Smaaklik ‘samak’ and other tasty Lebanese dishes

Smaaklik ‘samak’ and other tasty Lebanese dishes

By Dominique Herman

Despite having done my fair share of cookery courses, I remain all but useless in the kitchen. And, yet, I persevere – most recently at the regularly oversubscribed Lebanese culinary jolly that my friend Sophia Lindop runs in her home in Bergvliet on Saturday mornings.

I wasn’t surprised to be put largely on chopping duty for the tabbouleh (Sophia knows my abilities all too well), but I was rather surprised that the Lebanese ambassador to South Africa turned up a few hours later to eat said tabbouleh. More on that shortly.

Instructed to chop the parsley roughly, I duly did as told, only too relieved that it would take an even more elevated lack of skill than mine to balls that up. “Last week it was chopped too finely and I don’t think it works well in the tabbouleh like that,” Sophia said. I subsequently discovered I might be something of an excellent prep cook, if chopping parsley roughly is the extent of the job.

Stabbing a handful of aubergines all over so they could be baked in the pizza oven ahead of being mashed into moutabal (baba ghanouj) was perturbingly pleasurable: definitely the most satisfying encounter I’ve had with a vegetable.

Several hivelike hours later, the table laden with our collective efforts and the Chateau Musar uncorked (Lebanon’s best-known wine producer), the part that I am convinced most people enroll in cookery courses for – the meal – commenced.

The ambassador, who looks like a movie star playing the role of an ambassador, bolted up to serve the fatayer (triangular pies) to everyone around the table as he didn’t want to be “rude” and fetch a couple only for himself.

A good cook, as far as he was concerned, was judged on the merits of his or her hummus. As he repeatedly ladled dollops onto his plate of the roasted carrot-infused hummus bi tahini that someone else had prepared, I vowed silently to add carrot-roasting and chickpea-blending to my parsley chopping/aubergine-stabbing repertoire.

Contact Sophia at [email protected]
@sophialindopcooks on Instagram and Facebook  
 

Dominique Herman is a journalist in Cape Town. She is writing a book on the development of Cape Town’s restaurant culture and how the city became South Africa’s eating out capital.
@dh.ct on Instagram

Image by Sophia Lindop

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