Salted Butterscotch Granola Bars

Recently I've been brainstorming ideas of things I would make to sell if I started up a food business. This is something I've been considering for quite some time as I find my feet in the working world. One of the experimental successes were these bars so I thought I'd share some photos with you lovely people.

I'm not posting a comprehensive recipe for the simple fact that this is open to interpretation! I put in a range of delicious things in these bars.

The important thing is to use oats, salted butterscotch and something crunchy in the bars. These were premium bars (Scotch oats, French butter, fleur de sel, etc) and cost 35p each to make for ten 50g bars.

Let me know if you try these!

Green Almonds and Labneh

They say that Italian food is the presentation of the unadulterated work of mother nature whereas French food is the work of the chef transforming ingredients through technique. I think Lebanese food occupies a space on the continuum closer to the Italian gastronomic philosophy than the French equivalent. Although many Lebanese align culturally with the French ideal, it is truer to find similarities within cuisines who share a similar climate, crop and everyday culinary ethos. But there are a multitude of pertinent characterising traits that differentiate the essence of Lebanese and Italian cuisine but one thing is omnipresent - the love of food in its pure form. That is to say that each ingredient is consistent with it's taste throughout the process of 'cooking' requiring very little coaxing out. Ideally, the simpler the better - few processes and few additional ingredients.

With that notion I delved into an assembly of some basic but homely Lebanese springtime favourites. Green almonds are seasonal treat (early April until the beginning of June) that are much underused in Europe but much loved by the Lebanese. Labneh is something I've discussed before but this version is slightly different. There is no real recipe here - proceed to make the labneh as indicated in the link above but make sure the straining period is even longer. You want to be able to form balls out of the labneh with dry hands. Once the balls are formed you should leave them in a humid place for a few hours so they dry out even more before immersing them in olive oil. Alternatively, to make shankleesh you should let the formed balls dry out even longer before rolling them in za'atar. The longer you leave to dry the stronger the taste. You can eat the labneh balls straight away but it's best to leave them to mature for a week.  All I added to the final dish was a sprinkle of fleur de sel and some extra virgin olive oil. This is my taste of early spring.

Malfouf (Cabbage Rolls)

Any fan of Lebanese cuisine will be familiar with the word mihshy (Levantine Arabic for 'stuffed') as it appears in an extensive array of vegetable centric dishes. The Lebanese know no bounds when it comes to stuffing things - you give us a vegetable and we'll stuff it, we'll roll it into fingers and we'll have a ball doing so. The art of putting something inside of something else isn't lost on us, my friend. Mihshy's are comfortable and homely and you'll hardly ever see them on restaurant menus (aside from stuffed vine leaves!) which is such a shame. One of Lebanon's greatest exports is its cuisine and many people have come to fall in love with it but not many obsessive eaters know about the other face of Lebanese food. So it came to my surprise when upon meeting someone for the first time they expressed their absolute love of all things Lebanese cuisine and in particular Malfouf Mihshy. According to him Lebanese immigrants to Yucatan, Mexico didn't just inspire tacos al pastor but also passed on some home-cooked classics. Along with your tripe soup you can eat delicate cabbage rolls all prepared lovingly. His description made me crave a taste of home so I just had to go back and cook this up.

1 large green cabbage (you can use several varieties depending on desired texture, taste and colour)
160g minced lamb
100g short-grain rice
a pinch of Lebanese seven spice
1 tsp sweet paprika
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried mint
1 beef tomato
100ml of lemon juice
300ml water 
salt and pepper to taste

Trim cabbage head and core. Cut leaves into triangles of your desired size. Blanch the leaves in boiling water until tender. Mix the rice, lamb and Lebanese seven spice together. Place a teaspoon of the rice mixture at the bottom of each cabbage triangle, fold in the sides and roll. Place each completed roll in a large pan. Once completed, add the water, lemon juice, tomato, paprika and seasoning. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover and add the mint and crushed garlic cloves and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve with thick Greek style yoghurt and a sprinkle of dried mint.