My three essentials of Lebanese gastronomy
When we returned to France for the end of year celebrations, our loved ones seemed to have one main concern. “So what are you eating there? “ is undoubtedly the issue of bingo, which comes up in each of our conversations. To which my children tirelessly replied: “Bah manoushé with zaatar: it’s so good! “ A dish that has become an obvious part of their daily lives within a matter of weeks.
One of the great pleasures of going to live in a new country is undoubtedly the discovery of its gastronomy. And in Lebanon, one cannot but rejoice at the delicious variety of dishes. We eat very well. They also feature prominently in my personal pantheon of Lebanese indulgences: the famous manoushé, tabouleh and moutabal.
salt for breakfast
In Lebanon, to start the day, nothing like a manoushé (also spelled “manouché” or “manakish”). It is a sort of Lebanese pizza, a dough to which you can add zaatar (mixture of thyme, sesame, sumac, oregano, savory and marjoram) mixed with olive oil, cheese (akawi Where is it kashkaval)minced meat or kechek (fermented cow’s or goat’s milk yogurt with tomato pulp, onion and olive oil).
The galette then bakes in the oven or on a you know, a kind of domed hot plate, until the dough forms small bubbles and the filling is ready. It is then eaten cut, like a pizza, or rolled up, like a sandwich, or simply folded in half. After adding, if desired, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives or even mint. It’s also a perfect snack, as satisfying as it is delicious. Curious to taste? Lebanese chef Alan Geaaam has recently opened Faurn, bakery dedicated, among other things, to manoushé, in 3And district of Paris.
Another emblematic dish of Lebanon: tabbouleh. And there, I am very sorry to tell you that Pierre Martinet, the intractable restaurateur, and Monique Ranou deceived us with their tabbouleh recipe, having absolutely nothing to do with the original. I can only imagine the desolation of the Lebanese living in France at our version of tabbouleh…
The freshness of the parsley, the roundness of the aubergine
A bit of history: tabouleh would have been born in the Middle East, between the XVAnd and the sixteenthAnd century, when tomatoes first appeared in the region. In Arabic, the word means “seasoning”.
While every family has their own way of preparing this salad, there are a few principles that everyone agrees on. First the base: the parsley. Large bunches, finely chopped with a knife. Especially not in the blender, which gives a kind of mush and also oxidizes the precious leaves. Then they lose all their freshness and crunchiness. To this parsley we add olive oil, lemon and salt. Then, everyone can choose to personalize their own tabbouleh, dosing some ingredients in a different way: mint leaves, a little crushed wheat – bulgur –, diced tomatoes placed on top of the parsley salad, sometimes a little sumac or pomegranate molasses. Instead the semolina, the three parsley leaves, the corn, the pepper, the grapes: we forget about them!
Among the country’s other flagship mezes: the moutabal. A huge crush on this dish that I had already come across in Brazil – where many Lebanese and Syrians have settled for some time – under the name of Baba ganush. After grilling the aubergines, the pulp is mashed. To this we add tahini – which is a sesame cream –, garlic, lemon and olive oil. To taste it, dip Lebanese bread into this creamy eggplant mousse.
The cuisine is one of the great prides of the Lebanese, who can boast of creating dishes with multiple flavors and often very healthy – the famous Mediterranean diet (except for desserts!). But what I mostly like about my meals in Lebanon is the spirit that accompanies the food. Here the small dishes are multiplied on the table. So, far from being satisfied with eating your single dish, in your saucer, you share, you can choose and taste everything, vary the tastes. The discovery also passes through the stomach.
And if I have stuck to the dishes that I systematically fall in love with, one day I will have to tell you about the no less attractive kaake, knefe, hummus, salad factuch, kafta, Batata Harra, grilled beef or chicken shawarma… Saten!