Halawet El-Smeed

This dessert has a special place in my heart, because my great grandfather made it for the masses in Jerusalem on special occasions, and my grandfather used to make his dad’s recipe for us. Now, I get to make it for my family, and hopefully the tradition will continue for generations. Halawet el-smeed literally translates to “semolina dessert” and that is basically what it is. It is popular in the Levant and usually eaten in the winter because it is a hot dessert. Making this dish is actually pretty quick, but it does require some planning, because the Nabulsi cheese needs to be soaked overnight in order to remove the salt. Once that is done, this dessert can be done […]

Shourabet Adas (lentil soup)

I think almost every culture or nation makes some version of lentil soup and, even within every household, people make it differently. This version is my own, quick and basic version and when I make it, it signals the start of winter. It is thick, warm, fragrant and smooth, just the way I like it! A lot of people add vegetables to their lentil soup, like potatoes, carrots, or tomatoes, when I am feeling “fancy” I like to add vegetables, but honestly I think the lentils on their own are just as delicious! With that said, the cumin and mixed spices add flavour and almost mask the taste of the other vegetables, so it is a great way to sneak […]


The West favours hot chocolate as a warming winter drink, but the Middle East has Sahlab or Salep as the Turks call it. It is a thick drink originally made from ground orchid bulbs, dissolved in milk or water, sweetened with sugar and flavoured with orange blossom or rose water. That is still pretty much how it’s made nowadays, but finding orchid powder has become increasingly difficult given its popularity across the Middle East. This led to the decline of the wild orchid population. Now many instant Sahlab mixes are made with artificial flavouring, and people are replacing the orchid powder with rice powder and starch. This drink takes me back to my university days in Amman. There was a […]


Maybe because I was introduced to this dish early in life, I don’t find it weird; that doesn’t mean others don’t. I will admit that the concept of cooking rice in milk and eating it as a savoury dish, as opposed to eating it as a dessert in the form of rice pudding, is kind of foreign, but that shouldn’t put you off this dish. I have converted many and hope to continue to do so, because this really is an underrated dish outside of Saudi Arabia. This dish originates from the western part of Saudi Arabia, including the cities of Jeddah, Mecca and Taif. It is most commonly served to special guests and is a sign of generosity and […]

Um Ali

Before I moved to the UK and actually tried bread pudding, I thought it was the weirdest, most foreign concept ever. Who would want to eat soggy bread? It wasn’t until I tried it that I said, “This reminds me of Um Ali!” I have very mixed feelings about Um Ali. When made correctly, it is amazing, both hot and cold. But there is a very fine line between soggy sugary mess and perfect Um Ali and I feel like everyone who makes it or eats it tries to find that perfect balance. Not to sound arrogant, but I think I found that perfect balance that everyone is looking for. What’s my secret you ask? Croissants! I mean, who doesn’t […]


If you love buttery cookies like shortbread then you will definitely love these. They are very simple and once you learn to make them, you’ll be making batches every week! They are that good. These cookies are usually made as Eid treats, and variations are made in the Levant and North Africa, but to me they were extra special because my grandmothers used to make them into the shape of our initials, which made us very happy kids! We loved helping out in the kitchen and this is definitely a recipe simple enough to allow kids to roll up their sleeves and help. There are only three ingredients in the dough; flour, butter and powdered sugar, and although it is […]