• A Lebanese specialty: baked kibbeh (kibbeh bil sayneeye), laced with the seven-spice blend baharat. (Alan Benson)Source: Alan Benson
With a multicultural team at the helm, Sydney restaurant Nour borrows from the best of Lebanese, Israeli, Libyan and Palestinian cuisines. Here, executive chef Roy Ner shares some his top tips for achieving a medley of Middle Eastern flavours at home.
Roy Ner

22 May 2017 - 9:41 AM  UPDATED 23 May 2017 - 5:56 PM

How to make great hummus

Every country – and, quite possibly, every family – in the Middle East will have their own variation of the chickpea dip hummus. Executive chef Roy Ner says each nation chases a slightly different flavour profile: in Lebanon, there’s a spike of lemon; for Palestinians, the focus is on a tahini base; and in Israel it’s all about the chickpeas. 

“If you ask around the kitchen all of our mums have the best hummus,” Roy jokes.  

“One of our secrets is onion water,” says Roy, who soaks his chickpeas with raw onion to “take away the edge”.  It’s an old Arabic trick, and one that takes Nour’s hummus, made with dried broad beans, rather than chickpeas, to the next level.

Meet the chef
Chef chats: Roy Ner on cooking Lebanese and other Middle Eastern cuisines
Rising from work experience newbie to ARIA sous chef in seven months, Roy Ner has proven his cooking chops in silver service. Now as executive chef of Sydney restaurant Nour, he’s giving Middle Eastern classics a fine dining feel.

Don't overlook the origins of this much-loved sesame paste.

Check out our hummus collection, including this spice lamb specialty (hummus b'lahmeh), right here

Spice story

“Nowadays mixed spices are accessible, but your basic will be cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and turmeric,” Roy says, laying out the staples in a Middle Eastern spice rack.

He recommends heating the seeds before use: “Every seed has an oil compound, which means you have to warm it up to open the oil. Now if it goes too hot, it goes bitter because all the oil basically fries the seed.”

To counteract this, Roy suggests warming spices in the oven, on a gentle heat.  


Bread mastery

“Yemenites [are] like the French of Africa when it comes to dough,” says Roy, who serves one variety, malawach with charred octopus and fennel at Nour.

“They've got about six or seven doughs you've never heard of, it's crazy. They don't have butter because they don’t have milk, they can't afford it. They do have oil, and when they over-whip oil they get their version of margarine.”

To make malawach, Roy says the flour and margarine (or an approximation) are mixed and folded into something that resembles puff pastry. “It's a got a bit more salt in it, and it's not as creamy,” he notes.  

Try the Monday Morning Cooking Club’s take on malawach, with this recipe.

Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? The Chefs' Line airs 6pm weeknights on SBS. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more.

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