Lebanese-American Bethany Kehdy welcomes you to her table and invites you to explore the traditions, recipes and history
behind Middle-Eastern hospitality. Her ‘nafas’, or ‘soul cooking’ includes vibrant and colourful dishes, from candied beetroot maqluba (fragrant rice) with smoked mackerel and orange blossom, to baby aubergines stuffed with garlic, walnut and pomegranate. The perfect way to impress at your next dinner party.
The Jewelled Table: Cooking, Eating and Entertaining the Middle Eastern Way By Bethany Kehdy (£25, Hardie Grant Books).
Find a selection of recipes from the book below…
BEETROOT, LABNEH & ZA’ATAR FATAYER KAYAKS
Makes 30–35 (serves 4–8 as part of a multi-course menu)
Prep 20 minutes, plus preparing and resting the dough
Cook 10 minutes
1 x quantity Savoury pastry dough (see below)
Olive oil, to grease
Flour, for dusting
For the filling:
1 cooked beetroot (beet) (about 100 g/31⁄2 oz), peeled and finely chopped
120 g (41⁄2 oz) firm labneh or feta, crumbled
1–2 heaped tablespoons fresh or dried za’atar
Zest of 1⁄4 grapefruit
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fatayer is the generic name for pastries encompassing all shapes: stars, pizzettes or crescents. The filling speaks for itself but if I may add my two cents: simply scrumptioulescent! You can substitute the labneh with Green kishk mutabal.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas 6 and generously grease a baking sheet with oil.
To make the filling, combine the beetroot, labneh, za’atar, grapefruit zest and oil in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Flour a working surface and divide the dough into two. Keep one portion covered in a damp tea towel to keep it moist. Working with the other portion, roll it out into a large circle, about 2 mm thick. You may find it helps to flip the dough a few times during the rolling stage, dusting with flour as needed. Using a 7 cm (3 in) pastry cutter, or cup, cut out 30–35 rounds. Re-roll any pastry scraps and cut out the remaining dough.
To fill, place 1 teaspoon of the mixture in the centre of each circle. Using thumb and index finger, pinch the opposing edges of the dough to form a boat shape. Pinch together tightly, and thin out gently until you see no crease – you want to eliminate the crease between the two layers of dough that you are bringing together at the opposing points, to ensure they stay sealed during cooking. Otherwise, the dough will open up to a pizette.
Place the ‘kayaks’ on the prepared sheet and bake for 7–10 minutes, or until golden and crisp at the edges. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Also try: Freeze the cooked or uncooked fatayer kayaks in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks. They can be baked from frozen in an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for 10–15 minutes, or until heated through.
SAVOURY PASTRY DOUGH
Makes enough dough for 30–35 fatayer
Prep 10 minutes, plus 1 hour for rising
150 g (51⁄2 oz/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
1⁄2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing
6 tablespoons full-fat milk
1⁄2 teaspoon dried active yeast
Here is a basic pastry dough recipe used for the array of savoury pastries or fatayer that grace any Middle Eastern dinner party, buffet or mezze.
Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a mound on a clean work surface and create a well in the middle. Pour the oil into the centre of the well and, using your hands, start incorporating the flour until fully combined. Heat the milk in a saucepan until tepid, then pour it into a small bowl. Sprinkle over the yeast and mix thoroughly. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and oil mixture and knead for about 5 minutes, dusting the work surface with flour as necessary, or until smooth and elastic and a ball has formed.
Place the dough into a large bowl greased with a little oil, and score the top with a knife to loosen the surface tension. Cover with a damp, clean tea towel and place in a warm, draught-free place for about 1 hour until doubled in size.
KUKU WITH GREEN STALKS AND HERBS
Serves 4–6 as part of a multi-course menu
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced
200 g (7 oz) mixed soft green stalks and/or herbs (equal parts beetroot/ beets, carrots, radishes and kohlrabi and choice of soft herbs), finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Flaky sea salt
8–10 eggs, beaten
This dish is inspired by the Arab eggah and Persian herb frittata known as kuku sabzi. The original egg omelette dish uses a mixture of herbs, but this recipe uses things you might otherwise throw away.
Here I’ve opted for the stalks from beetroot, carrots, radishes and kohlrabi. You can adapt it to your taste, using any leftover edible stalks and herbs you have on hand. If you want a meatier option you can add some Bacon basturma (page 95) or chorizo and mix through a few tablespoons of yoghurt to cut through the richness.
Preheat your grill (broiler) to high. Place a large ovenproof pan (one that will fit under the grill) over medium heat, then add 2 tablespoons of the oil and leave to heat for about 30 seconds. Add the leek and sauté for a minute, stirring often. Add in the stalks and/or herbs, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often until the stalks have wilted. Stir in the garlic and spices and season with salt. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste. Use a spatula to spread the greens evenly across the bottom of the pan, drizzle over the remaining oil, then pour over the eggs. Tilt the pan gently to help spread the eggs evenly and then leave to cook for 3–4 minutes, or until bubbles gently begin to develop on the top of the kuku.
Finish cooking the kuku under the grill for 3–4 minutes, or until the edges turn a lovely golden brown. Alternatively, finish cooking the kuku on the stovetop by reducing the heat to low, covering it with a lid and cooking until just done (about 3–4 minutes). Remove from heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Slice up and serve warm or at room temperature with bread.
BLACK MAGIC BROWNIES WITH NIGELLA SEEDS & CLEMENTINE
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
300 g (101⁄2 oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, lightly toasted
85 ml (23⁄4 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed
150 g (5 fl oz/scant 1⁄2 cup) honey
7 clementines, yielding
250 ml (81⁄2 fl oz/1 cup) juice, or orange juice zest of 1–2 clementines, or 1 orange
35 g (11⁄4 oz/scant 1⁄4 cup) blanched almonds
For the nigella seed paste:
165 g (6 oz) nigella seeds
100 ml (31⁄2 fl oz) neutral oil such as rapeseed or sunflower oil
‘There is healing in black seed for all diseases except death’ as Prophet Muhammad said about nigella seeds. This miracle seed has now gained traction as a trendy cure among modern health gurus. Known as habt el barakah, or ‘seed of blessing’, it remains in popular use in the Middle East, sprinkled onto breads and into pastry fillings. It is also used to make a slightly more obscure paste known as qizha in South Lebanon and Palestine. For these black magic brownies I have repurposed the paste. The nigella seeds impart a distinct flavour and colour and I have found the addition of clementine lends a welcome tangy-sweet dimension. It’s an intriguingly delightful treat. Make the nigella seed paste by blitzing the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Line a 28 x 20 cm (11 x 8 in) baking tray with baking (parchment) paper. Add the flour to a mixing bowl and drizzle in the olive oil. Mix together well with a fork, then add the mustard seeds, honey, clementine juice and zest and nigella paste, and mix until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tray. Use a knife to slice the mixture into diamond-shaped pieces, or rectangular brownie-like pieces, then press an almond into the centre of each shape. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until firm to the touch, or a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out clean once inserted.