With the arrival of spring, the people of Britain are looking about them for an escape from heavy winter food. Thoughts are turning to barbecues, picnics and summer salads with fresh, juicy ingredients. Healthy, low-fat foods – after all, winter coats aren’t the only thing many of us need to shed!
At Warda, one of the best Lebanese restaurants in Central London, head chef Youssef Harb has decided to share some of his family’s best summer recipes. For many chefs, their recipes are closely guarded secrets, but in the best Lebanese tradition Youssef believes that good food – and good recipes – should be shared.
Chef Youssef can also be contacted by email to answer all your culinary quandaries.
Tabbouleh is a traditional Levantine salad which is a popular accompaniment to many summer meals. Its main ingredient is parsley, which gives the salad a subtle and interesting flavour you don’t get with lettuce-based salads. Add to this fresh tomatoes for a juicy lift, crisp spring onions, cracked wheat, and a little mint, lemon juice and olive oil to accentuate the salad’s natural flavours. The result is a wholegrain, vegetarian dish bursting with colour; a welcome change from humdrum three-ingredient salads, and an ideal accompaniment to main meals, picnics and barbecues, or even a quick and healthy packed lunch.
2 bunches of parsley, finely chopped
3 medium-sized red tomatoes, finely chopped
1 bunch (or 5) spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 bunch mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp fine brown cracked wheat
1/4 cup or 80g extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup or 80g fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbsp salt
After washing the parsley, mix all the vegetable ingredients in a bowl. Then, five minutes before serving, add the salt, lemon juice, olive oil and the cracked wheat and mix together. Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves. For best results serve immediately.
Muhallabiyeh is a delicately flavoured Middle Eastern speciality made with milk, rose water and orange blossom syrup. The ingredients are gently heated and thickened with corn flour, then chilled to set to a silky, creamy texture. As long as you have the patience to keep stirring, it is very easy to make and, served in individual ramekins or dessert dishes and topped with fruit syrup or pistachios, it will add an exotic twist to your dinner table.
Note: Mistaka is a natural Arabic gum.
1 litre milk
15g rose water
15g orange blossom syrup
Fruit syrup (to decorate)
1. Boil the milk in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar. Blend two tablespoons of cold water with the corn flour, then add the resulting paste slowly to the milk, whisking all the time. Continue whisking until the milk thickens.
2. Add the rose water, orange blossom syrup and the mistaka. Take the milk off the heat, pour into serving dishes and allow to cool. Place in fridge until set, sprinkle with pistachios or deceorate with the fruit and serve.