as well as its nutty toasted almonds. The kind of soup that you can feel doing you good as you slurp it up. Find the recipe here.


Tacos Al Pastor


Olive Magazine


This one is, we grant, a bit of a hybrid – but isn’t mixing food traditions one of the more joyful ways to discover some truly delicious flavours? This dish was devised by Lebanese immigrants who, having arrived in Mexico, teased out a new thread of culinary genius by combining the cooking style of shawarma with indigenous ingredients, such as chillies. This one does contain meat – in the form of pork here – but we could see this working well with halloumi as a replacement, if you’re so inclined. Find the recipe here.


Falafel


The Mediterranean Dish


If only all fast food were this delicious – and this good for you. At its heart, falafel is chickpeas, fresh herbs and spices made into patties. Suzy, the blogger behind the excellent The Mediterranean Dish, grew up in Egypt – also known for its falafel, and possibly even its birthplace – and really knows her stuff. So, the fact that she insists upon dry chickpeas means that, from this moment on, so do we. Follow her step-by-step guide, and then serve up, as she suggests, in a lovely warm pitta with plenty of salad. They’re freezable too, making falafel ideal for batch-cooking at the weekend and using throughout the week for a quick and healthy lunch. Find the recipe here.


Lebanese Rice Pudding


BBC


If rice pudding conjures to your mind bowls of congealed slop served up in the school canteen, think again. This Nigel Slater recipe shared on the BBC will turn that pre-conception on its head while offering up plenty of aromatic flavour into the bargain. The secret, as with so many fragrant Lebanese puddings, lies in the rosewater, rose petals and pistachios. Complex and comforting all at once. Find the recipe here.


Pistachio Slice


Delicious


Whether you serve these up for a teatime treat or after dinner as pudding, these slices – courtesy of Michael Rantissi – are a cast-iron crowd-pleaser. They also happen to be extremely easy to knock up, which is just the way we like it: minimal effort for maximum reward. Find the recipe here.


By Nancy Alsop
August 2021

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