Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spiced Middle Eastern Lamb Patties with Pita and Yogurt Recipe

Spiced Middle Eastern Lamb Patties with Pita and Yogurt
Spiced Middle Eastern Lamb Patties with Pita and Yogurt

Whether you spell it kefta or köfte or kufte or some other variation, you can find versions of these lamb or beef meatballs throughout the Middle East. The seasoning mixture here is simple, with spices you should already have on your shelf and you can play around, adding fresh or dried mint, grated onion, or a pinch of cinnamon. And if you like a garlicky yogurt sauce, by all means, add a minced clove.

Kristin Donnelly Epicurious May 2014

Makes 4 to 6 pita sandwiches


Yogurt sauce:
1 cup plain full-fat or low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs, such as mint, dill or cilantro, plus herb sprigs, for serving
Kosher salt

Patties and pita:
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or beef
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 1 large clove)
1 tablespoon coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 pita bread rounds


For the sauce:
  • In a small bow, whisk the yogurt with the lemon juice. Stir in the chopped herbs, season with salt and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the patties and pita:
  • In a bowl, use your hands to mix together all of the ingredients, except for the pita. Form the mixture into twelve 3-inch oval patties (about 1 inch thick). Arrange the patties on a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until firm
  • Preheat a grill for at least 10 minutes and prepare it for grilling over moderately high heat. If you are using a charcoal grill, leave one area where you can grill the pita indirectly.
  • Oil the grill grates and grill the patties until dark brown grill marks form on the bottom, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the patties and grill for 4 to 6 minutes longer, until just cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, wrap the pita in foil and set the package on the top shelf of a gas grill or in the cooler spot of a charcoal grill and allow them to warm through, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Wrap 2 or 3 patties in each pita, spoon some of the yogurt sauce alongside and serve with herb sprigs, passing the remaining yogurt sauce at the table. 

Mozzarella Cheese Kunafa Recipe

A not-so-authenic cheese kunafa made with everyone’s favorite mozzarella cheese! Crunchy shredded pastry filled with an ooey gooey mixture of mozzarella and a secret ingredient that keeps the cheese from hardening even after it cools. A rose and orange blossom water scented sugar syrup, sweetens and perfumes this scrumptious Middle Eastern favorite.

Author: Cleobuttera

Serves: 1 (12"/ 30cm or up to 14"/ 35cm) round kunafa


For the Scented Sugar Syrup:
2½ cups (1 lb 1oz/ 500g) granulated sugar
1¼ cup (300ml) water
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon (15g) rose water (more or less according to taste)
1 tablespoon (15g) orange blossom water (more or less according to taste)

For the Semolina Pudding:
1½ cups (350ml) milk
¾ cup (180ml) heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons (37g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (30g) semolina
1 teaspoon (3g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon (5g) water
1 teaspoon (5g) rose water

For the Cheese Filling:
600 grams/ 1lb 3oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (preferably fresh)
3 tablespoons (37g) granulated sugar (omit if your cheese does not taste salty) (*see note)
2 teaspoons (10g) rose water

For the Kunafa Crust:
1lb/ 500g kunafa or kataifi/kadaifi pastry, fresh or frozen. If using fresh, freeze for an hour for easier cutting. If using frozen, thaw slightly
1 cup (8oz/ 227g) ghee or butter, melted and slightly cooled

Pistachios, for garnish


To make the Scented Sugar Syrup: (Can be made up to a week in advance)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and squeeze of lemon juice. Set on a stovetop over high heat. Try to avoid stirring it as it heats to prevent crystallization from happening, but if the sugar is not dissolving, then help it out with a few stirs. Once it comes to a boil, STOP stirring.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for no longer than 10 minutes. Set a timer! The syrup will thicken slightly, and have a consistency similar to pancake syrup. If it simmers for longer it could thicken too much and become candy-like.
  3. Remove from heat, then stir in the rose and orange blossom waters. Transfer to a medium bowl, liquid measuring cup or gravy boat and allow to cool to room temperature before using.
To make the Semolina Pudding:
  1. In a small saucepan, combine together the milk, heavy cream, sugar and semolina. Dissolve the cornstarch in the 1 teaspoon of water and add to saucepan.
  2. Place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil, and continue cooking until the mixture thickens into a bachamel-like consistency; about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rosewater. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the kunafa.
To prepare the Cheese Filling:
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the mozzarella cheese, sugar (if using) and rose water.
To prepare the Kunafa:
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 200C/ 390F.
  2. Heavily grease a 12"/ 30cm round cake pan with ghee or butter. A larger pan size (like a 14"/ 35cm deep dish pizza pan may be used, but note that the kunafa will turn out thinner) Alternatively, the kunafa could also be split over 2 (9"/ 23cm) or 4 (6"/ 15cm) pans. You could bake one now and freeze the other(s) for later.
  3. If using fresh, extra thin, Arabic-style konafa dough, it is preferable to use only the butterfat in the melted butter, leaving behind the milk solids or just use the full amount of ghee instead, to ensure a crunchy, evenly browned crust. If using thicker, Greek-style frozen kadaifi/konafa, you can use the butter in its entirety; milk solids and all. Unlike thin, fresh konafa, thicker/frozen kadiafi dough can handle the extra moisture, while still crisping up. To separate the butterfat from the milk solids, let the butter sit for a few minutes after melting. The milk solids (the whiter substance) will sink to the bottom and the butterfat (the yellow liquid) will float up. You could now simply pour the butterfat, being careful to leave the white bottom layer behind. It's OK if a little of the milk solids get poured in as well. (Get more details about clarifying butter here).
  4. Over a large bowl, shred the konafa/kataifi dough into 1inch/ 2.5cm long pieces. I've found that cutting the kunafa while semi frozen, makes for the easiest way to break it. So even if using fresh kunafa, stick it in the freezer for about an hour before cutting it.
  5. Pour the melted ghee evenly over the kunafa. If using butter instead of ghee, for fresh, extra thin konafa dough, just pour the yellow liquid (butterfat) of the melted butter, leaving behind the white layer (milk solids). If using thicker, frozen konafa/kadiafi, just pour all the butter in. Mix the butter evenly with you hands, into the kanafeh shreds, making sure it gets well coated and every strand is glistening.
  6. Transfer two-thirds the amount of konafa in the prepared pan and firmly press it on the bottom and up the sides. Make a wall with the konafa around the sides of the pan; this will help contain the filling during the baking process and prevent it from burning. Pack the konafa as tightly as possible. Use the bottom of a cup or measuring cup, to help pack it tightly and smooth out the konafa.
  7. Pour in half of the cooled, semolina pudding and spread with a spatula into a thin layer. Top with the cheese mixture and pat down into an even layer. Cover with the remaining semolina pudding.
  8. Scatter on the remaining third of the konafa over the cream filling, lightly press it on to adhere.
  9. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top and sides of the konafa are deep golden brown in color. Use a knife to push the side of the konafa, to check the color. The longer it bakes, the crunchier it gets. So bake it for less time if you prefer a softer crust.
  10. Remove the konafa from the oven and immediately pour on about ¾ of the scented syrup, starting from the edge and moving towards the center, in a circular motion, making sure to cover the entire surface. Reserve leftover syrup for drizzling over individual servings.
  11. Let the konafa rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow for the syrup to soak in, then flip on to a serving platter. Decorate the edges with halved pistachios, or for a more traditional look, Cover the entire surface with ground out pistachios.
  12. Cut into wedges and serve right away, while still hot, passing along extra syrup, as desired. Kunafa is best enjoyed warm, while the filling is still gooey, but it still tastes delicious at room temperature and the filling will still be soft but not gooey. Leftovers maybe stored in the refrigerator, then rewarmed in the oven or microwave.
*This recipe will also make 2 (9"/ 23cm round) kunafas, or 4 (6"/ 15cm round) ones.

**Kunafa freezes really well before baking. Assemble the kunafa in the pan, don't bake, and cover with a double layer of plastic wrap and 1 layer of foil. When ready to bake, let it thaw, then bake as normal.

***The amount of sugar added to the mozzarella filling, depends on how salty the cheese tastes. If using fresh mozzarella, you may choose to leave out the sugar sugar because its not salty. So taste your cheese and you be the judge of how much sugar needs to be added. I use pre-shredded mozzarella, not because its the best choice, but rather because its the most easily accessible where I live. It's slightly salty, so 3 tablespoons is perfect to balance it out.

****In non-Middle Eastern countries, Kadaifi/kataifi/konafa dough can be found in the frozen Greek section of most big supermarkets, or in Middle Eastern speciality stores.

Semolina pudding recipe adapted from Embers Mezze Bar.


Mini Cream Cheese Sweet Samosas (Samboosak) Recipe

Mini Cream Cheese Sweet Samosas (Samboosak)
Mini Cream Cheese Sweet Samosas (Samboosak)

These tiny ‘lil sweet treats will disappear off the plate in no time! Bite-size crispy samosa wrappers filled with cream cheese and sweetened with a drizzle of thick sugar syrup. Good luck stopping at one!

Author: Cleobuttera

Serves: Makes approximately 160 mini samosas


For the Sugar Syrup:
1½ cups (300g/ 10½oz) granulated sugar
¾ cup (177ml) water
Small squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about ½ teaspoon)

For the Samosas (Samboosak):
1 (500g/ 1 lb) package samosa (samboosak) sheets, about 40 sheets (avoid the reduced-fat kind as it tends to break while wrapping)
27 squares individually wrapped cream cheese, such as Kiri, about 13oz/ 370g *(tub or brick-style cream cheese may be substituted)
1 egg white
Vegetable oil, for pan frying
chopped pistachios, for garnish (optional)


To make the Sugar Syrup: (Can be made up to a week in advance)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and squeeze of lemon juice. Set on a stovetop over high heat. Try to avoid stirring it as it heats to prevent crystallization from happening, but if the sugar is not dissolving, then help it out with a few stirs. Once it comes to a boil, STOP stirring.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Set a timer! The syrup will thicken, and have a consistency similar to corn syrup. It should be slightly thicker than the average simple syrup used for kunafa.
  3. Remove from heat. Transfer to a medium bowl, liquid measuring cup or gravy boat and allow to cool to room temperature before using.
To make the samosas (samboosak):
  1. Unwrap the cream cheese squares and cut each square into 6 equal pieces. If only tub or brick-style cream cheese is available to you, then use about a ¼ teaspoon-ish of that per mini samosa.
  2. Unwrap the samosa wrappers from its packaging and place on a cutting board. Leave all the sheets intact and stacked on top of each other; do not separate the sheets. Using a sharp knife, cut the stack of wrappers from the middle, vertically into 2 equal stacks. Then cut each stack in half horizontally. You should now have 4 equal stacks. Cover the samosa sheets with a clean tea towel to avoid drying out.
  3. Peel one sheet of samosa wrapper to work with at time, keeping the rest covered.
  4. Hold one sheet of wrapper with one hand, then using the other hand, pick the upper left corner of the wrapper, pull it down and form an inverted cone around your finger. Please refer to the step-by-step photos in the post. Insert one piece of the cut up cream cheese inside the cone. Gently press down the cone to flatten the piece of cheese. Lift the long, dangling side of the sheet up to cover the exposed piece of cheese. Continue wrapping the the long side of the sheet around the cheese triangle. When you reach the end, you should be left with a tiny piece of sheet hanging out. Dab that little piece with a thin layer of egg white (this will act as a glue), then grab that piece and tuck it inside the pocket in the triangle to close it up. Repeat with the remaining sheets. At this point, the samosa triangles can either be cooked right away or frozen for up to a month. (Please refer to the 'notes' below for more details about freezing.
  5. To cook the samosas, fill a large skillet with just enough oil just to cover the bottom of the skillet. Heat over medium heat until shimmering.
  6. Place enough samosas to fill the skillet without overcrowding it. Fry for about 2 to 3 minutes on the first side until golden in color and feels crisp to the touch, then turn them to the other side and cook for another minute or two until nicely colored and crisped as well. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  7. When ready to serve, spread a thin layer of the sugar syrup on the bottom of a serving platter, then arrange the samosas over it. Drizzle with more syrup, but don't drown them. You might not need all of it. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. They are best eaten the same day they're made.
*Filled (not fried) samosas keep really well in the freezer, for up to 1 month. You could double (or quadruple) the quantity and store in the freezer in zipper lock bags until needed. Just allow to thaw a little, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until you heat the oil, before frying.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Halawet El Jibn (Sweet Cheese Rolls) Recipe

Halawet El Jibn (Sweet Cheese Rolls)
Halawet El Jibn (Sweet Cheese Rolls)

A delectable Arabic dessert made from rolls of soft, sweet cheese dough that gets stuffed with clotted cream, adorned with pistachios and rose petal jam. A drizzle of orange blossom and rose water flavored syrup puts the final seal of perfection. Recipe could be halved if you don't need that many.

Author: Cleobuttera
Serves: About 60 pieces


For the syrup:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
A squeeze of lemon juice (about ½ teaspoon)
¾ teaspoon orange blossom water
¾ teaspoon rose water

For the sweet cheese rolls:
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1 cup fine semolina (known in Arabic as semeed basbousa)
2 cups (10oz, 284g) mozzarella cheese, shredded (*see note)
2 tablespoons rose water

For filling the rolls:
400 grams (about 1lb) fresh eshta (clotted cream), (**see note for substitution)

Pistachios, ground (for garnishing)
Rose petal jam, for garnishing (optional)


To make the sugar syrup: (Can be made up to a week in advance)
  1. In the small saucepan, combine together the sugar, water and squeeze of lemon juice. Set on the stove top over medium high heat.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for no longer than 10 minutes. Set a timer! The syrup will thicken slightly, and have a consistency similar to pancake syrup. If it simmers for longer it could thicken too much and become candy-like and not pourable. Stir in the orange blossom and rose water
  3. Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the cheese rolls:
  1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat together the water and sugar, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil then add in the fine semolina, stirring constantly with a spatula until well combined and slightly thickened; about 30 seconds.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium, then add in the cheese and rose water, and stir well until the cheese melts and the mixture forms a soft, cohesive dough. Allow to cool briefly until it's warm enough to handle.
  3. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces; take 1 half of the dough to work with and cover the other half. Turn out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and cover with another sheet. Roll out the dough between the 2 sheets of plastic wrap, into a 9X13 inch (23cmX33cm) rectangle. Remove the plastic wrap on top. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, trim off the irregular sides of the dough to form a clean cut rectangle. You could use a ruler or the edge of an object to help you get straight sides.
  4. Fill a piping bag with the eshta (clotted cream) and snip off about 1 inch (2 cm) of the tip. Start piping the eshta on the long side closest to you, leaving a 1 inch (2cm) border. Alternatively, you could just spoon the eshta on the dough with a spoon.
  5. Using the plastic wrap under the dough, lift the dough and roll it over the cream filling, until the cream filling is completely covered, the dough seals it in and looks like a thin log. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, make a cut along side the log to slice it off from the rest of the dough. Repeat this process to make make 2 more logs.
  6. For cleaner cuts, place the logs in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm them up a little; its not necessary though. Then using a sharp knife or bench scraper, divide the logs into 1¾inch (4cm) pieces. You should have 30 to 32 pieces.
  7. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
  8. Arrange the rolls on the serving platter, sprinkle each with a little ground pistachios in the center and rose petal jam.
  9. Serve alongside the syrup, drizzling each piece with some before eating.
  10. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator.
* Authentic recipes for Halawet El Jibn calls for Arabic cheeses like Akkawi and Majdoola instead of mozzarella. I've opted for mozzarella here, due to its worldwide accessibily, low salt content and its great results. Both Akkawi and Majdoola could be hard to find and are very salty, which require soaking in water to remove the salt. If you'd prefer to use them, just use 1 cup (50z) of each, then slice them and cover them with warm water in a bowl. Let them soak for 30 minutes, then drain. Taste, if still salty, repeat the process until all the salt has been removed. Using your hands, squeeze cheese to remove any excess moisture.

**Although far from authenticity, Mascarpone cheese may be substituted for the eshta if you can't find it. It has a similar taste that would just fine here.


Shrimp machboos recipe

Shrimp machboos
Shrimp machboos

Try the traditional Arabian shrimp machboos that truly lives up to its reputation.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes approximately
Cooking Time: 2 hours approximately
Serves: 8 persons

All you need

Shrimps Cooking

1kg whole shrimps
30g dried coriander
1 clove garlic
al alali Ground Cinnamon
2 cloves
al alali Ground Black Pepper
2 cardamom
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. baharat spice
2 dried black limes


1/3 cup al alali Cut Green Beans
2 cups al alali Onion Flakes
al alali Tomato Paste
1 green chili pepper
2 tbsps. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baharat spice
1 tsp. dried black lime powder


4 cups basmati rice
4 tbsps. vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
al alali Ground Black Pepper
5 saffron threads
1/4 cup rosewater
Salt to taste

  1. Soak the saffron threads in rosewater until saffron releases its color
  2. In a medium saucepan, add shrimps, add water until shrimps are covered
  3. Boil shrimps and remove the foam that forms at the water surface
  4. Add the remaining ingredients from the list of shrimp cooking. Sprinkle salt and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and keep broth aside
  5. Boil the al alali Cut Green Beans for two minutes, drain and keep broth aside
  6. In a saucepan, roast onions until tender and brown color
  7. Mix the remaining ingredients from the stuffing list with the boiled green beans and the cooked shrimps. Mix well, cook for 10 minutes
  8. Sprinkle the saffron flavoured rosewater on the mix. Cover the saucepan and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside
  9. In the pan, add rice and vegetable oil
  10. Add the saved broths along with some water, boil for 3 minutes
  11. Add cinnamon, al alali Ground Black Pepper and clove to the rice. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes
  12. Remove some rice from the middle, leaving rice at the bottom and sides of the saucepan
  13. Add stuffing along with the shrimps in the centre of the pan
  14. Sprinkle the remaining rosewater over the rice
  15. Cover the pan and heat it on a low flame for 30 minutes
  16. Serve rice with the shrimps on top and enjoy!
Source: alalali

Rice with sea food and vegetables recipe

Rice with sea food and vegetables
Rice with sea food and vegetables

Enjoy the unique taste combination of seafood and vegetables!

Preparation Time: 15 minutes approximately
Cooking Time: 45 minutes approximately
Serves: 4 persons

All you need

200 g fish fillet
12 pcs. shrimps
10 pcs. mussels & calamari
50 g al alali Garden Peas, drained
50 g al alali Cut Green Beans,drained
1/2 cup Extra olive oil
50 g carrot cubed
45 g al alali Sweet Corn
1/2 pcs. red capsicum small cubes
1/2 pcs. Yellow capsicum small cubes
1/4 cup black olives pitted
1/4 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup al alali Tomato Paste
5 small tomatoes
3 cups of fish broth
Salt to taste
2 tsp. curcumin
1 tsp. al alali Ground White Pepper
3 g Saffron dissolved in warm water
Corn oil


  1. Wash and drain rice. Set aside
  2. Peel and clean shrimps and clean mussels well
  3. Cut fish fillet into fingers and calamari into rings
  4. In a pan, fry onion, garlic, red and yellow capsicum on low fire
  5. Add calamari, fish, muscles and shrimps. Mix slowly
  6. Add al alali Tomato Paste, salt, al alali White Pepper and curcumin
  7. Add fish broth and saffron . Cook until broth is boiling
  8. Add rice and mix slowly. Simmer on low fire for 20 minutes
  9. Add al alali Garden Peas and al alali Cut Green Beans. Mix
  10. Simmer for 5 minutes
  11. Serve hot and enjoy
Source: alalali

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lebanese Shish Tawook Chicken Kabob Recipe

Lebanese Shish Tawook Chicken Kabob
Lebanese Shish Tawook Chicken Kabob

Try our Chicken Shish Tawook Recipe, an Easy Way to Make Delicious Middle Eastern Chicken Kabobs.


2 lbs of skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into cubes/Kabab chunks
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
a small slice of lemon with the peel (optional, don't put too much)
15 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 table spoons of plain yogurt (Greek yogurt)
6 table spoons of olive oil
2 table spoons of red vinegar (apple cider vinegar)
1.5 to 2 teaspoons of ground white pepper
⅓ teaspoon of ground ginger spice
½ teaspoon of ground thyme, or ground oregano
⅓ teaspoon of paprika
1+ teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
½ to 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
Lebanese Garlic Paste (see our recipe here) to be served with shish tawook

  1. Mix all ingredients well together while rubbing the chicken
  2. Place in a container, cover, and let rest/marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours
  3. Skewer the chicken right before grilling
  4. Grill on medium heat for 12-18 minutes maximum
  5. As soon as you remove them from the grill, place them in a big warm pot, replace the lid tightly, and let rest for 8-10 minutes - this helps the chicken become more moist (this step is optional)
  6. Spread 1 teaspoon of our garlic paste along the diameter of a pita bread, add some salted cucumber pickles, french fries, grilled tomatoes or peppers (optional), the grilled chicken shish tawook, roll as in a burrito and enjoy. You could also toast the sandwich roll through a panini grill for 2-3 minutes.
Author: Esperance Sammour


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