Forever Beirut: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Lebanon, written by Barbara Abdeni Massaad, features 100 recipes and gorgeous photos of Beirut’s culinary heritage, cultures, and communities. This book is available for preorder and set to release on August 23, 2022. Proceeds will support the Lebanese Food Bank.
A few highlights include Shorbet Djej (Chicken Soup), Sambousek (Meat Crescents), Batata Harra (Spicy Potatoes), Shish Barak (Meat Dumplings in Yogurt), and Atayef (Stuffed Pancakes). I will be sharing her recipe for Laban Ummo (Lamb in Yogurt) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Barbara Abdeni Massaad
Barbara Abdeni Massaad immigrated to the United States from Lebanon when she was 10 years old and returned in 1988. She now lives in Beirut with her family where she works as a food writer, TV host, cookbook author, and regular contributor to cooking magazines.
Her career in cooking began by helping in her father’s Florida restaurant, Kebabs & Things, when she was 15. She continued to train with several renowned chefs in Lebanese, Italian, and French restaurants.
Barbara begins Forever Beirut with an introduction and the history behind the development of this beautiful book. She discusses the local communities, the explosion on August 4th, 2020, and how she chose the recipes to represent a portion of Lebanon’s diverse cuisine.
Chapters are divided according to course: Soups, Salads, Breads and Savory Pastries, Mezze, Kibbeh, Grills, Main Dishes, Preserves and Pantry Staples, and Sweets.
The photography is also provided by Barbara. Many of the dishes are paired with a half to full-page photo. The pages are also filled with the people, food, and scenery in Beirut.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in English with the romanized Arabic name underneath. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, menu ideas, tips, serving size, and variations.
Laban Ummo (Lamb in Yogurt)
Everything we have tried so far in Forever Beirut has been fantastic, but I especially loved the comforting Laban Ummo (Lamb in Yogurt, Laban Immo).
This dish takes a couple of hours on the stove, but only has a handful of ingredients and a few warming spices.
Lamb shank pieces are simmered in water with onion and spices until tender. It is then warmed in a thickened yogurt sauce before serving with rice or Vermicelli Rice.
When heating the yogurt, whisk the mixture in the same direction to keep it from curdling. Immediately decrease the temperature to low once it starts to boil.
I also made Rakakat Jibneh (Cheese Rolls), Maqaneq (Lebanese Sausages), Shariyeh (Vermicelli Rice), and Aleb Helou Chocolata (Lazy Cake).
The Rakakat Jibneh (Cheese Rolls) are such a delicious addition to the Breads & Savory Pastries chapter. A spiced cheese mixture is rolled in individual phyllo sheets and fried until golden.
I actually made the Maqaneq (Lebanese Sausages) before our move to use up some Merguez sausages which can be used in place of the Maqaneq (Lebanese beef or lamb sausages). They are pan-fried until cooked through, then served in a caramelized pomegranate molasses sauce.
I made the Vermicelli Rice to go with the Laban Ummo (Lamb in Yogurt). Broken vermicelli is toasted in butter and olive oil, then tossed with rice and simmered in water until tender. It was so easy and the texture came out perfectly. I also can’t wait to try it with the Dawoud Basha (Meatball Stew).
The Aleb Helou Chocolata (Lazy Cake, No-Bake Chocolate Cake) was actually the very first recipe we made after moving into the new house! You only need a handful of ingredients, a loaf pan, double boiler, and bowl. This was perfect since we didn’t have all the boxes unpacked yet. A melted chocolate/condensed milk mixture is folded with broken up digestive biscuits and poured into the loaf pan to set. It is such a fun treat.
Forever Beirut is a great pick for those interested in Lebanese cuisine paired with beautiful photography and personal stories. Barbara has developed these recipes with the home cook in mind. There is a wonderful variety of soups, salads, bread, meat, seafood, vegetarian options, and desserts.
Having a market nearby with Lebanese/Middle-Eastern ingredients will be helpful in locating items such as vermicelli, kishk, purslane, pomegranate molasses, sumac, tahini, grape leaves, mastic, nigella seeds, orange blossom water, semolina, and lamb fat. Substitutions are provided when possible.
Laban Ummo (Lamb in Yogurt) Recipe
Excerpt from Forever Beirut
Laban Ummo (Lamb in Yogurt)
- 1 pound (450 grams) boneless lamb shanks cut into chunks
- 1 large onion quartered
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 2 cardamom pods
- 2-3 allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 4 1/2 cups (1 kilogram) plain yogurt
- 1 large egg whisked
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water
- An hour before you cook the yogurt sauce, it is best to bring out the yogurt from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature.
- Place the lamb in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, skimming the foam from the surface.
- Add the onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, allspice, and salt. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is very tender (you can do this in a pressure cooker, if you have one, to save time).
- Strain the broth through a fine sieve, and set the meat and broth aside.
To make the Yogurt Sauce:
- Put the yogurt in large pot and set over medium heat. Whisk in the egg and salt and bring to a boil, whisking constantly in the same direction to avoid curdling.
- As soon as the yogurt starts to boil, lower the heat to low and add the diluted cornstarch and 1 cup (240 milliliters) of the warm lamb broth. Simmer, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
- Add the meat and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Serve with rice or Vermicelli Rice.