Hot Days and Chilled Yoghurt Soup.

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It’s too hot. It’s too humid and we’ve definitely over-indulged over the last few weeks.

Oh by the way…Happy New Year to everyone…

Just about everyone around me ate and drank too much and I know this because I ate and drank right along side them.

My family celebrate on Christmas Eve. All my siblings with their families and some friends that have become part of the family head over to my mum and dad’s around 7ish where there is always too much food.

We spend the night singing (out of tune) way too loudly, we dance way too wildly and we laugh like a bunch of lunatics, and would never change any of it for anything. This year was extra special because my sister, niece and nephew arrived from New Zealand at 7ish on Christmas Eve and are here for the holidays.

I only wish I had some photos to share with you of our crazy night. Maybe next year….

Anyway, too much food and wine time is over for a little while. Time to give the old body some healthy and that’s where this delicious and disgustingly healthy and cooling soup comes in.

Cold Yoghurt and Cucumber Soup with mint and garlic. It’s perfect as an entrée or served with Riz (rice and egg noodle pilaf. Check out the link for the recipe) or grilled lamb or just in a big bowl as it is.

You’ll need:-

350g natural Greek style yoghurt

1 large clove of garlic – crushed

2 lebanese cucumbers – either sliced or diced

some fresh mint leaves – finely chopped

250 ml icy cold water

salt to taste

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Now here’s the really hard bit..whisk together the yoghurt and water in a big bowl then stir in the rest of the stuff and serve.

Perfect…

Enjoy…

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Pickled Turnip

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Wow. It sure has been a while since I’ve posted on The Cookbook Guru but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping up with all the contributions that have been added over the past couple of months. It’s always great to see how recipes are interpreted and shared.

For October we’ve been offered Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf as The Cookbook Guru’s book of the month.

What an amazing book. A kind of modern twist on some of the foods I grew up on. I’m looking forward to a lot of the recipes in this book and though I can say I will try to follow the recipes as they are written, you and I both know I won’t. For instance:

Pickled Turnips

4 turnips

1 beetroot

2 1/2 Tblsp salt

boiling water

white vinegar

(The recipe also calls for peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves but instead I added a few fresh red chillis which is the way my mother makes them.)

IMG_1450 Trim and wash the turnips and beetroot. Cut them in half then in wedges or batons then mix them together and place them in a sterilized jar

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Dissolve the salt in about 500ml boiling water.

Fill 1/3 of the jar with vinegar then top up with salted water to cover the turnips. Seal and turn the jar upside down a couple of times to make sure everything is mixed.

Store in a cupboard for about 5-7 days to allow the turnips to pickle. Once opened store in the fridge.IMG_1453IMG_1455

We serve these pickles as part of a mezza or as an accompaniment to just about any savoury dish. I love them best in a falafel roll. Yum.

As always…

Enjoy…

Homemade Lebanese Bread

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So here’s the deal. I went for my walk this morning with the idea of stopping off at the shops afterwards and picking up a couple of things for tonight’s dinner. Sounds reasonable right? I thought it was.

Three different shops I stopped at didn’t have fresh Lebanese bread though they usually do.

Home I trudge with the things I did manage to purchase and the thought that I’d just have to go back out later to the bakery two suburbs over and buy my bread. The thing is I got lazy so instead decided to make my own. That’s right….I’m never too lazy to bake.

Well I found myself a recipe and am now very pleased with myself.

What you’ll need:-

2 cups bakers flour

1 1/2 tsp dried yeast

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

1 3/4 cup warm water (not hot)

What to do with the the above ingredients:-

Put them all into a big bowl (if you’re not sure your yeast is good, blend it with the water, salt and sugar and leave it for 10 minutes until it is frothy. If it isn’t frothy, my friend, you need to buy yeast). Mix all together then knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Put in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm draft free place to prove for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. (I use the oven)

After the dough has doubled in size cut into 4 or 6 equal portions (depending on if you prefer big or small bread) and shape into balls. Drape the plastic wrap over the portions and leave to rest 20 minutes more.

Turn the oven on to the hottest it will go and make sure one of the shelves is in the middle.

Take one portion of dough at a time and roll out very thinly, 0.5mm. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 3 minutes, turn over cook 1 minute more.Image

I cooked one at a time but if you have a bigger oven than I do (which wouldn’t be hard) do more.

The best part is watching the dough puff up. Maybe that’s just me…

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Anyway… I’m very happy with how they came out. I think even mum would be…

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By the way dinner was Koussa ma’hshi, which I posted a recipe for a few months ago. Take another look.

Enjoy…

Kafta bi Saneah (baked Kafta)

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Most people now know what kafta is, and the many ways of cooking it.

It can come as skinless sausages, on skewers or not, which are grilled or barbecues and traditionally served with hummus and salad.  That’s a very popular to have it.

I’m baking it with potato, onion and tomato. The mix prepared the same way but instead of forming it into sausages we spread it onto a deep baking dish, add veggies and tomato and serve with rice, or riz.

We had a barbecue a couple of Sundays ago at mum and dads for mum’s and my Birthday. Menu choice was ours. I love barbecues. Our choice was lamb kebabs with hummus, Kafta sausages and loads of veggies, large portabello mushrooms, sliced zucchini and eggplant. We had great weather and the whole family was there to eat and have cakes. What a fantastic day.

Anyway...Kafta bi Saneah….

In a bowl mix together:

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250g lean beef or lamb mince

1 small brown onion – finely diced

1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley – finely chopped

1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, 14 tsp ground cumin.

Spread 1 tsp olive oil over the bottom of a deep oven proof dish and press the kafta mix evenly over it. Slice 1 small onion into 5mm thin slices and place on top with 1 large potato that’s been sliced into 8mm rounds.Image Pour over 400g canned diced tomato with the juice and enough water to cover the potato. Give it all another small sprinkle of salt and pepper and bake at 200c for about 60 minutes or until the potato is cooked.

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Serve with Riz (see Bazella post for Riz recipe) and if you like, a little natural yoghurt.

Perfect.

Enjoy…

Lahme B’Ajeen (Lebanese Pizza)

image This is a go to recipe when I’m running a little short on time or when I feel like a pizza without wanting an actual cheesy pizza. I found these pitta breads in my local butcher of all places. They’re perfect for this dish. You’ll need :-Image 400g lean minced beef 1 medium onion – finely diced 2 medium tomatoes – finely diced Salt, pepper, cinnamon (to taste) Pitta or Lebanese bread. In a bowl mix together the beef, onion, tomato and seasonings. (Mum adds finely chopped flat leaf parsley too but I didn’t have any. Still tastes great though. Image Spread the mix evenly over the bread and grill until brown and cooked. Yes, that simple. Serve with a salad or a plate of spring onion, radish and lots of lemon. Chilli sauce is great squeezed on them too. EnjoyImage

Koussa Ma’hshi (stuffed marrows or Lebanese zucchini)

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This one was very difficult to write. I’ve made Koussa dozens of times but every time I made it,  the weights were wrong and I’d end up with heaps of filling left over. I believe I’ve got it right this time.

Koussa Ma’hshi is a family favourite. Growing up it was always served with vineleaves stuffed with the same filling. Mum would make the filling and stuff the zucchini while I rolled the vineleaves.

There was never a shortage of vineleaves thanks to the vine in mum and dad’s backyard. All spring and summer you could find us outside picking the leaves, laying them flat on top of each other and storing them in the freezer. Things haven’t changed much over the years either, except now you’ll also find my husband outside picking them as well.

During summer the vine covers alot of the yard and provides a wonderful canopy. Perfect place for barbecue lunches.

We use a tool called a manakra which is a kind of long thin apple corer to hollow out the zucchini. You’ll find a manakra in most Middle Eastern food stores. I’ve seen it written that you can core the zucchini with the handle of a long spoon, but I’ve yet to try it.koussa 2

For this dish you’ll need:-  8 medium (10 – 15 cm long) Lebanese zucchini

4 large cloves garlic – finely chopped

1/2 medium brown onion – finely diced

150g long grain rice (rinsed well)

250g canned diced tomato

200g lean beef mince

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp each ground black pepper and ground cinnamon.

juice of 1 large lemon

Cut the stalks off the zucchini. Carefully hollow out the fleshy inside making sure not to poke any holes through the skin. Rinse well with cold water, and allow to drain while you prepare the filling.

In a bowl mix well the garlic, onion, rice, tomato, mince, salt, pepper and cinnamon.

Stuff the zucchinis with the filling, and arrange in a medium saucepan.

Sprinkle a little salt over the zucchini, invert a plate to fit over them and cover completely with water.

Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 45 – 50 minutes or until the zucchini are tender.

Serve warm with a little of the cooking liquid and some lemon juice.

The filling amounts should stuff 8 zucchini but I only did 6, so with the left overs I defrosted some vineleaves and rolled them up with the filling inside.koussa 4

Yum

Enjoy…

Mjadra (Lentil and Rice Pilaf)

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Yet another Lebanese Lentil dish. I did say we love lentils in this house.

I cooked a corn beef on Monday night, then made fritters out of left overs yesterday and then corn beef and mustard pickle sandwiches for lunch today. We are all corn beefed out. A quick SMS to my husband and tonight’s dinner is decided.

Healthy, vegan and delicious – Mjadra….

Here’s what you’ll need :-

1/2 cup green lentils

1 cup brown rice

1 1/2 large brown onions

2tbs olive oil

salt and pepper

2 1/2 cups water

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Rinse the lentils then put in a medium saucepan. Pour over  cups cold water, cover and bring to the boil. Once boiling turn heat down to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile chop 3/4 of a large onion into large dice and gently fry in 2 tbs olive oil until soft and just starting to brown on the edges then throw them, along with the oil, in with the lentils.

After the lentils have had their 10 minutes, stir in the rice, season with plenty of salt and pepper,  cover and bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and leave to cook for 45 – 50 minutes or until the rice is cooked. (You can add a little more water if you think it needs it.)

When it’s done, turn the heat off and leave it covered while you thinly slice the rest of the onion and brown in 1 tbs olive oil with a sprinkle of salt. This is then served on top of the Pilaf.

We like this dish with a fresh tomato, onion and parsley salad and a spoonful of Greek yogurt.

Yum…

Enjoy…

Monks’ Soup – Lentil Soup with burghul dumplings. (Kibbet Rahib)

monk soup 5Meat overload yesterday.

Two birthdays were celebrated at my mum’s. Two very happy nieces.

As per our tradition, whoever is having a birthday gets to 1. Select the lunch menu,  and  2. Select their birthday cake.

My Saturday night was spent baking and decorating two very different cakes.I had a ball.

ImageImage                                                                                 For lunch, one niece chose barbecued chicken skewers and lamb chops while the other chose salmon sushi. (How’s that for variety?)

We had perfect cool but sunny weather, and very full bellies. However, there is always room for cake. Let me tell you now, my family is absolutely insane and we have the time of our lives when we get together.

So….after all that meat and rice and cake and sugar and coffee and conversation and laughter…it’s time for lentils and soup…

This one is traditionally eaten by Lebanese Christians during lent. It contains no meat or dairy. Our family eats it on the first day of lent while others will have it on Good Friday. I remember being in the kitchen helping my mum by stirring the big pot of soup while she put the little dumplings in.

As usual I’ve got to say, this recipe is very easy and delicious.

Make the dumplings by soaking 1/2 cup fine burghul (that’s been rinsed) in 3/4 cup cold water for about 30 minutes. The burghul will soak up all the water.

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Grate 1/2 a large onion (you’ll need the other half for the soup) and add it to the burghul with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground pepper and 3/4 cup plain wholemeal flour. You can also add a little finely chopped mint leaves to the mix (I actually remembered the mint too late! Oh well, for this particular batch I’ll be adding it to the soup at the end. It’s all good.)  Mix it all very well with your hands until you get a dough-like consistency. Keeping hands slightly wet, roll teaspoons of mix into little dumplings.Image Set aside while you start preparing the soup.

Rinse 1/2 cup brown lentils and put them in a large saucepan.Pour in 5 cups of cold water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are almost tender. In the meantime, dice the other half of your onion and cook in 2 tbs olive oil until starting to brown on the edges.

Once lentils are almost ready, pour in the cooked onion along with the oil. Now, gently lower the dumplings into the soup.Image Carefully stir them around, cover the pot and allow to very gently simmer for about 10 minutes while you crush 3-4 cloves garlic in a mortar and pestle with 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, the juice of half a lemon and 1/2 tsp dried mint leavesImage (this is extra mint, not the lot I forgot to add to the dumplings….).

After the 10 minutes, add the garlic and mint mix to the soup, stir, cover and leave to simmer for another 15 minutes.

We serve this with lots of toasted Lebanese Bread.

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Perfect.

Enjoy…

Bazella (pea, mince and tomato casserole)

Here’s another Lebanese dish.

This was a last minute meal, when mum didn’t have time to cook something long and slow.

It seemed that it was on the stove one minute and in our plates the next. Mum was always good at doing that. Most of us have left home now, so she has a lot more time to slow things down and really enjoy cooking.

We all still get together at mum and dads for lunch most Sundays. During the week mum will phone around and ask for lunch requests. There are so many of us, the menu can be very different from one week to the next, depending on who has chosen lunch for us all.

The dining table has more than doubled since we all lived at home, what with partners and kids and sometimes friends. It can get very loud and chaotic, but we wouldn’t have it any other way….

This is a slightly slower cooked version of mums bazella  –image

In a medium saucepan gently heat 2 tablespoons olive oil then add 1 diced medium onion and 5 or 6 cloves chopped garlic and stir for about 2-3 minutes or until onion starts to soften. Add 200g lean beef mince and stir it into the onion and garlic mix, squashing any clumps of meat. Keep going until the meat has browned. Season with salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.image

Add 200g tinned diced tomato and about 1/2 cup of water. Cover and leave to simmer for  30 minutes, then throw in 200g frozen green peas, stir, cover, and let simmer for a further 20 minutes.

Now, this is served with rice, or in Lebanese, Riz, which has egg noodle vermicelli added to it.image

In a small saucepan melt 30g butter with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. Crush 1 nest or 50g vermicelli egg noodles into saucepan and stir constantly until brown (careful, once they start to colour they darken very quickly and can burn, so keep stirring them). Add 200g rinsed long grain rice, 1 teaspoon salt and continue stirring for 1 minute coating every rice grain with butter. Carefully pour in 450g (nearly 2 cups) water (watch out for the steam), stir, cover tightly and leave for 20 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through.

Turn heat off and leave covered for another 10 minutes.

Serve some Riz with the bazella and some lemon wedges on the side (lemon juice makes this dish even more amazing).image

Enjoy…

Lentil and Pasta soup (rishta)

imageWell, the sun’s finally found its way out of the clouds.  It’s been two weeks since we’ve seen it, and its pretty glorious. Still cool though. Went for a very long walk today. Feeling very healthy. Thought I’d keep with that theme by making a healthy and hearty soup.

Yep, lentils again. This is a great winter warmer. And doesn’t take much time or effort to make.

Rinse 3/4 cup of brown lentils. Put them in a medium saucepan and pour over 1 litre of cold water. Bring this to the boil, lower the heat, cover and leave to simmer. In the meantime, dice a medium brown onion and fry in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.image Once the onions have some colour to them, pour them over the lentils, cover saucepan again and leave to simmer for 40 minutes.

While that’s happening, make a little fresh pasta.  In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup plain flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil, pinch salt, and about 2 tablespoons water to form a dough. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then roll out very thinly into a long rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Dust with flour and fold or roll up loosely from the long edge. Cut into strips about 1/2 cm thick, then carefully unfold them.image

Gently lower the pasta into the lentils and onion, stir to separate the strands. imageSeason with salt and pepper. Take off the heat, cover, allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Yes, it’s that easy……

Enjoy……