20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 3 (2024)

Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s chicken pastilla

Serve this with a big plate of orange slices and rocket drizzled in lemon juice and olive oil, and with great pride.

To serve 4 shameless or 6 polite guests
chicken thighs 6, with skin and bones (about 800g)
salt 1 tsp, plus 1 tsp
pepper 1 tsp
pitted dates 100g
onions 3, peeled and sliced thinly (about 300g)
cinnamon stick 1
dried red chilli 1 (you can remove the seeds if you prefer milder flavours)
ras el hanout spice mix 2 tbsp
water 240ml
filo pastry 1 packet (about 250-270g)
melted butter 60g (or oil/other fat if avoiding dairy)

Heat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Put a large frying pan on a medium heat. Place the chicken thighs skin-side down in it and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. You won’t need to add any oil to cook it in, as the skin will render a lot of fat. Keep it on a medium heat and allow the skin to crisp and colour. This will take about 10–15 minutes. Once the skin is all crisp and golden, flip the thighs and cook on the other side for 5 minutes, then use tongs to remove them to an ovenproof pan that is large enough contain them all in one layer. Add the pitted dates.

Keep the fat in the frying pan and add the sliced onions and the other teaspoon of salt. Cook the onions until they are soft and starting to go golden. Add the cinnamon stick, dried chilli and ras el hanout spice and mix well. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, pour over the chicken thighs in the ovenproof pan. Cover the pan and place in the centre of the oven to cook for 1 hour.

Open the lid carefully and check whether the chicken is fully cooked – it should just fall off the bone. If it is still a little tough, cook for a further 10–15 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Carefully pour the contents of the pan into a sieve over a bowl. Retain the cooking liquid. Pull the chicken from the bones, discarding them along with any cartilage.

Remove the chilli and the cinnamon stick. Mix the chicken meat together with the cooked dates and onions, along with just enough liquid to bind the mixture well – any remaining liquid can be kept to warm through and use as extra sauce when serving. You can prepare this chicken-date-onion mixture up to 2 days in advance. Store in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the pastilla.

Heat your oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Lay the opened packet of filo pastry on the table. Carefully peel off the first sheet and use a brush to butter it, then fold into four and set aside (this folded square will give a thicker base to the pastilla). Peel off the next sheet and butter it, cover with another sheet and set aside. Repeat with two more sheets, so that you have two sheets of double thickness.

Place one doubled sheet lengthways on the table, put the folded square in the centre of it and lay the other doubled sheet on top at 90 degrees to the first sheet, to make a cross shape that is thickest in the middle.

Carefully lift the pastry cross off the table and place in a 22–24cm ovenproof frying pan or cake tin. Let it line the tin or pan with the sides of the pastry hanging over the edge. Fill with the chicken mixture and fold the corners over to cover it. We like to make the top a little crumpled so it looks natural. Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining butter and place in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. After this time, turn the tin around so that the pastilla cooks evenly, and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is all golden and crisp.

Serve immediately, with a jug of the warm cooking liquid as sauce and a fresh green salad on the side.
From by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (Hodder & Stoughton, £25)

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 3 (1)

Hummus kawarma is the Lebanese name given to freshly made hummus, topped with fried chopped lamb. It is a small meal or a starter in a bowl and one of the most sensational things you can put in your mouth. Have it with fattoush or a similar salad and pitta. Minced lamb can be used instead of chopping the meat by hand, but it won’t have quite the same gratifying texture. This dish also works well without lamb altogether, just the hummus, chickpeas, lemon sauce and pine nuts.

Serves 6
hummus 1 quantity (see recipe below), reserving 4 tbsp of the cooked chickpeas to garnish
pine nuts 2 tbsp, toasted in the oven or fried in a little unsalted butter

For the hummus
dried chickpeas 250g
bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
light tahini paste 270g
lemon juice 4 tbsp
garlic 4 cloves, crushed
ice cold water 100ml

For the kawarma
neck fillet of lamb 300g, finely chopped by hand
ground black pepper ¼ tsp
ground white pepper ¼ tsp
ground allspice 1 tsp
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
nutmeg freshly grated, a good pinch
crushed dried za’atar 1 tsp, or oregano leaves
white wine vinegar 1 tbsp
fresh mint 1 tbsp, chopped
flat-leaf parsley 1 tbsp, chopped, plus extra to garnish
salt 1 tsp
unsalted butter or ghee 1 tbsp
olive oil 1 tsp

For the lemon sauce
flat-leaf parsley 10g, finely chopped
green chilli 1, finely chopped
lemon juice 4 tbsp
white wine vinegar 2 tbsp
garlic 2 cloves, crushed
salt ¼ tsp

To make the hummus, start a day before by washing the chickpeas well and placing them in a large bowl. Cover them with cold water, at least twice their volume, and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan on a high heat and add the drained chickpeas and the bicarbonate of soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1.5 litres of fresh water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas can cook for anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.

Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 600g now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor bowl. Process until you get a stiff paste; then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix until you get a very smooth and creamy paste, about 5 minutes. Transfer the hummus into a bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.

To make the kawarma, place all the ingredients apart from the butter or ghee and oil in a medium bowl. Mix well, cover and allow the mixture to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Just before you intend on cooking the meat, place all the ingredients for the lemon sauce in a small bowl and stir well.

Heat the butter or ghee and the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add the meat in 2–3 batches and stir as you fry each batch for 2 minutes. The meat should be slightly pink in the middle.

Divide the hummus between 6 individual shallow serving bowls, leaving a slight hollow in the centre of each. Spoon the warm kawarma into the hollow and scatter with the reserved chickpeas. Drizzle generously with the lemon sauce and garnish with some chopped parsley and the pine nuts.
From Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press, £27)

Nigel Slater’s roast quail with harissa and pomegranate seeds

There are people who go on about plainly roasted quail, but they are far more interesting to eat if you soak them first in olive oil, garlic, something hot like chilli paste and something sharp, like lemon juice. Pomegranate seeds are interesting enough if you leave them to swell in oil and lemon – they add a sour-sweet nubbly quality to poultry or game. They are also utterly beguiling over a dish of parchment-coloured hummus with its pool of verdant oil the colour of grass.

Previously I have used pine kernels instead of pomegranate seeds, and added sultanas. I have used the hard-to-find verjuice instead of lemon, and once included a little honey in the recipe. What are recipes for if not to go with the ebb and flow of our culinary whims?

I can eat two quail, leaving nothing but a pile of well-sucked bones at the end. I have eaten them with rice and flatbread, warmed in the oven, but best of all I like them with a mint and parsley-speckled dish of cracked wheat.

Serves 3, with rice or flatbread
quail 6, oven-ready
For the marinade
garlic 3 large cloves
sea salt flakes ½ tsp
harissa paste 2 scant tbsp
pomegranate seeds 2 tbsp
olive oil 100ml
lemon juice 1 tbsp
rice or flatbread to serve

Peel the garlic and crush it finely with the sea salt. I use a pestle and mortar. Then scrape into a mixing bowl and stir in the harissa paste, pomegranate seeds, olive oil and lemon juice. Tuck the quail into the marinade, turning them over so that they are coated, then set aside somewhere cool for several hours. They will come to no harm should you decide to leave them overnight.

Set the oven at 190C/gas mark 5. Put the birds in a roasting tin, leaving room around each to breathe. Spoon over any excess marinade. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and sticky. Serve with rice or flatbread.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Iranian vegetable stew with dried lime

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 3 (3)

Small dried limes (or lemons) are a regular feature in Iranian cooking, adding a sharp tang and sweetish aroma to marinades, stews and salads. They are rock hard and not easy to grind (although you can do so, in a coffee or spice grinder) so puncture them a couple of times and then put them in whole. You can also buy them in powdered form although this isn’t as pungent. Sumac or grated lemon zest can be used as an alternative but if you are passing a Middle Eastern grocer’s or if you shop online, they are well worth seeking out. Serve this sweet and sharp stew with steamed rice – that’s all.

Serves 6
clarified butter 50g
onion 1 large, finely diced (220g)
ground turmeric ½ tsp
cumin seeds 1½ tsp
tomato puree 1 tbsp
coriander 20g
tarragon 10g
dill 10g
charlotte potatoes 1kg (or another waxy variety), peeled and chopped into 4cm chunks
butternut squash 1 medium (760g), peeled, deseeded and chopped into 4cm chunks
Iranian limes 3, pierced 2-3 times
green chilli 1, slit one side from stem to tip
tomatoes 4 medium, quartered (400g)
spinach leaves 150g
barberries 15g
Greek yogurt 300g (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Place a large casserole on a medium heat and sauté the butter, onion, turmeric and cumin for 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Bundle the herbs together and use some string to tie them into a bunch. Add these to the dish along with the potatoes, squash, limes, chilli, 1½ teaspoons of salt and 1 litre of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are semi-cooked. Stir through the tomatoes, spinach and barberries, crushing the limes gently to release some of the juice inside, and transfer everything to a large roasting tray. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened a little and the vegetables are soft. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving with a dollop of yogurt on the side, if you choose.
From Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury Press, £27)

Hus Vedat’s classic manti filled with lamb neck

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 3 (4)

Manti is a staple dish in any Turkish household, found at most dinner tables and family meals up and down the country. They come stuffed with minced lamb. We use the neck in this recipe as it has a deeper flavour and becomes meltingly tender after a slow braise. It’s then topped with garlic yogurt and chilli butter.

Serves 4
For the lamb neck filling
white onions 2, whole
carrots 2
celery 1 stick
salt and pepper
lamb neck 1, whole, on the bone

For the manti dough
plain flour 500g
table salt a pinch
water 250ml

For the chilli butter
butter 100g
pul biber chilli flakes 2 tbsp

For the yogurt sauce
ginger about ½ thumb, to taste
yogurt 70g
double cream 20g
pomegranate molasses 1 tbsp
garlic 1 clove

To make the filling, cut all the vegetables up into large chunks, and roast along with the seasoned lamb neck in an oven heated to 200C/gas mark 6 for 30 minutes or till browned.

Once roasted, cover with water and braise in the oven for 10 hours at 100C. If your oven doesn’t go that low, cook at 140C/gas mark 1 for 3 hours. The meat is ready when it falls off the bone.

After braising, pick the meat away from the bone then pull the meat apart. Strain the cooking liquid from the vegetables (discard these or use for soup) and reduce down until it’s a thick glossy glaze, then re-introduce to the meat. Season to taste and let it cool.

To make the dough, sift the flour and salt into a wide bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the water and using your hands, draw the flour into the liquid and mix to a dough.

Knead the dough for about 5-8 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Manti dough needs to be quite hard; cover the dough with a clingfilm or kitchen towel and leave to rest in a cold place or in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into three pieces. Working one piece of dough at a time (cover the rest of the dough pieces with a damp towel so they don’t dry out), roll the dough as thinly as you can into a sheet, on a lightly floured surface.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into small squares (roughly 2½cm). Spoon a little of the lamb filling, the size of half a chickpea, into the middle of each square.

Pinch opposite corners to form a little pouch and press the seams together to seal firmly. Repeat with the rest of the dough and place the stuffed dumplings on a flat tray.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt and simmer the manti for about 8-10 minutes, until they are cooked.

Once cooked, drain the water and return the manti to the pan. Drizzle a little oil over them so that they don’t stick together.

To make the chilli butter, heat the butter until it foams. Add the chilli flakes and remove from the heat. To make the yogurt sauce, grate the ginger on a fine grater. Squeeze and collect the juice. Beat the yogurt with the double cream and add in the pomegranate molasses, garlic and ginger juice to your taste. Season.

To serve, place some manti in a flat bowl, and dollop on a generous amount of yogurt sauce and some chilli butter.
Hus Vedat is executive head chef of Yosma, London W1; yosma.london

20 best Middle Eastern recipes: part 3 (2024)


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