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Unfolding the flavours of Middle East

For centuries, the Middle East has had an unrivalled reputation of its extravagant hospitality. The famous saying, Mehman Hediyeh Khodast which translates to, a ‘guest is god’s gift’ is followed by the entire region, where sharing food is regarded not simply as a duty, but as an honour. Many of the world’s favourite foods originated this side of the world.  The style of cooking varies from the deceptively simple to the sumptuous and sophisticated recipes that are the legacy of the Ottoman Empire. Herbs and spices, often little known, in the West are used with supreme care and that is what makes even the most of the ordinary meals, absolutely magical!  


This particular cuisine is as vast as its vibrant culture. But still, here’s a collective mention about some of the most loved dishes of the Middle Eastern cuisine, just for you. Dive into the flavours!


Meet the ‘star’ters!

The general idea of a starter to any foodie might be a morsel to tempt the appetite. But, in this cuisine, it is rather considered as a very significant and sacred part of the entire meal. Like Iranians start their meals with soup and they call their kitchen as the ‘house of soup-maker.’ So, to begin with, check out this amazing appetizer from this fascinating cuisine.

Couscous Tabbouleh: You know how we Indians can’t survive without wheat. Similarly, people in the Middle East cannot imagine a day without couscous!  Here’s a classic herby Arab salad packed with deliciousness and nuttiness.  Light on the stomach, great at taste, you’ll fall in love with this one.


Dips to dig in

What pickles, papads and chutneys are for Indians, this cuisine has got an array of dips to complement their meals. You might have already heard about a few, like tahini and hummus, because they’ve got a worldwide stature in the past few years. We’ve got the perfect ‘tahini’ recipe right here. Make it at home and enjoy this easy-peasy dip from the Middle Eastern cuisine.

Baba Ganoush: Aubergine or eggplant is a vegetable that is widely used in Middle Eastern food. One of the most popular preparations with this is the yummy Baba Ganoush that can easily be termed as a cross between the very desi bharta and chokha!  Legend also has it that it was invented by the ladies of the Sultan’s harem, who competed with one another to win his favour. We don’t know whether or not they were successful, but we sure know that this beauty is a must-try.


Love for lambs

Non-vegetarian food was not so glorious if it would not have been for Middle Eastern cuisine. Here, lamb is the dominant meat, generally cooked in open fire and enjoyed till the last bite. The unique flavour combinations, accompaniments, condiments and varied spices is what makes them class-apart. One unique fact about this cuisine is their use of nuts along with mutton, which is a long-known ritual. And when talking of this, we cannot miss on Jordan’s national dish, Mansaf. Literally, a meal in itself for a community!

Kibbeh: This is the national dish of Lebanon, and you’re in for a double whammy because lamb has played a dual role in it. The ground meat is mixed with couscous, wrapped around a lamb mixture again with spices and nuts, and finally fried to perfection.  


Chicken special

Once you travel the vast region of Middle East, you will realise the beauty of this undiscovered cuisine, especially in the non-vegetarian dishes. In the Middle East, chicken is the second popular protein after lamb. They have a collection of dishes with enchanting flavours and very different from what other cuisines offer. Try your hand on this stellar classic!

Shish Taouk: A dish which is prepared almost in the same way in the entire Middle East. It has gained popularity all over the world and becomes a favourite to everyone who tries it. The tip to make the perfect Shish Taouk is that the chicken pieces should be large so that they stay moist and the marination should be done perfectly. Pair it with rice and salad and go wallah wallah!  



Desserts with their decadence!

Some of the world’s most sumptuous sweet treats are to be found in Middle Eastern pastry shops. Filled with fruits or nuts, then fashioned into elaborate shapes, the pastries emerge from the oven, coated in syrup and honey, served with all the love! Treats like halwa and kodafa are saved for special occasions and are eaten in small portions with strong coffee or mint tea.

Baklava: You might have already heard of this very popular dessert but did you know that it comes from Middle-Eastern cuisine? This dessert defines deliciousness in all its glory – flaky, buttery, phyllo pastry sheets filled with a rich stuffing of pistachio and nuts, slathered generously with loads of honey. There are a lot of versions to this culinary beauty and we’ve got one for you too.


Atamanaa lak wajabat shahia!

(Enjoy your meal!)

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.