How To Cook Middle Eastern Food At Home | sheerluxe.com
If you love Middle Eastern food – but it tends to be something you only eat at a restaurant – help is at hand. We asked Honey & Co’s founders Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich to talk us through the essential ingredients to stock up on and how to make your favourite dishes at home...
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What are the cupboard staples for a home cook who’s new to Middle Eastern cooking?

Tahini: We use buckets of the stuff. The best brands are Al Yaman or Al Rabih. Mix with a little water, garlic and lemon juice to make the perfect sauce.

Chickpeas: Again, something we get through kilos and kilos of each week to make falafel and hummus every day for our restaurants and deli. Always use dried chickpeas, never tinned, and soak them in water over night.

Pomegranate molasses: It adds a sharp sweet kick to marinades, salads and more.

Flower waters: Rose water or orange blossom water are used a lot in Middle Eastern cooking to add a floral note to everything from stews to desserts.

Zaatar: We use zaatar imported from Lebanon. It’s dried wild thyme mixed with sumac, sesame and oil. Excellent on cheese and in salads.

Nuts: Pistachios, almonds, walnuts... these are the best ones. We use a lot of them in baking and toasted and scattered in rice and over salads.

Cardamom coffee: Think thick coffee traditionally cooked in a pan on the stove. We love it flavoured with cardamom. It’s amazing served with really sweet pastries like baklava or halva. We serve El Nakhleh coffee in our restaurants. 

Shop These Middle Eastern Cooking Ingredients Below…

Where are the best places to stock up on these ingredients?
Turkish supermarkets are amazing – especially the ones on Edgware Road or Green Lanes. You can also find them online at Souschef.co.uk or our own online shop – Shop.HoneyAndCo.co.uk. There’s also Honey & Spice, our food store on Warren Street, which we opened as our dream deli, stocking all the ingredients we use every day, so it’s worth coming by if you’re in London to raid the shelves. 

Are there any home appliances or tools that help?
A falafel scoop makes shaping falafel super easy; a good spice crusher or pestle & mortar is essential; and finally, an enamel coffee pot for cooking cardamom coffee.

Which cook books do you recommend?
Anything by Claudia Roden – we owe everything to her. Claudia came to the UK from Egypt as a young woman in the 1950s and began gathering recipes from the Jewish diaspora arriving in London. She has spent her whole life collecting and recording recipes from people around the world. Her book A New Book of Middle Eastern Food was first published in 1968 and is still the best book out there for those wanting to cook this cuisine at home.  

Finally, where are your favourite places to eat Middle Eastern food in London?
Apart from our own restaurants, we enjoy Ishbilia in Knightsbridge and Mangal 2 in Dalston. 

Stocked up on the essentials above? Here are five recipes to try at home…

Chicken In Plums & Sweet Spice (Serves 3)

INGREDIENTS

  • 6-8 skin-on chicken thighs, depending on size

​For the marinade:

  • 2 plums, quartered and stones removed
  • 1 tsp of whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp of whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • ¼ tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • ​1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp of demerara sugar
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
     

For the roasting tray:

  • 2-3 sticks of celery, cut in 5cm pieces
  • ​1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • ​8-10 plums, quartered and stones removed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ​1 tbsp of demerara sugar
  • A few sprigs of tarragon to garnish

METHOD

  1. Make the marinade by blitzing everything together in a food processor until you have a smooth purée. Pour the marinade over the chicken thighs and mix well to make sure they are evenly coated. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate: a couple of hours will do the trick, but you can leave it for up to 24 hours.

  2. Heat your oven to 220°C. Place the celery, onion, garlic and half the plum quarters in a large roasting tray. Top with the chicken thighs, skin-side up, and pour any remaining marinade over the chicken. Season with some salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove the tray and baste everything well with the juices that have formed at the bottom.

  3. Reduce the temperature to 200°C and return the chicken to the oven for a further 10 minutes before adding the remaining plum quarters. Sprinkle with the sugar and roast for a final 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste again and garnish with a few tarragon sprigs before serving.

Green Shakshuka (Serves 2)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • ​1 small leek, sliced into rings and washed
  • 100g of fresh spinach, washed (you can use any green leaf you have here: chard, kale, beets, radish tops etc.)
  • ​1 small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bunch of mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • ​1 small bunch of dill, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ​Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • ​A few dollops of yogurt (optional)
  • A sprinkling of sumac (optional)

METHOD

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the leek and sauté to soften – it will take 3-4 minutes – then start adding the spinach, a large handful at a time. Stir between each addition to wilt it. It may seem as if it will never fit in the pan, but as it wilts there will be hardly any volume left. Finally add the chopped herbs and mix them in to wilt too. The whole process will take about 6-8 minutes, depending on the leaves you are using; just make sure they are soft by the end of it.

  2. Remove the frying pan from the stove and season with the crushed garlic, salt and pepper. You can set this aside until you are ready to eat and the table is set; it will also keep in the fridge until later. You only want to cook the eggs once everyone is at the table, as it is best to eat this while the yolks are still runny.

  3. Heat the spinach mixture again and use a spoon to create four little wells in the cooked leaves, one in each quarter. Crack an egg into each well, season the eggs with a touch of salt and pepper and cover the pan. Cook on a low heat until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny – about 3-4 minutes. Serve straight away. You can drizzle with some yogurt and sumac or serve it as is. It’s delicious either way.

Tuna Dip With Broccoli, Potato & Eggs (Serves 4-8)

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g of tenderstem broccoli

  • 500g of small new season potatoes

  • 4 nice eggs

  • 2 heads of endive

  • A sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dipping sauce:

  • 200g tin of tuna in oil, drained

  • 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard

  • 1 tsp of smooth dijon mustard

  • 2 heaped tbsp of mayonnaise

  • 2 tbsp of yogurt

  • 1 tsp of lemon juice

  • 1 tbsp of nice vinegar (not rice vinegar, not cheap vinegar – good quality vinegar)

To finish:

  • A pinch of cayenne pepper to sprinkle on top

METHOD

  1. To prepare the ‘dippers’, boil a big pot of water with one tablespoon of salt for each litre of water. Add half the broccoli and blanch for 2½ minutes then quickly remove with some tongs or a large slotted spoon to a large bowl filled with iced water, to chill it. This will help retain the colour and texture. Repeat with the rest of the broccoli. Once that is done, use the same water to boil the potatoes until soft. It takes about 15-20 minutes depending on their size. The best way to check that they are cooked is to insert the tip of a knife into one: it should go in easily. Drain and set aside.

  2. In the meantime, boil your eggs by plunging them into salted boiling water for 7 minutes, then immediately drain and pop them into a bowl of icy water too, to halt the cooking.

  3. Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a small food processor and whizz until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

  4. Peel and quarter the eggs. Quarter the endive too, arrange it with the broccoli and potatoes on a lovely plate, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with a generous bowl of the dipping sauce, sprinkled with the cayenne pepper, if using.

Lentil Stew With Aubergine, Eggs, Tahini & Zehug (Serves 4-6)

 

INGREDIENTS

 

  • 350g of small dark green lentils 

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced

  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 2 celery sticks, peeled and sliced

  • 3 whole cloves of garlic, halved

  • 1 large plum tomato, quartered

  • Small bunch of thyme, tied with some string

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 4 tbsp of olive oil

 

To season the lentil stew:

  • 1 tsp of salt

  • Generous pinch of black pepper

  • 1 tbsp of ground cumin

  • 2 crushed garlic cloves

METHOD

Place all the ingredients for the stew (apart from the olive oil) together in a saucepan and add 1.5 litres of water. Bring to a boil, skim any foam that may have come to the top and turn down the heat to minimum. Add the olive oil and simmer till soft. This will take about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with the salt, pepper, ground cumin and crushed garlic. Set aside and allow to infuse for about 20-30 minutes before removing the thyme and bay leaves. You can serve it straight away or reheat it later. It is delicious as is, but even better with any or all of the following:

Burnt aubergine:

  • 2 aubergines

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • Pinch of salt

Take the aubergines whole and place over an open-gas flame or under a very hot grill and burn until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is soft. You will need to turn them every few minutes. Once they are soft, remove to a serving plate, slit open and, using a spoon, scoop out the soft white flesh, season with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Thick tahini dip:

  • 100g of tahini paste

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed 

  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice

  • ¼ tsp of salt

  • 100ml water

Mix everything together to form a thick paste. If it is too thick for your liking, you can add a teaspoon or two of water to dilute. However, as it’s being added to a stew, we like it quite thick.

Zehug:

  • 1 large bunch of coriander

  • 1 green chilli

  • 1 small plum tomato 

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • ½ tsp of salt

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil

Roughly chop all the ingredients together apart from the oil, then transfer to a little bowl and add the olive oil and mix to make a paste. Serve everything in a small bowl and allow everyone to mix and match.
 

All recipes taken from cookbook Honey & Co: At Home (Pavilion) by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich. 

 

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