It began with shawarma a few years ago but these days Arab cuisine is the rage with mandi outlets mushrooming in every food street in major cities.

Tender chicken and lamb marinated in mild spices served with fluffy saffron rice or soft pita bread and delicately-spiced fresh salads and dips. The meal is rounded off by tempting desserts.

Fresh, wholesome, rich, healthy and aromatic, these three dishes are not difficult to prepare at home.



1/4 kg roughly-minced mutton

2 tomatoes

10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 cups eggplant, peeled, diced and deep fried

½ cup creamed Feta cheese

1 cup yoghurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon paprika powder

10 black olives, whole, pitted

1 tablespoon cumin powder, roasted

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt to taste

¼ cup cooking oil

1 cup onions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

5 pita bread, cut into wedges

Rich and aromatic flavours with a hint of spice is all you need to bring this exotic cuisine home


In a pan, add two tablespoons oil, crushed garlic, chopped tomatoes, fry until soft. Fry the minced meat separately with one tablespoon oil, add salt to taste. Gently fold into tomato mixture. Heat the remaining oil, add onion, fry until golden, add eggplant, cumin powder, half teaspoon paprika powder, lemon juice and salt to taste.


Mix and blend yoghurt with feta cheese.


Take a large shallow platter, Spread labneh all over. Place eggplant in the centre, and add minced meat on top. Garnish with paprika, olive oil, black olives and parsley. Serve with pita bread.



½ kg mutton qeema, finely ground

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 large grated onion

2 tablespoons mild green chilli paste

1 tablespoon garlic paste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup yoghurt, strained

Salt to taste

¼ cup oil

Wedges of two tomatoes and eight mild whole green chillies for garnish

Cucumber raita to serve with


Combine everything and marinate overnight. Brush a round baking tray or large pizza pan with two tablespoon oil and spread a thin layer of the mixture evenly.

Slice through it just like cutting pizza wedges. Place one tomato wedge and one green chilli in each section.

Preheat oven on maximum, bake for about 15-20 minutes until cooked and the water dries up. Brush the top with oil, keep under the broiler for golden colour. Serve with pita and cucumber raita.



8 slices white bread

1 cup melted butter

½ litre milk

2 large cans condensed milk, unsweetened

1 cup coconut milk powder

½ cup cornflour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 cup pistachio and almonds, sliced


Mix cornflour and coconut milk powder in one cup of cold milk. Combine and boil the rest of the milk and condensed milk, add cornflour mixture and sugar. Cook on low heat until slightly-thick custard is ready. Take off the heat, and add vanilla essence. Pour one cup custard in the base of a medium, square glass baking dish.

Trim bread edges, brush one side with butter, arrange in the dish on top of custard. Pour more custard over followed by sliced dry fruit. Make another layer of bread and custard in the same way. Keep doing until everything is utilised. Top with custard and nuts.

Pour the remaining melted butter around and bake in a preheated oven at 180o C until hot and bubbling. Serve warm or chilled.

Originally published in Dawn, EOS, July 29th, 2018.