Lebanon

Why Lebanon

Lebanon was chosen during our 2018 brainstorm of countries, and it should be an awesome feast. Who doesn’t love Lebanese food?

My experience of Lebanon

I’ve never been to Lebanon and, to be honest, have no intention of going there. There are some regions of the world that are just too risky to visit and Lebanon is in one such region.

Preparation

There is so much to love about Lebanese food that it’s going to be difficult to restrict the menu to a reasonable number of dishes. Luckily we’ve got two extra people this time so I’ve got an excuse to go big with the menu. A Norwegian friend of Elysia’s will be here for Christmas as will Sharleen, a family friend who is visiting from Sydney.

This many people aren’t going to fit in my little apartment so Lauren has very kindly offered to host us all even though, in the last week, we’ve had Elysia’s birthday dinner, Christmas Eve and Christmas lunch at her home. No wonder Lani calls her house the party house.

I had a menu planned but that completely blew out the window when Sharleen gave me the most fabulous recipe book for Christmas Saffron in the souks – vibrant recipes from the heart of Lebanon by John Gregory-Smith. I bookmarked more than two dozen recipes and we chose 15 for our lunch in Lebanon. This is as well as the baba ganoush that Jan will make, the falafel that Rob will make and the Lebanese bread and tzatziki that Will will make. Oh, and the roasted beetroot hummus that I made from my home-grown beets. Good grief – so much food!

Sharleen and I went to the Dandenong Market to get the non-standard food that we needed and managed to get it all in the first stall that we went to. I had forgotten how fantastic the Dandenong Market is. I need to get Karma and Rob there as soon as possible – it is an amazing place.

The menu

Here’s the menu:

  • Baba ganoush
  • Laban cucumber yoghurt sauce (Lebanese tzatziki)
  • Roasted beetroot hummus
  • Lebanese bread
  • Stuffed vine leaves
  • Kibbeh with onion
  • Falafel
  • Beetroot, radish and tarragon salad
  • Cucumber salad
  • Fig, walnut and freekeh salad
  • Rock star roasted cauliflower
  • Roasted carrots
  • Coriander, garlic and chilli potato wedges
  • Sticky pomegranate sujuk
  • Chicken shawarma
  • Chilli and mint prawns
  • Sunset scallops
  • Pistachio and clotted cream ice-cream
  • Rosewater and pistachio cheesecake
  • Dark chocolate and halva tart

I think this is our biggest menu yet!

The food

Oh my gosh – how good was that meal! Naturally there was heaps of food left over but we all had more than our fill.

We served in three courses – meze, mains and then dessert. And it took quite a few hours to get through.

There was not a bad dish. It was all scrumptious.

Halva was a new taste sensation to some of us. I’ve been eating it for years but it’s not well-known. And it’s hard to work out where the best place to serve it is. My mum used to put it on a cheese platter but I’m not sure that’s the best fit for it. Maybe on a fruit platter? Anyway, it’s certainly worth a try if you get an opportunity. Not if you’re allergic to sesame seeds though.

The drinks

Lauren created her own cocktail again. She’s getting quite good at this caper! It was an Arak Sunrise – a Lebanese take on a Tequila Sunrise but with Arak rather than tequila. And very nice it was, too. We tried the Arak on its own on ice, but very quickly turned it into a second, or was it third, round of Arak Sunrises.

The ambience

Rob’s playlist added greatly to the vibe – we fully expected a belly dancer to come in at any moment. Lebanese music is very much party music.

I’m glad we had lunch in Lebanon at Lauren’s home. It was too hot to eat outside and this many people would never have fitted inside my apartment.

The quiz

Thank you for the great quiz, Liam! What a pity your father wins it. Every. Single. Time.

After the kitchen and dining room were tidied up some of us adjourned to the loungeroom to chat and watch the end of the Boxing Day test, while others played Secret Hitler.

I’ll post the quiz questions and answers when I get them from Liam. I forgot to take them home with me on the day.

Here’s the factsheet – Factsheet_Lebanon

Here’s the place-mat – Place-mat_Lebanon

The highlight of lunch in Lebanon

The kibbeh was very popular and is probably a good dish to keep in mind if you are asked to provide nibbles. The stuffed vine leaves were also very popular (thank you Rob and Karma for rolling them so neatly!) and the sujuk got a few votes. But the outstanding favourite was the scallops. And they were so easy to make – just pan-fried in butter, garlic, mint, sumac and chilli flakes then sprinkled with salt and lemon juice. How could that not be the dish of the day?

All the desserts were yummy too but the scallops got the most number of likes.

Where to next?

Lebanon is going to be a hard act to follow, but I’m sure Cambodia will give it a run for its money.

The last Sunday in January is the Australia Day long weekend, so we’ll have lunch in Cambodia on Sunday 19 January. I feel another visit to the Dandenong Market coming up. Yay!

chuobaknea​ pelokraoy!

All going to plan, this is our itinerary for 2020

January – Cambodia

February – Colombia

March – Philippines

April – Cyprus

May – Chad

June – Ireland

July – Uruguay

August – Kazakhstan

September – Argentina

October – Croatia

November – Peru

Bring it on!