Category Archives: Side Dishes

Kefta and Arayes

The other night I was in the kitchen making Arayes.  My kiddos kept on coming into the kitchen wondering what I was making and when I told them they were totally surprised that I knew how to make it.  They all asked me why I didn’t make them before (it has been well over 8 years?…Wow a really long time!)  and I told them that I totally forgot about it until I got a request via Facebook for the recipe.

This makes a really nice light lunch and dinner when served with a soup and some hummus and grape leaves.  You must really serve this along with hummus so don’t forget!  On to the recipe…I hope that you like it!

Arayes (A-ra-yes)

Ingredients for Kefta: 

(adapted from Kofta Kebabs http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kofta-kebabs/Detail.aspx)

 ½ kg (1 pound) ground lamb or ground chicken

1 small onion, chopped

2-4 cloves garlic, chopped (up to you how much you like)

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (you can use up to ½ cup)

1 tablespoon ground coriander

½ tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

*-*-*-*-*-*

½ cup of corn oil

12  fresh pieces of small (6 inch diameter) pita bread (the thin kind)

Make sure that the pita bread you use is fresh because if it isn’t it will be quite difficult to separate into halves.

Directions:

Place all of the kefta ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth.  Set aside.

 Open up each of the pita bread so that it forms two halves.

 Take about ¼ cup (maybe a little less) of the kefta mixture and thinly spread it on one side of a pita half.  Place other half of the pita on top and press down so that it sticks together.  Set aside.

 

Note:  you need to spread the kefta thinly so that it will cook evenly and quickly.  If you spread it on thickly it might be undercooked when the bread has turned a golden brown.

Do this with the remaining kefta mixture and pita bread.

Once you are finished with all the pita bread, you can either lightly pan fry the Arayes or you can grill them.

If you are pan frying, you will need to cook on very low heat.  If you are grilling the Arayes, then you will need to place the grill on the highest level from the coals.  I much prefer grilling them because you will get that nice smoked flavor.

Lightly brush the Arayes on each side with the corn oil and place on either the frying pan or the grill.  When I cooked them this time I didn’t brush the outside of the pita with oil.  I had just added a teaspoon of oil to the pan and pan fried them that way.

 Cook until the bottom side is a nice golden brown color.  Flip it over and cook the other side the same way.

Once done place them either in a hotpot or on a large platter covered with a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.

Serve with Laban Up, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and a nice soup.

Enjoy!

Serves 5-6

Print the recipe here.

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Pakora (Deep Fried Vegetable Balls)

Pakora’s are a delicious fried little munchie that seems to be another Ramadan staple but of course it can be enjoyed all year round.  Oh! and this is soooo delicious with Laban Up.

The Pakora’s that I either bought or ate somewhere else were always hard and heavy feeling.  I played around with the ingredients and have come up with this lighter and crunchier version that is filled with more vegetables.  I hope you try it and like it!  It is very easy to make and I will provide you with 4 variations on what to put inside.

Pakora (Deep Fried Vegetable Balls)

Ingredients for batter:

3/4 cup chickpea (besam) flour (this can be found in an Indian grocery store)

1/4 cup corn meal or rice powder (I prefer using the corn meal though)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon red chili powder (or 1 heaping teaspoon Mexican-style chili powder)

1 teaspoon tumeric powder

1 egg

1/2 cup water

In a medium size bowl, mix all these ingredients together.

Ingredients for vegetable variations:

Variation #1:  

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped cilentro

1-2 finely chopped green chilies (it is up to you on the heat…deseed if you want)

Variation #2:

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoon finely chopped cilentro

8 oz uncooked potato, shredded

1 green chili finely chopped (optional)

Variation #3

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of finely chopped cilentro

1 small raw carrot, shredded

1 small raw zucchini, shredded

1 small raw potato, shredded

Variation #4

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cups of small okra (okra zero) or 1 cup sliced okra

Cooking Directions:

Once you have chosen which vegetable variation you will use just add it to the batter.  Mix it very well.  It should be thick like in the 2nd picture below.

You can fry it now or you can place this in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (not necessary) but I like for the flavors to blend together and also I like to prepare it in advance so I can fry it 45 minutes before Iftar (breaking our fast during Ramadan).

If you let the mixture settle in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, you will notice that it has become a little runny…no worries…this is how turns out if you let it sit for a while.  You will need to add a little bit more of the chickpea flour and the cornmeal.  You can add an additional 3 tablespoons of chickepea flour and 1 tablespoon of corn meal at a time. It will be 1/4 cup total addition.

Go ahead and heat up enough oil (I like to use corn oil or canola oil) in a wok or  deep-sided frying pan.  Turn the heat down to medium-high.

Drop by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil.

Gently fry the pakoras until they get a nice golden brown color.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

This recipe will make around 24 pakoras.

I like to serve this with 1 cup of yogurt and 1 packet of salad dressing mix (basil & thyme).  It is sooooo yummmy!   

Enjoy!

edited (07-27-2012): to add the variation #4 and to fix up the wording of the recipe.

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Harees

Harees bil Dajaj (Harees with Chicken)

Harees is one of the daily Ramadan staples here in the UAE.  It is easy on the stomach after a long day of fasting.  It is a very simple, delicious,and filling dish that can be eaten at Iftar (breaking the fast) or for Suhoor the meal before Fajr (morning) prayers.  It is served either alone as a main dish or as a side dish with all the other goodies during Ramadan.

During Ramadan, you will find this is one of those dishes that is widely shared between neighbors….if you should receive a bit too much or you get tired of eating it, it will freeze very nicely.  Just freeze it in an aluminum container, thaw it out in the fridge, and then heat it up in the oven.

Harees is also one of those dishes that you will find at every occasion…Ramadan, Eid, weddings, engagement parties, any special event…so I would classify it as one of the foods in UAE popular culture.

The “harees” grain is wheatberries in English and can be made with either lamb or chicken.  When my family was living in America, I also used pearl barley for this because it looked so similar to wheatberries and I achieved the same tasty result using it.

Also, you can add as much or as little chicken or lamb as you wish.  For the 2 cups of harees, I will usually use 1 kg of meat.  Of course, the more meat you use the more richer the dish.  But for economic reasons the harees would be more.  If you are using lamb this is a good time to use those bones and make a stock from it and debone what you can use.

Harees (wheatberries) up close

I made Harees Laham (Lamb Harees) just the other day and I experimented using the crockpot/slow cooker.  It is summertime and the temperatures outside are at least 45C.  During Ramadan in the summer, I want to spend as little time in the kitchen!  The results…I think it turned out better in the crockpot than cooking it over the stove top!

Okay now, on to the recipe:

Harees  (serves 8-10)

Ingredients:

2 cups of harees (wheatberries) For best results, you will need to soak the harees (wheatberries) overnight or for at least 8 hours.

1 kilo (2 pounds) of chicken or lamb

2 sticks of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of black pepper powder

2-3 teaspoons of salt

water

samen (local-made clarified butter) or melted butter

Directions:

First of all, you will want to boil the chicken or the meat until tender.  After boiling until tender, debone your chicken or lamb.  Save the stock to use later on in this recipe.

In a large pot, add the harees, deboned chicken or lamb, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and the stock.  Add water if needed.  The stock/water need to cover the harees  by about 2 or 3 inches.

Bring to a boil and then turn down the fire/heat to low.  Let it boil, boil, boil until it reduces to a watery oatmeal-like consistency.  Total cooking time will be about 1 hour…I didn’t time it.

(Note:  Be sure to check every 10 minutes and just stir the pot so that the harees won’t burn at the bottom.)

Now you are ready to blend the harees.  Using a hand mixer, blend the harees in the pot until smooth.  It won’t be entirely smooth.  You can also use one of those hand blenders to do the job.

The harees when ready will have a thick consistency.  Serve on a small platter and spoon the samen (clarified butter) or melted butter on top to cover.  Some people will decorate the top of the harees with powdered cinnamon in a simple pattern.

Harees bil Laham (Harees with Lamb)

Cooking Harees in the crockpot or slow cooker:

This was my experiment:  If you cooking the harees using a crockpot, you will just need to add all the ingredients to the crockpot.  Add enough stock and water to equal 3 liters (12 cups).  I cooked this on high for 6 hours.

I added the lamb without deboning (I don’t think I will do that again).  I had to add a little more water so that I could blend it and then let it cook a little bit more (maybe an hour).

I will be making the harees again this way today because I think that it turned out much better than on the stovetop.  This time though I will be using already cooked and deboned lamb.

Harees at the end of cooking time. I just needed to add a bit of water to blend.

Okra Fritters

My husband went to Dubai’s fruit and vegetable market and bought a big box of okra.  All I thought about was, “What in the heck am I gonna do with all of this okra?”  Alhamdulilah we bought a freezer this past Ramadan and I was able clean up the okra, cut it up, and then freeze it in one-quart sized Ziploc baggies.  We will be eating okra for a long time!

 This was a new recipe I tried for Ramadan 2009 and the whole family, even my children, enjoyed this recipe.

If you are not fond of okra because of its sliminess, or for any other reason, I suggest that you do try this recipe.  Serve it with ranch-style dressing.  OMG it is so delicious!

 

Okra Fritters

2 cups of fresh okra, finely chopped

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ cup water

1 egg

½ cup of flour

1 tsp of baking powder

½ cup of cornmeal

Oil for frying

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients, except for the okra.  Add the okra and mix.

In a medium-sized wok, heat the oil.  When the oil is hot add the okra batter by spoonfuls.  Adjust the flame to medium heat.  Cook the okra fritters until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let drain on a platter lined with paper towels.

After all of the fritters are cooked serve with Ranch-Style dressing.

Cucumber and Yogurt

I like to eat this with basically any rice dish because it makes for a satisfying meal-in-one with no need for any meat or chicken.

 

The cucumbers that we have available in the UAE are nothing like the huge cucumbers found in the US.  Here we have small cucumbers the size of a pickle.

 

If you live in the UAE, I like to use the Milco brand of yogurt because it has a pleasing creamy taste and is not tart tasting like regular yogurt.

 

What is nice about this recipe is that you can add more cucumbers or less or you can add more yogurt if you want.  Try it my way first and then tweak it to suit your taste!

 

My basic rule is to use 1 cucumber to one cup of yogurt.

 

This recipe will make about four cups.

 

3 cucumbers, shredded

3 cups of yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

1 clove of minced garlic (optional)

 

In a medium bowl, add all of the ingredients and mix well.

 

Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

 

Enjoy!