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Hosting an iftar or suhoor this month? This authentic sharing menu, from Lebanese food writer Lara Ariss’ first cookbook, Levantine Harvest, is sure to impress your guests…

Rocket and Date Salad

Serves 4 to 6

3 bunches rocket

1 handful Medjool dates, pitted and sliced

60g walnuts

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 tbsp date syrup

100g blue cheese, crumbled

2 pears, peeled and thinly sliced

1) Toss the rocket, dates and walnuts in a large bowl. 2) Whisk together the vinegar and date syrup in a small bowl. Season with salt. 3) Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad. Top with the blue cheese and pears, and serve immediately.

Sea bass with turmeric and saffron rice

Serves 4 to 6

1 whole sea bass, about 2kg, descaled and cleaned

200ml vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

100g plain flour

1⁄2 tsp cumin

1⁄2 tsp allspice

1 tsp turmeric

1⁄2 tsp saffron

220g short-grain rice

220g long-grain rice

50g pine nuts

100g almonds, blanched

Tahini sauce, to serve

1) Wash the sea bass, pat dry with kitchen towels and then cut into four pieces, keeping the head and tail attached. 2) Heat 50ml of the vegetable oil in a large pot over a medium- low heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 3) In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Dip the fish pieces in flour and place them in the pan, in batches if necessary. Fry the fish until browned on all sides, then transfer to a plate lined with several layers of paper towel. Reserve 75ml of the frying oil. 4) When the onions are ready, increase the temperature under the saucepan to high and pour the frying oil over them. Add the cumin, allspice, turmeric and saffron, season with salt and stir to combine. Pour in 750ml water and bring to the boil, then add all the rice and cook on high for five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the rice is al dente. 5) While the rice cooks, skin and debone the fish. Set the flesh aside. 6) Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat for one to two minutes. Once the pan is hot, add the almonds and pine nuts and reduce the heat to low. Shake the pan continuously until the nuts begin to brown, about one or two minutes. Remove the nuts from the pan immediately – they will burn very quickly – and set them aside. 7) To serve, transfer the rice to a serving plate and top with the bass and the nuts. Serve immediately with the tahini sauce on the side.

Vegetarian maqloubeh

Serves 4 to 6

600 to 700ml vegetable stock

100ml vegetable oil

1 small cauliflower head, cut into large florets

2 carrots, cut diagonally into 1⁄2cm slices

150g young okra, stems cut off and caps trimmed

1 tomato, cut into 1cm slices

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp cardomom seeds, crushed

300g short-grain rice, rinsed and drained

50g pine nuts

Yoghurt, to serve

Tahini sauce, to serve

1) Heat the vegetable oil over a medium-high heat in a straight-sided pot around 12cm deep. Fry the cauliflower for two to three minutes, until it starts to change in colour. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, then repeat then process with the okra, then the carrots. 2) Place the vegetables in the pot in layers, beginning with the cauliflower, then the carrots, the okra and tomato. Pour 600ml of the vegetable stock over the vegetables and stir in the garlic and cardomom. Bring to a light simmer then add the rice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the rice is al dente, adding the remaining 100ml of stock if the pot becomes too dry. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, for 20 minutes before serving. 3) In the meantime, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat for one or two minutes. Once the pan is hot, add the pine nuts and reduce the heat to low. Shake the pan continuously until the nuts begin to brown, about one or two minutes. Remove the nuts from the pan immediately – they will burn very quickly – and set them aside. 4) Place a large round serving platter on top of the pot and quickly turn it upside down. Ideally, the rice will retain the shape of the pan for presentation, but the taste remains the same if it falls apart! Garnish with toasted pine nuts and serve immediately with the tahini sauce and plain yoghurt, if desired.

Baked chicken with onions and sumac

Serves 4 to 6

Juice of 2 lemons

130ml olive oil

1⁄2 tsp allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

2 garlic cloves, crushed

60g sumac

1 whole chicken, about 1.5kg, jointed into 8

60ml vegetable oil

750g yellow onions, thinly sliced

750g purple onions, thinly sliced

45g pine nuts

45g flaked almonds

3 wraps of taboon, laffa or tannour bread, plus extra to serve

Yoghurt, to serve

1) Combine the lemon juice, 90ml of the oil, the allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, crushed garlic and 2 teaspoons of the sumac in a large bowl. Place the chicken in the marinade and massage to coat. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least one hour. 2) Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, then reduce the heat to low and sauté until translucent, around 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining sumac, and set aside. 3) Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the chicken, the marinade and a third of the sautéed onions in an oven dish. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for approximately an hour, turning once. The chicken is done when the juices run clear when the flesh is pricked with a knife. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. 4) Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, skin and debone it. Reserve the onions. 5) Lay the bread on the baking trays and top with the onions and chicken. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil the return to the oven for ten to 15 minutes, or until heated through. 6) Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the almonds and pine nuts and reduce the heat to low. Shake the pan continuously until the nuts begin to brown, about one or two minutes. Remove the nuts from the pan immediately – they will burn very quickly – and set them aside. 7) Remove the baking trays from the oven, sprinkle the nuts over the chicken and onions, and serve with yoghurt and some flatbreads on the side.

Rose loukoum ice cream

150g caster sugar

3 egg yolks

450ml milk

400ml heavy cream

2 tsp rosewater

40ml rose syrup

1 drop red food colouring (optional)

120g rose loukoum, coarsely chopped

1) Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy and pale. Pour the milk and cream into a medium pot and set over a medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and stir constantly for about 30 minutes, then carefully pour the liquid onto the yolk mixture, whisking continuously. 2) Sieve the custard back into the pot and cook on a low heat until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring slowly and continuously and making sure the spoon touches the bottom of the pot. Stir in the rosewater and rose syrup, and the food coloring, if desired, then strain the custard into a bowl sitting in ice water and leave to cool, about 15 to 20 minutes. 3) Stir in the loukoum. Place the mixture in the freezer for six to eight hours, whisking every hour until the ice cream has reached the desired consistency. Alternatively, if you have an ice-cream machine, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 4) Remove from the freezer shortly before serving, to soften, then scoop into cones.

Halaweh cake with caramel sauce

For the cake

115g caster sugar

115g butter

1 tsp rosewater

2 eggs

115g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

160g plain halaweh

60g walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

For the caramel sauce

80g caster sugar

30g butter

50ml heavy cream

1) Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20×20cm cake tin. 2) Cream the butter, sugar and rosewater until pale and creamy, using an electric mixer. Add one egg and beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Repeat with the remaining egg, then gradually beat in the flour and baking powder until well combined. Fold in the halaweh and the walnuts, if desired. 3) Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for ten minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 4) Place the sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring constantly until it dissolves into a smooth, dark caramel. Add the butter and continue stirring until it dissolves into the sugar. Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream, stirring constantly, until it is evenly incorporated. 5) Slice the cake and serve topped with the warm caramel sauce.