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fattush-finished and served copy

It’s nearly forty years since I left Lebanon. There were many things that I hated about Beirut and many that I loved. I still feel the same although much of what I loved is disappearing, like the ambulant vegetable and fruit vendors who sell their produce off wooden carts which they push through neighbourhoods while shouting out their wares. A guy like the sombrero-wearing man below would belt out “yalla ‘ala banadurah, yalla ‘ala khiyar” to let everyone know he had tomatoes and cucumbers which he may have just picked from his fields. I loved listening to their cries and always followed my mother onto the balcony to watch her bargain with the vendor to get the best possible price.

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beirut-ka'k vendor copy

Ka’keh is the quintessential Lebanese street food. Vendors have them precariously strung on various structures which they fit on their bicycles and wheel along the corniche or regular streets. No one ever makes them at home but after I recently got into a twitter conversation with a lebanese tweep about ka’keh and how we’d both love it if we could have some here, I decided to see if I could replicate them at home.

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testicles copy

Lamb testicles for sale in the souk in Damascus — these are a lot more veined than the norm; also it is not often that you find them hung like this. The butcher peels and discards the outer membrane before weighing and cutting them the way you want.

A few days ago, Serious Eats tweeted about yak testicles. I have never tried them but I love lamb testicles and have been eating them forever. Well, from when I could chew. They are considered a great delicacy in Lebanon and I find their soft, melting texture and subtle flavour irresistible. Of course, they need to be very fresh for that subtle, clean taste but this is not a problem in the Middle East where they slaughter lambs and sell the meat and offal the same day.

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Finally back in London and already missing the bustling Arab markets with their abundance of seasonal produce and where I can taste anything I want without any of the vendors being offended as they would be in Europe.

This year, I was lucky to be in the Middle East during fresh chickpeas season, my favourite snack as a child. My mother used to buy us large bunches from street vendors and we would sit on our balcony, popping pod after pod – unlike peas or fava beans, chickpeas come each in its own pod, except for the occasional twin chickpeas in the single pod – to munch on juicy and tender chickpeas.

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