School Lunchbox Idea: Assemble your own falafel wraps

Chicken and Oat Soup, assemble your own falafel wraps for lunch. Fruit salad and yoghurt for mid morning snack

Chicken and Oat Soup, assemble your own falafel wraps for lunch. Fruit salad and yoghurt for mid morning snack

Middle eastern food opens up a whole new world of beans, pulses and different types of grain for anyone who wants to add a little more diversity in their diet. The salads are filled with the freshness of parsley and mint, garlic, olive and olive oil, nuts – all heart healthy ingredients worth exploring for its health benefits.

Last weekend, we had our little treasure hunt around the city of Kuching in order to re-stock our larder and as we are now rather plush with grains and legumes, today was the time to utilize what we had. A middle eastern fare was in order, and it all began with the bread.

I love making bread. There is nothing more satisfying than kneading the dough as it comes together. Knead, knead, knead – the smell of  yeast and honey, the texture of the dough as it becomes more elastic and silky..the thump, thump, thump of the work top in symphony with the movement of your arms. See.. I can get up at 4.00 a.m. just to mix a batch of dough. It also helps that you get such a lot of dough that you can save some in the fridge (in a resealable ziploc bag, but let some air out or the bag might explode! – Don’t ask how I know,) so that you can make mini pizzas for the following day. As the dough matures, the flavour develops… That’s the beauty of the Arabic flat bread dough.

The first time you have your home made Arabic flat  bread… you will never settle for store bought pita bread again …

The recipe is as follows:

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Arabic Flat Bread (adapted from

  • 2 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 11gm sachet instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (add whole cup and the other half add little by little, depending on the flour)
  1. Mix all ingredients together – and knead until the dough is soft and silky, definitely not sticky. Oil a bowl and place dough in it and cover. Let rise till double in size – 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Put a pan on medium heat, take a ball of dough and roll into a circle – not too thin, about 3 mm. Put in pan and leave for 30 seconds, flip – let it puff and nicely coloured.
  3. Remove from pan and place on a plate, cover with clean cloth. Work with the next ball of dough.
  4. If you are not using all the dough, put the leftover in a ziploc bag, leave about 2 cm of the seal open and leave the dough in the fridge for later use.
Falafel "paste" after processing

Falafel “paste” after processing

Falafel Patties – healthier when baked

  • 1 can of chickpeas (about 415 gm)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 garlic
  • a handful of fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley (if fresh is available go for fresh – use a handful)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 2 tablespoons wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

  1. Place all ingredient in a food processor – pulse till all veggies are chopped but the chickpeas should not be too smooth. Form into patties.
  2. Oil a baking sheet and place patties on the sheet -bake till golden on one side, flip carefully to  brown the other side.
  3. Serve with arabic bread, sliced lettuce, tomatoes and a drizzle of tahini sauce.

Tahini Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic – pounded fine
  • 1 tablespoon tahini paste
  • juice of half lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above together to form a sauce.

My lunch which turned into breakfast... it was too good to wait :(

My lunch which turned into breakfast… it was too good to wait 😦




School Lunchbox Menu: Spiced carrot and lentil soup, hummous and Arabic bread


Some mornings, I play a game with myself, pretending to be in Chopped or Masterchef – limited time, but with a whole menu to produce + breakfast, (pathetic, I know… but it does inject a sense of excitement to my mornings…) This was one of those mornings. I woke-up at 5.45 am, and by the time I got myself to the kitchen, it was 6 am. There was bread to be made from scratch, soup to prepare, hummous and breakfast items as well. Took a deep breath prepared stuff in order of time needed – bread has to rise first, so I mixed the dough in the mixer and left it to be kneaded. Boiled lentils with vegetable stock, prepared carrots etc. Put dough to rest. Prepared hummous. Made breakfast and soup at the same time. Set table. Whizzed soup in blender. Rolled out dough (it had only 40 minutes to rise this morning…sigh) Grilled bread. Served breakfast, packed lunch. Done – hands up in the air! 60 minutes up!

OK, presentation could have been better for the hummous, however the soup is the nicest soup I have ever tasted. The creaminess from the lentils marry well with the sweetness of the carrots, cumin just enhances the richness of the mixture and the pinch of chilli flakes gives a little tingle on the tongue – not much.. just a teeny, tiny heat that announces its presence. Try making this soup – I highly recommend it. Dear son and hubby each had a big bowl for breakfast – the aroma is just irresistable.

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup (adapted from BBC Good Food)

Ready for blender

Ready for the blender

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 600 gms carrots – grated and chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 liter stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. Dry fry cumin to release its flavours
  2. Place lentils and vegetable stock in a pot, boil till softened (about 20 minutes)
  3. Add chopped carrots, 1/2 of cumin, chilli flakes, olive oil, milk – cook till carrots are tender.
  4. Blend fine – add milk if too thick, sprinkle leftover cumin on top of soup prior to serving.

Hummous (Adapted from Arabicbites)

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  • 1 can (410 gms) chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt

Put all items in food processor and whizz till smooth.

Arabic Bread (flat bread) from Arabicbites

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  1. Put all ingredients in a mixer bowl. Let mixer knead dough for 10 minutes.
  2. Let dough rise in warm place between 50 – 90 minutes.
  3. Gently punch dough, divide into 16 balls. Roll out in circles.
  4. Heat grill pan – grill bread 1 minute per side.

School Lunchbox: Broccoli and Cheese Soup, Baba Ganoush, Arabic Bread


Well, yesterday’s soup was a success, and as it was red, I thought today, we would make a green one – I had been meaning to treat him to a cheesy soup, so broccoli and cheese was the perfect choice. It, however, took me quite a while to think up the accompaniment and after a few hours of heeing and hawing, the fridge provided me with the answer – 6 eggplants sitting forlornly forgotten at the back of the crisper. “Cook us…” it appeared to implore, so Baba Ganoush it was – egg plant and tahini dip. The Arabic bread was a doozy, seeing that I had the dough resting in the freezer already (an industrious streak saw me experimenting with a few bread doughs one afternoon, so the freezer is stocked with different types, calling to be defrosted and used.)

So, this morning while I was fighting with the skins of the eggplants, burning my fingers in the process (whatever happened to my asbestos fingers??) and muttering various unrepeatables under my breath, in sauntered the son who proceeded to down a whole bowl of the soup, voicing his approval happily oblivious to the fact that the kitchen was a right old mess. I had got more flour on the floor than on the bread, 1 bread was already burnt, another was on the way to being cremated, and there were at least a hundred items in the sink and on the workspace to be washed. Hubby wandered in then to get his vitamins – again… oblivious. I wonder if men are created to not notice messes? I was so frustrated by the state of the kitchen that it was all I could do to not scream at that point. Anyway… both were shooed out, had their breakfast while the lunchbox was prepped and photographed. It took a good hour of cleaning to get the kitchen spic and span again and I am thinking that perhaps, if I were more organized, such catastrophic messes can be avoided. How does Giada do it? Ina never seems to break a sweat and their kitchen is always shiny clean. Makes me wonder if they actually cook at all if the cameras are not on… sigh. On to the recipes:

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Broccoli and Cheese Soup

  • 2 heads of broccoli (medium) – cut into florets
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I mix cheddar and emmental – love the nutty flavour from the latter)
  • a little salt, some freshly ground pepper, and 2 tablespoons butter

– heat butter, sautee onion, garlic and thyme for a few minutes till onion turns translucent.

– Add flour and stir for 2 minutes (gentle fire) – add milk, whisking quickly so as to avoid lumps. Add chicken stock, let mix come to a boil and thicken slightly.

– Add broccoli florets and simmer till soft. Once broccoli is soft, switch off heat. Add cheese. Let it cool slightly. Blend till smooth and return to pot.

– If soup is too thick, add more milk, re-heat, careful not to allow to boil. Taste before seasoning, add salt and pepper and taste again.

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Baba Ganoush

  • 6 small eggplants
  • 1 garlic – chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • some salt to taste

– After washing, char the skins of the eggplants on the stove top. (This is not to cook the eggplants, but to impart the charred flavour.) Once the eggplant skin is blackened a little, put the eggplants on a baking sheet. Roast in 220 degree celcius oven for 20 minutes (or until cooked.) Remove from oven, put into a bowl and cover for 5 minutes. Let it steam – this will make skin removal easier. Remove the skin, and place the soft insides in the food processor.

– add all other ingredients and whizz…. taste seasoning. Adjust. Drizzle top with olive oil. Done.

** if you don’t own a food processor, you can chop the eggplants fine, and mash the garlic with some salt till very, very fine before mixing with the rest of the ingredients by hand.

School Lunchbox: Chicken Shawarma Tuesday

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with flat bread crisps, Chicken Shawarma and Salad

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with flat bread crisps, Chicken Shawarma and Salad

I opened the fridge last night and saw that there were still some leftover pizza dough from Saturday and the cucumber sticks from the California rolls. I have also over bought red peppers (thought we had ran out, bought some more… so there were 4 red peppers lounging in the crisper, duh!) The lunchbox menu wrote itself:

  • Roasted red pepper soup and flat bread crisps
  • Shawarma (pizza dough turned into pita bread, cucumber sticks – pickled)
  • Extra shawarma filling (chicken and veggies,) made into salad.

To turn the pizza dough into a “pita”- like flat bread, I added more flour to make it less sticky, kneaded it a bit longer before rolling it thin and grilling in the pan for about 1 minute on one side, and 30 seconds on the other.

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Chicken Shawarma Filling

  • 1 chicken whole leg, de-boned
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • a pinch of paprika
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • a pinch each of oregano and thyme
  • a pinch of allspice
  • 2 tablespoons yoghurt
  • salt

Mix all of the above and let the chicken marinade all night. In the morning, heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan, lightly fry the chicken but do not over cook. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from pan, slice thinly, reheat pan and place the sliced chicken in the hot pan for 1 to 2 minutes. Switch off heat, chicken is ready.

Garlic sauce (toum) – from the blog of Tony Tahhan

  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/3 cup of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

In a food processor mix garlic and egg white. Pulse till garlic has disappeared. Slowly trickle the oil into the garlic paste while the food processor continues to whizz. The oil, garlic and egg white should begin to emulsify. Once the oil is finished, add the lemon juice. The sauce should be very thick like mayonnaise.

Quick Pickled Cucumber

  • 1/2 cucumber – de-seed, cut into long sticks about 2-3 inches in length
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Mix all the ingredients except for cucumber. When the salt and sugar are dissolved, add the cucumber. Leave in a cool place (not in the fridge) overnight.

Assembling shawarma:

– spread some of the garlic sauce on the pita bread. Add chicken, pickle, a few french fries, lettuce and tomatoes. Roll.

Most of the time, I try to incorporate soup into Ashraf’s lunch box because it is easy to prepare, and usually I try to focus on veggies to increase his 5 a day intake. We invested in a rather pricey Thermos flask/lunch pack but it is proving to be worth every cent as not only it keeps the soups and food warm, we have also not had any leakage or accidents. Here is the recipe for today’s Roast Red Pepper Soup.

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup (Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis over at

  • 4 red peppers, splash with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and roast in 200 degree celcius oven for 25 minutes. Immediately take out and place into a bowl and cover. In 5 minutes, take the red peppers out, peel the skin, remove pith and chop roughly.
  • 1 carrot – chopped roughly
  • 1 yellow onion – chopped roughly
  • 3 garlic cloves – chopped roughly
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 russet potato – diced roughly
  • 4 cups of stock (I used the bones from the chicken leg that I removed for the shawarma for this)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

– Heat olive, add onions, garlic, carrots and thyme – sautee till onions are translucent. Add stock, red peppers and potatoes, a little salt and the vinegar. Simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Taste the seasoning, adjust salt and pepper. Let cool slightly, blend fine.

Nasi Arab yang authentic rasanya

Nasi Arab dengan lauk iringannya

Nasi Arab dengan lauk iringannya

Setelah mencuba beberapa resepi Nasi Arab. akhirnya terjumpalah resepi ini di blog Aziekitchen. Setelah beberapa kali mencuba, Alhamdulillah, dapatlah merasa Nasi Arab seperti yang kami biasa makan di Bait-al-Mandy di Riyadh. Rahsianya? Nasi itu perlu diasapkan. Tak susah sebenarnya membuat nasi ini, sebenarnya lebih mudah dari membuat Nasi Ayam dan rasanya, lebih sihat lagi. Terima kasih pada kak Azie dan Mamasya kerana sudi berkongsi resepi. Saya dah buat beberapa perubahan berdasarkan rasa Nasi Mandy di Riyadh, dan jumlah bahan, memandangkan kami di rumah ni, tak ramai orangnya. Resepi dia bawah ini cukup untuk 4 orang, insha Allah.


Beras PusaGold dan Saffron dari Iran

Beras PusaGold dan Saffron dari Iran

  • 2 cawan beras basmathi yang panjang (saya guna PusaGold dari Bernas, memang panjang berasnya) – rendam 10 minit dan toskan.
  • 4 keping ayam (kami guna whole leg, sebab semua suka bahagian peha. Tapi kalau guna “spring chicken” yang beratnya dalam 1kg tu lebih sedap agaknya sebab di Saudi kadang-kadang ayamnya ada yang 800 gm saja.)
  • Air (bergantung pada beras, kalau PusaGold – 2 cawan beras, saya guna 2.5 cawan air)
  • 2 biji bawang holland – 1 hiris nipis (untuk nasi), 1 belah 4 (untuk rebusan ayam)
  • 1 biji tomato segar
  • 2 biji lada hijau, kerat 3 tiap satu.
  • Secubit saffron (sebaik-baiknya dari Spain atau Iran dan harganya agak mahal, tapi gunanya sedikit sahaja sebab rasanya kuat.)
  • 2 sudu besar minyak zaitun (extra virgin)

Rempahnya: (di bahagi dua – satu bahagian untuk  nasi, satu bahagian untuk air rebusan ayam)

  • 6 biji buah pelaga
  • 2 helai bay leaves
  • 2 batang kayu manis sebesar separuh jari kelingking
  • 6 bunga cengkih
  • 2 sudu kecil serbuk ketumbar
  • 2 sudu kecil serbuk jintan putih
  • 2 sudu kecil lada hitam (bulat-bulat)

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  1. Bersihkan ayam dan potong 2 atau 4 bahagian.
  2. Panaskan air hingga menggelegak, masukkan ayam, bawang besar dibelah 4, tomato dibelah 2 dan separuh rempah, saffron dan garam (saya guna garam kasar,) untuk rasa. Renihkan dengan api perlahan 30 minit. Kalau “spring chicken” mungkin 15 hingga 20 minit dah cukup.
  3. Keluarkan ayam dan toskan. Tapiskan air ayam, ambil air rebusan dan ukur 2 1/4 cawan untuk memasak nasi.Panaskan minyak zaitun dalam periuk nasi. Tumiskan bawang besar hingga perang. Masukkan rempah sebahagian lagi. Kacau hingga sebati. Masukkan air rebusan ayam, beras dan lada hijau. Masak nasi seperti biasa – jangan dikacau, nanti beras patah.
  4. Ambil seketul arang, dan panaskan di atas dapur hingga jadi bara. Letakkan minyak zaitun (dalam 1 sudu besar) dalam mangkuk tahan panas (kalau tak ada, buat bekas dengan gunakan aluminium foil.) Bila air nasi sudah kering, dan arang sudah jadi bara, letakkan mangkuk berisi minyak zaitun dalam periuk nasi.  Dengan hati-hati, letak bara dalam mangkuk minyak zaitun. Tutup periuk nasi rapat-rapat. Biarkan hingga nasi masak, dan sedia untuk dihidangkan. (Masa ini, rumah anda akan berbau seperti restoran nasi mandi… ahhhh nostalgia!)
  5. Ayam tadi di gaulkan dengan minyak zaitun, dan di renjis dengan lebihan air rebusan. Sapu loyang pembakar dengan sedikit minyak zaitun juga. Bakar dalam oven 180 darjah celcius hingga kelihatan rangup.

Hidangan sampingan:

Kuah Tomato:

  • 1/2 kotak cherry tomatoes merah
  • 5 batang cili api merah
  • 3 biji bawang putih
  • 1 batang lada hijau
  • just perahan 1 biji limau nipis
  • garam dan sedikit gula (jika tomato masam dan tawar, jika manis tak payah tambah gula.)

blend semua bahan hingga menjadi sos, tak payah tambah air. Hiris daun ketumbar halus (ikut suka banyak mana…, saya guna 8 batang daun) gaulkan dengan kuah dan rasa. Adjust garam, gula dan air limau nipis jika perlu. Jangan manis pula. Rasanya, pedas, masam, masin dan sedikit manis dari tomato.

Salad Timun dengan Yoghurt:

  • 2 bekas kecil yoghurt natural – letak dalam tapis dan biar airnya menitik, sementara potong timun
  • sebatang timun, kupas kulit dan dipotong dadu
  • 1/2 bawang besar, potong dadu
  • 1/2 tomato (kalau mahu,) potong dadu
  • Sedikit daun pudina segar, hiris nipis
  • garam dan serbuk lada hitam di tumbuk fresh.

– Campurkan semua bahan diatas.

Lain-lain bahan sampingan:

  • bawang besar dihiris, lemon dihiris,
  • lada hijau bulat-bulat
  • dan kalau ada – daun arugula atau rocket (di Saudi namanya Jarjeer,) kalau tak ada, daun salad biasapun ok.

Lepas makan – minum pula Teh Arab dengan pudina…. ahhh… kata orang sini.. Nyaman 🙂

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