Compared to twenty years ago when I started writing about food when ingredients like frikeh (or freekeh) and argan oil were known to only a few westerners, there are now less and less secret ingredients, or indeed cuisines. You would think that with diners’ enthusiasm for global dishes and ingredients there isn’t much left for chefs or keen cooks to discover. But there is. And this is what we did last month at Books for Cooks, when I and Nadya Saleh from the National Museum of Qatar‘s Food Forum together with the delightful and very talented Aisha al-Tamimi introduced a keen audience to Qatari dishes they were totally unfamiliar with. The two cooking demonstrations were led by Aisha and were part of Nour Festival and Qatar UK, the latter being a collaboration between Qatar and the UK to exchange cultural and art events while the former is an initiative by the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to showcase Middle Eastern art and culture.
I am just back from Doha where I had a few days of intensive eating, although not camel this time! However, because I was in the region and because my hotel was packed with Saudi families, having crossed the border to celebrate Eid in Qatar, I thought I would post a Saudi recipe for camel kabab which is actually the best way to eat camel unless you are having the hump. The good news is that you can now get camel meat in the UK from either Exotic Meats or Kezie Foods. You can of course skip the camel meat and make the kabab with lamb or beef but you won’t have a fun talking point over your meal. The traditional recipe calls for millet flakes but I use millet grains because it makes for a prettier presentation as you can see in the picture above. The grains also give the meatballs a nicer texture. So there you go, a recipe for meatballs with a difference. Hope you enjoy them!
No visit to Lebanon, for me or for anyone elese for that matter, is complete without at least one manqousheh (or manousheh as they say it; most Lebanese people drop the q when they speak), the quintessential Lebanese breakfast. Most people will only eat manaqish (plural of manqousheh) made with their own za’tar and olive oil which they mix at home before taking it to their local baker for him to use with his dough (which by the way is the same as that for pita bread unless you are in the south but this is for another post) to make the manaqish, which are basically pizzas. The most common topping is za’tar but you can also have them topped with cheese or with cheese and za’tar or with kishk (a mixture of burghul and yoghurt that is first fermented then dried then ground very fine). The kishk is normally mixed with diced tomatoes, walnuts, sesame seeds and olive oil. These are the classic toppings but as with pizza you can use any topping you want.
If there is one dish I love to eat in the summer it is fatteh. The word comes from the Arabic verb fattah which means to break up and I guess the dish has this name because it is made up of layers of broken up toasted or fried pita bread topped with boiled meat and chickpeas, or steamed eggplants, or simply chickpeas and the whole covered with yogurt and garnished with toasted pine nuts, at least in the traditional Lebanese version. The Egyptian version has rice and tomato sauce while the Syrian has stuffed aubergines. All are delicious but I like the purity of the Lebanese version and I also like the simplicity of the Saudi version for which I am giving you a recipe here, albeit modernised for a more elegant presentation.