An introduction to the varied ingredients of Lebanese food, starting with the letter A, as taken from our second cookbook.
Allspice is one of the prInclpal spices used in Lebanese cuisine. It is the dried fruit of One Pimenta Dioica tree and is believed to have been called allspice by the British, who thought it combined the flavours of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. It lends a warmth and earthy flavour to Lebanese food and is subtly able to lift dishes that might initially appear quite bland.
You can use cider vinegar in place of Lebanese apple vinegar, though the flavour is not as complex. Traditionally we make It each autumn by simply chopping the apples without peeling or coring, then we place them in a barrel and leave them somewhere warm for a few months and the fermentation has slowed and the liquid has a rich vinegar aroma. Lebanese apple vinegar has a dark golden colour and is slightly cloudy, as it is unfiltered and retains more of the apple. We use it often in marinades, as its very good with grilled meats, or sometimes on a salad I’II use it in place of lemon juice. If you have the time, you can intensify the flavour of shop-bought cider vinegar by gating 1-2 raw apples into a bowl containing 500ml cider vinegar, covering it with a cloth, and leaving it at room temperature for a week before strainIng and rebottling. This will give the cider vinegar much more flavour.
Perhaps the most important vegetable we use at Comptoir, and in Lebanese cooking. When it, cooked its texture is porous enough to hold the oils, spices and sauces you mix it with. while adding a flavour that softens refer than dominates the dish. The most famous recipe is perhaps baba ghanoush, made by roasting eggplants, peeling the skin off, mixing the finely chopped flesh with tahini until thick, then adjusting the flavour to taste with lemon juice, mashed raw garlic, chopped parsley and salt.