June issue 71

‘Rather than serving up a formal three-course meal, why not try Salma Hage’s make-ahead authentic Middle Eastern mezze feast that everyone can dip into?’

Travel Special

‘Following the worldwide success of her debut cookbook, accidental author Salma Hage returns with a vegetarian take on the exciting flavours of the Middle East.’


‘In the introduction to her latest release, The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook, Salma Hage recalls the communal nature of preparing food in the Lebanese village in which she grew up—stringing together beans to dry, pickling turnips, and making batches of her grandmother’s beloved tomato paste. Hage is not vegetarian, but when her son Joe axed meat from his diet, she began adapting favorite recipes to suit his needs. Often she didn’t need to—so many classic Middle Eastern dishes are meat-free that the cuisine is a vegetarian’s dream.’

Konafah with lemon syrup

This typical Lebanese dessert is creamy and indulgent. Though often made with vermicelli, I like to use bread crumbs for a different texture. The orange flower water custard is beautifully offset by golden crumbs.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Serves: 6-8


Preheat the oven to 400oF/200oC/Gas Mark 6.
Pour half of the bread crumbs into a 9-inch/23-cm square

baking dish and toast them in the oven for 10 minutes, or until just brown.

Reduce the oven to 350oF/180oC/Gas Mark 4.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, semolina, sugar, and orange flower water, mix well, and cook for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Pour the cream mixture on top of the bread crumbs and top with the rest of bread crumbs. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden and the mixture is firm. Sprinkle with edible flowers, if desired.

For the syrup, combine the sugar, lemon leaves, and a scant
1 cup (7 fl oz/200 ml) water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until it becomes a thick syrup. Remove the leaves, add the lemon juice, and mix well.

Serve slices of the dessert warm with the lemon syrup.


Eggplant and pomegranate salad with toasted pine nuts

Meaty eggplant (aubergine) and sweet-and-sour pomegranate make a delicious pair here, with toasted pine nuts offering
a finishing crunch.


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4


Preheat the oven to 400oF/200oC/Gas Mark 6.
Put the coriander and cumin seeds into a mortar and crush

them with a pestle. Toast them in a dry skillet or frying pan for a few minutes, or until fragrant.

Put the eggplants (aubergines) into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle on the toasted coriander and cumin seeds.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil onto a baking sheet. Dip the eggplants lightly in the flour. Place them on the baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until chargrilled and slightly crisp. Let cool.

While the eggplants are roasting, mix all the dressing ingredients together and set aside.

Put the roasted eggplants into a bowl, pour 1–2 tablespoons of the dressing, and toss well. Let stand for 10 minutes so the dressing can absorb.

Heat 2 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and lightly toast the pine nuts until golden.

Add the chopped parsley, spinach, and pomegranate seeds to the eggplants and toss together well. Sprinkle on the toasted pine nuts and serve with the remaining dressing.

Rosewater pancakes with pistachio and honey

Known as ataif, this is usually a crispy and indulgent Arabic treat. Here, I make a breakfast-friendly version that is much less sweet, but still has that fragrant yet subtle flavor of rosewater contrasted with the classic combination of crunchy pistachios and sweet honey. An 8-inch/20-cm crepe pan is perfect for this recipe.


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes per pancake

Serves: 4 (1 lb/450 g batter makes eight 8-inch/20-cm pancakes)


Put the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center, add the eggs (or add the egg substitute), then pour in the milk slowly.

Add the rosewater and whisk the mixture thoroughly to make a smooth, pourable batter.

Grease the crepe pan with oil. Set over medium heat and

add enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook for

2–3 minutes, or until the edges of the pancake begin to pull away from the pan. Flip the pancake over and cook the other side for another 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a warm plate while you cook the remaining pancakes.

Serve the pancakes immediately with drizzled honey and pistachios.