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A taste of Lebanon – at home in North London.
There are few better ways to kick off a Sunday than with brunch delivered to your door. Often, I make shakshuka for the slumbering members of my household who stumble downstairs as the aroma of harissa wafts into their dreams. Sometimes, though, it is good to sleep in and let someone else do the work. Especially when it is baked goods which always taste best to me on weekends. I was especially pleased to be asked to review a range of items from The Lebanese Bakery because this type of cuisine is popular in my household where there is no end to the enthusiasm for flatbreads, dips, fresh salads and pastries.
The Lebanese Bakery has outlets in Beirut and London and has recently begun a home delivery service to households within reach of Crouch End and Islington. Hungry North Londoners can now enjoy a range of Levantine food. Deliveroo has selected a list of the bestsellers which includes warm flatbreads, manousheh, filled with fresh cheeses, meats and vegetables; traditional ‘Kaak’ Lebanese bread with sesame seeds, sumac and thyme, salads and lovely sweet Maamouls filled with sweet pastry, dates, pistachios and walnuts.
The London branch of The Lebanese Bakery is in Covent Garden, but the home delivery service is good news indeed for those who are still, like me, not keen to return to restaurants and shops but appreciate what is on offer within them. I do visit my local sourdough bakery regularly, but that is as far afield as I venture at the moment. Everything else we eat is delivered through either a great fruit and veg service or a supermarket delivery that tops up our staples. Hence a takeaway is a real treat.
Takeaway food has become more popular than ever under lockdown so the need to deliver the food in good condition is paramount. I was struck by the attractive packaging of The Lebanese Bakery with its name emblazoned on each item and the cardboard pizza boxes of various sizes keeping the food warm despite the distance travelled.
We began with the savoury selection – a series of manousheh, traditional Lebanese flatbreads, in round pizza shapes, with that distinctively wonderful chewiness. We started with a manousheh topped with Chicken Djej. This looked so lovely and fresh, the mildly spicy and tender chicken pieces topped with chopped cos lettuce and strips of pickled cucumber. I really enjoyed this.
The second savoury manousheh was topped with muhammara and labneh. Those who enjoy Lebanese cuisine will be familiar with both labneh (strained yoghurt) and muhammara which is a full-flavoured dip made with grilled sweet peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Since buying a Lebanese cookbook many years ago, muhammara has become my staple dip to serve whenever entertaining (remember those days?) and all my guests have loved it. It is spicy, sweet and sour, has great texture and goes well with flatbreads, crackers, crudites and just about anything to be honest. It just tastes so good. The Lebanese Bakery serves a thinner version that the dip I make as makes sense for a flatbread topping. The muhammara tasted just right and the labneh added a creaminess to this combination. Once again, attention was paid to the look of the dish which was prettily topped with julienne strips of cucumber.
The third savoury manousheh went down well too. This one was folded (like a calzone pizza) and filled half with Akkawi (a soft brine cheese) and za’atar. We use za’atar in my household as others do salt and pepper, we season everything from cheese toasties to the weekly roast chicken. Often, we simply dip flatbreads into olive oil and za’atar for a snack. Generally, I buy bags full in my local Lebanese shop – which has very sadly closed during lockdown – but the za’atar on this manousheh really tasted better. I assume The Lebanese Bakery makes their own za’atar mix and checking on the menu I see they import it from Lebanon as they do many of their ingredients.
A bright fresh salad and houmous accompanied our meal. I loved the look of the salad, very jewel-like with pomegranate seeds, paper-thin slices of radish, deeply roasted aubergine, cucumber slices and crisp lettuce.
We next moved onto a box filled with enticing moujjanets which are bite-sized bake that are usually served as the mezze selection at the beginning of a Lebanese meal. Not only is each filled with a different set of flavours, each one has its own traditional shape. While the moujjanets may have the same pastry base, each looks completely different. Although I have often looked at the recipes for these delights in my Lebanese cookbook I have never made any as they seem to involve too much work with pastry making which tends to put me off. Now that I have tasted these lovely moujjanets from The Lebanese Bakery I know I do not need to make my own. If you are having a party these would make great canapes or mezze.
A delectable selection filled a small pizza box. We started with the kibbeh which was excellent. These torpedo-shaped kibbeh are made with mince filled bulghar and deep-fried. These had a crunchy exterior and a moist interior, really tasty.
Next up were the zaytoun – discs of pastry with a dome filled with finely chopped black olives redolent with thyme. Sambousek are crescent-shaped, crimped pastries filled with minced lamb and onions. Sbenikh has a jaunty, three-cornered hat shape. These are filled with a very citrussy filling, the citrus flavour coming from the sumac which gives the chopped spinach a lot of oomph. As I love spinach and sumac I really enjoyed these. One of the prettiest shapes of all is the flower pastry, Bulghareh, is filled with Sirene cheese and thyme flower. Nutella and hazelnuts speaks for itself and was a popular filling with the younger people at my table. Haleweh was both very pretty and delicious – it got the vote for best in the box being gorgeous to eat – flavoured with rose water and containing chopped pistachio in a melting pastry base. Really lovely.
We finished with a small manousheh, a sweet one this time topped with halva, sliced strawberries and chopped pistachios and mint leaves. It made for a lovely dessert.
This was a very filling feast. If you would like to be treated to a delivery of goodies from The Lebanese Bakery, check out the website where the takeaway menu will not fail to tempt you.
Find details of how to order a takeaway on www.thelebanesebakery.com
Deliveries are available to various London postcodes, near Covent Garden, Crouch End and Islington. You can also pick up your order from the Covent Garden branch.
Disclosure: Our brunch menu was gifted, all content is editorially given.