Lebanese Chocolate Anise Cookies

When I lived in Halifax circa 1995 my friend and I ate a Lebanese feast every weekend at Mediterraneo Restaurant.  We were so addicted to their food that we were devastated to find they weren’t open on Easter weekend.  Luckily for us there was another Lebanese restaurant across the street, called Beirut Beirut.  I don’t think either of these places exist any more.  It was at Beirut Beirut where the owner, Peter, asked us to sample some of the desserts.  When we tasted these little unbaked chocolate cookies he made us guess what was in them.  We couldn’t, but after many visits and special orders for these cookies, he shared the recipe with me.  This is only my best imitation of the real thing, as I never actually saw him making them, so I had to guess at some of the process.

Instead of baking, you toast the ingredients, then mix them with some honey.

Today I made them into Easter egg shapes because it’s that time of year, and it was Easter weekend when I first tasted them.  Peter made them into small logs, or shaped like a Hershey’s Kiss.

This recipe makes about a dozen small cookies, but they are packed with flavour, so you don’t need a lot at one time.

What you need:

1/4 cup raw peanuts

1/4 cup raw almonds

1/4 cup raw walnuts (I used half walnuts, half pecans when I ran out of walnuts)

1/4 teaspoon mint leaves

a pinch of thyme

2 teaspoons anise seed

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cocoa

honey

a little icing sugar for sprinkling on top

orange flower water, optional

What you do:

1.  Grind the nuts, anise seeds, thyme and mint.  I used my electric coffee grinder to do this.  Spread this mixture on a baking sheet and toast at about 250F for about 15 minutes.  Every 5 minutes you need to give them a bit of a stir, and make sure they don’t burn.

2.  Mix the flour and cocoa with the nut mixture in the baking pan.  Toast for another 5 minutes or so.

3.  Let the ingredients cool, then place them into a bowl.  Mix honey in, a little at a time, until you get a firm mixture that you can make into shapes.

4.  Shape the cookies into logs, eggs, “kisses,” or whatever shape you desire.

5.  Sprinkle with a tiny bit of orange flower water, if you are using it, then dust a little icing sugar on top.

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