The Middle Eastern Feast

by Josephine Rozman on April 3, 2013

in All Recipes, Australia, Featured, Main Courses, Meat

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Josephine mentioned wanting to make a feast of dishes and, quite honestly, I’m drooling all over this Middle Eastern meal – homemade pita, hummus, and even a spice mix. The sun is shining around here and I’m thinking that a Middle Eastern feast for family and friends would be just the right way to convince spring to stick around for good. -Maggie 

My fondest memories as a child were the weekend family feasts that were hosted by my grandparents in their backyard.  Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends would often unite merrily to overindulge on my grandmothers cooking.  An affair that required a whole weeks preparation, my grandmother would spend hours, sometimes days, slaving away in her kitchen, mustering up an abundance of heirloom recipes to serve at the table on the weekend.

Born in Tripoli, my gradmother was privy to a combination of Lebanese culinary styles.  Lebanese cooking is a fusion of earthy, hearty traditional peasant dishes that originated from the many mountain villages and Levant and European inspired contemporary cuisine. Having migrated to Australia in the early sixties, my gradmother used food as a way to reconnect with her home country.  Likewise, I have continued to serve Lebanese recipes at my table to remind me of growing up as part of a big family in Austraila.

The Middle Eastern culture loves the experience of sharing plates and tasting many flavors. A typical meal consists of a vast variety of mezze plates.  Each plate uses a simple combination of vegetables, grains, legumes and spices that are often cooked in ways that can be preserved.

Unlike those before me who menus were dictated by the seasons and the produce available, I hardly had to forage for foreign ingredients at my local grocer.  After collecting my necessities, I was able to whip up a collection of my favorite recipes from my home kitchen in Hong Kong.

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Pita Bread

It wasn’t until we moved to Hong Kong that Luke and I had to master the art of making pita bread. Bread is crucial to enjoying Lebanese cuisine. Pita bread or Lebanese bread (wider diameter and much thinner) is so elastic that it can be wrapped around any food. We often use bread as a substitute for cutlery at our table.

Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  •  2⁄3 cup room temp water
  • 3 1⁄2 cups white bread flour
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1⁄2 cup room temp milk

Directions:

  1. Dissolve yeast into 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water.
  2. Sift together flour and salt into large mixing bowl.
  3. Add yeast mixture and gradually add the remaining water and milk.
  4. Mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
  6. Knead dough until elastic.
  7. Shape the dough into a ball and put in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Let dough stand for 1 hour, and preheat oven the 230 degrees (Celsius).
  9. Uncover dough, turn it out and divide into 6 balls.
  10. Roll out each ball into 20 cm circles.
  11. Put circles onto baking sheets, brush with a light layer of water.
  12. Bake for 7-9 minutes until golden brown.

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Za’atar

Za’atar is a traditional Lebanese seasoning that remains a staple in my kitchen. When mixed with olive oil you can enjoy it on bread, meat and salads. One of my favorite way to enjoy it is to rub the dry za’atar mixture onto the juicy flesh of a ripe tomato and drizzle with a light layer of olive oil. It is absolutely delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sumac
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast sesame seeds in pan.
  2. Combine all ingredients (including toasted sesame seeds) in food processor and mix.

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Hummus

Hummus is a chickpea based dip that can be enjoyed alone with bread and olive oil or used as a condiment for meat. This recipe has been created and perfected by Luke. I hope that you enjoy his recipe as much as I do.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tins chickpeas
  • 1⁄2 cup chickpea juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Drain chickpeas and set chickpea juice aside.
  2. Put chickpeas, lemon, garlic, olive oil, tahini and salt into blender or food processor.
  3. Drizzle 1⁄4 cup chickpea juice over ingredients and blend until thick in consistency.
  4. If mixture is too dry add the remaining juice or as much is needed to achieve a fluffy yet thick consistency for easy dipping.
  5. Scoop dip into bowl, cover with cling wrap and set aside in fridge to chill.

Lamb Kebab

The tender and juicy Lamb Kebab is a much loved addition to any Lebanese meal, the simple recipe invites those eating it to season it, dip it or even wrap it in bread. My approach was inspired by Salma Hage’s recipe in her beautiful book The Lebanese Kitchen. I served my skewers on a best of wild rice seasoned with pine nuts, cumin and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg boneless lamb leg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic

Directions:

  1. Trim the fat from the lamb leg and slice the meat into strips
  2. Pour olive oil, lemon juice over the meat
  3. Add salt, pepper, oregano and crushed garlic cloves
  4. Toss all ingredients until meat is entirely covered
  5. Leave meat to marinate for 1 hour
  6. Skewer the meat
  7. Heat skillet or fry pan until hot
  8. Cook the lamb for 3 – 6 minutes (medium rare)
  9. Serve alongside hummus, lebanese bread and season with za’atar

Photos styled and taken by Josephine Rozman

Plateware courtesy of Pantry Magic and Loveramics, Hong Kong.

Eat Boutique  discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans.  We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Josephine Rozman

Josephine Rozman is an Australian photographer who currently splits her time between Hong Kong and Sydney working on a variety of commercial and personal projects. Josephine is always on the pursuit of discovering new tastes and beautifully presented meals. Her frequent travel has enabled her to find joy in the simple pleasures of photographing food and capturing the culinary flavours of different regions.

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  • Julie

    Thank you for these wonderful recipes! I am most excited to try the pita bread. Is that 230 degrees celcius or farenheit? Thanks

    • Josephine Rozman

      Hi Julie! It’s Celsius. Happy cooking, J :)

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