Eat Local

Mtashtash – Tabbouleh Kezzebeh

Mtashtash (متشتش) is a satiating salad with an abundance of bulgur, commonly prepared in the Akkar region of Northern Lebanon. It is also known as blileh or even “fake tabbouleh” (tabbouleh kezzebeh – تبولة كذّابة). The word mtashtash means soaked and refers to the bulgur that is mixed with the other ingredients. This traditional recipe is typically prepared during Lent and is served with cooked or fresh cabbage leaves, or it can be scooped with fresh lettuce leaves.

Mtashtash Recipe:
(Recipe courtesy of Rose Bitar from Fneidik, Akkar)

Serves: 5 people
Calories: 650 calories per serving
Preparation Time: 30 mins


2 cups of coarse bulgur
5 tbsp. of chickpeas (cooked)
1 tbsp. of tomato paste
1 tsp. of chili paste
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 cup of olive oil
2 medium sized tomatoes
2 bunches of parsley
1 bunch of mint
4 green onions
Juice of 1 squeezed lemon
Salt to taste

Preparation Steps:

  1. Wash the bulgur thoroughly.
  2. In a bowl, rub the bulgur with the garlic, olive oil, tomato paste and chili paste; mix the ingredients well and leave them aside.
  3. Finely chop the parsley, mint and green onions and add them to the bulgur mix.
  4. Dice the tomatoes and add them to the bulgur mix.
  5. Finally, add the chickpeas, lemon juice and salt and mix well.
  6. Serve cold with boiled or fresh cabbages or with fresh lettuce leaves.

Mansoufeh: A Flavorful Dish from West Bekaa and Al Chouf

Flattened mansoufeh balls

Mansoufeh is a comfort food in West Bekaa villages like Kherbet Qanafar, Ain Zebdeh and Mashgara and in villages across the Chouf district. It is a traditional vegetarian meal containing a delicious and healthy mix of wholegrain carbohydrates and veggies, which makes it a satisfying and energizing main dish.

Typically, mansoufeh consists of bulgur (burghul) rolled into small flat balls that are cooked in tomato sauce with chopped onions that are seasoned with sumac. It is customary for mansoufeh to be prepared on Good Friday.

Preparation of the mansoufeh dough

Bulgur (burghul) which is an important ingredient in Lebanese cuisine produced in the Bekaa Valley and one of the key ingredients of mansoufeh, is a great source of complex carbohydrates packed with vitamins, minerals and fibers which can improve digestion and gut health.

Another ingredient in mansoufeh is pumpkin, which is a superfood containing tons of minerals and vitamins and has low caloric content. Pumpkin, which is harvested in the Bekaa during fall, is an excellent source of vitamin A and C which helps boost the immune system. Mansoufeh contains a generous amount of onions, which are nutrient-dense and are high in vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants that help prevent several diseases.

Mansoufeh Recipe:
(Recipe courtesy of Noha Bou Rached’s Guesthouse in Ain Zebdeh, West Bekaa)

Preparation time: 1 hr 30 min

Recipe serves: 8


• 3 cups of fine bulgur
• 2 cups of flour
• 1 cup of pumpkin, boiled and drained (keep the pumpkin water for later use)
• 2 kg of onions, sliced into shreds
• 2 tbsp. of verjuice
• Water (enough to fill the cooking pot up halfway)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 cup of olive oil divided (to fry the onions and to serve mansoufeh)

Boiling mansoufeh balls boiling in water
Frying onions and mansoufeh balls in olive oil


  1. Chop and boil pumpkin until the pieces are soft, then drain the pumpkin and save the water.
  2. In a bowl, mash the cooked pumpkin and mix them with bulgur, flour, salt and pepper.
  3. Gradually add the pumpkin water until the dough becomes firm.
  4. Shape the dough into small balls and flatten them between your thumb and index finger.
  5. In a pot, boil water and salt. Add the flattened balls and let them cook for 2-3 minutes or until they float on the surface, remove and drain.
  6. In a saucepan, fry the onions in olive oil and keep them aside.
  7. Spread the remaining olive oil over a big tray and add the flattened mansoufeh balls and onions.
  8. Pour the verjuice and mix all the ingredients together gently.
  9. Serve warm!
Adding tomato sauce to the fried mansoufeh and onions

Where to Enjoy Mansoufeh?

The Bekka Valley:
Noha Bou Rached’s Guesthouse – Ain Zebdeh, West Bekaa: 08-670-572
Lina Saade’s Guesthouse – Kherbet Qanafar, West bekaa: 70-671-399

Al Chouf District:
Eid Guesthouse – Ain Zhalta, Al Chouf: 71-131-104
Streech Guesthouse – Brih, Al Chouf: 76-711-811 (Cezar Mahmoud)
FarmVille Barouk – Barouk, Al Chouf: 76-711-811 (Cezar Mahmoud)
El Achkar Guesthouse – Khreibeh, Al Chouf: 03-354-558
KAÏA Guesthouse – Barouk, Al Chouf: 81-060-621

Eat Local

Mujaddara on Ash Monday

Contributing writer: Camille CESBRON

Moujaddara served with cabbage salad

« Ash Monday » marks the beginning of Lent for the Eastern Christians worshipers, 40 days characterized by penance, sharing and prayers. On that day, many will cook and eat Mujaddara and Mudardara, a combination of lentils, rice and caramelized onions. Considered as different variations of a same dish, Mujaddara and Mudardara are two popular vegetarian dishes commonly cooked during Lent in Christian families in the Middle East region. The difference relies on the proportion of lentils and rice of each, and their consistency: whilst Mujaddara is a purée like dish Mudardara has a whole-grain aspect. These dishes are also eaten throughout the year by all the religious communities in Lebanon and usually served with cabbage salad (salatit malfouf).

Lentil, the main ingredient, is one of the earliest domesticated plants in the Middle East: it grows easily in our region, it’s inexpensive, and is the main source of protein in the Mediterranean diet. In fact, when cooked, the lentil develops even more proteins and suppresses its toxins. In Lebanon, after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross or Eid el Salib on the 14th of September, villagers gather to prepare Mouneh. Lentils are sorted, scrubbed with salt and olive oil, to prevent any contamination, then stored for a day to absorb the salt. Finally, people spread them out in the sun for few days, before storing it. Traditionally, women of the village gather in the morning for “Sob7iyé”, where they drink coffee together and sit around the stainless-steel plate to sort out the lentils. Often cited in the Bible, lentils represent the tears of Virgin Mary under the cross] for some and the tears of the Christ for others.

Moudardara with caramelized onions. Picture ©

As Lent commemorates the Christ’ 40 days fast in the desert, the food cooked and shared during this period is replete with meanings. The avoidance of commodities like meat or sometimes dairy, represents true sacrifice and tacit obedience to God. For the Anthropologist Aïda Kanafi-Zahar, an indication of this abstinence from meat, eggs and dairy products among the Maronites is found in the text of the synod of 1736, which prohibits meat, eggs and laban. Other vegetarian dishes are traditionally produced such as Mehsheh Selek, or the lentil salad Adas mutabbal seasoned with olive oil and vinegar. The use of this last condiment commemorates the Christ suffering. On Good Friday, cooked wheat and a vegetarian kebbe made from pumpkin and bulgur, called “sad dumplings” (kubba ḥazîna) or “Marie dumplings”, are eaten.

As French philosopher Olivier Assouly say “by associating nature with the rite, the product with the preparation, we offer the religious a new opportunity to resurface. Intimately intertwining nature and taste, the order of the world and pleasure, the sacred and the profane, is finally to embrace all the fullness of divine foods.” (p. 245, 2002, Les nourritures divines)


Aïda KANAFI-ZAHAR, Mune : La conservation alimentaire au Liban, Editions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1994, 266p.

Carlo PETRINI, Ben WATSON (ed.), Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition and the Honest Pleasures, Slow Food Edition, 2001, 287p.

Olivier ASSOULY, Les nourritures divines : essai sur les interdits alimentaires, Actes Sud, 2002, 300p.

Paul FIELDHOUSE, Food and Nutrition: Customs and culture, Chapman & Hall, 1995, 253p.


Lentil and fennel kebbeh (kebbit aadas b shoumar)

Fennel kebbeh ready to be cooked

This recipe from the northern village of Endket (Akkar) is a vegetarian type of kebbeh usually prepared during lent season. Lentil and fennel kebbeh can be fried or boiled in salty water. The boiled kebbeh is either served with oil and garlic sauce or with fried julienne onions.

Serving: 4

Caloric content: 250 calories / serving


For the dough:

½ cup of fine bulgur, soaked in water for 30mns

1 cup of flour

1 medium onion, shredded

½ tsp of salt

½ tsp of pepper

¼ tsp of hot pepper (optional)

1 tsp of orange zest

½ tsp of dried marjoram

For the filling:

1 medium onion, chopped in julienne and fried

½ cup of small red lentil, cooked

1 cup of fennel, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Preparation method:

  1. Combine all the kebbeh ingredients to obtain dough. Add a little bit of water to avoid stickiness
  2. In a skillet, add the filling ingredients and cook on medium fire for a couple of minutes
  3. Form small dough balls to make the kebbeh
  4. Hold the kebbeh in one hand and with the index of the other hand, make a whole in it while turning the kebbeh and pressing it against the palm of your hand to widen it. Make sure your hands are wet so that the kebbeh doesn’t stick
  5. With a spoon, stuff the kebbeh with the lentil and fennel mixture
  6. Close the kebbeh and cook for 2 minutes in boiling water to which 1 tbsp. of salt was added
  7. Make sure not to boil for long to avoid breaking of the kebbeh
  8. Serve the kebbeh with a sauce of garlic and olive oil.
  9. You can deep fry the kebbeh in vegetable oil if you like it crispy




Moujaddara served with cabbage salad
Moujaddara served with cabbage salad

One of the most common vegetarian recipes in Lebanon, and in the Arab world, moujaddara or mjaddara is highly rich in proteins, carbs, iron and fibers. There are many variations in the recipe, according to the region and the type of lentils that is used.

Arab Christians traditionally prepare moujaddara on the first day of Lent but during the Lent season as well.

Moujaddara is served hot or cold, with a green salad or a bowl of laban (yogurt) on the side.

Total Servings: 5

Preparation time: 2 hours


1 cup of lentils (green or brown), sorted and rinsed

½ cup of white short grain rice

2 Tbsp. of coarse bulgur (cracked wheat)

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. of olive oil

4 cups of water

Pepper and salt to taste

Cumin, optional

Preparation Steps:

  1. In a sauce pan, add the lentils and water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and keep cooking for 1 hour, or until the lentils are very tender and the water is reduced by two thirds.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and fry the onions until they become soft and transparent.
  3. When the lentils are done, add the rice, bulgur and onions (with their oil).
  4. Season with the spices and let simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Stir regularly to avoid the moujaddara from burning.
  6. Poor into a plate while hot, and allow to cool. The moujaddara will thicken while cooling.


Eat Local

Abou Adham, king of “Tamriyyeh”

Food heritage specialist Zeinab Jeambey, went on a trip around the country and visited its main cities looking for the locally famous pastries and the stories of their pastry chefs.

Tamriyyeh sprinkled with sugar powder
Tamriyyeh sprinkled with sugar powder

During her visit to Bhamdoun, Zeinab meets Mohammad Khafaja, known as Abou Adham, a master pastry chef in “Tamriyyeh”, a skill passed down in his family. Mohammad’s grandfather mastered Tamriyyeh making in its birth place Nablos, Palestine.

Abou Adham, preparing Tamriyye dough
Abou Adham, preparing Tamriyye dough

This dessert is originally made during Saints’ holidays and Assumption Day and was sold in quarts in front of churches. It consists of a thinly spread dough (thin semolina, water and salt), cut into cubes and filled with a cooked paste of thick semolina, sugar, water, orange blossom water and mastic. It is then fried in sunflower oil and sprinkled with powdered sugar before serving. Exempt from any dairy or animal products, it is vegan and can be consumed during lent.

Frying the "Tamriyyeh"
Frying the “Tamriyyeh”

In Palestine, people use the term “moutammar”, originating from the word “tamer” meaning dates to refer to something roasted, grilled or fried to a golden color, thus the name “Tamriyyeh”.

Today, Abu Adham is the only pastry master chef specialized in “Tamriyyeh” and has trained his nephew to carry on the legacy. To place your Tamriyyeh orders contact Abou Adham on 03/675 901.

The original article “The sweet tooth of the Levant” was featured in Lebanon Traveler Magazine


Pumpkin Kebbeh

Pumpkin KebbehThis vegetarian version of kebbeh, is popular in the Lebanese mountain villages and the villages of West Bekaa, and is usually prepared during the period of lent. Greens such as spinach may be used in the filling.

Total Servings: 20 pieces

Preparation Time: 1 hour


500 g of pumpkin, cooked and strained
2 cups of bulgur
1 tbsp. of all-purpose flour

1 ½ cup of onion (2 big onions) , chopped in julienne
½ cup of chickpeas, cooked, peeled and drained
½ cup of walnuts, toasted and chopped
¼ cup of sour pomegranate seeds
3 tbsp. of sumac
olive oil
Salt, pepper, all-spice to taste

Vegetable oil for frying

Hold the ball in one hand and with the index of your other hand make a whole it the ball. Widen the hole by turning the kebbeh and pressing its inside walls gently against your palm

Preparation method:


  1. Peel the pumpkin, remove its seeds and cut into big cubes
  2. Cook in boiling water until soft
  3. Set aside to drain for 2 hours, then mash it
  4. Wash the bulgur and soak to soften for 10 minutes
  5. Put the mashed pumpkin in a large bowl
  6. Drain the bulgur and add to the pumpkin
  7. Add the flour and knead the dough until all ingredients mix well


  1. In a pan, sauté the onions, cut in julienne, until soft using olive oil
  2. Add chickpeas, walnut, pomegranate, sumac and the spices and cook for another 5 minutes
  3. Set aside

Shaping the kebbeh:

  1. Take 2 tbsp. of the kebbeh dough and knead them in your hand until they hold together. Make sure your hands are moist so the dough doesn’t stick
  2. Hold the ball in one hand and with the index of your other hand make a whole it the ball. Widen the hole by turning the kebbeh and pressing its inside walls gently against your palm. Make sure the kebbeh is uniformly thin
  3. Fill your kebbeh with 1 tbsp. of the filling and close the ball while keeping its surface smooth
  4. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the kebbeh balls in batches

Pumpkin kebbeh filled with spring greens