Orange Blossom Cherry Clafoutis

"Would you like some clafoutis?" I ask a friend. He looks confused, perhaps running through his head the question in search of some sort of resolution. "Clafa-what?" he replies, looking nonplussed. I choose not to reply, because trying to explain myself with words would be an empty gesture. Instead I take out the dish of clafoutis and cut him a slice. He looks around it trying to make sense of what it is. "Are those...olives?" he asks in disbelief. "No. Cherries. Just eat,' I urge him on. I can see the sense of relief on his face. He likes it!

Is there a better feeling in the world than cooking something people enjoy? Most of my friends wouldn't really know what I was referring to when asking if they'd like some clafoutis. Infact they'd think I was insane and/or masquerading as an Adria brother or a Blumenthal. I mean...olives? But that could work...hopefully. This clafoutis was a little less adventurous, giving an oriental (in the original sense of the term) spin on a traditional French dessert. Unlike some recipes I've seen, I quite like a barely set centre. Overcooking this dessert is sin. I also pitted the cherries and let them marinade in an orange blossom mixture for a few hours. Anyway, here's the recipe.

300g cherries pitted
1 1/2 tablespoons orange blossom water
a swig of white wine vinegar
300ml milk
3 large eggs
80g caster sugar
60g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar for serving

Pit the cherries and place them in a bowl with 20 grams of sugar, the orange blossom water and the vinegar. Cover them and let them sit for a few hours. Lightly butter a baking dish and place the cherries at the bottom. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Beat the eggs and the remaining sugar together until pale. Add the milk, salt and vanilla extract. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for 30-40 minutes or until puffed and golden. Let it cool down before sprinkling the icing sugar on top and then it's ready to serve!

My Perfect Steak

This is my perfect steak. I was inspired by this Gordon Ramsay recipe to overindulge in my love of garlic and thyme infused meat. I know how popular it has become to criticise Gordon Ramsay but I think his recipes are both delicious and technically insightful. I changed some ingredients and parts of the method for preference but I still think the base recipe is sound. I won't say much more...because...well...

2x Aberdeen Angus sirloin steaks (300-400g each)
3-4 Cloves of garlic crushed
2 Sprigs of thyme
A few glugs of olive oil
A few drops of Thai fish sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper

50g Cocktail gherkins
1tbsp Capers finely chopped
1 Bunch flat-leaf parsley
7tbsp mayonnaise
splash of Worcestershire sauce
a few small shallots finely chopped

Sandwich Element
Sourdough or ciabatta bread
finely diced tomatoes

Mix all the ingredients for the steak element in a bowl and make sure the steaks are coated. Cover with cling film and marinade in the fridge for an hour or two. Take out the steaks half an hour before cooking. Heat up a griddle pan until smoking and cook the steaks two minutes on each side (without touching them during those two minutes). Take off the heat and cover with foil to let rest for a few minutes. Whilst the steak is resting, mix the ingredients for the sauce and taste (you might want to add more of one ingredient). Salt and pepper the steaks and carve if you want to put into sandwiches. Toast your bread and layer the sauce and meat on before serving. Perfect or what?

Moghrabieh: Part 2

So how does one alter the idea of what moghrabieh can do as an ingredient? One must seek inspiration from his stomach, of course. A few blog posts ago I said my gluttony was firmly skewed towards the savoury polar extreme and I'm here outing myself as a liar. I'm a glutton, nothing else. Sweet, savoury, bitter, sour...Absolutely anything. I'll try the vast majority of things for that new kick (balut excluded). I subscribe to Anthony Bourdain's philosophy - being a picky-eater is such a first-world luxury. But I guess you can argue that so is haute cuisine. Moderation is the key and we all know it. It's just hard to admit it.

In search of a sweet kick I went to the dark side. I used moghrabieh to make a dessert. I know, it doesn't sound right. But what's right, right? Anyway, the cherries were infused with Orange Blossom and the moghrabieh flavoured with vanilla and oranges. This was much more delicious than I'd anticipated but it possibly needs some tweaking. Any ideas? Maybe chocolate pieces?

handful of cherries
glug of orange blossom water
vanilla pod
one medium orange zested
two handfuls of moghrabieh
cream if you're feeling indulgent
sprig of mint to garnish

Remove the stones from the cherries and sprinkle with sugar and pour on the orange blossom water. Leave in the fridge for an hour before making the dessert. Initially place the moghrabieh and a glass or so of milk and the opened and scraped vanilla pod in a pan. Gently heat until the moghrabieh is nearly fully cooked and then add the cherries. You may need to add water to thin it out if it's getting too thick. Cook until the moghrabieh is tender. You might want to stir every two or three minutes. Turn off the heat when cooked and add the cream and orange zest. Serve in a bowl with the mint and voila!

Next up on this blog: something for the carnivores.

Moghrabieh: Part 1

Moghrabieh is a much underused Lebanese pantry ingredient that is similar to what is known as pearl couscous. Pearl couscous, or what is marketed under the name of Israeli couscous in the UK/US, has its roots in the Lebanese variety. But the Lebanese variety also has its roots in the original North African couscous hence the name moghrabieh or 'from the Maghreb' (Morrocco, Tunisia, Algeria). Unlike the North African ingredient, moghrabieh pearls are much more substantial which yields a different mouthfeel and texture that is more associated with pasta. In this two-part post I'll show you two recipes (relatively) exciting with moghrabieh. First up is the eponymous Lebanese classic.

roast chicken carcass
one medium onion
one large carrot
celery stick
a sprig of fresh thyme
enough water to cover the carcass
salt and pepper

moghrabieh element
two handfuls of moghrabieh
stock (variable - enough to cook the moghrabieh)
chicken (optional - if you have some left from the night before)
four or five shallots peeled
a can of chickpeas
1 teaspoon crushed caraway seeds
1/4-1/3 teaspoon baharat
additional salt and pepper if needed
grape molasses
butter (optional)


Place all the stock ingredients in a pan. Bring to a boil and let similar on a very low heat for an hour. Take off the heat and strain leaving just the liquid behind.

Moghrabieh element
Fry the whole shallots for 30 seconds in rapeseed oil in a deep frying pan. Take out and keep on the side. Fry the chickpeas in the same pan and then add the baharat and caraway seeds. Cook for 20 seconds and then add the moghrabieh. Add the stock and cook the moghrabieh until there is no resistance in the pearls when you bite into them (this could take quite a while, maybe up to 30mins). Add the shallots back in for the last five minutes to cook them through. You can add butter at the end if you want to further improve your consistency. Drizzle grape molasses on the side for effect and a sharp tang to counter the creamy, spiced moghrabieh. Voila!

Strawberry and Mint Choux Puffs

Choux pastry dough or pâte à choux is probably one of the most important recipes to learn if you're serious about desserts. Pastry chefs are known for being more methodical in their approach to a different side of the gluttony spectrum. Choux pastry, thankfully, isn't that scientific. It's all a matter of knowing what you're aiming for (much like the method used in solving a riddle) and applying the base recipe correctly. I thought of this recipe reading the Roux brothers' eponymous cookbook from the early 1980's. I hope you enjoy it!

Homemade Jam
500g hulled and crushed (British!) strawberries
200-300g of jam sugar (with pectin)
1 sprig of freshly picked mint

Pâte à Choux
50g butter
125ml water
70g all purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 large eggs

Sieved strawberry jam with a splash of water
icing sugar
Cornish clotted cream (optional)

Prepare two jam jars. Hull and crush the strawberries in a saucepan. Add the sugar. Heat up the mixture on a low heat (making sure the sugar dissolves completely) and bring up to a rolling boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes and no longer. Pour into jam jars and let the jam cool down completely before adding the mint and refrigerating the jam. This should make one and a half jars of jam.

Choux Puffs
Put the water, butter, salt and sugar in a pan on a low heat. Bring the mixture to a boil (making sure the sugar has dissolved and butter has melted (like that wouldn't happen)) and take off the heat. Pour all the flour onto the mixture and work the flour in (it may appear lumpy but don't fret, keep mixing). Put back onto a medium heat and work the paste for a few minutes to dry out some of the moisture. Pour the paste into a bowl and let it cool down for 5-10 minutes. Whisk the two eggs together and pour them slowly into the cooled paste, making sure to work them until fully incorporated (into a thick mayonnaise consistency).

Using a piping bag form twelve equal blobs of choux paste onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Brush the 'blobs' (haha) with egg wash and put into a preheated oven at 200 degrees celsius for 30 minutes (leaving the door ajar for the last 5 minutes and prodding the side of the pastries with a knife to release steam). Make sure the choux puffs are nice and crispy otherwise they'll collapse. Cool down slowly and then slice the bottoms so you can fill them. I filled mine with the cooled jam (but you can also include some clotted cream with the jam as a filling). Stack the puffs on a plate and sprinkle the icing sugar on top. Eat away. Take a nap. Do it all again tomorrow.


I need your help. Yes, you. I need help understanding how the addition of the word pizza to any circular-shaped baked dough product makes it fathomable all of a sudden. Are humans at a complete loss when faced with baked dough that vaguely resembles pizza or is it just another loose term employed by Mr. Marketing to make ethnic products easier to understand? We should celebrate each product for what it is! Lahmacun, paratha and quesadilla all stand up! And move to the side - it's mana'eesh time.

Mana'eesh are as much Lebanese pizza as pizza is Italian mana'eesh. Usually eaten for breakfast or brunch they're a filling alternative to your usual morning meal. We usually eat these on Sunday when everyone is at home and we all chip in. We made three varieties of mana'eesh this time: za'atar (picked thyme, sesame seeds and sumac), kishk (dried yoghurt and cracked wheat) and a vegetarian alternative to lahm biajin.

350g plain flour
150g semolina
10g dried yeast
280-300ml lukewarm water
two or three teaspoons olive oil

za'atar mix (thyme, sesame seeds, sumac)
olive oil

dried kishk
half a large tomato
half a large onion
pinenuts (optional)

Vegetarian Option
half a large tomato
half a large onion
handful of pinenuts
freshly picked thyme
olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients for the dough and form a well. Slowly pour most of the water into the well and work the ingredients into a smooth, slightly sticky, ball. Do not overwork. Leave to rest at room temperature for half an hour before diving into 8 smaller balls.

Preheat the oven to 300degrees Celsius. Form each ball into a disk ready for the toppings. The za'atar just needs to be mixed with the olive oil and spread. The kishk requires a bit more work.
Heat a saucepan with some oil and fry the onions and tomatoes. Add the dry kishk and slowly work in some water. Make sure the final product is quite thick (the same consistency as a thick custard) before spreading on and adding pinenuts (optional). The vegetarian option requires no cooking but rather a brief period for the flavours to mix together - dice the tomato and onion and everything to bowl to let it infuse. Cook one at a time on a baking tray that isn't prone to warping at high temperature and serve when the crust is golden. There you have it, mana'eesh (not Lebanese pizza)!

Walnut, Ginger and Chocolate Cake

Let's face it, cakes are out of fashion. If you're eating cake and it's not someone's birthday then you're either quite old or have an irregular cake addiction. Either way, cakes need an image makeover, rebranding, remarketing, a haircut - but if I'm being honest then I'm probably not the person to accomplish that. Instead, I have a quite old fashioned cake recipe for you. This base recipe comes from my mother but I've included ginger and chocolate to give it a bit of edge.

2 1/2 - 2 cups of self-raising flour
2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
75 g of butter + extra for greasing and mixing with melted chocolate
2 large eggs or 3 medium eggs
a splash of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 pieces of stem ginger plus accompanying syrup
as many walnuts as you like
as much chocolate as you'd like


Preheat oven to 250 degrees centigrade. Whisk sugar and eggs together until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the flour and baking powder to the egg and sugar mixture until fully incorporated. Add the the butter, milk and vanilla extract and keep whisking. Crush some roasted walnuts and chop stem ginger into chunks. Add the walnuts, stem ginger chunks and stem ginger syrup to the mixture. Butter a Springform cake tin and pour the cake mixture into the buttered tin. Bake until golden and then cool on a rack. Cut horizontally in half and layer on a melted chocolate and butter mixture reserving some for decorating the top. Be creative on the top of the cake and then let it cool again. Take pictures, eat cake, wallow in your own lack of coolness. Voila.

Squash, Pomegranate and Pinenut Kibbeh

Do you want to know how to start a fight in the Middle-East? No, not that. You ask delegates from each country a simple question - "Who invented kibbeh?". Actually you can replace kibbeh with hummus, tabbouleh, falafel...And you'll still get the same reaction. Aside from portraying Middle-Easterns as short tempered gourmands, my aim was to highlight that Kibbeh is a pan-Arabian dish. With Levantine roots.

Being the national dish of Lebanon one shouldn't really mess with Kibbeh (short-tempered Arabs). So I didn't! My love for kibbeh is fierce and passionate. I have spent many a candelit night with a plate of kibbeh extolling the unmatched beauty of minced meat and bulghur wheat - a combination made in...Yeah, you get it. But one thing I knew was that merely saying you like kibbeh was like saying you like cheese - Which kibbeh? How was it cooked? What does it come with?

Pumpkin kibbeh is a classic Lebanese dish usually eaten in the areas around Mount Lebanon and I've tweaked my mums classic recipe for you lovely people. Hope you enjoy it.

Outer Shell
350g boiled and puréed squash (or pumpkin)
275g bulghur wheat
1-2 teaspoons of cumin seeds crushed
1 tablespoon of plain white flour
salt and pepper to taste

250g boiled and puréed squash (or pumpkin)
a handful of toasted pinenuts
1 large onion diced
1 1/2 tablespoons of dried mint
2-3 tablespoons of pomegranate syrup
1 tablespoon of dried raisins
1/2 teaspoon baharat*
a splash of olive oil
salt and pepper

*Baharat is a mixture of allspice, black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cassia bark, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and nutmeg.

Peel and cut squash into small chunks. Boil until tender then either purée or...squash, ahem, the squash. Soak the bulghur wheat in hot water for twenty or so minutes (until all the water has evaporated). Mix 350g of the puréed squash with the soaked bulghur wheat and the crushed cumin seeds. Add a splash of oil and the flour. Add the seasoning and leave at room temperature until the filling is completed.

Gently fry a diced onion until transluscent and remove to a bowl. In the same pan toast some pinenuts and remove to the same bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling into the bowl and mix. Taste and add more baharat, pomegranate or seasoning if it needs it.

Fill a bowl with cold water and lightly grease a baking tray. Now it's the fun part - moulding the kibbeh! This is going to be hard to explain so bare with me! You need to roll the outer shell in one hand until a small stubby cylinder is formed. You then prick down through the top into the middle of the cylinder until you have a hole through the top (but not all the way through) the cylinder. Spoon in some of the filling into the gap and gently form the cylinder shape into a torpedo by moulding the outer shell gently to encompass the filling and cover the hole. Squash kibbeh is notorious for being hard to shape so take your time and keep dipping your hands in water!

Place the torpedos (how cool does that sound?) onto the baking tray. You can now either bake or fry the kibbeh but I elected to bake. I sprayed some olive oil on to the kibbeh and let them bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 10-15 minutes. How many pieces of kibbeh this recipe makes depends on how big your torpedos are (I managed to get 20). To accompany the kibbeh I mixed bio yoghurt with dried minute and topped it with pomegranate syrup. Lemon also brightens up some of the flavour. I've got a few more updated Lebanese recipes to upload soon but I also welcome any suggestions! Let me know!

Raspberry Rose Jelly with a Pistachio Cream

I'm not a person with a distinctly sweet tooth but I do crave something with a bit of sugar to round off a meal. These jellies are a perfect summer dessert - small, quite light and not too sweet! Unlike the first recipe I posted, this one is all my own creation, so I hope you enjoy it! I think it captures a distinctly Lebanese summer.

Raspberry Rose Jelly
1 sachet of powdered gelatine or vegetarian equivalent
500ml moderately hot, but not boiling, water
100g sugar
3 tablespoons good quality rose water
two handfuls of raspberries

Pistachio Cream
A small carton of double cream (or low fat equivalent)
a handful of roasted, unshelled, unsalted pistachio nuts
3 tablespoons of sugar
1-2 tablespoons of water

You'll need to prepare the jellies 3-4 hours (or even the night) before serving so plan ahead. Put the water, sugar and 3/4 of the raspberries in a pan and make sure the water doesn't boil. Take the pan off the heat after 2-3 minutes. Mix the rose water in and make sure the sugar has dissolved. Strain the liquid into a measuring jug and vigorously mix in the gelatine making sure it is fully dissolved. Pour the liquid into 4-6 ramekins and let it cool down at room temperature for 20 or so minutes. Place a few remaining raspberries in the jelly and use a toothpick to make sure they go into the position you want. When the jelly has completely cooled down place the ramekins in the fridge.

Crush the pistachio nuts in a plastic bag until quite fine (make sure they're not all powdered - texture is important) and place them into a pan with the water and sugar. Heat together for a minute to so and leave to cool down whilst you whisk the cream. When the cream is fluffy add the pistachios making sure to fold them in. You might need to whisk the cream to get some more air into the mixture. Place the cream into a ramekin for everyone to share. I would recommend you make this just before serving. Voila! There you have it: Raspberry Rose Jelly and Pistachio Cream.

Sardine Bil Foron

A fisherman stands cliff-side at the edge of the Raouché staring with intent at the water between him and the Pigeons' Rocks. The liquid tempest yearns for his attention and its waves become more pronounced and more seductive. The salty air of the Mediterranean comforts him, it's a smell that's ingrained into his Beiruti psyche - much like the smell of mahmoul being made or diesel burning. He hesistates for split-second but throws his fishing net through the air and into the water. It's 5am and the only other person on the Raouché beside the fisherman is a lonely ka'ek seller who looks at his cart in disdain. A few minutes pass and the fisherman's attention is locked on the water. He stands restless for some time before dragging the net out of the water to find a catch of smaller fish largely featuring fish from the sardine family. He feels content again.

This time of year is one of plentiful stock of fish from the sardine family. Beirutis and all Lebanese alike enjoy sardines throughout the summer months in a variety of recipes. Today I have attempted to recreate a dish that I remember from my childhood - Sardines Bil Foron or sardines in the oven. Simplicity at it's best. Believing in locality of produce I opted to buy Cornish sardines for this recipe - I got them cleaned by the fishmonger.


500g Sardines cleaned
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 medium red chilli whole
1 red onion diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice + zest
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds crushed
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds crushed
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds crushed


Toast the cumin, fennel and coriander seeds in a dry pan for 10-15 seconds at a medium heat. Crush in a pestle and mortar till fine. Put all the ingredients minus the fish in a deep baking tray and mix together. Place the fish in the baking tray and massage the rest of the ingredients in. Leave to marinade in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200C and cook the fish for 5-10 minutes until done. Serve with a simple leaf salad, chips or bulgar wheat.

Simplicity itself that allows the sardines to shine! Enjoy!