Feasts: Middle Eastern Food to Savor & Share, written by Sabrina Ghayour, features a variety of fun and unique recipes perfect for family gatherings and entertaining. Highlights include Saffron Roast Potatoes; Eggplant Rolls with Goat Cheese, Herbs & Walnuts; Parsnip & Apple Soup; Raspberry & Pistachio Frozen Yogurt Pots; Tamarind & Honey Pork Ribs; and Caramelized Banana Crêpes with Pistachios & Honey. I will also be sharing her recipe for Spicy Halloumi Salad with Tomatoes and Fried Bread following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Weldon Owen in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Sabrina Ghayour was born in Iran and raised in England. She didn’t grow up in a family of cooks. Instead, she started to teach herself at the age of six, first focusing on Persian cuisine before branching out to food throughout the Middle East. She went on to host supper clubs and create recipes that have been featured in many publications, plus hold cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, and other events. She is also the author of Persiana (I reviewed this one a few years ago) and Sirocco.
Chapters are divided according to the following: Introduction, Breakfast & Brunch, Weekend Feasts, Quick-Fix Feasts, Vegetarian Feasts, Summer Feasts, Lighter Feasts, Special Occasions, Comfort Food, and Additional Menu Ideas.
After the introduction, Sabrina dives right into the incredible assortment of recipes. This book is a great pick for those wanting to incorporate Middle Eastern and South Asian ingredients into their cooking in new and exciting ways. Each chapter includes menu ideas for easy planning with additional lists at the end of the book specifically for vegans, picnics, casual get-togethers with friends and family meals. Most of the recipes come together fairly easily for minimal prep, but maximum flavor.
The photography is provided by Kris Kirkham. Every recipe is accompanied by a beautifully styled photo of the finished dish. Measurements are listed in US Customary and the titles are written in English. Having a market nearby with Middle Eastern and South Asian ingredients will be helpful for locating items such as filo, pul biber chile flakes, tamarind paste, za’atar, golden raisins, chickpeas, rose harissa, saffron, specialty cheese, pomegranate molasses, vine leaves, and more.
Spicy Halloumi Salad with Tomatoes and Fried Bread
This Spicy Halloumi Salad with Tomatoes and Fried Bread is such a fun summer salad. It has all the healthy stuff like tomatoes, red onions, and cucumbers paired with the more indulgent pan-fried Halloumi cheese and cubes of sourdough bread. The entire mixture is tossed with a combination of toasted cumin, coriander, black mustard, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest. Finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh mint.
Halloumi is a white, semi-hard cheese originally from Cyprus. It is made from a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk (though occasionally cow’s milk is also used). Its high melting point makes the cheese popular for grilling or frying. I have seen it in the refrigerated specialty cheese section of some larger grocery stores (like Whole Foods and Wegmans). It is often packaged with mint. If halloumi is not available, you can use another non-melting cheese like akkawi.
Black Mustard Seeds are little pungent dark brown to deep reddish seeds particularly popular in South Asian cooking. Toasting the seeds helps bring a more mild and nutty flavor. I have been able to find them at my local Asian market. They are also available on Amazon: Black Mustard Seeds.
I also made Ultimate Chicken Shawarmas; Burrata & Burnt Oranges; Pomegranate, Cucumber & Pistachio Yogurt; and Pomegranate & Rosewater Jelly Cups.
The Ultimate Chicken Shawarmas were perfect for an easy and delicious meal. Pieces of chicken are coated in a variety of spices and marinated for 30 minutes to overnight. They are pan-fried until golden wrapped in flatbread with yogurt, tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, and herbs.
The Burrata & Burnt Oranges with Pistachios, Mint & Pomegranate was such a beautiful presentation for Burrata. The ball of Burrata is placed in the center of a serving plate and arranged with blackened orange segments, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and mint. I used a kitchen torch to blacken the oranges, but a frying pan will also work.
The Pomegranate, Cucumber & Pistachio Yogurt was another favorite. Thick Greek yogurt is combined with shallots, cucumber, pomegranate seeds, pistachio, mint, and olive oil for a light and refreshing dip for pita bread.
The Pomegranate & Rosewater Jelly Cups come together with just 5 ingredients. Gelatin is dissolved into pomegranate juice and lightly flavored with sugar and rosewater. Each cup is topped with some fresh pomegranate seeds and chilled until set.
Spicy Halloumi Salad with Tomatoes and Fried Bread Recipe
Excerpt from Feasts
Spicy Halloumi Salad
- 1 1/4 pounds tomatoes cut into rough chunks
- 1 large red onion finely sliced
- 1 large cucumber halved lengthwise, halved again and cut into 1 inch dice
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
- Olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes plus more to season
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 heaping teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 heaping teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
- 1 heaping teaspoon red pepper flakes plus more to taste
- Garlic oil optional
- 4-5 thick slices sourdough bread or similar preferably stale or left out to dry, cubed
- 2 (1/2 pound each ) blocks Halloumi cheese each cut into 5 slices
- 1 small bunch (about 1 ounce) mint leaves picked, rolled up tightly and cut into thin ribbons, to garnish
Put the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber chunks into a large mixing bowl. Add the oregano, lemon zest and juice, and a good drizzle of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside.
Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and pepper flakes and toast until they release their aroma and begin to brown a little, about 1 minute, shaking the pan and taking care to not let them burn. Transfer to a mortar and add the 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes. Using a pestle, crush the seeds lightly to break them down just a little-- you want to keep a lot of the texture. Add the crushed seed mix to the tomato salad and mix well.
Line a plate with a double layer of paper towels. Set the same frying pan in which you toasted the seeds over medium-high heat and drizzle in some olive or garlic oil. Once the oil is hot, add the bread cubes and fry on both sides until deep golden, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Drizzle a little olive oil into the same pan, add the halloumi slices, and fry until golden brown, 1-2 minutes on each side.
Add the fried bread to the salad and toss well to coat the bread chunks in the dressing. Adjust the seasoning as necessary, then arrange the salad and halloumi on a large platter and sprinkle with mint ribbons just before serving.