What is your favourite food destination and why?
Lebanon: the culture is so rich and food is an integral part of life. They can spend hours savouring and socialising around a table full of mezze. I think a mezze spread best sums-up Lebanon and its beautiful people to me – a feast of colours and textures.
When did you last go to Lebanon?
I was there two years ago and went as far north as the historic city of Tripoli and enjoyed the famous Halawet El Jibn, a melt-inyour- mouth cheese and semolina pastry doused in rose syrup. Wherever I went, I made sure to savour the specialties of that region.
How would you describe Lebanese cuisine?
Arabic cuisine, which the Lebanese cuisine is part of, is the food of the Mediterranean. It’s a cuisine rooted in seasonal vegetables and fruits. The freshest herbs delicately infuse sumptuous stews and vegetables are stuffed, braised, fried, sautéed and baked in the most ingenious meatless dishes.
What are your favourite culinary memories from Lebanon?
I love visiting friends and having a simple meal of labneh (thick yoghurt dip), fresh mint and tomatoes with hot Arabic bread to dip in a bowl of fruity green olive oil. And then sipping mint tea in front of the most enchanting Mediterranean sunset. Heaven!
Do you have a favourite Lebanese/Arabic dish?
I adore Arabic cuisine because it’s so full of flavour and choice. There are hundreds [of dishes] to choose from but if I was to pick a favourite it would have to be kibbeh (meat and bulgur shells filled with toasted nuts) and tabbouleh, the quintessential salad of Lebanon.
What would you recommend to do in Lebanon, food-wise?
Experience the authentic street foods of Lebanon like shawarma, falafel and hummus. And set aside some time to go to a restaurant and experience the pleasure of eating the mezze way.
What do you especially love about Lebanese cuisine?
I like that meat isn’t always the main event and that herbs and vegetables can be the stars of the dish. And that you can enjoy fruits in season as the finale to a meal instead of desserts.
INFO: Suzanne Husseini (www.suzannehusseini.com), one of the UAE’s most high-profile chefs, is the author of When Suzanne Cooks.