Cookbook 165: Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen

I bought Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad during lockdown because it was on sale, I love Lebanese food, and Abla’s restaurat in Melbourne is an institution (highly recommend going there if you live in Melbourne and can afford it). It was hard to pick what I was going cook from this book as there are so many tasty looking dishes. In the end I had to get someone else to be the arbiter between some of the dishes, because I couldn’t choose.

The cookbook is good, the recipes in it are easy to follow, the stories of Abla’s life and family are interesting and beautiful, and the photos are fantastic. I am looking forward to cooking from this book again and give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Chicken casserole (serves 6 – 8)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 larges onions, halved and cut into 3mm thick semi-circles
  • 1 head (the entire garlic bulb) of garlic, cloves removed and chopped
  • 1 kg skinless chicken breast fillets, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 heaped tablespoons tomato paste

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat and saute the onion and garlic for 6 – 7 minutes or until golden brown (this may take longer).
  2. Add the chicken, salt, pepper and allspice and stir to combine. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the tomato paste, then pour in enough water to cover (you might not need to add any water, depending on the chicken and onion releasing water – you can always add more later). Replace the lid and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Scatter with parsley leavea nd seve with Lebanese rice (see below).

Notes on this recipe:

  • This dish could work equally well with chicken thighs. Find the cut that works best for you
  • Onions going golden brown takes a while, but we decided at about 7 minutes that ours were brown enough.
  • The garlic does not overpower this dish, it is exactly the right amount of garlic.

Baked eggplant (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried split chickpeas, washed and drained (or 1 tin of chickpeas, drained)
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into 1cm-thick rounds
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  1. If using dried chickpeas, soak the chickpeas with water overnight. Next day, drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the eggplant with 1/2 tsp salt and drizzle over 1 tbsp of the oil. Grill lightly on both sides for 3 – 4 minutes under a hot griller, then spread in a baking dish.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over hight heat and saute the onion for 4 – 5 minutes until translucent. Add the chickpeas, tomato, spices, tomato paste, remaining salt and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, coverd, for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture over the eggplant slices and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with Lebanese rice (see below).

Notes on this recipe:

  • This was a beautiful dish and was so easy to put together. Would also go really well with bread.

Lebanese rice (services 6 as an accompaniment)

Ingredients:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 cup broken egg vermicelli
  • 2 cups long-grain rice, washed and drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the vermicelli and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until dark golden brown.
  2. Stir in the rice, salt and 1 litre of water, then cover and bring tot he boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 10 – 12 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
  3. Serve immediately

Notes on this recipe:

  • OMG this is so tasty and to die for (almost literally, that is a lot of butter). Love this rice dish, would definitely make again and again.

Chickpeas with Yoghurt (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, washed and drained or 2 cups drained tinned chickpeas (approx 2 tins)
  • pinch bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus a pinch extra
  • 80g butter
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (or slivered almonds as I used)
  • 1 round Lebanese bread, split in half widthways and cut into 2cm squares (I used two, because I know we’d eat it all)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup natural yoghurt

Method:

  1. If using dried chickpeas, cover the chickpeas with water, add the bicarbonate of soda and soak overnight.
  2. Next day, drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan. Cover with fresh water, add the salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 60g of the butter in a frying pan over medium heat and cook the bread pieces in btaches, stirring to ensure they brown evenly. Keep an eye on the heat to make sure the butter does not burn (or use vegetable oil, it’s probably easier and is just as tasty). Drain on paper towel.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the same pan over medium heat and cook the pine nuts/slivered almonds for 2 – 3 minutes or until golden, stirring constantly to prevent them from burning. Drain on paper towel. Stir the garlic and remaining pinch of slat into the ygohurt and whisk until smooth.
  5. Drain the chickpeas, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Stir the reserved liquid into half of the drained chickpeas and make a rough puree by mashing with a wooden spoon (or potato masher) or blending in a food processor on low speed for no more than a minute. FOld in the remaining chickpeas.
  6. To serve, arrange two-thirds of the fried bread evenly on a platter, then spread the chickpea puree over the top, followed by the yoghurt. Top with the remaining bread and finish with a sprinkling of nuts.
  7. Eat immediately as the bread will quickly become soggy if left for too long.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I added some paprika, because I like the way it looks. I also put all the bread on the bottom
  • This was the recipe that Jacinta chose, versus a fritter that I also thought looked quite interesting.
  • I will never get sick of these chickpea bake recipes, they are delicious every time and are a fantastic accompaniment to a meal.

Rosewater lemonade (makes about 1 litre)

[No photo of this one, imagine a lemon cordial and you’re there]

Ingredients:

  • 5 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 litre cold water
  • 1 cup lemon juice (approx 4 – 8 lemons depending on how juicy they are)
  • 1 tbsp rosewater

Method:

  1. Add the sugar to the water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice and rosewater.
  2. Serve immediately or chill for later. Store in a jug in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes on this recipe:

  • It is a bit strong for me, but I am the person who likes weak cordial. I like 2/3 of the lemonade and the rest water and I’m happy.
  • Definitely going to make some of this for Christmas day lunch.

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