Quick salads, they make my heart beat faster. Quick, tasty salads faster still. Salads with the creamy, beautiful feta from the local Afghan shop, that is almost a heart attack! Here is your 3 minute salad, plus one more minute to slice up the crusty bread or tear the tafftoon or Nan-i Afgani flatbreads into bits and set up your place under the tree outside for a perfect light lunch.
Persian Hogwood seeds, ground into a powder called Golpar, makes an interesting spice – slightly bitter, earthy, woody. You will find it quite aromatic too. It is used a lot in Middle East countries, and you can buy the seeds Middle Eastern or Afghan grocers. You might be able to buy the powder, but I can only get the seeds and grind them myself.
I got chatting to a gentleman in the local Afghan shop, and he says that Golpar is known and commonly used in Eastern European countries too. It is sometimes called Angelica seeds, but that is incorrect.
Golpar Namak is the powder mixed with salt. It is a great seasoning, useful for almost anything, and especially good with beans, grains, rice and lentils. Try it sprinkled over cucumbers and pomegranates. If you can find sour plums, use it with them too. Put some in your preserves and chutneys.
Read more about Golpar here.
We have been using up the last of the broad beans, and turned the very last of them into a cross between South Indian Vadai and Middle Eastern Falafel. Whatever, they are gorgeous!
The trick is to grind some blanched broad beans with herbs and curry leaves, then add besan, and shallow fry or deep fry them until cooked and crispy. They are gorgeous with some fresh Indian chutney and a bowl of rasam. We use the Western Fava Beans (aka Broad Beans) not the Indian Broad Beans, Avarakkai, for this dish.
Yoghurt is used predominately for sweet purposes in my country – it is sold already sweetened (although the yoghurt makers don’t alert us to that fact) and it is often eaten as is, out of the carton. The beautiful French really sour yoghurt is not a thing here. Nor is it used for its sour notes as it is in India. It is spooned over fruit or cereal, made into frozen yoghurt, or incorporated into fruit smoothies. Not so often do we use it in dips, stir it into soups or make dressings and sauces out of yoghurt. It is a sad thing really, as the savoury uses of yoghurt are infinite and wonderful. More enlightened countries include Turkey, Greece, India and Middle East Countries. There, yoghurt is used with abandon.
When buying yoghurt for non-sweet uses, look for a Greek Yoghurt, or an Indian Yoghurt. If you can’t find any in your supermarket, visit your local Greek, Middle Eastern or Indian shop, they will definitely have beautiful, creamy, unsweetened yoghurt for sale.
Garlic and yoghurt go together so well, and the pairing is used across many parts of Europe and the Middle East – think falafel, for example. What would it be without a creamy yoghurt sauce? Often cucumber is added, but this recipe is simple and directly garlicky.
Such a wonderful earthy flavour, Freekeh, that strange sounding name (to Western ears) belonging to the nutty grain. Sold whole or cracked, it is easy to find at Middle Eastern stores, some providores and some bulk lentil and grain places. Freekeh actually means rubbed – the process of removing the grains from its husks.
Like quinoa, freekeh is full of protein, with a beautiful smokiness, and is dead easy to cook. It is Middle Eastern duram wheat that is picked while unripe then traditionally roasted over wood fires to burn off the husks – hence its wonderful smoky flavour. Surprisingly it is also a little sweet, so a squeeze of lemon or lime always does wonders to a freekeh dish.
Freekeh is so unusual as generally the grains we use have been allowed to mature and dry on the head.
This dish is a take on an Ottolenghi dish from his book, Plenty, but has some minor variations. It is beautifully cooked by simmering for 15 mins and then leaving covered, to steam until cooked. Then it is tossed with herbs and topped with garlicky lemon yoghurt before serving.
Goodness, what a beautiful rice dish. Ottolenghi again creates magic with this Iranian recipe that he credits Claudia Roden’s classic A Book Of Middle Eastern Food. He believes that Irani people cook the best rice, and I have to say he might be right.
This recipe takes a bit more effort than banging some rice into the rice cooker, but for special occasions, and for weekends, it is definitely worth it. The rice grains are beautifully separated and soft. The dish has a sweet overtone from the dates, and conjures up beautiful Middle Eastern feasts on low tables in tents with thick rugs covering your legs.
This dish is cooked like a biryani, in layers. It needs a very low heat – raise the pot above your heat source a little if you can (eg place a roasting rack or heat diffuser over the heat source). It could also be cooked in a very low oven, but you’ll miss the crunchy rice that forms at the bottom.
Recently I needed to replace my saffron, so I ordered some from Saffron Only. It is the most beautiful saffron! Far better that what I had been using. If you love saffron, check her out on Instagram. (I only recommend products when they are excellent, and am not recompensed for my recommendations.)
Kosheri (also spelled Koshari) is a dish with its genesis in Egypt, although it now traverses many time zones. We have some similar recipes, but this one from Ottolenghi (in his book Ottolenghi) is another of his dishes that perfectly layers spices with other ingredients. It is a bit intense, this dish, with several cooking processes on the go at one time, but the effort is worth it. Cook the sauce, cook the lentils, cook the rice and vermicelli, cook the onions – then bring them all together.
Frankly, I love how North Africa, the Middle East and India are much more adventurous with their rice dishes than our English-based cultures. Who would have thought of cooking lentils, various pasta, burghul and/or vermicelli with rice? It seems to break all of our Western rules of food composition. Yet here they are, these mixed rice dishes, such a delicious alternative to plain white rice.
Cheap, easy and filling, kosheri is ubiquitous on Egypt’s streets and thought to be an adaptation of Indian kitchari, brought to Egypt in the late 19th century during the British occupation of both countries. Egypt’s Italian community is held responsible for kosheri’s pasta factor. Lebanon and Palestine have a simple version, a rice with pasta dish that works on the principle that less is more.
The dish can be made with or without the tomato sauce. Although it is a good accompaniment, the kosheri is also good with a Cucumber Raita, or any other Raita, Pachadi, or Yoghurt based salad, for that matter. Or just plain yoghurt.
In Egypt, this dish is sold by street vendors, but it is also very welcome at the dinner table. It can be a side dish, but I prefer it as a main, with the accompaniments tailored to eat on and with the rice. I particularly love it with the tomato sauce, some roasted cauliflower and toasted hazelnuts.
This Cauliflower dish is a take on a classic Israeli and Lebanese recipe in Ottolenghi and Tammi’s book Jerusalam. I have twisted it up just a little to suit us and our friends, but I have to tell you that this is a favourite dish in our circle. I love it partly because it is very quick to make if you roast the cauliflower. Ottolenghi deep fries it (and that is delicious) but often time is a real factor in this household. So the cauliflower is roasted when we need awesome dishes in quick-sticks time. We can get on with other things while the roasting happens. I have to say, though, that deep frying gives the cauli beautiful crispy exteriors and cooks the interior just enough to be amazing.
Tahini features in creative ways in Israel, in both simple eateries and upmarket restaurants. For these types of dishes, grab good tahini from your Middle Eastern grocers – you won’t go back to the supermarket shelves, and they have a smoothness not available in the Greek brands. Choose a light-coloured tahini made from hulled sesame seeds.
The tahini sauce, thick and wonderfully rich, is the focal point of this dish. I use about 3/4 of Ottolenghi’s sauce with the cauliflower, and the rest is put to use as dips and salad dressings. This dish fits perfectly in any mezze selection, makes a great substantial meal when served with fresh tomato salad and a warm pitta, or is an excellent side for many meals.
Browse all of our Cauliflower recipes, and dishes where tahini features. Our dips and sauces are here. Explore our Israeli dishes, all of our wonderful Salads, and check out or Early Spring collection of recipes.
This dish is a vegetarian version of a stew from Afghanistan, Quince Stew or Qorma-e-Behi. It uses lentils in place of the non-vegetarian items. It is a perfect Winter dish, fragrant from the quinces, and comforting and warming. Deeply, deeply warming.
I often use soft chard or other greens in this dish in place of the spinach, it works just as well.
Tahini, aah, such a wondrous ingredient, made from sesame seeds and not understood or used enough in this country. One of its properties is that it thickens in the presence of acid, so you can add lemon juice to it to thicken it as well as flavour it, and gradually thin it with water or milk until you get to the right conistency (depending on what you are using it for).
This classic green sauce includes garlic and parsley as well, for a great dip, spread, sauce or dressing. It is Middle Eastern in flavours, so pair it with pita bread, falafel, herby salads, or any flatbread. It is great in salad sandwiches and wraps. Dress vegetable salads with it, pair it with some steamed beetroot. Dip crackers and crudites into it. Spread tiny toasts and top with chopped cucumber or chopped tomato and chilli. You are going to love it.
This year I have a surfeit of Pomegranates from a wonderful friend that has a prolific tree. Juice, Pomegranate Honey, Pomegranate Vinegar and other such goodies emerge from our kitchen, including this Pomegranate Molasses.
Are you looking for Pomegranate recipes? Try Pomegranate Salsa, Tomato and Pomegranate Salad, and Green Olive, Walnut, Pistachio and Pomegranate Salad.
I love this recipe – it is so versatile, and the sort of recipe you can pre-prepare the ingredients, charring the okra and tossing it with the other ingredients at the last moment. The preserved lemon and fresh lemon juice contrast so wonderfully with the charred but still crunchy okra. This dish is GOOD.
The okra can also be charred on the BBQ (grill), tossing them on the hot plate as you sip wine and talk to friends. Then throw them into a pan and toss them with the other ingredients and place on the table for your guests to munch on (try with some flat bread) while you get on with BBQing the rest of the meal. I use a kadhai (Indian wok, flatter than a Chinese one) to make this dish, it is perfect for it.
It is an Ottolenghi recipe, of course, born of the Israeli and Palestinian roots of Sammy and Yotham. Okra features well in these cuisines, from the sun dried okra hanging from strings, to being served in dishes heavy with tamarind syrup. What a divine thought!
For this dish, use short, young, fresh, crisp okra only.
Are you looking for other Okra dishes? Read more about Okra here. Then try Okra with Apricots and Lemon, Slightly Charred Okra with Chilli, Garlic and Thyme, Charred Okra with Spiced Tomato Barley, Crispy Okra (Kurkuri Bhindi), Stir Fried Okra with Sesame Seed, Okra Stuffed with Onions, Goan Fried Okra, and Lemak-Style Vegetables.
Perhaps try some other Middle Eastern dishes: Okra in Tamarind with Prunes and Apricots, Babaganoush, Falafel, Parsley and Barley Salad with Spiced Marinated Feta and Chickpea “Tabbouleh”.
We have a wealth of Ottolenghi recipes that we have tried. Or have a look at all of our Okra recipes and all of our Salad recipes. Our Middle Eastern Dishes are here. Or spend some time browsing our Mid Autumn dishes.
Orzo is petty good, don’t you agree? This little rice-shaped pasta has an elegance that eludes other pastas. I was delighted to find another way to cook this star in Jerusalem, the cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi.
Rice is a staple of many of the communities of the Middle East and features in quite complex dishes as well as very simple ones. Quite often, other ingredients like chickpeas, vermicelli, potatoes, lentils and nuts are are cooked with the rice.
Spices are also used, for example the Bucharan Jews in Jerusalem use ginger, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon with mint, raisins and peas. How delicious!
In this recipe, the usual vermicelli is replaced by Ottolenghi and Tamimi by orzo. Don’t confuse this orzo with the Greek barley – it is the Italian pasta version. You can use vermicelli if you like, just don’t fry them as long as they will burn.
Are you looking for more? Explore our Ottolenghi recipes, all of our Orzo dishes, our Rice recipes, and all of our Middle Eastern dishes. Or simply spend some time browsing our Mid Autumn collection of dishes.
We like to keep some pickles on our shelves – usually in the fridge for longer storage. Given our current focus on Okra, it was wonderful to realise that these can be pickled as well as our usual ones – carrots, jicama, cumquats, quinces, onions, ginger – pickles feature big here.
This is an Armenian Pickle, from Arto Der Haroutunian’s Middle Eastern Vegetarian Dishes – my old copy that I bought at a second hand stall in about 1985. I love this book.
The recipe would be quite tweak-able, and I am quite excited about it. As the jars lined up on the shelf, I imagined it with various other spices included. This will stay on our list of often-repeated dishes for some time. It is surely a nice way to use up an over-abundant crop from the kitchen garden.
It’s a long wait though. Between the easy part – placing them in the jar with spices and vinegar – an eating them is the difficult part, that of waiting 8 weeks. Oh well, just imagine, in early Winter we will have pickled Okra with our meals. A nice thought.
We have one other Armenian dish – Green Peppers in Yoghurt.
If you are keen for more information, browse all of our Pickles and all of our Okra recipes. Our Middle Eastern Recipes are here. Take a look at Arto’s dishes that we have made. Or take some time to explore our Mid Autumn dishes.
Beetroot is back on the menu, our earthy flavoured friend. In this salad, the beets are grated and mixed with a classic yoghurt and tahini dressing. To keep up the Middle Eastern theme, we add some za’atar.
This is a perfect Autumn Salad, although it does work really well in all other seasons. I love it in Autumn because we are moving from the cool blue colours of Summer into the oranges, golds, reds and crimsons of Autumn. It seems to fit well somehow.
If you are interested in other Beetroot Salads, try Beetroot Salsa with Yoghurt, Beetroot, Orange and Olive Salad, Beetroot with Honey Dressing, Raw Beetroot and Herb Salad, and Warm Beetroot and Carrot Salad with Indian Spices.