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Dec 31 12

Takeaway closes after two decades

by Samis Kitchen

WINDMILL FAVOURITES: Sonia and Sami Bejjani are retiring after two decades.

Heart scare leads to closure after 21 years 

A health scare has convinced the owners of a popular Lebanese takeaway to shut its Christchurch premises.

Sami and Sonia Bejjani spent more than two decades behind the counter at Sami’s Lebanese & Middle Eastern Cuisine in Riccarton’s Windmill Centre until retiring at Christmas.

The couple started the business soon after emigrating to Christchurch with three children in 1989, having been unable to find work in their professions and not wanting handouts from their adopted homeland.

Sonia Bejjani said it was her husband’s heart scare this year that convinced them to retire.

He had three stents inserted into his chest to open blockages in four arteries.

“He was very lucky he didn’t have a heart attack. Two days [after surgery] he was back on his feet, but we thought it was a sign we had to stop,” she said.

“We are both at retirement age, Sami and I, so it’s time to just slow down.”

The news was a blow to their customers, some of whom had been regulars since the takeaway opened.

“We didn’t know we were so appreciated to that extent until the last two weeks when we put up the notice that we were finishing on the 23rd [of December]. It was overwhelming.”

On the final night, orders stopped about 7.30pm when food ran out, despite more than three times the usual preparation.

They started the takeaway at time when international cuisine was not the staple it is now.

Sonia Bejjani had worked as an executive secretary in the banking industry and Sami Bejjani in information technology sales, but neither could find work in Christchurch despite both speaking three languages.

They turned to what Sonia Bejjani knew best – cooking.

“It took off with word of mouth and we just started growing our loyal customers from there,” she said.

“You can’t believe the love they have for our food and us. It’s very sad.”

The couple will continue to sell their food products online through the Sami’s Kitchen website, which started three years ago. Sonia Bejjani also plans to write a cookbook.

The Press (Marc Greenhill – 28/12/2012)

Apr 12 12

Falafel Spiced, Warm Chickpea Salad

by Samis Kitchen

Here’s a beautiful recipe from our good friend Christie Connelly at Fig and Cherry. We love Christie’s de-constructed and super-healthy take on this simple yet delicious recipe, which everyone can make at home in absolutely no time.

Serves 4 as a side or part of a mezze selection


  • 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 spring onion (scallion), finely sliced
  • 1 fat garlic clove, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Samis Kitchen falafel spice blend
  • 4 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • pinch of salt


  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons labne (or thick greek-style yoghurt)
  • 1 teaspoon Samis Kitchen falafel spice blend
  • 1/2 small lemon, juiced


  1. Saute the spring onion and garlic in the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly softened.
  2. Add the spice mix and chickpeas, stir to coat well and cook for 2 minutes until warmed through. Add the parsley and a pinch of salt. Cook for 1 minute more and then set aside and keep warm.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve the salad with a dollop of dressing and some warm pita bread or as part of a mezze selection. It is also lovely served with grilled chicken that has been marinated in Samis Kitchen shish tawook spice mix.

Feb 19 12

Chicky Hampshire

by Samis Kitchen

Chicky Hampshire is an established caterer in Sydney servicing cooking for both the Corporate and private sectors as well as running customised cooking classes in the comfort of your own home.

Feb 10 12

Middle Eastern Chickpea Puree Or Hummus

by Samis Kitchen

Recipe by Chicky Hampshire Catering


  • 1 cup of good quality chickpeas [soaked overnight in twice the water volume and a pinch of baking soda]
  • N.B If time does not allow to soak, use a good quality tin of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 TB of Tahini [sesame paste]
  • 2 tsp roasted cumin seeds [roast in a fry pan until fragrant]
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste with a little salt
  • 4 Tb lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • About 200mls of Olive oil
  • N.B fresh chili can also be added to taste


Place the soaked chickpeas in a large pot and fill with fresh water, cook for about 45-60 mins until they are tender. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid.

Place chickpeas, cumin seeds, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid in a food processor. Add 100mls of the olive and process, for a minute. Then add extra olive oil and cooking liquid to this mixture to get a smooth consistency.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Feb 10 12

Shish Tawook Marinated Grilled Prawns With Hummus And A Fennel, Watercress And Parsley Salad [Serves 4]

by Samis Kitchen

Recipe by Chicky Hampshire Catering

Swish Tawook Marinated Prawns Recipe


  • 4-5 medium to large green prawn per person [peeled]


  • 1/2 bunch of continental parsley and ½ bunch of coriander
  • 2 Tablespoons of ‘Sami’s Kitchen’ Shish Tawook spice blend
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2cm piece of ginger, chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 80 ml olive oil
  • Salad Ingredients
  • 1/2 small head of fennel, shaved very finely
  • 1/2 bunch continental [flat leaf] parsley, leaves picked
  • 1/2 bunch of watercress, leaves picked and washed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 100mls extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt flakes and fresh ground pepper


In a food processor or mortar and pestle, pulse all the marinade ingredients together until they are smooth.

Coat the prawns in the marinade and let them sit for 15 mins. [Be careful not to marinate for too long as the lemon juice will make the prawns a strange texture]

Heat a BBQ grill plate or large fry pan [preferably non stick] and add just enough olive oil to cover the surface.

When the grill or pan is hot add prawns. They must sizzle when they touch the pan otherwise the surface is not hot enough! N.B do not over crowd the pan as it will cool the pan down too much. Season prawns with salt and pepper.

Turn heat to medium high and fry prawns for 2-3 mins depending on the size of the prawns… Turn over and cook for another 2-3 mins on the other side. [Do not overcook the prawns as all seafood keeps cooking for a few more minutes once it has been taken off the heat]

Toss all the salad ingredients together and coat with the lemon juice, EVO and salt and pepper.

To serve put a good tablespoon of hummus on the serving plate, place the grilled prawns on the hummus and then a nice handful of the salad on the top of the prawns. You can drizzle with a little more of the lemon dressing if desired.

Oct 8 11

Shish Barak

by Samis Kitchen

Recipe by John Bek @

This recipe does not use Sami’s Kitchen products but is a beautiful Middle Eastern dish worth sharing…
Makes about 34 dumplings and serves 4-6

Ingredients – General:
250 g plain flour
1 tsp salt
60 g clarified butter, melted
40 g clarified butter, extra, for serving
2 cloves garlic, finely grated, for serving
1 tbsp mint leaves, chopped

Ingredients – Filling:
20 g clarified butter, to brush
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts
250 g lamb mince
1 tsp ground allspice (pimento)

Ingredients – Yoghurt sauce:
3 cups natural yoghurt
2 tsp cornflour
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1- For the dough, place flour and 1 tsp salt into a mixing bowl and add ¾ cup water a little at a time, combining until the mixture forms a dough. Cover with plastic and allow to sit for ½ hour.
2- For the filling, melt the clarified butter in a frying pan and cook the onion over medium heat until soft. Add the pine nuts and allow them to brown, stirring constantly. Increase the heat to high and add the mince and allspice, stirring until the mince browns. Season to taste and allow to cool.
3- Preheat oven 190°C and lightly grease a baking tray.
4- Roll the dough on a floured surface to about 4 mm and cut into 6 cm rounds using a drinking glass or cutter. Place a teaspoon of the meat mixture into the centre of each round, fold the round in half to form a crescent, pressing the edges together to seal. Wrap the crescent around one finger to form a hat (tortellini) shape and press the ends together.
5- Arrange on the baking tray, brush lightly with clarified butter and bake for 10-15 minutes.
6- Place the yoghurt in a large saucepan. Combine the cornflour with 1½ cups water and stir until smooth, then add it to the yoghurt with the egg white and 2 tsp salt. Cook the yoghurt mixture over medium heat until it thickens, stirring constantly.
7- Add the dumplings to the yoghurt, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not boil the sauce.
8- Prior to serving, melt the 40 g clarified butter in a small pan and fry the grated garlic gently. Add the chopped mint and remove from the heat.
9- To serve, arrange the dumplngs on individual plates and drizzle over the yoghurt sauce. Pour the butter over the dumplings and serve with cooked rice.

Sep 21 11

Featured Retailer: CookandKitchen

by Samis Kitchen

This month, we chat with James Wright, CEO & Founder of one of Australia’s latest online foodie havens, cookandkitchen… Check below for a very generous special offer exclusively for Sami’s Kitchen friends. Thanks James!

How long have you been in business?

We launched cookandkitchen in April 2011, having started the development project back in October 2010 and raising some investment capital.

How did the business come about?

By a frustrated foodie for frustrated foodies.

I started writing my blog in 2008 after my life coach recommended that I needed to find an outlet for my passion for food. I was sick of not being able to tell anyone about what I was up to with food at home and friends didn’t really seem that interested. It became a collection of ramblings and reviews about food and what I was creating and eating.

One morning I woke up to an e-mail from a lady in Spain who had just recreated my Fish Pie recipe and I realised I was onto something. I locked myself in a hotel room about 18 months later and didn’t come out until I had written a business plan to transform the way foodies connect.

What do you look for in a supplier?

Do they align with our core values; delicious, creative and pure.

What attracted you to the Sami’s Kitchen range?

The story, it’s all about the story. Hearing about how the brand was born out of a mother’s wish to have her family enjoy traditional cuisine is inspirational.

What is the best part of your job?

When I see a member of the community post something on facebook or share a story on the cookandkitchen blog I know we are delivering on our promise and that’s what this whole social commerce project is all about. It’s wonderful to have a kitchen full of samples to play with and work with such a fantastic supplier community committed to delivering a quality product.

What is your favourite dish?

Impossible to say really! Osso Bucco for something really comforting. Recently I have been cooking up a lot of fresh pasta. My signature dish is a flourless prune and chocolate tart. I love snacking on falafel of course!

Why do you believe a good palate is a blessing and a curse?

I’ve put 8kg on since we started this business. We’ll have to have a diet themed month sooner or later.


Receive 15% discount off any order of $50 or more this month by using Coupon Code “SAMIS15“.

Shop at cookandkitchen now and order your favourite Sami’s Kitchen product along with other delicious food treasures for 15% less (excluding delivery).

Sep 13 11

Fatteh with Hummus “crumbled”

by Samis Kitchen

Featured Recipe by Norma Dakhoul

This recipe is a popular breakfast dish all over the Levant and dates back as far as the time of The Crusaders. There are many versions with some containing meat, chicken & eggplants. The base is always the same: a layer of toasted (or fried) Lebanese bread, crumbled, preferred filling, drowned with a garlicky yoghurt layer and drizzled with browned buttered pine nuts.

I prefer to have this on a hot summer night as it is light & refreshing. It can be served individually or in a large platter for everyone to share, Mezza style.


1 cup dried chick peas, soaked overnight

500g Greek or European style yoghurt

¼ cup pine nuts

2 tbs unsalted butter (I love Lurpak)

2 cloves garlic, mashed

1 tsp salt

Toasted Lebanese bread, crumbled into chip size pieces


Step 1: Soak chick peas in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups of cold water, stand overnight.

Step 2: Drain chick peas, rinse & place in a large saucepan with 6 cups of water. Bring to the boil (watch it here as a lot of scum forms and this will overflow) turn down heat, skim off any scum, cover and simmer gently for approximately 25-30 minutes until firm but cooked. Strain chick peas reserving some of the liquid & add ½ tsp of salt, mix & cool.

Step 3: Toast the bread either in the oven or the grill until golden, cool & crumble. Alternatively, you can brush a layer of bread with olive oil and toast in the oven until golden, crumble. Can also be fried, break into pieces and fry quickly in 1” of oil, drain. This is yummy but not for the health conscious!

Step 4: In a glass bowl, add mashed garlic & ½ tsp of salt to the yoghurt and mix well.

Step: Do this just before serving. In a frypan, toast the pine nuts until they just change colour, add the butter and cook until the butter is browned and fragrant.

To assemble: In a flat plate, spread a layer of bread, another layer of chick peas, then the yoghurt and lastly, drizzle the warm buttered pine nuts on top.

As we say in Arabic, Sahtan – “enjoy in good health”.

This quantity is enough to share amongst 4 people, as an entree.

Sep 12 11

Featured Chef: Norma Dakhoul is the founder of ‘Norma’s Lebanese Foods’

by Samis Kitchen

How long have you been a chef?

Well actually I’m a “home cook” with a passion for Middle Eastern food. Norma’s Lebanese Foods was born to share and educate foodies through regular classes and food tours.

How did you get into it?

Born into a Lebanese family, growing up in Lebanon and helping in the kitchen is akin to an inheritance and a course that cannot be escaped! From my early years in a tiny Lebanese village, I was exposed to food in its’ raw stage and learnt to appreciate it. It wasn’t until about 18 years when I inherited a collection of Women’s Weekly cookbooks that my curiosity for cooking was ignited. I am in my element when I cook whether it’s for my family or educating and teaching foodies about Lebanese food.

Outside of Middle Eastern cuisine, what do you like to cook?

In contrast to Middle Eastern food, I love the richness of Italian and French food. I also love Thai food and the powerful flavours in Indian food but I especially admire and respect the skills of a Japanese chef. And there are still so many cuisines I want to discover and learn about.

What is the best part of your job?

It’s simple, sharing my love and passion for Lebanese food with new people.

What is your favourite dish?

From which cuisine! It’s wonderful to have the knowledge and ability to cook beautiful dishes from different cuisines but it’s simple food prepared with love that appeals the most to me. I would never say no to fresh warm Lebanese bread and olives.

More information on Norma

Sep 12 11

About Lebanese Food

by Samis Kitchen

Food is life in a Lebanese household and sharing it is one of the greatest joys. There are a variety of dishes on the table, starting with small portions known as mezza that is mainly dips and salads.
Lebanese food is one of the freshest and most delicious cuisine you will ever taste. Lamb is the meat of choice and appears in many dishes including kafta in which minced lamb is rolled into sausage shapes and cooked on the barbecue or in the oven.

Lebanese sweets just as divine, there are many variations of filo pastry combined with nuts and syrup; there are creamy sweets filled with a clotted cream called ashta plus melting shortbread sometimes filled with a date paste or nuts and much more.