If you don’t have a Lebanese grandma to cook you felafel, tabouleh or baklava then you’re most certainly missing out. But thanks to Abla Amad, of Elgin Street institution Abla’s, you can now get your hands on a collection of recipes written by the lady herself to recreate the experience.
The just released second edition of Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen is a cut above the handwritten, passed-down recipes of old, but it still possesses an immensely personal quality. It’s hard to separate Amad from her food and the cookbook only reinstates the role food has played throughout her life in both Lebanon and Australia. It contains a lifetime of recipes and it’s obvious from her notes that her memories that go hand in hand with each dish.
After arriving in Australia at 19, Amad’s cooking skills quickly became renowned within the Lebanese community and she was eventually urged to start up her own restaurant in Carlton in 1979. Since then, her kitchen has become a Melbourne mainstay and a kind of home away from home for many a diner.
Building on the first edition of the book, released over a decade ago, the update includes well-loved classics alongside new recipes, personal favourites and a host of new vegetarian recipes.
As well as addressing well-known mezza such as kibbee, vine leaves and traditional Lebanese bread, Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen also includes recipes for meals that you wouldn’t traditionally associate with the nation’s food. The Mahkroum bi toum is a kind of Lebanese gnocchi with a garlic and mint sauce that Amad’s mother used to cook for lunch when she was a young girl in Lebanon.
Just flipping through the book will entice you to make a litre worth of hummus — or to make a reservation at Abla’s. Either one.
Abla’s Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad, RRP $35. Published by Penguin.