I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Lebanon earlier this month and the biggest standout was the food. Everything seems to be fresh, light and flavoursome. Fresh herbs added in abundance to pretty well every dish and houmous on the side. I also tried a few things I’d never used in a recipe before, namely Labneh soft cheese. It’s basically a delicious, salty, yoghurt based cheese. I brought some back with me, but you can buy it in major supermarkets. Or it’s really easy to make yourself – see my method at the bottom of this blog post. If you can’t get hold of any or don’t have time, the taste is similar to Feta, so you can sub that in. I’ve rolled it into balls simply because it looks good – you can crumble it over the top too if you like.
The most obvious creation to bring back and add to a salad was of course houmous. Houmous really is a wonderfully simple dip to create. You can throw in pretty much any flavour you fancy so long as you have the proportions right. It’s a staple of middle-eastern cuisine and Lebanon was no different. I tried a few different varieties but beetroot is my favourite. Beetroot also gives the houmous an incredibly vibrant colour – ideal for the perfect photo.
Another key to the Lebanese taste of this salad is plenty of fresh parsley. With such a distinctive taste, the parsley brings the whole salad to life whilst not overpowering the other ingredients. I’m a huge advocate of adding some fruit to salads too, just to satisfy my sweet tooth. Apple was just the ticket. Especially given the gala apple I used is in season in the UK right now. Meaning wherever you get them, they should be crisp, juicy and sweet.
The dressing I threw together was as simple as possible. The fresh nature of high quality olive oil combined with mint leaves and lemon juice is sublime. It was rare that a dish would be served that didn’t have some fresh mint leaves on the side for good measure. I don’t think many herbs can match the smell of mint – it screams summertime at me. What better time of year to get it into my recipes eh?
Home-made Labneh Method
500g Thick Greek Yoghurt
1 Tsp Salt
Simply line a sieve with some cheese cloth or thin tea towel and pop over a bowl. Stir the salt into the yoghurt, pour the yoghurt into the tea towel and pull up the edges to tie into a ball to drain into the bowl. Leave overnight in the fridge. If it’s still a bit thin, leave for another few hours to thicken, then store in the fridge for use later.