December 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Western Asia | Leave a comment

Lebanon has a rather violent recent history, going from an informal status of “Switzerland of the East” to “oh-my-god-what-a-crap-hole.”    Fifteen years of civil war, largely fought in urban areas, will do that to one’s country.  Hosting an anti-Israel guerrilla group next door to Israel doesn’t add too much either.

One interesting thing about Lebanon though, is that it has a unique political system.  Called confessionalism, government is formed by taking representatives (proportional) from the nation’s religious groups.  Not exactly as free thinking as democracy, but more considerate than a flat out theocracy or monarchy (as much of the region favours)

The Plan

There’s so much good Lebanese food to pick from:  I should know, the family of one of my first school friends had fled Lebanon to Australia.  Baklava, hummus, baba ghanoush, dolma, pitta bread.   However, I’ve got prawns in the fridge, so I tracked down Garlic Prawns with Lemon Pilaf, with a side of spicy chickpeas.

Garlic Prawns with Lemon Pilaf

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved and finely sliced
  • 300g long-grain rice
  • 550ml water or stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 12 medium prawns, peeled, deveined with tails left
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika  and extra for serving
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges


  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a frypan and cook onion gently for five minutes. Rinse the rice under cold running water, shake dry and add to the onions, tossing well. Add water, salt, turmeric, lemon juice and zest and bring to the boil. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to rest, covered, while cooking the prawns.
  2. Heat remaining oil in frypan and cook garlic over medium heat until it “flutters” in the oil. Add prawns, cayenne, coriander and paprika, tossing well until the prawns are cooked and the garlic is golden and nutty. Toss parsley and mint through rice, top with prawns, garlic, a final dusting of paprika and lemon wedges for squeezing.

Ingredients – Spicy chickpeas

  • 1 can canned chickpeas, or 2 cups dried chickpeas, cooked
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sprig fresh coriander


  1. In a large fry pan, add olive oil and heat. Add onions, cumin, salt, red chili powder, and cardamom. Stir frequently over medium high heat until onions are tender.
  2. Lower heat to medium-low. Add tomatoes and stir until juice begins to thicken. Add lemon juice, stir well.
  3. Add chickpeas and stir well, cooking an additional five minutes. If you would like a thicker sauce, reserve about 1/3 of the chickpeas and mash with a food processor or blender. Add mashed chickpeas and stir well before adding remaining chickpeas.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into serving dish. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.


The Event

Talk about simple.  This is quick and easy.  The rice is made easier by using a rice cooker.  Do the rice first, the chickpeas second, and then flash the prawns for  2-3 minutes


The Outcome

Chris:  “Yeah, this is a good one.  The chickpeas are good”


Liam:  “Prawns good.  Onion in rice bad.”

Me:  This was great.   Will definitely do this again


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