Wholesome Ramadan Recipes by Cooking With Zahra

This Ramadan, indulge in mindful and wholesome eating and stay on top of your health goals. Culinary personality turned Author; Zahra Abdalla has a wondrous selection of Ramadan friendly recipes from her kitchen all the way to your homes in her recently launched Cook Book – Cooking with Zahra!

Recipes include options for both Suhoor and Fitoor as well as for your big Eid-al-Fitr feasts afterward. All the creations are a delicious and contemporary take on the alluring cuisine of the Middle East featuring both traditional and modern interpretations of regional flavours and ingredients. From starters to main courses, healthy salads and hydrating drinks, the recipes are ideal to follow through when beginning your fast at dawn to breaking it upon dusk.




Loobia Bil Zeit Green Beans braised in Olive Oil, Garlic and Tomatoes


LOOBIA BIL ZEIT IS A delightful vegetarian recipe from the Levant region made with green beans braised in olive oil, garlic and tomatoes mixed with fresh coriander and lemon juice to add an extra layer of flavour and top with a drizzle of olive oil before serving it with some warm pitta bread on the side. This is a wonderful light dish that can be served hot or cold. For a simple variation of this recipe, replace the green beans with baby okra— simply steam or deep-fry fresh okra before adding to the mix, or just use frozen okra and follow through with the steps.


Serves 4 -6

  • 1 onion, cubed

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 450 g frozen green beans

  • 3 large tomatoes,

  • peeled and cubed

  • 1 tsp coriander powder

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped

  • Olive oil

  • Sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large skillet or saucepan, on high heat, sauté the onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent

  2. Add the garlic and sauté until the mixture is fragrant

  3. Add the beans and cook on low heat until the beans have slightly softened. Add the tomatoes and coriander powder; cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and the liquid has reduced Mix in lemon juice and fresh coriander and finally season with salt and pepper

  4. Serve on a platter and top with a drizzle of olive oil



Kibbeh Balls (Lamb croquettes with pomegranate molasses and walnuts


KIBBEH IS A CLASSIC Levantine dish that is traditionally made with bulgar, beef or lamb, onions and a wonderful combination of spices, and then shaped into mini croquettes filled with a delicious meat stuffing. This recipe is a variation learnt by Zahra’s mother-in-law; by adding pomegranate molasses and sumac to the stuffing to give it a sweet and tangy flavour. Walnuts are used instead of pine nuts for a delicious nutty flavour. This recipe can be prepared as a meze dish to complement a comforting bowl of lentil soup or it can be prepared as a main course with a side of delicious parsley and pomegranate salad and a bowl of mast-o-khiar (yogurt and cucumber salad).


Make 36-38

Kibbeh Mixture

  • 500 g bulgar

  • 500 g ground lamb

  • 500 g ground beef

  • 1 large onion, finely minced

  • 5 tsp salt 1⁄2 tsp black pepper powder 1⁄2 tsp white pepper powder

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder

  • 1 tsp 7-spice powder

  • (see page 264)

  • 1 tsp cumin powder

  • 1 tsp coriander powder


For Filling

  • 3 large onions; chopped

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • 250 g lamb; roughly minced

  • 1 tsp 7-spice powder

  • ¼ tsp white pepper powder

  • ¼ black pepper powder

  • 1 tsp salt

  • ½ tbsp pomegranate molasses

  • ½ tsp sugar

  • 1 tsp ground sumac

  • ½ cup walnuts; roughly chopped

  • Vegetable oil; for frying


  1. Wash and soak bulgar for 10 minutes, and then drain the excess water, To make the kibbeh mixture, combine the ground beef, ground lamb, soaked bulgar, onion and all the spices together in a food processor until it reaches a dough-like consistency. Add a bit of water if necessary until you get the right consistency. Put the mixture in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes until the filling has been prepared.

  2. To make the filling, sautè the onions in olive oil until translucent and keep aside. Wipe the pan, add the minced lamb and fry the meat until it has browned. Season the meat with 7-spice powder, white pepper powder, black pepper powder and salt. Add the sautèd onions, pomegranate molasses, sugar, ground sumac and walnuts; mix and cook on low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the filling to cool.

  3. To make the kibbeh, take a ball of the kibbeh mixture (about the size of a golf ball).

  4. Hold the meatball in your hand and make a hole pushing the index finger of your other hand into the mixture. Widen the hole by turning the mixture and pressing its inside walls gently against your palm. Some people like it a thin shell and others like a thick shell, either way make sure it is uniformly thick.

  5.  Throughout this process moisten your hands with cold water to avoid the mixture from sticking to your hand, and to create a smooth finish to the kibbeh. Fill the hole with about 2 teaspoons of the filling and close it, forming an oval shape with the pointed end.

  6. Preheat a pot with vegetable oil and deep-fry each kibbeh until it turns a beautiful golden-brown colour. Alternatively, for a healthier option, you can preheat the oven at 200C, coat each kibbeh with vegetable oil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until they make a golden-brown colour.

Serve the kibbeh with a side of yogurt and salad.

Zaatar & Cheese Rolls


ZAATAR AND CHEESE ROLLS are one of my favourite meze to make for my kids; it is easy to make and perfect for any occasion—once you have one, you can’t stop I usually prepare and freeze the zaatar and cheese rolls in advance so that I am prepared for those last-minute situations where I need to make something but not sure what to make My kids love to have them as a snack with cherry tomatoes and cucumbers on the side I always make them during Ramadan and serve them with soup at iftar.

Make 30 Pieces

  • 2/3 cup zaatar mix

  • 1 cup Greek feta cheese, finely chopped

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 30 large spring roll wrappers, defrosted

  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

  • Water

  • Vegetable oil, for frying


  1. For the filling, combine the zaatar mix, Greek feta cheese and olive oil in a medium-sized bowl, and keep aside.

  2. In a small bowl combine the flour with a very small about of water to make a paste This paste will be used to hold the edges of the roll together.

  3. To make the roll, lay one spring roll wrapper on a flat base and spoon 1 teaspoon of the filling on to the bottom end of the wrapper. Roll the wrapper tightly until the filling is covered, then fold about 1 centimetre of each side of the sheet (to avoid any spillage), and continue rolling tightly Then brush some of the paste on the edges of the wrapper and press to seal the top end.

  4. Once all the rolls are prepared, deep-fry for a couple of minutes until they are golden-brown in colour Alternatively, brush the zaatar and cheese rolls with vegetable oil and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 8–10 minutes, or until golden-brown.


Green Lentil Soup with Kale


Green with Kale Lentil Soup FOR THOSE DAYS that you want something meat-free, hearty and nutritious. This recipe is adapted from Zahra’s basic lentil soup recipe using green lentils instead of orange lentils, and kale. This recipe was created by simply using random ingredients from Zahra’s pantry, and resulted in a delicious soup that she now makes all the time.


Serves 6

  • 2 cups green lentils

  • 4 medium onions,

  • finely chopped

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tsp minced ginger

  • 2 tsp minced garlic (see page 277)

  • 4 bunches kale, finely chopped

  • 8 cups vegetable stock

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 1 orange, juiced

  • salt 1⁄2 tsp black pepper powder


  1. Soak the lentils for 30 minutes, drain and keep aside.

  2. In a medium-sized cast iron pot, sauté the onions with olive oil until they are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic, and sauté until fragrant. To this, add the kale and cook until the leaves have wilted.

  3. Add the lentils and vegetable stock. Cover the pot and leave to cook on medium–low heat for about 45 minutes. Add the lemon juice and orange juice, and season with salt and black pepper powder.

  4. Serve in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon for extra flavour.


Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables


There was a period when Zahra’s husband was following a strict vegan diet and thus, she took this opportunity to develop lots of new vegan recipes for them to enjoy. This delicious Moroccan- inspired salad has a wonderful combination of quinoa, roasted cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes and chickpeas. The recipe combines the wonderful flavours of cumin, coriander and cinnamon with some zest from the orange rind and orange blossom, some sweetness from the Medjool dates, some nutty flavour from the pine nuts and vibrant freshness from the herbs.


Serves 4-6

  • 2 large carrots, julienned

  • 1 large sweet potato, julienned

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into

  • small florets

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 tsp cumin powder 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon powder

  • 1 tsp orange blossom water

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas

  • 8 Medjool dates, cubed 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • 1 bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped

  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped 1⁄2 orange, juiced

  • 1 orange rind

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • Olive oil

  • Sea salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven at 200°C Place the carrot pieces, sweet potato pieces and the cauliflower florets on separate baking pans; to each add a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper Roast each for 10–15 minutes.

  2. In a medium-sized pot, cook the quinoa in 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, and then let it simmer on low heat until the quinoa is fully cooked. Fluff with a fork and leave aside to cool.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, cumin powder, cinnamon powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and orange blossom water; fluff with a fork To this, add the roasted carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, Medjool dates, pine nuts, fresh mint, fresh coriander, orange juice, orange rind, lemon juice and 1⁄4 cup olive oil Toss ingredients together and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

  4. Serve in a large platter

Parsley & Pomegrante Salad


THIS PARSLEY AND POMEGRANATE salad is a simple and delicious salad that has a wonderful balance of sweet and tart flavours. Onions with sugar, sumac, salt and olive oil are marinated before combining them with the rest of the salad ingredient This salad is light and refreshing and is a wonderful side to saffron lamb shanks with broad bean and dill rice, or a roast lamb with some roasted potatoes.

Serves 4

2 bunches fresh parsley

1 red onion, thinly sliced 11⁄2 tsp sugar

1 tsp sumac

pink salt

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp pomegranate molasses

¼ cup pomegranate jewels


  1. Thoroughly wash and dry the parsley and remove the leaves from the stem. Reserve the leaves on the side for the salad.

  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the onions, sugar, sumac, pink salt and olive oil, and let it sit for about 20–30 minutes. To this, combine the apple cider vinegar and pomegranate molasses, and allow to sit for an additional 5 minutes.

  3. Toss the parsley in the pomegranate mixture, season with pink salt and garnish with pomegranate jewels to serve.



Saffron Chicken with Freekeh


SAFFRON CHICKEN WITH FREEKEH is a wonderful, nutty and delicious fusion of two of Zahra’s favourite traditional Iranian and Palestinian recipes. As a child, Zahra’s grandmother always made her favourite saffron chicken to accompany zereshk polo or baghali polo for lunch. Her Palestinian-origin mother-in-law introduced her to freekeh, a healthy nutty grain that is typically high in protein and fibre and is a great alternative to rice. This wonderful one- pot recipe has become a beloved household staple she always make sure top the dish with a generous amount of mixed nuts giving it an additional delicious layer of flavour.

Serves 6-8

  • 8 chicken thighs

  • 2 cups freekeh

  • 2 medium onions, diced

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 2 cardamom pods

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp minced ginger

  • 1 tsp minced garlic (see page 277)

  • a pinch of ground saffron

  • 1 tsp rose water

  • 3 cups chicken stock

Dry Rub:

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder

  • 1 tsp 7-spice powder

  • (see page 264)

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder 1⁄2 tsp black pepper powder

  • 2 tsp salt


  • 1 cup mixed nuts (see page 265)

  • A handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped


  1. Soak the freekeh in water for about one hour, drain and keep aside.

  2. Prepare a dry rub; combine cinnamon powder, 7-spice powder, turmeric powder, black pepper powder and salt. Thoroughly wash and pat dry the chicken. Coat the chicken with the dry rub and leave to rest.

  3. In a large shallow cast iron pot, sauté the onions, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods in some olive oil. Fry until the onions turn a translucent colour. Add the ginger, garlic and freekeh, and mix all ingredients together. Continue to stir until the freekeh is a slightly fragrant and toasted

  4. Layer the chicken over the freekeh mixture. Add the saffron and rose water to the chicken stock and pour the liquid mixture over the freekeh and chicken. Bring to a boil, then cover and leave to simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes or until the freekeh is fully cooked.

  5. Once the freekeh is cooked, remove the pot off the heat, garnish with chopped parsley and toasted nuts, and serve with a delicious side of mint and cucumber yogurt salad.


Yakhnit Zahra (Cauliflower and Lamb Stew)


Zahra’s mother-in-law introduced her to a wide range of recipes from the Levant region This cauliflower and lamb stew was among the first recipes she learnt to make from her. The lamb-based stew is slow-cooked with the wonderful spices, then deep-fried cauliflower florets are added towards the end to prevent it from overcooking and to preserve its shape and texture, and finally a squeeze of lemon juice is added just before serving to elevate all the flavours. Usually like serving it with some Calrose rice or with some pitta bread on the side.

Serves 4

  • vegetable oil

  • 2 cauliflower heads,

  • cut into large florets

  • 3 large onions, quartered

  • 10–12 garlic cloves

  • 500 g lamb cubes

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tbsp 7-spice powder (see page 264)

  • 1 tbsp coriander powder

  • 1 tsp salt (or to your taste)

  • 1 tsp black pepper powder 1⁄2 lemon, juiced (or to your taste)


  1. Fill a shallow pot halfway with vegetable oil and heat on medium–high heat. Fry the cauliflower florets in batches until they are light golden-brown. Remove and transfer the fried florets on to a paper towel lined plate and keep aside. Repeat the same steps for the onions. Repeat the same steps for the garlic cloves.

  2. In pressure cooker pot, add the lamb cubes, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and 4 cups of water; cover the pot and leave to cook on medium heat for about 45–50 minutes, or until lamb is tender.

  3. Add the fried cauliflower, fried onions, fried garlic, 7-spice powder and coriander powder, and gently mix the ingredients to avoid mashing the cauliflower. Check the liquid level and add more if required; it should be two-thirds the level of the cauliflower. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce heat and leave to simmer for up to 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, adjust the season with salt, black pepper powder and lemon juice according to taste.

  4. Serve with Calrose rice with vermicelli noodles (see page 274 for recipe) or with some pitta bread on the side.

Tip: Serve this dish with some pomegranate jewels on the side and add a spoonful to your plate. The pomegranate jewels add a delightful layer of flavour to the dish.

Loobia Polo (Green Bean Rice)


LOOBIA POLO, one of Zahra’s favourite Persian one-pot recipes, is a gorgeous, fragrant and delicious green bean and rice dish. The green bean sauce is typically made with either ground beef or small lamb cubes along with some saffron and rose water to give it a fragrant flavour. The sauce is then layered between parboiled long grain rice, then steam cooked for 30–45 minutes. It is usually served with a side of Shirazi salad and mast-o-khiar.

Serves 4

  • 3 cups basmati rice

  • Water

  • Salt

  • 2 medium onions, chopped

  • Vegetable oil

  • 500 g ground beef or lamb cubes

  • 2 tsp minced garlic (see page 277)

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder

  • ½ tsp black pepper powder

  • 500 g green beans,

  • cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1/3 cup tomato paste

  • 1 cup chopped tomato

  • 1 tsp rose water

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • a pinch of ground saffron

  • 2 small potatoes, sliced

  • 3 tbsp butter


  1. Wash and rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in 6 cups of cold water, add 6 tablespoons salt and set aside for a couple of hours

  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, sauté the onions in oil over medium–high heat until it becomes translucent. Add the meat, garlic, turmeric powder, cinnamon powder, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper powder and sauté for at least 3–5 minutes until the meat is browned. Add the green beans, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, rose water, sugar and saffron along with ½ cup of water; mix well, cover and leave to simmer on low heat for about 20–30 minutes.

  3. In a large pot, add 6–8 cups of water and a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil, and bring to a boil. Drain the rice and add to the boiling water and cook for about 7–10 minutes until the rice is parboiled or al dente. The grain needs to be soft from the outside and firm in the centre. Drain and rinse the rice in cold water.

  4. Wipe clean the large pot, add 3 tablespoons oil and arrange the sliced potatoes in a circular layout at the base and fry on high heat without stirring for 3–5 minutes. On to this, place the rice and meat mixture in alternating layers, building it up into a dome shape and poke 4–5 holes in the rice with the bottom of a wooden spoon.

  5. In a small cup, melt and mix 3 tablespoons of butter with ½ cup boiling hot water and a pinch of saffron, and pour over the rice. Cover the pot and cook on high heat until it begins to steam. Wrap the pot’s lid with a kitchen towel and cook the rice for an additional 30 minutes on low heat.

  6. Spoon the rice on a platter, with the crispy potato crust (tahdig) on the side Serve with mast-o-khiar or Shirazi salad.


Maqluba Beitinjan (Upside-down Eggplant, Lamb and Rice)


Maqluba, which in Arabic means ‘upside down’, is a popular rice, eggplant and lamb dish served with toasted mixed nuts and dried fruit. It is served with a simple cucumber and yogurt salad or parsley and pomegranate salad. This recipe is perfect for a weekday meal or as a wonderful impressive dinner party dish.

Serves 4 - 6

  • 4 cups Calrose rice

  • Vegetable oil

  • 3–4 medium eggplants, cut into ½ inch thick slices

  • 500 g lamb cubes

  • 4 medium onions, chopped

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 4 cardamom pods

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 tsp 7-spice powder

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder

  • 1 tsp white pepper powder

  • ½ tsp black pepper powder

  • Salt

  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced


  • 2 cup roasted mixed nuts

  • A handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped


  1. Wash and rinse the rice with cold water until the water runs clear. Soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and keep aside.

  2. Fill half of a shallow pot with vegetable oil and heat on medium–high heat. Fry the eggplant slices in batches until they are golden-brown. Then remove, transfer on to a paper towel lined plate, and keep aside.

  3. In pressure cooker pot, add the lamb cubes, onions, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, bay leaf and 5 cups of water; cover the pot and leave to cook on medium heat for about 45 minutes, or until lamb is tender. Season with 7-spice powder, cinnamon powder, white pepper powder, black pepper powder and 4 teaspoons salt. Remove the lamb and onion from the pot, set aside, and reserve the liquid.

  4. To prepare the maqluba, first put a couple tablespoons of rice on the base of large non-stick pot, then add a layer of tomato slices, followed by a layer of fried eggplants, followed by the cooked lamb and onion, and finally add the drained rice on top. Pour the reserved liquid over all the layers to about 2 centimetres above the top of the rice (add more water if you don’t have enough). Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and leave simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

  5. Allow the pot to cool for 5 minutes, then place a plate larger than the base of your pot on the mouth of your pan and then carefully flip it upside down. Allow all the ingredients to settle in this position for a few minutes and then slowly remove the pot. Garnish your maqluba with mixed nuts and finely chopped coriander and serve with some yogurt on the side.

Shishbarak (Meat Dumpling with a yoghurt-based stew)


Shish Barak is a delicious Middle-Eastern-style dumpling cooked in yoghurt-based stew topped with fried garlic and coriander. The meat parcels are stuffed with ground meat and pine nuts, then either steamed or baked. It is usually prepared in large quantities of the shish barak and then baked and frozen so that they are ready to be used with needed. This is a great way to make the final preperaization of the dish easier so that it is not time consuming.


Serves 8-10

Meat stuffing:

  • 4 small onions; finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • Salt

  • 500 g minced lamb or beef

  • ½ tsp black powder

  • 1 tsp coriander powder

  • 2 tsp 7-spice powder

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts


Shish Barak Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

  • ¼ tsp yeast

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • ½ cup olive oil

  • 1 ¼ cup hand-warm water

  • A pinch of sugar


Meat Stuffing:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium heat, sautè the onions in vegetable oil, olive oil and a pinch of salt until it has softened and is translucent. Keep to the side.

  2. In the same saucepan, on medium heat, sautè the meat until they are slightly browned and season with salt, black pepper powder, coriander powder and 7-spice powder. Add the sautéed onions and pine nuts and keep aside.


Dough Preparation:

  1. In a stand mixer bowl, add the dough ingredients and knead all the ingredients until well combined. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

  2. Dust the kitchen counter with flour and roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter cut the dough into circles with a diameter of about 1 inch.

  3. Place less than a teaspoon of the meat stuffing in the centre of each dough piece; fold and pinch the edges, fold over the side to make it look like a hat.

  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the dumplings on the tray and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degree C for about 6-8 minutes.

  5. You can freeze extra baked dumplings, so they are ready to use whenever necessary; simply defrost before using.

Shish Barak Stew:

  • 3 cups full fat youghurt

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tbsp cornflour


Fried Garlic and Coriander Garnish:

  • 1 tbsp butter

  • 1 tsp minced garlic

  • 1 tsp coriander powder

  • ¼ cup fresh coriander; finely chopped


  1. In a blender, add the youghurt, water, salt, egg and cornflour; pulse the ingredients together until fully combined. Pour the mixture into a large pot and on medium heat mix the ingredients together continuously until the liquid comes to a boil. Once the liquid has thickened, lower the heat and add the baked dumplings to the youghurt stew; leave to simmer on a medium heat for about 10 minutes before serving.

  2. To prepare the garnish, melt the butter in a small sauce pan on low heat, then add the garlic, coriander powder and fresh coriander; fry the ingredients together until fragrant.

  3. Serve the shish barak stew in a serving bowl and top with the fried coriander and garlic garnish. Serve with Calrose rice with vermicelli noodles on the side.


Saffron Lamb Shanks


SAFFRON LAMB SHANKS are one of Zahra’s signature Iranian recipes that her friends always

request I prepare for them when they visit for dinner. The lamb is coated in dry rub and sealed before being slow-braised for a few hours until the meat is soft, succulent and falls of the bone. She always prepares baghali polo, a broad bean and dill rice, with some mast-o- khiar (cucumber and yogurt) salad and parsley and pomegranate salad on the side.



  • 6 lamb shanks

  • salt

  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour

  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder

  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

  • 1 tsp white pepper powder

  • 1 tsp black pepper powder

  • 3 tsp 7-spice powder (see page 264)

  • 1⁄2 tsp cardamom powder

  • a pinch of ground saffron

  • a pinch of sugar

  • 1 tsp rose water

  • vegetable oil

  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 tbsp honey


  1. Wash and pat dry the lamb shanks. Season with salt. Prepare the dry mixture by mixing the flour, cinnamon powder, turmeric powder, white pepper powder, black pepper powder and 7-spice powder. Generously coat each lamb shank with the dry mixture.

  2. Grind a pinch of saffron threads with a pinch of sugar in a small mortar and pestle. Add the saffron and sugar powder, rose water, cardamom powder to a 1⁄4 cup of boiling water; mix and keep to the side.

  3. In a large cast iron pot, heat some vegetable oil and sear each lamb shank until all sides have browned. Set lamb shanks aside.

  4. Wipe the cast iron pot clean, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and add the onions, bay leaf and the cinnamon stick. Sauté on medium heat until the onion slices turn translucent in colour. Add the honey and stir together for a couple of minutes. Add the browned lamb shanks, the saffron mixture and top with water, enough to cover the meat. Bring the liquid to a boil; reduce heat, cover and leave to simmer on low heat for 75–90 minutes. The longer you allow the meat to cook on low heat, the more your meat will become succulent and tender.       



Mango Kunafa Cups


Kunafa is a traditional Middle Easter dessert made with a thin noodle-like pastry layered with cheese, clotted cream or nuts and finally soaked in a sugar syrup. These delightful mango kunafa cups are a modern take on the traditional dessert, then kunafa pastry toasted in the over to give a wonderful crispy and crunchy texture and then layered with a creamy filling and fresh mangoes.


Serves 10-12 cups


  • 250 g kunafa pastry dough

  • 1 cup butter, melted



  • 2 cups cream cheese

  • 1 cup whipped cream

  • ¼ cup brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup icing sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract



  • 2 ripe mangoes, cut into small cubes

  • 1/3 cup pistachio slivers


  1. Preheat oven at 180 degrees C. In a large brown, gently loosen the kunafa pastry dough, cut with scissors and mix well with the melted butter. Evenly spread the kunafa mixture on the base of a baking sheet and lightly press down. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the surface has a light golden colour. Allow the kunafa to cool.

  2. To prepare the filling, whisk together cream cheese, vanilla extract and brown sugar on a medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and whipped cream, and whisk on a high speed until moderately stiff peaks have formed. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

  3. In small serving cups, add a layer of toasted kunafa on the base, followed by a layer of the filling and some chopped mangoes. Repeat, and garnish with pistachio slivers.



Luqaimat, also known as awamat, are delicious crispy dumplings typically coated with a sweet topping.


Serves 6-8

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tbsp cornflour

  • 1 tbsp sugar

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp dry yeast

  • A pinch of ground saffron (optional0

  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)

  • 1 ½ cups hand-warm water

  • Vegetable oil (to fry)


Sugar Syrup:

  • 1 ½ cups sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 tbsp orange blossom


  1. In a stand mixer bowl, combine the flour, cornflour, sugar, salt, dry yeast, saffron, ground cardamom and water, until it reaches a thick dropping consistency. Add more water if necessary. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, keep in a warm place to rise for about 30-45 minutes until it has doubled in size.

  2. In a frying pan, add enough oil to fill 2 inches of the pan and heat over medium-high heat until it is very hot, about 180-degree C.

  3. Transfer the dough into a pipping bag, cut the tip of the bag to about ¾ inch opening. Lower the bag near the oil and using one hand, squeeze the top of the pipe to drop 1 inch of the dough, then use the other hand, press the tip with oiled fingers to cut the dough into the hot oil. Alternatively, use a spoon to scoop the dough and with another spoon, drop the dough into the oil.

  4. Fry the dough balls, continually flipping with a slotted spoon until it reaches a golden-brown colour. Remove the Luqaimat from the oil and drain on a paper towel.




Hibiscus and Guava Juice


Hibiscus is a wonderful flower that when brewed produces a vibrant drink that has amazing medicinal benefits. Drink as a cold juice to help reduce blood pressure and as a warm tea to increase your blood pressure. This refreshing and delicious combination has a wonderful balance of sweet and tangy flavours that is truly unbeatable.

Serves – 8 cups

  • 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers; washed and rinsed

  • 8 cups water

  • Basic sugar syrup

  • ½ cup lemon juice

  • 4 medium guavas, cubes

  • Ice cubes


  1. In a large saucepan, boil the hibiscus with 4 cups of water, then reduce heat and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Once the liquid has developed a dark red colour, remove from heat, strain the juice through a fine strainer and allow to cool.

  2. Fill a blender jug with the chopped guava and 4 cups water. Blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. Strain the juice over a bowl.

  3. Combine the hibiscus and guava juices in a jug, sweeten with sugar syrup according to taste and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


The book is available for sale at all major retailers including Borders, Magrudy’s, Kino and Jashanmal stores and is priced at AED 185.

About the Author:

Zahra Abdalla is a half-Iranian, half-Sudanese TV personality and food blogger who was born in London, England, and lived in various cities across the world, including Khartoum, Athens, Sacramento, London, Vancouver and Toronto, before moving to Dubai. Starting her culinary journey online in 2010, Abdalla then presented her own cooking show on My Dubai My City on MBC 3 and went on to host the fourth season of a travel and food documentary called Maggi Diaries on MBC 1.