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Bar by Sharon Salloum
what did I think of the book? I wasn't too sure of the title
as it meant nothing to me but don't let that put you off one
of the most interesting cookery books I have seen in a long
The book is written by Sharon Salloum, a name I was not familiar
with, who together with her sister runs a Syrian restaurant
in Sydney, Australia called the Almond Bar, hence the title
of the book. As you would expect all the recipes in the book
are based on Syrian traditional cooking and food.
When I was in my early teens I was lucky enough to be friends
with a young Syrian boy for a couple of years. We were both
away at boarding school, which is something you do not associate
with good food. From time to time, during the term, we would
get parental visits or days out. Returning to school we would
come back stocked up with all sorts of goodies to eat. The
food my friend brought back was very different to what the
rest of us did. These occasions were the only time I have
ever got to try any Syrian cooking. I have lasting memories
of helping him to scoff his supply of Kibbeh. Imagine my delight
on looking through the index to Almond Bar to find several
different recipes for this Syrian dish, often thought of as
the national dish of Lebanon (something I did not know).
If I don't try anything else from the Almond Bar I will be
trying to make my own Kibbeh, and bring back memories from
Leaving Kibbeh aside this is a wonderful book of recipes
and just reading the descriptions and ingredients makes your
mouth water. The recipes are very clearly laid out with easy
to follow instructions. What adds a nice touch to each recipe
of the comments or descriptions that Sharon has added, as
well as the classy photography.
Whilst I'm sure the book only covers a small part of Syrian
cooking and food it certainly gives you an insight into what
it is all about. I don't think anyone looking at this book
will be disappointed as it is beautifully put together, well-written
and will give you some new and refreshing ideas to try either
on your family or your friends.
I certainly highly recommend this book . . . and if I ever
found myself in Sydney, Australia I would make a beeline for
the Almond Bar restaurant.
Australian-born Sharon Salloum learnt to cook authentic Syrian
food from her mother and aunts. With an instinct for hospitality
but no formal training, Sharon taught herself to run a commercial
kitchen, and in 2007 she and her sister Carol opened their
successful Almond Bar restaurant in Darlinghurst. Sharon is
an active member of Sydneys food community and is passionate
about the artistry of Middle Eastern food, participating in
food tours and television series such as Food Safari on SBS.
Almond Bar is her first cookbook.
Sharon, co-owner and chef of Almond Bar restaurant in Sydney,
was brought up in a traditional Syrian household, where a
steady stream of friends and family were welcomed with generous
offerings of food and drink. Helping in the kitchen, Sharon
learnt to cook from an early age, and developed a strong sense
of pride in her Syrian heritage.
In this stunning collection, Sharon shares over 100 classic
and contemporary recipes, including black hummus, pumpkin
kibbeh, almond-crusted scallops, sour cherry kebab balls,
fig sorbet and semolina fudge. Let Sharon's natural warmth
entice you to gather your favourite people around you and
enjoy a taste of Syria.
fragrant with sumac, coriander and cumin, rosewater and
orange blossom, stuffed with ingredients such as pine nuts,
chickpeas and lentils. - Saturday Telegraph Magazine
'Book of the Week' Carolyn Hart
- Making the Amazing Arish Cheese and Shanklish
- Making Falafel -
Almond Bar SAMPLE RECIPES
Kafta - Minced Lamb, Parsely and Onion Skewers
younger brother Steven is obsessed with kafta. When we were
younger, my mother spent much of her time at family barbecues
trying to get him to eat more than just kafta! Who would have
thought that some minced (ground) meat, onion and parsley
kneaded together with a couple of spices and barbecued would
be such a beautiful combination?
Mixing minced (ground) meat with these ingredients is
very Middle Eastern. There are also variations known as kofta
or keftedes in Greece, Turkey and Morocco, usually shaped
as meatballs. The key to good kafta is not to overcook them.
You will need 20–25 bamboo skewers (approximately 20 cm/8
in long) for this recipe.
1 kg (2¼ lb) minced (ground) lamb
1 brown onion, grated
Large handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 red (bell) pepper, seeds and membrane removed, flesh grated
and drained in a sieve
3 teaspoons salt flakes
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon seven-spice mix (see page 13)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for cooking
hummus and tabouli (see pages 18 and 90), to serve
How to make
the lamb in a medium bowl with the onion, parsley, red (bell)
pepper, salt, pepper and seven-spice mix and knead together
until very well combined.
shape the kafta mixture onto the skewers, pour the olive
oil into a shallow bowl and use it to lightly coat your
hands to stop the lamb sticking to them.
a skewer in your left hand (if you are right-handed; vice
versa if you are left-handed). Pick up a portion of kafta
mixture slightly larger than a golf ball in your right hand
and pierce it through the centre with the sharp end of the
skewer until the ball is about 3 cm (1¼ in) from
the point. Using the same hand, shape the kafta into a sausage,
ensuring it remains evenly wrapped around the skewer. Leave
another 3 cm (1¼ in) gap at the bottom of the skewer.
You can leave more if you like, but dont make your
kafta too thick otherwise they might not cook through. Repeat
with the remaining mixture to make 20 25 skewers.
your barbecue for about 10 minutes and lightly oil the grill
the kafta on three sides (that is, turning twice) for 3
4 minutes each side or until browned. If you cook
them on all four sides you risk overcooking the kafta, causing
them to dry out. Serve immediately always with hummus
and tabouli. They are a team that cannot be separated!
Shawarma & Shanklish - Spice Beef Strips with aged Yoghurt
is probably the most popular street food in Damascus. It is
traditionally cooked the same way as a doner kebab. Layers
of meat (normally beef or lamb) are placed on a large steel
rod and cooked on a rotating plate against an open flame.
Back in the day, the open flame was wood-fired, but these
days it’s a gas flame. In Syria, shawarma is traditionally
served on a piece of Middle Eastern bread with hummus or tahini
sauce (see pages 18 and 21), pickles, tomato, cucumber and
Here is my recipe for a homestyle shawarma. The meat is
softened with vinegar and seasoned with a beautiful array
of spices, and I have added what I love best with cooked meat
– cheese! Available from Middle Eastern grocers, shanklish
is a lovely dried and slightly aged yoghurt cheese coated
in dried oregano. If you’re up for a challenge, try making
it yourself (see page 47). Shanklish may be replaced with
another crumbly cheese, such as a crumbly blue or vintage
The meat needs to marinate overnight so start this recipe
a day ahead.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ teaspoons salt flakes
1 teaspoon ground pimento or seven-spice mix (see page 13)
1 kg (2¼ lb) beef rump or round steak, trimmed of
fat and cut into thin strips
125 ml (½ cup) white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 brown onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red (bell) pepper, seeds and membrane removed, cut in
half and thinly sliced
180 ml (¾ cup) olive oil
3 pieces of Middle Eastern bread
1 × 200 g (7 oz) ball of mild shanklish
2 tomatoes, diced
Small handful of mint
How to make
a mortar and pestle, crush the cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns,
cardamom pods, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pimento
or seven-spice mix to a fine spice blend. Run the spice
mix through a fine sieve and discard any large pieces or
husks that cannot be crushed.
the beef in a large bowl, add the spice blend, vinegar,
garlic, onion, red (bell) pepper and 125 ml (½ cup) olive
oil and mix until the beef is evenly coated. Cover and marinate
in the fridge overnight to enhance the flavour and allow
the vinegar to soften the meat.
the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet)
over high heat. Drain the beef strips, then add to the pan
and cook until nicely browned. If you cover the pan for
a few minutes, the steam will speed up the cooking process
without toughening or overcooking the beef.
the Middle Eastern bread on a large serving platter and
place the cooked beef in a mound in the middle. Crumble
the shanklish cheese over the beef, followed by the diced
tomato. Sprinkle the mint leaves over the top and serve
immediately. If you like, serve with potato salad or cabbage
salad with almonds (see pages 100 and 91).
Booza Bikchocolata wu Fistor Halabeh - Chocolate & Pistachio
I first started to cook at home at the age of eight, it was
mostly baked goods. Okay, I admit, it was mostly chocolateflavoured
baked goods. Pistachios were big in my family too – they could
be found in my mother’s fridge at all times and were eaten
raw. In Arabic, pistachios are called ‘fistor halabeh’ which
translates as ‘the nut of Aleppo’. Syria is the second largest
producer in the region and even has its own type of pistachio.
It was inevitable that I would combine the two, and the result
is this creamy ice-cream that isn’t too sweet and has a little
70 g raw pistachio nuts
200 g caster (superfine) sugar
8 egg yolks
1.2 litres double (heavy) cream
200 g cooking chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 vanilla pod (bean), sliced lengthways, seeds scraped
Sesame and pistachio biscuits (cookies) (see page 169),
How to make
the pistachio nuts in a food processor and process for about
2 minutes until finely chopped (don’t overprocess or the
nuts will become a paste). Tip into a small bowl and wipe
out the processor bowl to clean it.
the sugar and egg yolks in a food processor until well combined.
the cream, chocolate and vanilla seeds in a medium heavy-based
saucepan over high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until
the mixture is just below the boil and the chocolate has
melted. Reduce the heat to low.
the egg yolk mixture into the chocolate cream and stir until
smooth and well combined. Cook, stirring, over low heat
for 10 - 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened enough
to coat the back of a spoon. Fold in the chopped pistachios.
the custard into a stainless-steel bowl or baking tray (cookie
sheet) and let it cool at room temperature for about 30
minutes, then place in the fridge until it has cooled completely.
This will take about 2 - 3 hours.
the chilled custard out of the fridge and churn it in an
ice-cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Place the ice-cream in the freezer for 3 - 4 hours or until
you don’t have an ice-cream maker, transfer the cooled ice-cream
mixture from the fridge to the freezer and leave it for
6 - 8 hours, stirring it with a wooden spoon every 1 - 2
hours for the first 4 hours, and then let it freeze firm
the ice-cream with the biscuits (cookies).
order a copy of Almond Bar by Sharon Salloum
28 February 2014
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