Country #13 – Lebanon

013 LebanonChallenge Log:

#13        Date selected:    8/3/16   Date completed:

Country selected:  Lebanon

Dining Selection:  Cooked Own

What was on the menu:

  • Kibbet Raaheb (Monk’s Kibbeh Stew)
  • Minted Lemonade

Restaurant/Recipe address:

http://www.mamaslebanesekitchen.com/vegetarian/monks-kibbeh-stew-kibbet-raaheb-recipe/#sthash.0jYrLFpF.dpbs

http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/minted-lemonade/

 

Friday 11th March 2016, 2.41pm

There is a healthy Lebanese community in Melbourne so this cuisine is something that I have definitely eaten before.  I can’t recall ever cooking it myself however so I’m looking forward to this challenge.

Lebanon is situated between Syria and Israel and the country’s earliest history predates recorded history at more than seven thousand years.  In its earliest days it had a strong maritime culture and later came under the rule of the Roman Empire.  Eventually it became one of the Empire’s leading centres of Christianity.  These days it is the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East.

The Lebanese culture reflects the different and religious groups that form the history of the county.  Both Christian and Muslim holidays are celebrated, with the Christian holidays celebrated following both the Gregorian and Julian Calendars.  They’re also big on music festivals it seems – ranking 1st for nightlife in the Middle East and 6th Worldwide.

 

Friday 11th March 2016, 5.55pm

If you like your meals to have mild, gentle flavours or dislike lemon and garlic, I would suggest steering clear of Lebanese cuisine.  Wow – did these pack a punch!

There was such a wide-range of different recipes available for this challenge that I had a difficult time choosing.  With so many available online and little background knowledge to work from, it was tricky to pick which were traditional recipes and which were more a modern style.  I was keen to try something fairly traditional, a bit different and after so many meat dishes, I’m looking to include some more vegetarian dishes into my challenges where and when I can.   It’s not that I don’t enjoy meat, far from it!  I am quite a heavy meat eater actually but one that’s keen to include more vegetarian meals into her diet.  The problem I’ve found with that is that a lot of vegetarian dishes seem quite bland to me so I’d like to mix it up and see what is out there.

In steps ‘Kibbet Raaheb’ or ‘Monk’s Kibbeh Stew.’  Any thoughts I had about flavourless vegetarian dishes have been (almost literally!) blown away.

I was first attracted to this recipe as it’s quite different – according to the website that I sourced this from, this type of kibbe is almost never served in restaurants and is mostly popular in Lebanese villages.  This is exactly the kinds of recipes that I was hoping to uncover in doing these challenges so it was a big tick from the get go.

The base of the stew consists of brown or red kidney beans.  You then roll little balls of dough made up of burghul (cracked wheat), flour, onion and mint and put them in with the beans.  This is topped off by an extremely generous amount of crushed garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.

The first taste nearly blew my head off!  I’m not sure if my measurements were out a bit but the lemon and the garlic are intense.  Definitely not one to eat before a job interview or a date!

As I got further into the dish however, my palette began to adjust and I was able to get the complexity of the flavours and textures.  The dough balls were slightly chewy and the mint cut through the lemon and garlic to give it a little extra kick every now and then.  The beans were soft and silky and practically disintegrated on the tongue.  It’s quite unlike anything I’ve tried before.

013 Monk's Kibbeh Stew
Kibbet Raaheb (Monk’s Kibbeh Stew)

I think this is something I would like to try again in the future, but maybe with a bit less garlic and lemon.  It would be fantastic to serve as per recipe with a lightly flavoured meat or even some crusty bread I imagine though.  Would possibly go well as a starter too.

As my interest in beverages from around the world has also peaked during these challenges, I decided to try a Minted Lemonade.  They’re apparently very popular in Beirut cafes and, with the spell of hot, humid weather we are having in Melbourne at the moment, I thought it would be nice and refreshing.  I was certainly right about that.

013 Minted Lemonade
Minted Lemonade

Again, the lemon was quite strong (well duh – it IS lemonade!) but the sweetness of the sugar and the mint meant that it wasn’t overpowering.  With ice (I used a mixture of both cubed and crushed ice), it was a delicious end to the meal.  With so much sugar, it was almost like a dessert and, again, I would consider cutting back a bit on the sweetness a little if and when I made this again.

That said, it would go deliciously with vodka, Pimms or gin as a summer cocktail and that might just be worth looking into another time!

But for now, onto the next challenge….

014 Nauru.JPG

 

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