From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Lebanese barbecue– or why the English love Arabic fancy dress

DSC_0832don’t remember ever being tempted as a child to dress up in a bowler hat and umbrella and pretend I worked in the City in London.  Nor did I ever want to stick a safety pin through my trousers and tear my t-shirt and act like a punk in the Kings Road.  I did have big hair and dresses with shoulder pads but that was the 80s — when the world dressed like the women of Saddam Hussein’s boudoir – so it wasn’t a big stretch. IMG_0064 It was a surprise, then, when I moved to London and found that a certain type of Englishman ( and woman to a much lesser extent)  liked to dress up as their idea of an Arab.  I guess the blame lies with Lawrence of Arabia — the film as much as the real man.  Is it the romance of the desert?  Or just the closest that most Englishmen — famously up for a touch of transvestism — dare to get to being in a dress?  I don’t think it’s got much to do with the old respect for the austerity and authenticity of Bedouin life that you find in the great, damaged explorers like Thesiger and Burton. lobby5 It’s more Carry On Follow That Camel than Arabia Deserta.   It’s still ridiculously but endearingly English to me.  And it’s been very good for business.   The fancy dress goes with lavish tents filled with Moroccan lanterns and burnished scimitar-shaped coffee pots.  Throw in a palm tree, beaten copper trays and hundreds of cushions.  Moroccan Tent.JPG’s not that similar to the tents that the rich take out into the deserts of the Gulf at the weekend.  They are more like portable luxury hotel rooms, with huge fridges, tvs and satellite dishes the key items. But that’s because they want only a limited reminder of the heat and desolation that so bewitched English explorers.  In Surrey, the greenery is like the desert in Saudi Arabia — endless and a little dull.  But that doesn’t stop the English — young and old — entering into the spirit.DSC00627Some go deeper than others — Jayne1

or even deeper still —


The piece de resistance is almost always when the belly dancer arrives.Moroccan Style tent  It’s interesting watching the English watching her.  Is it art?  Is it ok to watch every movement of her body or is that verging on the prurient?  You can see the questions on the faces.  Fortunately, it’s nearly always resolved when she pulls someone up to dance — then the focus is less explicit and it’s more about having an embarrassingly good time, which the English know how to do very well. To go with all of this, of course, a feast is needed.   Fakhid al riz — a recipe I have already given here — is perfect.  A whole sheep would be best.  But if nothing else, a Lebanese barbecue works just fine.  I’ve done the shish taouk already.  There are two other main parts of the barbecue — lamb mashwe and kofta mashwe.  This is the recipe for kofta mashwe.  IMG_3824

Kofta Mashwe

1/2 kilo of minced lamb

1/2 bunch of flat parsley shredded

1 onion minced

1 tea spoon of salt

1 tea spoon of black pepper 

1 tea spoon of cinnamonKofta

In a large bowl put the minced meat and add the rest of the ingredients

Mix very well and leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour

Take a small amount of the meat from the mixture, the size of a ping pong ball, and roll it in your palmDSC_0816

Insert the wooden skewer in the middle and flatten the kofta around it

Don’t make the meat skewers too thick or they will fall during the cooking process

Once the coal is very hot, grill the skewers, each side for 3-5 minutes or until slightly golden

Serve hot on a bed of saffron rice and tahini sauce.

You can cook the Kebabs under the grill instead of the barbecue.

If you find it difficult to skewer the kofta, just flatten the meat and make it in the shape of a small burger.

One comment

  1. Johnf619

    Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually realize what you’re talking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my web site . We will have a hyperlink exchange arrangement among us! fddgedkadkec


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: