Posts Tagged ‘Middle Eastern’

Watercress and Pea Falafels

It’s been a few days since we returned from Morocco. We are still jet lagged. Signs of our epic holiday show from the tans on our faces to the piles of laundry waiting to be done.

We had a wonderful time touring Marrakech, Essaouira and Casablanca, mesmerised by the saturated blues and oranges on display. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a few pictures of the sites that we discovered.

Morocco has beautiful old buildings with terracotta walls. And oh the doors. Morocco has some of the most beautiful doors with every inch telling a story of its history. I cannot wait to share the photos of our trip and some Moroccan inspired recipes I know you’ll love. How does crispy fried sardines with herbed couscous sound? I knew you’d approve. 

But our holiday did end on a slight sour note when my little Hassoon brought back an unwanted souvenir from Casablanca. He has just learnt to walk and slipped in the bathroom, cutting his finger on a broken tile. Five hours later and with five stitches on his tiny finger, we were back in the hotel. 

Eight hours on the plane with a one year old in pain and a tired but hyper four year old was…….let’s just say trying. And tiring. So I was relieved to find some of these herby watercress and pea falafels in the freezer that I had made before I left. 

If you read my last post, you may remember me mentioning how hard it can get for children to try different leafy vegetables. Falafels are the perfect vehicles for them. I have experimented with various flavours ranging form spinach to broccoli. But this version is my favourite. Perfect for spring. 

Since Maryam is a a fan of peas, I just tell her it has peas. And it does. And so much more. Next time, I think I’m going to try and bake them to make them even healthier. Whilst she ate them as is, me and Akber wrapped ours in Arabic bread with a simple salad and tahini and yoghurt dressing. Such a good lunch. 

Watercress and Pea Falafels

1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup watercress
1/4 cup coriander
1/4 cup parsley
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder 
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbs all purpose flour
2 tbs tahini
1 tbs lemon juice
salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

For the dressing:
1/4 cup yoghurt, whipped
2 tbs tahini
2 tbs lemon juice
salt to taste

To serve: chopped lettuce, cherry tomatoes, radishes, hummus, pickled chilis

Soak dried chickpeas covered in water overnight. 

Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients. Set aside.

Drain the water and make sure the chickpeas are completely dry. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles cous cous. Using your palms, create a patty in you hands roughly one inch in size. Press to smoothen edges. Just in case the patty doesn’t form because the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of water and pulse again in the processor. 

Freeze the patties for 30 minutes. Heat oil in a deep fryer on medium heat. Fry the falafels in oil without overcrowding until golden brown. 

To serve, spread 1 tbs hummus on arabic bread. Top with salad ingredients and pickle followed by broken falafels. Drizzle the dressing and serve. 

Makes 22-24 falafels. 

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Creamy Date Pots

I have been meaning to make these creamy dessert pots for a while now. But truth to be to told, January was a long month for me. It was a month of of anxiety, a month of waiting, a month where life seemed to be on hold. A month where nothing seemed to matter.

I had my PET scan after two long years to see if my cancer was still in remission. The two weeks it took to get my results back really were the longest of my life. I was always on edge, jumping every time the phone rang, nervous, scared. 

I felt as though I couldn’t make any plans. Just in case. What if the results showed activity spots? More treatment? That would mean I wouldn’t be able to attend the Cirque du Soleil show that I had my heart set on. And I would be in hospital again. Who would plait Maryam’s hair each morning? Pick her up from school each afternoon? Bake her favorite muffins? Check on her before bed just to be sure she was still tucked in? Would I miss Hassan’s first steps? His first real word? Would he remember me when I came back from hospital?

On the other hand, I imagined the doctor calling me, telling me everything looked clear and wonderful. I pictured myself laughing out loud with joy, thanking him over and over. I ran over the scenario of giddily calling my parents on the phone and breathlessly telling them the good news as fast as the words would escape my quivering mouth.

It was an immense relief when I did hear back. ‘Everything looks wonderful.’ I won’t forget those melodious, beautiful words. The scrambled calls to my family that followed. The thankfulness in my heart and relief. The sheer exhaustion of worrying for so long had drained me and that night, I slept with my children. Those hugs that night- I think they both wondered why I held them so tightly and so closely.

The date pots were a dessert I’d been willing to make throughout that time. The ingredients were always on the counter, the intention was there. The heart wasn’t. But I knew their time had come when I bought myself these new teacups as a celebratory gift. They would be perfect together. It was a sweet, creamy, dreamy end to a difficult month. 

Creamy Date Pots

2 cups cream
1/2 cup milk
3 tbs caster sugar
3 tbs date dhibs (syrup)
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
chopped pistachios to serve

Add all the ingredients except the pistachios to a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 mins. Let it cool slightly before pouring into cups or bowls. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Serve with chopped pistachios. 

Serves 4-6 depending on cup size. 

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Zaatar and Pomegranate Roasted Chicken and Arugula and Clementine Salad with Walnuts and Clementine Mustard Dressing

Just a few weeks ago, I told you about these truffles with some rather decadent ingredients- chocolate, orange blossom water, pistachios and cardamom. Those truffles were originally inspired by a clementine, pistachio and semolina cake. 

I have been eagerly waiting to share this recipe with you since that time. Inspired by Ottolenghi’s lemon yoghurt and pistachio cake, I decided to top mine with candied clementines and pistachios. You can find the recipe for it in the latest issue of House of Fifty.

I’ve also been trying different variations of grilled chicken recipes recently. But today I want to share the recipe for this zaatar chicken with you. Because the colours of this meal took my breath away. Because it has contrasting tastes of sweet, tangy, spicy and sour. It also helped that Maryam enjoyed the leftover chicken in a sandwich the next day. 

Since moving to Dubai, zaatar has quickly become one of my favourite Middle Eastern spices. Beautifully pungent, there’s lots of green in it. Thyme, marjoram and oregano. A bit of sumac and sesame seeds all brought together with olive oil. I buy mine ready made but there are plenty of links on the web on how to make it at home.

Finally there’s this simple clementine and arugula salad. But it’s all about the dressing in this salad. You’ll see what I mean when you make it. Suffice it to say there is creamy walnut mustard and the wholegrain variety too. I then peppered the salad with roasted walnuts too. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
1) Zaatar and Pomegranate Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:1.5 kg chicken, cut into pieces with skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tbs zaatar
2 tbs pomegranate molasses
4 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3 tbs parsley
3 tbs fresh pomegranate seeds

Make the marinade by mixing together olive oil, zaatar, pomegranate
molasses, garlic, salt and pepper. Rub the chicken with this marinade

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade. Place the chicken skin
side up in a baking tray in the middle rack and roast for about 1 hour
or until the chicken has beautifully browned and cooked through. If
you prefer the skin to be crispy, place the chicken under the broiler
for a few minutes but watch it very carefully to avoid burning.
Sprinkle with lemon juice, pine nuts, parsley and pomegranate seeds
and serve immediately.

2) Arugula and Clementine Salad with Walnuts and Clementine Mustard Dressing

2 tbs wholegrain mustard
1 tbs walnut mustard
2 tbs chopped coriander
1 tbs maple syrup
1/4 cup + 2tbs clementine juice
2 tbs clementine zest
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups arugula (can substitute any other greens)
3 clementines, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Add the first six ingredients to a bowl to make the dressing. Season
with salt and pepper. If the dressing is too thick, you can add extra
clementine juice.

Arrange the arugula on a platter topped with the sliced clementines.
Drizzle the dressing on the salad and top with walnuts. Serve

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Tabbouleh Salad with Chickpeas

I can’t believe we’re coming to the end of August. Soon, schools will reopen, traffic will build up and the weather will begin to get cooler. I can’t say I’m not relieved. It was a hard summer of trying to entertain a spritely three year old indoors and fending off questions about why we won’t be going to the beach in the near foreseeable future.

I am so ready for the new school year to start. For Maryam, it will be a new school, a new environment, new friends and lots of new adventures. I am so excited for her and so is she. We are both looking forward to this new journey and settling into a routine.

Routine. Something I thrive on. Something that has been missing on this blog of late. My intention was always to blog once a week but it seems I have been apologetic on numerous occasions for not being able to as often as I’d like. I do think about it often though and have a whole notepad  full of ideas and recipes begging to be tried. 

But today I bring you something that I’ve been making for the past five years. That’s right- five. I’m surprised I haven’t blogged about it before. This tabbouleh was one of the very first Middle Eastern dishes I learnt to imitate when I first moved to Dubai.

The abundance of parsley and torn specks of mint  not only make it vibrant but the perfect palate cleanser when paired with meats and poultry. Recently I have been eating it on its own as lunch and to make it a bit more hearty and satisfying, I added chickpeas (you can omit this if you wish to be more authentic).

On a separate note, I have finally joined Pinterest, although sometimes I almost wish I hadn’t! So many beautiful things like this ceramic cake stand. And wouldn’t you want to live in this house? Oh and I’ll definitely be making this cake soon.

Tabbouleh Salad with Chickpeas

1/2 cup fine burghul (cracked wheat)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 tomato, finely chopped
few torn sprigs of mint

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste

To make the dressing, add all the ingredients to a jar and shake vigorously. Set aside until ready to serve.

Add the lemon juice to the burghul and let it sit for ten minutes. Use a fork to separate the burghul. In a bowl, put in all the salad ingredients including the burghul. Drizzle the dressing and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Note: Make sure the parsley is completely dry before chopping (do not use the stalks). Chop with a knife and do not use a food processor as this will bruise the herb.

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Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

‘Are we going to Abu Dhaaaaabi tomorrow?’ Maryam asked in her sing song voice. Those that know her will know what I mean when I say her sing song voice. Akber gave me that look- the one questioning me why I tell her these plans so early.

We both knew the consequences. That is all she asked the whole day, every hour! Not only did she wake when the first flitter of morning sun seeped past her blinds the next day, she was ready to leave by 7am. Yes, that is right. And so, at a more respectable 10am, both kids were packed into the car and one picnic basket of snacks that Akber remarked could feed an army in the desert.

I had been meaning to visit the Grand Mosque (or Sheikh Zayed Mosque) ever since I arrived as a tourist in Dubai more than five years ago. One failed attempt two years ago occurred when the imposing structure was within arm’s reach but the spaghetti off roads surrounding the mosque meant it still remained elusive.

Not this time though. We carefully planned our route. Akber had some work in town so it was about 4:30 or so when we reached. Perfect time for a sunset tour of the mosque and the best time to take photos. Although still very hot, the mosque was bathed in a golden aura. Through the heat, it looked as though the numerous minarets were dancing.

As my feet burrowed into the plush, plump carpets, I was taken in by the light and colors. The light that bounced off the shimmering chandeliers, the light that was reflected off of the jeweled scriptures, that amazing, dreamy light. It took my breath away.

At every step, there was a sight to inspire, rows and rows upon rows of gilded columns, enchanting calligraphy, stories behind every corner. I had many questions that our guide automatically knew the answer to without hesitation.

As I sat near one of the many reflective pools, I took in all the beauty, the peace and calming atmosphere. Around me, I saw faces of every culture, every color, every age all gathered as equals. Beautiful. I highly recommend you to visit this marvelous structure if you are in UAE.

And this drink? Well, after a long and hot day taking photographs at every opportunity, this is exactly the kind of cooling drink I needed. We all needed actually. It is a forgiving recipe- all the ingredients can be varied according to your taste.

The best part is- we have had it as a slushy, a popsicle, a sorbet, a granita. Same recipe, many ways to enjoy it. I hope you will give it a try in some form before summer slips away. Ramadhan Kareem everyone.

Cantaloupe, Lime and Mint Slushy

sugar syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1 cantaloupe- I used half honeydew and half cantaloupe
juice of 5 limes
3 tbs chopped mint
1 tbs lime zest
sugar syrup to taste
3 cups ice cubes

To make the sugar syrup, boil water and sugar until the sugar has just dissolved. Depending on the sweetness of the melons, you will not use up all the sugar syrup which can be frozen as ice cubes to use some other time.

To make the slushy, blend all the ingredients at high speed in a blender. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 5 glasses.

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Arabic Shawarma

As the cool winters begin to show their true colors, I crave food that is wholesome, fillng and…..just plain comfortable. The kind that you can eat sprawled on your sofa, your feet covered with a warm fuzzy blanket. Food that nourishes you physically and mentally, food that nourishes memories, nourishes the soul.

Comfort food makes me feel relaxed and happy. It’s food that jogs memories, fond memories. Food that gives me a feeling of warmth and satisfaction. And that is exactly what a Shawarma does for me. Shawarma is an Arabic pita wrap overflowing with shaved chicken or lamb. A crunchy tabooleh or fattoush salad accompanied by either tahini or hummus complete this Middle Eastern street food.

Here in Dubai, it is a common sight at every souk corner to see layers of meat and fat slowly being cooked on a spit. A juicy tomato and onion sit like a crown on top of the spit, lending its own special flavors. The meat usually cooks for a whole day before a chef expertly runs a sharp knife in a rhythmic fashion, up and down the spit, shaving thin slices of meat.

This is quickly collected into a hot pita bread and tossed around with various crunchy vegetables. French fries or pickled gherkins can also make an appearance in a shawarma. Lastly, a generous serving of garlic dip and Tabasco sauce finish of this popular street food.

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated Dubai’s National Day. Forty days of festivities included a  delightful invite to Arwa’s home for a demonstartion on authentic Emirati cuision which I can’t wait to tell you more about including some very special recipes and ingredients. Maryam also had a fun cultural day at school where she went dressed as a Tanzanian ‘dada.’

She had such a great time that every morning since, for a few days at least, she thought there would party! We ate food from around the world, sang songs in many languages and even had a fashion show. Mine and Maryam’s favorite snack of the day was Muhalla- a sweet crepe made of dates and cardamom. I look forward to sharing the recipe with you soon.

Today though, I’m going to share my version of shawarma with you. It is a special recipe purely because it comes from a special culture, one that I have embraced as mine. It may not have originated in Dubai but is still very Middle Eastern. I hope the warmth and comfort of Dubai’s street food and culture will emanate from this recipe, from my country to yours, from my home to your kitchen.

This recipe was also contributed to Foodiecrush Magazine’s first issue. It features many of my favorite bloggers. You must take a look.

Click on recipe card to print
Arabic Shawarma

500 gms boneless chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tbs canola oil
½ cup yoghurt
1 egg, beaten lightly
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Salt to taste
½ tsp red chilli flakes
½ tsp garam masala
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
For the salad:
1 cup finely sliced lettuce
1 cucumber chopped
1 tomato chopped
3 tbs chopped coriander
3 tbs pomegranates
For the dressing:
½ cup yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbs chopped coriander
2 tbs chopped mint
Salt to taste
To serve:
6 Arabic pita breads
Tabasco sauce
Baking paper

Marinate the chicken in all the ingredients and set aside for an hour or so. Heat a non stick pan on medium to high heat and add the marinated chicken. Stir fry the chicken until it has cooked through and is dry- less than 10 minutes. Make sure you break up the chicken with a wooden spoon and keep stirring as it cooks.
Assemble the salad by mixing all the ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix together all the dressing ingredients.
To assemble the shawarma, heat the pita bread on a skillet to warm it. Divide the salad amongst the six pita breads. Top the salad with the chicken. Drizzle the yoghurt dip over the chicken and add a dash of Tabasco sauce. Roll the pita bread tightly and wrap in baking paper. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 large shawarmas.

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Celebrating Eid al Adha and a Blog Anniversary with Nutty Coconut Vermicelli Truffles + GIVEAWAY

Have I mentioned before that I love celebrating Eid? Even more so now that I have a growing family. There is nothing like the anticipation of opening presents, devouring sweet treats and wearing brand new clothes when you have a two year old. It makes holidays even more special, more magical than they already are.

Eid al Adha is all about that and more. It is a time when millions of Muslims gather each year- different cultures, different races, different nationalities. Yet, all dressed in white representing human equality. They all perform rituals that culminate on Eid al Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, in Mecca.

Maryam was extra excited this year as she got to ‘choose’ what outfit she would wear. She is going through an independent phase where she wants to ‘choose’ everything from her clothes to her food, to what spoon she eats with.

And as with any celebration, food is an important part of this festival in my home- it bonds our families, it drives conversation and camaraderie, it creates unforgettable memories. Food brings us all together on this day and lunch menus generally consist of biryani and sweet vermicelli, jalebis and samosas. Sweet bites such as cookies, chocolate bars and cakes are also prepared as nibbles for visiting relatives. And Eid isn’t the same without presents- Maryam ravenously tore through layers of wrapping paper to get to her treasures.

This year, I’m inviting you to my home to celebrate Eid al Adha. Come take a peek into my kitchen as I prepare sweet treats eaten during this festival. I’m making truffles with a difference- sweetened vermicelli paired with chopped almonds and pistachios. Add some fluffy coconut to the mix and you have an eclectic truffle.

And then these buttery and crunchy pistachio cookies with pistachio butter cream.- melt in your mouth perfection.  I was so thrilled to contribute recipes for both these nibbles to the latest Holiday issue of House of Fifty magazine. You can find my work, more photos and the recipe for the Pistachio cookies on page 118 onwards. It’s also been one year since this blog was born and so I have double reason to celebrate.

In the meantime, I leave you with the recipe for vermicelli truffles and a wonderful giveaway to mark the one year blog anniversary. Kenwood sent me their latest True Blender BL480 and besides using the metal lined grinding mill to chop almonds and pistachios to make these truffles, I have also been using the blender to make fluffy pancakes. The blades are wonderfully sharp and it even has an ice chopping function. With a baby on the way, I can’t wait to experiment with new baby foods using the BL480.

Here is how you can enter:

1) Follow @sipsandspoonful on Twitter
2)Tweet the following: I entered to win a Kenwood Blender via @sipsandspoonful #giveaway
3) Like Kenwood Middle East on Facebook
4) Like Sips and Spoonfuls on Facebook
5) Follow Kenwood Middle East on Twitter 
6) Subscribe to Sips and Spoonfuls by Email or RSS feed (links on top right hand corner)

Note: Please leave a separate comment for each of your entries or else they will not count. Please leave a valid email so you can be contacted.

The giveaway will run until midnight on Monday 21st November 2011. A winner will be announced on Tuesday 22nd November 2011. Giveaway is open to Middle East and Africa residents. Product provided by Kenwood Middle East but all views expressed above are my own and I have not been paid to do this review.

Nutty Coconut Vermicelli Truffles

3 tbs butter
1 ½ cups vermicelli
1 cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup chopped pistachios
150 ml condensed milk
Extra desiccated coconut for dusting

Melt butter in a pan and fry the vermicelli until brown and cooked. Use a wooden spoon to keep stirring and breaking the vermicelli as you don’t want it too brown too quickly. Take the mixture off the heat and let it cool before adding all the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Use your hands to shape the mixture into 1inch balls. Roll in desiccated coconut before serving.
Note: Press the mixture between your hands to form a ball. If it is still difficult to make the truffle, you can add more condensed milk to the mixture o help form the truffles.
Makes approximately 28-30 truffles depending on size.


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Pomegranate Molasses and Arabic Fattoush Salad

Did I tell you I have been having a lot of cravings lately? Not all healthy I’m afraid. There’s coffee ice cream with chocolate fudge sauce, nutella doughnuts. Do you see a trend here- anything with chocolate will do.

However, there is one healthy snack I’ve been munching on guilt free. Nature’s jewels, I like to think of them a nature’s rubies. Pomegranates. Even their name sounds regal. Did I tell you my mum’s name means heaven’s pomegranate in Farsi- Anar.

Although it’s a messy affair trying to get these treasures out of their shells, especially when a keen 2 year old helper is involved, the results are worth it. Maryam loves to peel them because that means she can eat them straight away. Raw and fresh. Other times, we coat it in some thick, creamy yoghurt infused with vanilla seeds.

Since moving to Dubai, pomegranates have featured commonly in our meals- as garnishes on hummus and pilafs, as refreshing cocktails, as tangy marinades. But my favorite use of this is in a fattoush salad. My very own individual salad as Akber describes it. Yes, I eat this solo when I make it or order it at a restaurant. It really is too good to share.

The crackle of the Arabic bread, the marriage between sweet and savory, the crunch from every mouthful of peppery radish, the juicy explosion of each cherry tomato. That is how I would describe fattoush.

I have included a recipe for pomegranate molasses too, an essential part of this salad. Although it is readily available in Middle eastern countries, it is so easy to make at home.

Pomegranate Molasses:

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on medium heat. Keep stirring once in a while for approximately 1.5 hours until the liquid has reduced by half and has thickened. Allow to cool before storing in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Recipe minimally adapted from Alton Brown and makes approximately 1 cup.

Arabic Fattoush Salad:

2 cups chopped lettuce
1 cucumber chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup torn flat parsley leaves
4-5 radishes thinly sliced
handful of pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup deep fried or toasted phyllo dough/ pita bread

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbs pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 large lemon
salt to taste

Mix all the salad items in a bowl and toss to mix (except the fried phyllo dough). Prepare the dressing by mixing the oil, molasses and salt. Stir vigorously but you will notice that the molasses and oil will not mix due to differences in viscosity.

Apply the dressing just before serving and sprinkle with the fried phyllo dough.

Serves 2.

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