From traditional Lebanese mezze, or small-plate appetizers, to sweets scented with rose and orange blossom water, Salma Hage shares classic recipes and family favourites in The Lebanese Kitchen
(Phaidon, November 2012).
Hage was born and raised in Mazraat El Toufah (“apple hamlet”), Lebanon and has been cooking in the Lebanese tradition for more than 50 years. Although she immigrated to London, England with her husband and son in 1967, and is a college-trained English cook, Hage has always cooked Lebanese food at home. “There never was a day without Lebanese food,” she says.
As the eldest of 12 siblings, Hage often cooked for her entire family and remembers cooking her first meal at age nine – mujadara, a dish of lentils, rice and caramelized onions. From mezze classics such as hummus (recipe below), falafel and fattoush, to Lebanon’s national dish kibbeh, The Lebanese Kitchen includes more than 500 of Hage’s recipes, many of which were handed down from her grandmother, mother, mother-in-law and five sisters-in-law.
The recipes, accompanied by 200 colour photographs, are divided into chapters featuring basic recipes, mezze and salads, soups, fish, meat, vegetables, breads and pastries, desserts, drinks, and pickles and jams. There is also a chapter devoted to seven chefs from the Lebanese diaspora, which includes recipes for Lamb Stewed in Yogurt from Anissa Helou
, Sea Bass with Citrus-Scented Rice from Jad Youssef
and Lebneh with Garlic from Roland Semaan
The importance of sharing meals with friends and family is highlighted in the book, as well as the basics of keeping a Lebanese pantry, something that Hage achieves easily in London utilizing specialty shops and her own kitchen garden. Key Lebanese ingredients include spices such as cinnamon, za’atar and cumin, grains and legumes such as lentils and cracked wheat, olives and olive oil, vegetables such as eggplants, and fruit such as figs and pomegranates.