How To Cook Middle Eastern Food At Home
How To Cook Middle Eastern Food At Home

How To Cook Middle Eastern Food At Home

Middle Eastern food can sometimes feel complicated to replicate well at home, but chef and author Sabrina Ghayour proves you can make something quick and delicious using ingredients from your local supermarket. Her new cookbook ‘Flavour’ features more than 100 simple recipes that can be adapted for every taste. Here, she shares some of her best cooking tips and favourite ingredients – plus three new dishes.
By Sherri Andrew
Photography: KRIS KIRKHAM

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Traditional Middle Eastern recipes are great, but I prefer to make dishes that are simple. I rarely make very traditional Middle Eastern food because the recipes can be so complex. The best recipes are made with simple ingredients and cooking methods. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to make a delicious meal. 

The ingredients I like to have to hand include good sea salt, black pepper and pul biber (Aleppo pepper). This spice is incredibly versatile as you can use it for just a hint of spice. I also use black pepper like it’s a spice – it’s bold and great in most dishes. I love wild oregano (which tends to be better quality than dried) as well as turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and normal paprika – not smoked, which is better in Spanish dishes. I always test recipes with bog-standard supermarket ingredients, so they are accessible for everyone.  

I love fusing British ingredients, like butternut squash, with Middle Eastern flavours. I’m obsessed with food and cook every single day, so most of the recipes in my new book are influenced by the flavours I like to eat, as well as simple dishes I’ve created at home. I’m also constantly testing new recipes and travelling, which has also inspired these recipes. 

I’m a big fan of salads. But my least favourite salad ingredient is lettuce; instead, I like to use seasonal veg, rice and lentils with other ingredients like halloumi. A salad should have lots of flavour. One of my favourite recipes from the book is black rice salad with butternut squash, which is currently in season. I also love the puy lentil and roasted cauliflower salad with dates and chilli. 

For the ultimate supper, try a spatchcock chicken. My recipe is sticky, delicious and – because it’s spatchcocked – cooks faster than a normal roast chicken. Snip up the back of the bird, drizzle with olive oil and add ras el hanout, apricot jam and a generous pinch of sea salt. Another good option is the samosa pasta which my family loves. In fact, 90% of my new book is suitable for midweek dinner – I aimed to create dishes that can be cooked in half an hour or less. 

It’s not in my culture to serve one-dish meals. We like to serve between seven and ten – which includes humble dishes like salads and yogurts, as well as rice and meat. Even three or four dishes together can be a feast for our Western senses. At home, I’m all about arranging dishes, big and small, that complement each other. I don’t usually make dessert, but I love sweet treats with a Middle Eastern twist, made interesting with nuts and spices. The apple fritters with cinnamon sugar couldn’t be easier! 

The difference between a good home cook and a great one is being unafraid. Being bold with flavour all comes down to confidence and patience. There’s no better inspiration than walking around delis, supermarkets and local shops that have a diverse range of produce.

Feeling inspired?

Here, Sabrina shares three recipes to try…

Courgette, Lemon, Feta & Pine Nut Tart

This is one of those quick and easy recipes that can be thrown together in no time. There are no special skills or equipment needed, just a little patience while the tart bakes and cools down enough for you to enjoy it. I love this kind of dish with a green leaf salad and a simple vinaigrette on the side, but you can also cut it into smaller portions and serve it as snacks or light bites with drinks.

Total Time
20 Minutes
1 x 320g ready-rolled puff pastry sheet (about 350 x 230mm)
1 courgette, thinly sliced
200g of feta, finely crumbled
250g of ricotta cheese
1 tsp of dried mint
1 tsp of dried wild oregano
2 tsp of lemon extract
1 unwaxed lemon, zested
2 tbsp of clear honey
½ tsp of pul biber chilli flakes
Handful of pine nuts
Olive oil
Maldon Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Step 1

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Step 2

Put the feta, ricotta, dried herbs and lemon extract and zest into a mixing bowl with a good seasoning of salt and pepper and beat together until smooth.

Step 3

Place the puff pastry sheet on the lined tray and score a 1cm-wide border around the edges, then spread the cheese mixture across the pastry up to the scored border.

Step 4

Lay the courgette slices, slightly overlapping, on the cheese mixture, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter over the pine nuts and bake for 16-18 minutes until the pastry edges are nicely browned.

Step 5

Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly, then drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with the pul biber before serving.

Spiced & Soupy Seafood Rice

I love making comforting recipes like this in the colder months, especially with seafood. Admittedly, seafood often feels like a summer thing, but this is really the kind of hearty dish I want to eat when I need a little warming burst of sunshine to brighten up the darker days. Serve some crusty bread on the side.

Total Time
1 Hour 10 Minutes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large head of garlic, cloves separated, bashed, peeled and kept whole
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp of harissa
1 tbsp of dried wild oregano
2 large tomatoes, cored and roughly diced
1 large yellow pepper, cored, deseeded and diced
400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp of caster sugar
1.5l of cold water
200g of arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
1kg of fresh mussels, cleaned
250g of fresh or frozen raw peeled tiger prawns, defrosted if frozen
75g of butter, roughly chopped
½ small packet (about 15g) of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped, some reserved for garnish
Olive oil
Maldon Sea Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Step 1

Place a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, drizzle in some olive oil and cook the onion until softened.

Step 2

Add the garlic cloves and continue cooking until the onion is translucent. Add the bay leaf, harissa, oregano, fresh tomatoes, yellow pepper and a generous amount of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for a few minutes.

Step 3

Next, add the canned tomatoes and sugar and stir again, then pour in the water and stir. Reduce to a gentle medium heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Step 4

Add the rice and stir once, then cook for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired. Check the liquid volume and add a little hot water if needed, then stir in the mussels, cover again and cook for 5 minutes until the shells have opened. Stir in the prawns, cover again and cook for another minute.

Step 5

Lastly, add the butter with the parsley and stir until melted. Discard any mussels that have not opened, then taste and adjust the seasoning if desired and serve immediately in shallow bowls and scatter with parsley.

Tahini, Almond & Chocolate Crumble Cookies

I cannot tell you how satisfying these cookies are – so much so that I usually have a bag of the cookie dough balls stashed in my freezer ready for baking whenever the craving hits. The texture is crumbly in an almost sandy way and the absolute optimum moment to enjoy them is 30 minutes out of the oven, when the cookies have cooled down but the chocolate is still gooey. They are also great the next day, provided you’ve stored them in an airtight container overnight, and perfect for sharing with others… or not, if you’re anything like me.

Total Time
25 Minutes
125g of salted butter, softened
125g of soft light brown sugar
75g of caster sugar
½ tsp of ground cinnamon
100g of tahini (use the solids and avoid the oil as much as possible)
150g of plain flour
½ tsp of baking powder
½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
50g of blanched almonds, roughly chopped
200g of dark chocolate chunks (70% cocoa solids)
Step 1

Beat the softened butter, sugars and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Then add the tahini and mix until smooth. Next, add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and mix until evenly combined. Finally, add the almonds and dark chocolate chunks and mix until evenly distributed.

Step 2

Weigh the cookie dough, divide into 14 equal portions and form each into a ball. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight if preferred. Once chilled, you can then freeze the cookie dough balls for later use.

Step 3

To bake, preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Step 4

Place your dough balls, well spaced out, on the lined tray and gently flatten them (omit this stage if using frozen dough). Bake for 16 minutes (or 18 from frozen). Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for 30 minutes, then enjoy.

Flavour by Sabrina Ghayour (published by Aster, £26) is available to buy now. Visit

Photography by Kris Kirkham.

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