20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 2 (2024)

Claudia Roden’s bell peppers stuffed with rice, raisins and pine nuts – zeytinyağli biber dolmasi

This is the classic Turkish rice filling for vegetables to be served cold. Choose plump bell peppers that can stand on their base. I prefer to use red peppers because they are sweeter and for the colour, but in Turkey green ones are more often used.

Serves 6
onion 1 large, chopped finely
extra-virgin olive oil 6 tbsp
short-grain or risotto rice 250g
salt and pepper
sugar 1-2 tsp
pine nuts 3 tbsp
currants or tiny black raisins 3 tbsp
tomato 1 large, peeled and chopped
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
ground allspice ½ tsp
mint a handful, chopped
dill a handful, chopped
flat-leaf parsley a handful, chopped
lemon juice of 1
green or red bell peppers 6 medium
natural (full-fat) yogurt 250g, mixed with 1 crushed garlic clove to serve (optional)

For the filling, fry the onion in 3 tablespoons of the oil until soft. Add the rice and stir until thoroughly coated and translucent. Pour in 450ml of water and add salt, pepper and sugar. Stir well and cook for 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed but the rice is still a little underdone. Stir in the pine nuts, currants or raisins, the tomato, cinnamon and allspice, mint, dill and parsley and the lemon juice, as well as the rest of the oil.

Retaining the stalk, cut a circle around the stalk end of the peppers and set on one side to use as caps. Remove the cores and seeds with a spoon and fill the peppers with the rice mixture. Replace the caps.

Arrange the peppers side by side in a shallow baking dish, pour about 1cm water into the bottom, and bake in an oven preheated to 190C/gas mark 5 for 45-55 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Be careful that they do not fall apart.

Serve cold, accompanied, if you like, by a bowl of beaten yogurt, with or without crushed garlic.
From Arabesque by Claudia Roden (Michael Joseph, £30)

Sam and Sam Clark’s mackerel kebabs, walnuts and chilli

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 2 (1)

One of the great pleasures of visiting Istanbul is the food. At the foot of the Grand Bazaar sit a couple of bobbing boats selling fried mackerel with flatbread and pickles. Cheap and cheerful, yet so good, and a memory we will always cherish. Supermarket flatbread tends to be too thick or heavy. If possible, source an authentic brand, or make your own. This recipe is also delicious made with sardines, or barbecued fish. We bet it would be really delicious made with smoked mackerel as well.

Serves 4
white cabbage 4 heaped tbsp, shredded
caraway seeds 1 tsp, crushed
lemon juice of ½
extra-virgin olive oil 2 tbsp
mint or flat-leaf parsley 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
strained Greek yogurt 2 tbsp, such as Total
whole milk or water 1 tbsp
garlic 1 clove, crushed to a paste with ½ tsp salt
tahini 3 tsp
butter a small knob (25g)
fresh mackerel fillets 2
flatbreads or pitta breads 2
red chillies 1-2, deseeded and chopped
pickled chillies 4 (available online)
walnuts 1 tbsp, crushed

Dress the cabbage with the caraway, lemon juice, olive oil and mint or parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Mix the yogurt, milk or water, garlic and tahini together and check the seasoning.

In a frying pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Salt the mackerel and place skin-side up in the pan. Cook for 3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, toast the bread and, when hot, cut in half to create 4 pouches.

With a fork, flake the mackerel into small chunks, skin and all, and divide between the breads. Sprinkle the cabbage salad over the fish, then spoon on the yogurt, followed by both the fresh and pickled chillies and the walnuts. Wrap the bread in a napkin and munch away.
From Morito by Sam & Sam Clark (Ebury Publishing, £26)

Tomer Amedi’s cauliflower steak with labneh and grated tomatoes

Along with aubergine, I think cauliflower is one of the “meatiest” vegetables out there. It’s so rich in texture and flavour that I like to glorify it and give it the centre stage. Baking it as big steaks helps to keep its natural flavour intense yet bright, and makes the most of that firm, “meaty” texture.

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 2 (2)

Serves 4
cauliflowers 2 small or medium, halved
vegetable stock or water 4 tbsp
butter 25g, melted
salt to taste
sugar to taste
chilli flakes a pinch

For the grated tomatoes
tomatoes 2 ripe, grated (discard the skins)
garlic 1 clove, finely grated
cumin seeds a pinch
olive oil a drizzle
salt to taste

For the lemon butter
butter 25g, melted
lemon juice 1 tbsp
ground almonds 1 tsp

To garnish
labneh 4 tbsp
za’atar spice mix 1 tsp
toasted flaked almonds a handful
parsley a handful, chopped
Maldon salt flakes a sprinkle

Preheat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place the cauliflower halves, cut-side down, on a baking tray. Mix the stock or water with the melted butter and drizzle over the cauliflower, then give them a good rub. Season with some salt and sugar and the chilli flakes. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes–1 hour, or until the cauliflower is easy to pierce with a knife but not too soft; I recommend that you check it after 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the grated tomatoes together in a bowl and set aside. Do the same with the lemon butter ingredients.

Once the cauliflower is ready, take it out of the oven and heat your grill to its highest setting. Rub the cauliflower with the lemon butter and grill for 5–7 minutes until golden brown. (The reason we don’t add the lemon butter from the start is to avoid it becoming bitter.)

To serve, place a spoonful of labneh on each serving plate and season with the za’atar spice mix, then place the cauliflower on top, spoon the grated tomatoes on top of that and garnish with the flaked almonds, parsley and Maldon salt flakes.
Adapted from The Palomar Cookbook by The Palomar (Mitchell Beazley, £25)

Reem Kassis’s chicken, onion and sumac casserole – mhammar djej

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 2 (3)

The combination of onions and sumac cooked in olive oil is one of the most traditional and uniquely Palestinian flavours you will ever come across. The combination is sublime: it makes you want to go back for another bite … and another … and another. In this recipe, which is more common in the northern part of Palestine, the onions and spices are cooked with chicken, and sometimes potatoes, in a roasting pan. The word mhammar can mean both roasted and red, and aptly refers to the use of paprika, which lends the dish a distinct reddish colour. It makes a perfect weeknight dinner, as it can be oven-ready in less than 15 minutes.

Serves 4-6
chicken pieces 1.25 kg (about 4 whole legs or 6 skin-on breasts)
onions 6-7 medium (about 600-800g), diced
potatoes 3-5 smallish (about 300-700g), cut into rounds (optional)
sweet paprika 3 tbsp
sumac 2 tbsp
ground cumin 1 tbsp
nine-spice mix 1 tsp (see below)
salt 1 tbsp
olive oil 3-4 tbsp
pine nuts 2 tbsp, toasted, to serve
pitta bread to serve (if not using potatoes), homemade or store-bought (optional)

For the nine-spice mix (makes about 100g)
allspice berries 6 tbsp
cassia bark or cinnamon sticks 6
coriander seeds 3 tbsp
black peppercorns 1 tbsp
cardamom seeds 1 tsp
cumin seeds ½ tsp
cloves 10
mace 2 blades
nutmeg ½, crushed

To make the nine-spice mix, place all the ingredients in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon periodically to ensure the spices do not burn, until you begin to smell the aroma of the spices, about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and set aside to cool completely, about 1 hour. This step is crucial because if the spices are not cooled properly, they will form a paste when ground rather than a powder.

Place all the roasted spices into a heavy-duty spice grinder and grind until you achieve a fine powder consistency. Store the spice mix in an airtight container. It will keep for several months although the aroma will fade with time.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Put the chicken, onions and potatoes, if using, into a greased or non-stick, deep roasting dish.

In a small bowl, mix together all the spices, salt and olive oil until evenly combined. Pour the mixture into the roasting dish and use your hands to work the spice rub evenly into the onions, chicken and potatoes. Make sure the chicken pieces are not crowding each other and that they are skin side up.

Add 120ml water to the tray, cover with aluminium foil, and bake in the oven for 1-1¼ hours until the chicken is fully cooked. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure the liquid has not entirely evaporated and top up with more water if necessary. You do not want the dish to be completely dry but you also do not want a soup, more of a gravy sauce coating the onions.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove the foil and increase the oven temperature (or preheat the grill) to its highest setting. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes to allow the chicken skin to crisp up. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and serve with pitta bread, if desired.
From The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis (Phaidon, £24.95)

Imad Alarnab’s ful medames

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 2 (4)

This is the Friday morning breakfast dish for Syrians.

Serves 2
dried fava beans 200g, soaked overnight
cumin 1 tsp
salt 1 tsp
lemons juice of 3
parsley 1 handful
tomatoes 3 large
spring onions 3
sumac a sprinkle
olive oil a drizzle
sliced onions and cucumber pickles to serve

Cover the dried fava beans with water and soak overnight. Drain, add the beans to a pot, cover with fresh water and simmer for 5 hours on a low heat until very soft. Once they’re ready, drain and place in a large dish.

Mix the cumin, salt and lemon juice with the beans. Chop the parsley, tomatoes and spring onions and add to the dish with the fava beans. Mix well and finish with a sprinkle of sumac and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with sliced onion and cucumber pickles.
Imad Alarnab is a Syrian chef and restaurateur; @ImadsKitchen

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 2 (2024)
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