FOOD FOR THE WEEKEND Middle Eastern Feast

So my travels through the middle east were pretty interesting to say the least! It was 1990 and the coastal area was trying to attract American visitors. The problem was that we were travelling through during Ramadan, which is not a great time to be playing host! I remember being in the Yemen, trying to find somewhere open for lunch and the only place open that I found was Pizza Hut! So I went in hungry and full of hope, to just be stared at blankly by several workers. After asking several times if I could order lunch and showing them American dollars (usually the best way to achieve anything in far off countries), I was just rewarded with confused facial expressions and no food. I did not get lunch that day and had to rely on crackers until supper time.

The Oman was certainly more open to tourism, accommodating everyone from Germans  to Americans, with all their requirements. A little more sophisticated and cosmopolitan, with beautiful hotels and beaches. However, limited on time, I still did not get to really explore the cuisine as much as I would like to have, so settled to exploring from afar, with good recipe books and research. I think the next place that we ate was Israel!! (We of course were being given plentiful supplies of caviar and great cuisine on board our yacht, so not starving!).

I like the way that they use spices and ingredients and the first thing I think of with regards to Middle Eastern food is the dear old eggplant. That closely followed by the chickpea. London certainly has some good restaurants, but a wonderful experience was eating at a restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico!  An Egyptian colleague took me to a place called ‘Jerusalem’, which provided a veritable middle eastern feast, even better when you have someone who can show you how to eat it as it’s best, combining the dishes for the most enjoyment.

Here, I have found some recipes that really grabbed myself and my husband and we got into the kitchen and made these together, with results that were so incredibly tasty!  The dip is very easy- just blitz and ready! The latkes also are a fast prep in the food processor, the longest of course is the duck which is slow roasted, so perfect for a lazy afternoon watching movies or lazing in the sun! It seems to work for either cosy days or hot days!!

NOTE: Don’t have za’atar? Contact me for my own blend spices! Reasonably priced and smaller quantities available!!


Butter Bean Dip with your choice of pita bread or crudite

Chickpea and Potato Latkes with Mint Salsa

Crispy Roasted Duck with Pomegranite

Butterbean dip;

14 oz /400g can of butter beans
2 tbsp za’atar
3 tbsp garlic oil
1 tbsp olive oil
A couple of good dashes of lemon juice
a couple good pinches of sea salt

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until it forms a rough hummus type texture.


Chickpea and Potato Latkes with Mint Salsa

10 oz/ 300g potato peeled grated with a food processor
1 large onion peeled and grated through the food processor
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Good handful of spinach
14 oz /400g can of chickpeas
2 garlic cloves crushed
good dash of lime juice
2 eggs
1 rounded tbsp all purpose/plain flour
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Oil to fry

Crush the coriander and cumin seeds lightly with a pestle and mortar
Blend the potato and onion and place into a towel and squeeze out the moisture. Place into a bowl and add the crushed seeds, spinach, chickpeas, garlic and dash of lime and blend together.
Add the eggs and flour and seasoning, fold in.
Heat oil in a skillet on medium to high heat. Create patties with the mixture, squeezing any remaining excess moisture out. Shallow fry the patties in batches, approx 1 minute each side until golden.

Mint Salsa

1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 large tomatoes chopped
1 green chilli finely chopped
Handful of cilantro (coriander) leaves chopped
Handful of mint leaves chopped
1 tbsp olive oil

Put all of the ingredients into a small bowl, season and blend.

Crispy Duck

1 whole duck approx 4 lbs/ 2.5 kg
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic granules
1 cucumber
2 bunches of scallions /spring onions
14 fluid oz/ 400ml pomegranate molasses
34 fluid oz /100ml  runny honey
24 chines pancakes
14oz/ 400g pomegranate seeds
Coarse sea salt

Preheat oven 375F/ 190C /170C Fan

Place the duck in an oiled roasting pan. Combine the next 6 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the duck and inside the cavity. Season with salt. Roast for 2 1/2 hours. Don’t baste, so it becomes dry and crispy. After, increase the temp to 425F/220C/ 200 C Fan, then continue cooking the duck for 20 minutes. remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes covered with aluminum/aluminium foil.

Chop the cucumber and scallions into long, thin strips.

In a small saucepan, heat the molasses and honey until it bubbles. Take off the heat, stir well and set aside.

Heat the pancakes according to package instructions.

Layout the elements of the dish on separate plates/ dishes and enjoy by piling a little of each into a pancake and roll up.

WINE NOTE: The duck has been lightened up with the crisping and the rendering of fat, so can stand to a lighter wine, especially with the vibrant flavours of the spices and pomegranates. An aromatic fruity white, Pinot Gris, or Fiano Di Avellino- a dry wine, floral and mineral with a touch of honey. If you would prefer red, then choose a zesty red such as Valpolicella.