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Food Al Fresco

I don’t know about you, but I probably ate as many childhood summer picnics sitting inside while it rained as sitting outside in the sunshine. Still, soon-to-be-soggy tomato sandwiches, tayto crisps, club orange and mikado biscuits were as much of a summer treat inside our holiday caravan as out. Eating in also meant you avoided the inevitable gobful of sand that accompanied a meal on the beach, which was a not unimportant consideration.

Fast forward an unspecified number of years and my picnics, when they happen, are more likely to consist of crusty bread, a nice block of cheese, ballymaloe relish and a more adult beverage. Throw in some potato salad, coleslaw and maybe a tossed salad or sorts and I’m more than happy. It’s simple food to which the warmth of the sun (when it’s there) always adds its own particular seasoning.

That’s not to say, however, that you can’t mix it up a little every now and then.

This month’s 5 star makeover asked us to do exactly that: take some classic picnic fare and give it a shiny new look. Armed with a stash of ingredients from my recent Lebanese travels, I thought that I would take the simple tossed salad of tomato, lettuce and onion on a journey to the Middle East. The result is a salad packed with Lebanese flavours. The preparation, though, is simple, which is a must for picnics in Ireland. Too much time spent getting ready and you might have to enjoy your picnic inside, again.

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Chickpea Salad With Lebanese Flavours

Lebanese chickpea salad

As Bethany, our guide for Taste Lebanon explained, you can make almost anything taste Lebanese by adding olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, some or all of which you’re likely to find in almost any dish you eat there. The dressing here combines those three with pomegranate molasses, another classic ingredient from the region, with its thick, syrupy tang.

As for chickpeas, you’ll find them in all sorts of places in Lebanese cuisine, from the ubiquitous hummus – which is actually just the Arabic word for chickpea – to warm dishes like Lebanese moussaka, which features chickpeas, aubergines and tomato. This salad includes both plain cooked chickpeas and roasted chickpeas for added crunch, along with spring onions, tomatoes, fresh coriander and parsley, all of which abound in the foods from that part of the world. If you can get your hands on some good labneh, the strained yoghurt that is very commonly eaten in Lebanon, then by all means add that to the salad, otherwise some soft fresh goat’s cheese makes a good substitute.

For the dressing:

  • 3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice
  • 1 tblsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1.5 tsp honey
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • coarse salt to taste

For the salad:

  • 8 large spring onions, finely sliced
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, quartered (or halved if very small)
  • 250g cooked chickpeas (either soak and cook approx. 100g dried chickpeas or drain and rinse a 400g tin of chickpeas)
  • 100g roasted chickpeas with sumac and allspice (see recipe below)
  • 100g soft, fresh goat’s cheese or labneh
  • 6 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 3 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • coarse salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • leaves of baby gem, romaine or other crunchy lettuce to serve

The Steps:

  • Prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, honey, crushed garlic and salt to taste.
  • Add the spring onions to a salad bowl and sprinkle with a good squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Add the tomatoes, chickpeas (both plain and roasted), goat’s cheese, coriander, parsley and dressing to the salad bowl. Toss to mix. Add coarse salt and black pepper to taste.
  • To serve, scoop spoonfuls of salad onto crunchy lettuce leaves and dig in.

The Variations:

  • You could replace the goat’s cheese here with feta cheese and (if so) reduce the amount of salt you add.

The Results:

  • Serves around 6-8, along with other salad dishes & breads
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Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted chickpeas

Chickpea fiend that I am, I find it surprising, and not a little shocking, that it took me this long to get around to making roasted chickpeas. Still, better late than never and I can guarantee that it won’t take me anything like as long to get around to making these a second (and third and forth …) time.

The flavourings I’ve used – sumac, with its lemony tartness and warm, aromatic allspice – are classically Lebanese but you can adjust to suit your own tastes, while the method is adapted from a recipe I found over here.

You’ll need:

  • 250g cooked chickpeas (either soak and cook approx. 100g dried chickpeas or drain and rinse a 400g tin of chickpeas)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp sumac
  • 1 tsp gnd allspice
  • 0.25 tsp coarse salt

You’ll also need:

  • A shallow baking tray to accommodate the chickpeas in a single layer – one that’s around 20cm x 30cm should do the trick

The Steps:

  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • Spread the cooked chickpeas in a single layer on your baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes, giving the tray a good shake about midway through.
  • Remove the tray from the oven and toss the chickpeas with the oil, sumac, allspice and salt. Spread them out onto the tray again and return to the oven for another 5 to 15 minutes, until browned and crunchy. Enjoy warm or at room temperature as a snack or use in the salad above.

The Variations:

  • You can vary the spices as suits your mood. The recipe linked above, for example, uses cumin and cayenne pepper, which sounds like a good combination to me.

The Results:

  • Makes around 100g roasted chickpeas


  1. Móna Wise

    Oh yum. I love sumac!
    We have never made the roasted chickpeas (but will try it now)
    however we have deep fried them and they puff up into\nice little crunchy chip-like treats. Not a bit of goodness left in them I am sure after the frying, but very tasty.
    Great photos Aoife. Making me hungry….


  2. Daily Spud

    Hey Móna, am getting quite addicted to sumac myself! Haven’t tried deep fried chickpeas but no doubt I’d become addicted to those too :)

  3. 5 Star Foodie

    This chickpea salad sounds amazing, such wonderful flavors with sumac and allspice, and I like the pomegranate molasses in the dressing too.

  4. Mindy

    I don’t know if the roasted chickpeas would make it to the salad–I’m sure I’d need to “taste test” them until they were all gone. This looks unbelievably delicious!

  5. Lazaro

    Great bold flavor combination. Perfect for any occasion. I am a big big fan of the chickpea.


  6. Faith

    Love roasted chickpeas and this is a great use for them! Sounds like a delicious salad, especially with the sweet/tart tang from pomegranate molasses in the dressing.

  7. Debi(Table Talk)

    Cool salads like this on hot days make perfect picnic food. The Lebanese flavors are a welcoming treat!

  8. Marisa

    I love chickpeas. The salad looks mouthwatering–really nice picnic dish! I’ve got to try roasting chickpeas. You make them look so good!

  9. bellini

    These are both right up my alley. Just delicious!!

  10. Daily Spud

    5 Star Foodie: I have to say that I love pomegranate molasses in almost anything – the bottle I brought back with me won’t last long!

    Mindy: too funny – I’d say I ate at least half of the roasted chickpeas myself before they got anywhere near the salad!

    Lazaro: thank you – I’m a big, big fan of the chickpea too

    Faith: the salad is really all about tanginess, from the lemon juice to the sumac to the pomegranate molasses – I love having them all in there

    Debi: it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d want to be eating on a hot day, washed down with a nice, cold drink – Lebanese or otherwise :)

    Marisa: do try roasting chickpeas – they make for a great, crunchy snack and you can flavour them with whatever spices take your fancy

    bellini: they’re both right up my alley too :) glad you liked them both!

  11. Lori@FakeFoodFree

    As I read this on a rainy start to a holiday weekend here that is focused on picnics, those first few lines are very appropriate. I can also relate to your evolution of picnic food. A little crusty bread and cheese and my world is perfect. This salad looks delicious and I love the flavors you’ve infused from your recent travels. I’ll happily add it to my menus at future picnics this summer.

  12. Mary @ Delightful Bitefuls

    YUM! This dish sounds incredible! Bookmarked to make soon!

    New to your blog; happy I found you!

    Mary xo
    Delightful Bitefuls

  13. Daily Spud

    Lori: agreed – crusty bread and cheese is probably one of my perfect meals, though quite happy to have this salad anytime too…

    Mary: Welcome! Very happy to have you visit :)

  14. Tanantha

    that’s good to know if I add garlic, lemon, and olive oil, it will have a Lebanese taste! I like that you roasted chickpeas first. Sumac and allspice sound delicious with chickpeas. Pom molasses in a dressing def’ got me!

  15. Nic

    Beautiful salad with refreshing flavours!
    I have enjoyed reading about your Lebanese trip, sounds like you had quite an adventure!

  16. Angela@spinachtiger

    Beautiful to look at. Beautiful ingredients. Great flavor profile. (I forgot about tomato sandwiches. I still love those though).

  17. Daily Spud

    Tanatha: the sumac and allspice are delicious with the chickpeas and I definitely recommend you try using pom molasses in a dressing sometime!

    Nic: We did have quite an adventure! Highly recommend the experience :)

    Angela: Thank you :) I had kindof forgotten about plain tomato sandwiches too until I wrote this, but I’d still be happy to eat some now or any day.

  18. Trix

    I absolutely adore Middle Eastern cuisine in general, and Lebanese food in particular. You have done a beautiful job interpreting those flavors here.

  19. Bren

    oh how i love everything about this. i adooooooore chickpeas like no one’s biz! great, great salad. I could eat this every day. ; )

  20. Daily Spud

    Trix: thank you, so kind of you to say so :)

    Bren: believe me, I could eat this every day too!

  21. Jenni

    Now *that* my friend is One Lovely Makeover! Olive oil, garlic and lemon juice=the Lebanese Trifecta of Flavor? I can definitely get behind that combination:)

  22. Daily Spud

    Hey Jenni, I knew I could count on you, a bona-fide hummus-lover, to get behind those flavours :)

  23. Tangled Noodle

    Ah, chickpeas! Such wonderful food, though I can’t enjoy as much due to a mild allergy (no more hummus, sadly). The flavors sound wonderful, especially for the roasted chickpeas. 8-)

  24. Lori Lynn

    Hey I didn’t know hummus was Arabic for chickpea, thanks for that interesting tidbit!
    Awesome salad, terrific contribution to the makeover. Definitely planning to make those roasted chickpeas!

  25. Priscilla - She's Cookin'

    I can’t believe that I’ve never roasted chickpeas either! The chickpeas and Lebanese flavors really add an exotic touch to the typical tossed salad. I recently bought some sumac with a desire to delve more into the flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine – this is a perfect place to start. Great picnic makeover :)

  26. deana@lostpastremembered

    I have been noticing Lebanon is in so many recipes that catch my eye… I’v never been but wish I could. The flavors are bright and intense and yet sophisticated. Your salad is just gorgeous. I have seen fresh chickpeas in the market and am determined to make something with them someday… roasting them would be amazing! Great recipe!

  27. Daily Spud

    Tangled Noodle: ah, the cursed chickpea allergy – ‘twould be a sad day indeed if I could have no more hummus; still, that’s not to say that you couldn’t take the flavours of this salad and enjoy them with something other than chickpeas – I quite fancy some potatoes myself :)

    Lori Lynn: Thank you! I was interested to discover that little tidbit about hummus myself. Hope you get to try the roasted chickpeas, they’re definitely on my list to make again :)

    Priscilla: I’m getting really fond of adding sumac to my salads these days and love it! Hope you enjoy delving into the flavours of the Middle East, they’re well worth exploring.

    Deana: thanks so much, I’m not surprised that Lebanese recipes have caught your eye – there’s a lot about the cuisine that’s well worth a look

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