Tasty Tuesday

Middle Eastern Mezze

Jad and Hady Choucair
Tuesday 3rd November 2015

A new month means a new Tasty Tuesday, and this month we have a Middle Eastern menu to share, from the young brothers who run Mankoushe restaurant in East Brunswick.

Jad and Hady Choucair emigrated from Beirut to Melbourne eight years ago. After working for a time in other hospitality businesses, the pair joined forces to open their very own bakery and restaurant, which has fast become a local favourite.

This month Jad and Hady will share some favourites from their menu, kicking off today with an impressive array of flavoursome Middle Eastern Mezze.

At its heart, our bakery Mankoushe is more of a kitchen rather than a restaurant. We like to keep things casual. Being born in the Middle East, it’s the flavours from this region that inform our cooking. Visiting Mankoushe is not like visiting any Middle Eastern kitchen in Australia, we’ve created a culture based on food, music and a sense of humour. Our goal is to serve delicious food while having some fun.

This month we will be sharing recipes straight from our menu, and this first one combines a few simple dishes that together make for a tasty mezze platter. This includes our popular labne balls with pomegranate, fried cauliflower with homemade zaatar and a tangy carrot dip. The recipes below are designed to serve four people.

Tasty Tuesday shoots are generously supported by The Establishment Studios.

Ingredients

For the labne balls

  • 2L goats milk
  • 1 pomegranate
  • Salt to taste
  • Good quality olive oil

For the fried cauliflower with dukkah

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 50g raw pistachios
  • 3 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 3 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp chilli flakes
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon wedge

For the carrot dip

  • 500g of carrots
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 a coriander bunch
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 20ml tahini paste
  • Juice of one lemon

Ingredients for the carrot dip. Large flat ceramic plate by Shiko ceramics, dish with handle from Mankoushe. Recipe by Jad and Hady Choucair of Mankoushe. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull. Photo – Eve Wilson.

Method

For the labne balls with pomegranate

Labne is the national cheese of Lebanon. Me and my brother have great memories of eating labne in souks, sometimes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a boy on my lunch break at school, kids would be free to wander the streets of old Beirut souks and choose to eat whatever they wanted. My favorite haunt was this labne vendor by the name of Abu Kamal.

He had three simple flavours, goats milk labne, fresh cucumber and a very good house made olive oil variety. At Mankoushe we do the traditional labne, where we cook goats milk and turn it into yoghurt, then hang it to dry. We use it for pickling, dip spreading and of course with some molasses for sweet times.

In a large pot boil the milk on a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Allow the milk to become warm (not hot) and starts to foam. Remove from heat once the first of the milk foam forms, then drain in a muslin cloth and hang to drain for at least five hours.

Once the goats milk has drained, add salt to taste and roll the labne into little ping pong sized balls.

Fill a large air tight container with all of the olive oil. Peel the skin of a pomegranate (save the seeds in a separate bowl) and add it to the oil. Now place the labne balls into the olive oil and pomegranate skin filled container. Close the container and allow the balls to marinate for two hours.

Serve balls with bread, a drizzle of the oil and a few pomegranate seeds on top. You can also add a few leaves of your favourite leafy green herb, we like to add a few mint leaves to our labne.

For the fried cauliflower with dukkah

In Arabic ‘dukkah’ means to crush. Typically dukkah is a peasant food, and street vendors will sell it with fried sweet potatoes, cauliflower and eggplant. It is a warm aromatic spice mix made by toasting seeds and usually any stale nuts you have leftover or forgotten about in the pantry. Here at Mankoushe, we make our own dukkah mix with any seasonal nuts we source from Brunswick.

There are many ways to utilise dukkah, but one of our favourite options is to sprinkle it atop of some fried cauliflower florets.

Cut cauliflower into florets and put aside.

In frying pan add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and chilli flakes and dry fry for about 3 minutes on a low-medium heat. Once you have slightly toasted your dry ingredients, place them in a mortar and pestle and grind.

Now pan fry in a dry pan the pistachios for about 4 minutes on low-medium heat. Be sure to watch them so that they do not burn. Mix the pistachios in with the other spices in the pestle and mortar.

Add your preferred oil for deep frying. If you have a deep fryer you can use it, if you don’t, fill one third of a deep fry pan with oil and allow to heat. Test heat of oil by dropping one floret into the pan, if it sizzles the oil is ready to go.

Now add your cauliflower florets and fry until the florets are golden brown (but not soggy) in appearance. Allow to sit on a paper towel once removed to drain any excess oil.

Once cooked removed cauliflower to a serving dish and sprinkle with your homemade dukkah and serve with a wedge of lemon.

For the carrot dip

This carrot dip is inspired from a typically very spicy carrot salad sold on the streets of Morocco. On my last visit  to Morocco a few years ago, I made friends with the vendor that had the best spicy carrot salad in the souk. After few days of persistently asking him for the recipe and him refusing, he eventually gave up and passed it on.

We have changed this recipe slightly the original, transforming it from a salad to a dip and by mixing in some tahini for a smooth finish. We serve it at Mankoushe with fresh sesame bread straight from our oven to intensify the flavors of tahini. We think the chilli kick in this dip opens up your palate to eat more food!

Bring a pot with water to boil. Peel carrots and put in pot, remove them when soft (about 15 minutes).

In a frying pan add the oil and heat. Chop the garlic, shallots and chili and fry until soft.

Put carrot in a food processor with the shallot mix until you get a smooth texture. Slowly add tahini, lemon juice and mix well. Serve with bread.

Mankoushe
323 Lygon St.
Brunswick East
Victoria 3056

Jad and Hady Choucair of Mankoushe. Photo – Eve Wilson..


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