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Lebanese flavours

At the Food Fest on at the Cappuccino, Park Sheraton, chef Rajat Tuli's deft hands create some delectable Lebanese fare.


THE NAME, `A Lebanese Affair' has everything, mystery and intrigue, a la Agatha Christie, romance and heart, "An Affair to Remember" style.

The platter at the ongoing Lebanese food fest at the Cappuccino, Park Sheraton, had all these necessary ingredients. Food becomes more than something down the hatch when it reflects the culture and essence of the land. And even in the exclusive reality of the coffee shop, it speaks of air scented with orange blossoms, rustling of olive groves and stories as old as mankind — the most basic, elemental affair with food.

In chef Rajat Tuli's deft hands, the venerable Lebanese cuisine, one of the oldest in the world, retains all its charm. From the basic Khubbus and Hummus to Baklava, one is caught in the delightful contradiction of the simplicity of the nomadic Middle Eastern tribes and the sophistication and panache of the West. For me the Mezze was all about texture and flavour.

Tabbouleh, the cracked wheat with parsley, onions and olive oil and Kibbeh, balls of pounded lamb also with cracked wheat had plenty of these two.

Kibbeh is incidentally a national dish with a host of variations. The Cappuccino version has the coarse chewy exterior hiding a soft moist heart of minced meat and pine nuts. Believe me, when I say that it is an experience, it is with each bite.

A word about the sauce Tarture is unavoidable here because if there is a marriage made in heaven it is that of Kibbeh and tarture. Break a bit of the meat, dip into the sauce and your taste buds are in for some guaranteed treat.

The remarkable aspect of the sauce is its simple equation, tahini or sesame seed paste + lime juice = tarture.

Maneka Gandhi is not going to like the traditional Lebanese, for that matter the Middle Eastern eating habits. It is overwhelmingly `meaty'. Of course, chef Rajat has a few veg entrees, but it is the lamb and the chicken that rule the roost. To satisfy seafood lovers, there are yummy grilled prawns and two types of grilled fish. The meat comes in different shapes, textures and taste. Shawarma, cosily rolled up in Khubbus is good. Mouchakal, three types of kebabs, minced and chunks, too is pleasing.

If there is anybody in the world who have halwas and sweets oozing of saffron flavoured sugar syrup, it is the Lebanese. But now we are discussing mascarpone cheese. Let loose your soul in the creamy smoothness of mascarpone. It comes wrapped in pancake as Katif mihsmi and topped with pistachio and almonds as Mafrouky.

Ah! It is happy eating time till June18.

MARIEN MATHEW

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