1. Dolmades

Makes about 24-36

INGREDIENTS

Stuffing:

2 cups (500) ml plain rice, cooked

500g fine-grained beef or lamb mince

½ tsp allspice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Other ingredients

1 jar vine leaves in brine

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tbsp dried mint

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp oil

METHOD

For the stuffing, combine ingredients in a large dish and knead well to blend. Place vine leaves vein side up and place 1 tbsp of the stuffing onto it. Fold the sides in towards the centre, roll and squeeze gently in your palm. The rolls should look like thin cigars. Line the bottom and sides of a pot with leftover vine leaves. Add the rolls in layers, sprinkle over garlic, mint and lemon juice between the layers. Cover with water mixed with the oil. Place a plate on top of the vine leaves to weigh them down and simmer over a low heat until cooked – about 2 hours. Turn out onto a plate and serve hot or cold with yogurt.

2. Tabbouleh

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

250g bulgur wheat, soaked for 30 mins

3 firm ripe tomatoes, chopped and excess liquid drained off

3 small onions, finely chopped

½ English cucumber, cubed

2 bunches fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped

FOR THE Dressing, Mix:

125ml olive oil

125ml fresh lemon juice

1 tsp salt

½ tsp Lebanese seven-spice mix

METHOD

Drain bulgur and squeeze out in a clean cloth to remove excess moisture. In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, cucumber, parsley and mint. Add bulgur and mix well. Pour the dressing over the salad, cover and allow it to absorb flavours for about 2 hours before serving.

3. Beetroot hummus

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS

500g chickpeas, soaked overnight

A pinch of bicarbonate of soda

200g beetroot, boiled and peeled

4-5 ice cubes

4 tbsp tahini or sesame paste

2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp ground cumin

Olive oil, to drizzle

METHOD

Drain chickpeas, place in a pot and cover with fresh water. Add bicarb and bring to the boil. Simmer until chickpeas are soft. Drain and place in a food processor with the beetroot. Blend until smooth, adding ice cubes one by one. Add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and cumin, pulse to blend and season with salt and pepper. Add a little water to adjust consistency. Spoon into a bowl and serve drizzled with olive oil.

4. Labneh

INGREDIENTS

1kg good quality full cream yogurt

½ tsp sea salt

Olive oil, to serve

METHOD

The secret is the yogurt – it must be thick and natural, without binding agents. Line a sieve with muslin, cheesecloth or a dish cloth. Mix yogurt with salt and pour into the cloth-lined sieve over a bowl. Tie the cloth up tightly with string and suspend over a deep bowl so it can drain. Do this by sliding a wooden spoon through the knot in the cloth and then suspending it. Leave in a cool place for at least 24-36 hours to drain. Roll the remaining curds into walnut-sized balls and coat in a spice or herb mix of your choice. Pour olive oil over and serve.

5. Baba ganoush

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

2 large aubergines

2-3 cloves of garlic

½ tsp salt

Juice of 1 lemon

2-3 tbsp thick creamy yogurt

3 tbsp olive oil

Pinch of cayenne pepper

METHOD

Pierce the aubergines in a few places with a sharp knife, then place directly over a gas flame until the skins are blackened and blistered. Keep turning. They are ready when they feel soft (done this way, the dip has lovely smoky flavour.) If you don’t have an open flame then place on a baking tray and roast in a preheated oven at 200°C for 30-45 mins. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel off skin and squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the flesh. Mash the garlic and salt with a pestle and mortar to a paste. Place the aubergine flesh in a food processor with the garlic paste, lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil and cayenne and blend until smooth. Serve with pita bread wedges.

6. Falafel

Makes about 36

INGREDIENTS

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp cake flour

2x400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 large carrot, peeled and finely grated

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

1 clove garlic, chopped

Oil, for deep-frying

METHOD

Toast the cumin and coriander in a hot dry pan until fragrant. Remove and combine with the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Blend well. Shape spoonfuls of the mixture into balls and drop into a deep pan of hot oil, frying a couple at a time. Cook for a couple of minutes until golden brown on all sides. Remove and drain on paper towel. Serve on their own with minted yogurt dip, or packed into a pita with tahini and yogurt sauce.

7. Flatbreads
with za’atar

Makes about 12

INGREDIENTS

Flatbreads:

720g cake flour

1 sachet instant yeast

1 tsp salt

300ml warm water

85ml olive oil plus extra

Za’atar:

4 tsp sesame seeds

4 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano

4 tsp dried marjoram

4 tsp ground sumac

1 tsp salt

4 tsp ground cumin

METHOD

For the flatbreads, combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and slowly add the water and olive oil, mixing to form a dough. Add more liquid if too dry. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until elastic and smooth. Shape into a ball, cover and rest in a warm place for 40 mins or until double in size. Preheat the oven to 220°C and place 2 oven trays to warm. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces and roll each piece out into a circle 2mm thick. Place the rounds on the preheated trays and bake for 6-8 minutes. For the za’atar, toast the sesame in a dry pan on a high heat for 1-2 minutes. Combine with the remaining ingredients in a blender or spice grinder and process until finely mixed. To serve, brush the warm flatbreads with olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar. Store extra za’atar in a jar in the fridge.

8. Lamb koftas

Makes 8-10

INGREDIENTS

10 wooden skewers

1kg lamb mince

2 onions, finely grated

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1-2 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

Olive oil, for brushing

METHOD

Soak the wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent them from burning when grilling. In a bowl, combine the mince, onions, garlic, chilli, cumin and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Shape mixture around one end of each skewer to form a thick sausage. Brush with oil and cook in a smoking hot griddle pan, under the grill or on the barbecue, basting frequently with oil. Serve with a yogurt dip and a tomato salad.