As far as I know none of my glamorous Lebanese cousins has done a gym workout in their lives. Their method of staying beautiful is of the ‘pretend you’re eating but don’t really eat’ school.In between there are the endless small, perfectly judged cups of thick, but not sludgy, aromatic, black coffee. This is as much appetite suppressant as favoured beverage. I tend to take on a bit more food, but in small portions because it’s what I grew up with. What generally helps is that the high proportion of vegetables and grain in this cuisine tend to fill you up.
Of course the women of Beirut and Lebanon in general pay much attention to their looks (and they are rather gorgeous) as that is very much part of the culture, but even today I suspect any entry into a gym is probably for something involving massage and potions. Much like the French, they do like a pampering regime and share the Frenchwoman’s love of beauty products.
My Australian upbringing means that I also enjoy activity and so the gym has been a consistent part of my life. I think there is a lot of nonsense written around nutrition for the average gym workout. An hour and a half or so of exercise and stretching does not require a huge amount of food especially if you are over 40! You want something quick, easily digestible and virtuous. In this case I’ve also gone for gluten free by using quinoa which is not very Lebanese but does a great job as a substitute in Tabouleh and other things.
This salad can be done while you are kicking off your gym shoes. Ingredients can be pretty much prepped before you go.
1 cup of Quinoa cooked to directions and cooled under cold water.
A generous handful each of coriander and parsley chopped (but it doesn’t have to chopped finely like Tabouleh).
Salt, pepper, lemon, garlic, olive oil.
Broad beans (frozen and already skinned)
Labneh Balls (I like them already rolled in mint. You can use Feta if unavailable but they are worth getting)
There are no hard and fast rules here. Mix the quickly boiled broadbeans and quinoa together. Take your gym clothes off and have a shower while they cool. Come back and throw the herbs in, one smashed garlic clove, salt, pepper and a classic lemon and oil dressing. I like Labneh balls on top for the protein factor. Feta is good if you don’t have them. Pomegranate is lovely for colour and crunch but again why not throw pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts if you don’t have them.
This is so good nobody else in the family will notice that it’s healthy. You can grill some chicken to go with it if you intend a family meal. Or you can just make a huge bowl and eat it for the next three days which is what my clients like to do.