Simple, light Lebanese dishes for summer

Lebanese cuisine is among the healthiest in the world. It combines the staple ingredients of a Mediterranean diet with an abundance of fresh vegetables and superfoods. Lebanese dishes are light and delicious – perfect for the summer and for your whole family.

Lebanese food

Lebanese Food is a Superfood

People often ask me why the Lebanese diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. For me, though, it’s just the food we eat every day – it’s what we were brought up on and we love all the flavours. I suppose the reason for its healthy reputation is the fact that so many foods used in Lebanese cooking are superfoods. And that’s been the case long before anyone ever heard of the term.

 

 

Lebanese families have lived on this kind of food for centuries, and generation after generation has continued to bring its children up on this healthy diet, from the moment the babies were introduced to solid food. Consequently, Lebanese children grow up accustomed, not only to the delicious and varied flavours that their diet offers, but also to a natural, healthy, everyday eating routine. It is most unusual to see overweight children in the rural areas of Lebanon. It is a different matter, of course, where children have access to processed fast food.

 

 

In Lebanon, we’re blessed with this delicious healthy food; it’s our normal diet and even traditional street fast food is healthy and nutritious.

 

 

Superfoods are now very trendy and are what everyone is talking about. I began to look into it, researching and learning about the nutritional value of Lebanese food. And now I understand why the diet that I grew up on and have so enjoyed passing on to my own children, and to their children, is known as one of the healthiest in the world!

 

 

 

Fish with Onions and Tahini

Samack Tagen

 

Tahini is such an important ingredient throughout the Middle East, especially with fish, which is never served without tahini sauce. In some recipes, fish is even cooked in tahini.

 

 

Serves 4

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 30 minutes

 

 

1 large onion (about 185g), halved and

thinly sliced

20ml sunflower or corn oil

100g tahini

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp salt

Juice of 1–2 lemons (about 50ml)

300g white fillet, skinless fish, cut into cubes

15g toasted split almonds

10g toasted pine nuts

10g parsley, chopped, to garnish

Pinch of red chilli powder, to garnish

Lemon wedges, to serve

 

 

1 Sauté the onion in the oil over a medium to low heat for 15 minutes until golden.

 

2 Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce. Mix the tahini with the garlic, salt and lemon juice. When it becomes thick and fluffy, gradually add 350ml water until you’ve added it all. (This is much thinner than a normal tahini sauce because it will thicken while cooking.)

 

3 Add the sauce to the onion and keep stirring until it begins to boil. Turn the heat to low, simmer for 10 minutes and stir it occasionally. If it becomes too dry, add a little more water.

 

4 Add the fish and cook for another 5 minutes until the fish is cooked. At this stage the tahini will start to separate.

 

5 Turn out onto a serving dish. Spread the almonds and pine nuts over the top and garnish with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of chilli powder. Serve with lemon wedges.

 

Fish tahini

Feta and spinach salad

Salata Sabanekh

 

 

Previously I wrote only authentic recipes. In this book I’ve added recipes that have a more modern approach, which has become very popular in Lebanese restaurants and cafés. I recently had this salad, which was tasty and packed with nutritional ingredients.

 

 

Serves 4

Preparation time 10-15 minutes

Cooking time none

 

 

Cook’s tip

This salad may be served with small slices of roasted chicken, making an ideal way to use up leftover roast

 

 

20g basil leaves

30ml olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon (about 30ml)

200g cherry tomatoes

50g baby spinach leaves

½ yellow pepper (about 50g), chopped

220g courgettes, spiralised or coarsely grated

2 avocados (about 200g), cut into cubes

220g feta cheese, cut into cubes

40g pine nuts

Salt

 

 

1 Finely chop the basil in a food processor, then add the oil and lemon juice and process to make a dressing.

 

2 Put the remaining ingredients, except the salt, into a salad bowl.

 

3 Add the basil dressing and season with salt. Mix the salad well and serve immediately.

 

feta and spinach salad

Lebanese Vegetable Fry-up with Tomato Sauce

Makali

 

 

Serves 4

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 30 minutes

 

 

When the Lebanese say they are having a fry-up it means a mixture of fried vegetables. Everyone loves it! Now, as more people avoid fried food, we tend to roast the vegetables instead.

 

 

1 large aubergine (about 400g), sliced lengthways

400g courgettes, sliced

1 large red pepper (about 200g), deseeded and cut

into 8 pieces

1 large green pepper (about 200g), deseeded and

cut into 8 pieces

200g shallots, halved

30ml olive oil

Salt

for the s auce

30ml olive oil

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 green chillies, deseeded and sliced (optional)

500g tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp salt

 

 

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Place all the prepared vegetables on a baking tray, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle with a little salt and bake for 30 minutes or until all the

vegetables are browned.

2 Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Put the oil, garlic and chillies in a frying pan and fry over a medium heat for 1 minute. Don’t let the garlic brown.

3 Add the tomatoes and salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook them for 5 minutes until slightly thickened.

4 Serve the roasted vegetables with the tomato sauce and bread.

lebanese fry-up

 

This article is extracted from Mona Hamadeh’s The Healthy Lebanese Family Cookbook.

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