All posts by Amina Al-Saigh

Amina is the food blogger behind the Middle Eastern blog HungryPaprikas.com. She loves to share the Arabic food she grew up eating straight from her mom's kitchen. Her aim is to make Middle Eastern food approachable and simpler for the everyday busy mom, as well as introducing her readers to new flavours and dishes specific to Iraqi cuisine. She is also an engineer and mother of two. You can often find her cooking on her Instagram stories @hungrypaprikas, photographing her creations and sharing it with the world.
Arabic lentil soup in white bowls

This Classic Arabic Lentil Soup is Perfect for Ramadan

Ramadan is a month celebrated by Muslims across the globe — and it requires fasting from food and water from sunrise to sunset. Most Muslims wake up before sunrise to have a small meal and then break their fast with a few dates and this Arabic lentil soup at sunset. Breaking the fast with soup helps to prepare the stomach for the meal to follow and it includes a lot of nutrients. Soup is also rich in fluids, which are much needed after a long day of fasting. This specific recipe uses a few simple ingredients that add a depth of flavour — and it only requires a few minutes of hands-on time.

Arabic lentil soup in white bowls

Arabic Lentil Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp black pepper
1 ½ cups split red lentils
7-8 cups water
Lemon juice (optional)

Arabic lentil soup ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. In a soup pot, add the vegetable oil along with the onions, potatoes and salt. Cook for a few minutes until they soften.

2. Add the cumin, turmeric and black pepper to the onions and potatoes and continue to cook for a few minutes to toast the spices.

Related: Healthy and Hearty Soup Recipes

3. Wash and drain the lentils several times until clean. Add the lentils along with the water to the pot. Mix well, then cover and simmer on medium heat for 40-60 minutes. (Halfway through, taste and adjust the salt. Also, add more water if required, depending on the consistency you prefer).

Arabic lentil soup cooking in pot

4. Remove from the heat once the vegetables have softened and serve with a squeeze of lemon on top.

Arabic lentil soup cooking in pot

Like Amina’s Arabic lentil soup? Try her Middle Eastern eggplant casserole or her curried Brussels sprouts.

Vegan eggplant casserole

Classic Middle Eastern Eggplant Casserole With a Vegan Twist

This eggplant casserole is a classic Middle Eastern dish common in Iraq. It is usually made with layers of kofta (beef patties), eggplant, potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes. But in this Can You Vegan It? dish, just skip the kofta and bake up the veggies using the same method. The result? A light and deeply flavourful casserole served alongside rice, with some yogurt on the side. Traditionally, all the vegetables are fried before they are layered together and smothered in sauce, then baked in the oven. But you can also roast them instead of frying, which is quicker and yields so much flavour.

Vegan eggplant casserole

Middle Eastern Eggplant Casserole

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

2-3 large eggplants
3-4 medium potatoes
5 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 ½ tsp salt, divided
1 large white onion
1 red pepper
5 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (skip this if you don’t have it)
2 ½ cups hot water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 ½ large tomatoes

Vegan eggplant casserole ingredients on countertop

Directions:

1. Start by preheating your oven to 400°F.

2. Wash the eggplant and peel it in a zebra pattern down the length, peeling every other stripe. Then cut it into ½ inch circular slices.

Peeling eggplant casserole

3. Peel and wash potatoes and cut them into ¼ inch circular slices.

4. Put 3 Tbsp of the vegetable oil on the potatoes and eggplant, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.

eggplants roasting on baking tray

5. Meanwhile, peel the onions and wash the pepper, then cut them both into thin slices. Heat a skillet with remaining vegetable oil, add the onions and peppers and sprinkle with remaining salt, then cook them on medium heat until softened.

Related: Easy Vegan Weeknight Dinner Recipes

6. Mix together tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, water, salt and pepper. Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch thick slices.

7. Assemble the casserole by layering the eggplant, potato, onions and peppers, tomatoes and then pour the tomato sauce on top.

Vegan eggplant casserole being made

8. Bake covered for 45 minutes, then uncover and broil for 15 minutes. Serve with rice and a side of yogurt.

Middle Eastern vegan casserole being served onto a light blue plate

Like Amina’s vegan casserole? Try her 20-minute glazed salmon or roasted cauliflower with tahini.

za'tar flatbread on serving platter

This Easy Vegan Za’atar Manaeesh AKA Flatbread is the Breakfast Dish You’ve Been Craving

Za’atar is the name of a Middle Eastern herb, but it’s also the name of a spice mixture made up of the herb, roasted sesame seeds, sumac and a few other spices. It’s so versatile and can be used in a variety of ways: in salad dressings, meat marinades and sauces. But the most common and traditional way of consuming za’atar is on a flatbread mixed with olive oil. This Can You Vegan It? za’atar flatbread is a Lebanese dish called manaeesh and it’s typically served with breakfast alongside a hot cup of tea. It’s often topped with cheese or labneh (strained yogurt), but you can also top with an assortment of fresh veggies and drizzle with more olive oil. This delicious breakfast is easy to make and the perfect start to the day!

za'tar flatbread on serving platter

Vegan Za’atar Manaeesh

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 13-15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
2 ½ cups + 2 Tbsp flour, divided
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup olive oil, divided
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp za’atar blend

For the garnish (optional): cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, onions and/or radish

za'tar flatbread ingredients on kitchen countertop

Directions:

1. Start by mixing together the yeast with the warm water and set aside for a few minutes.

2. In a bowl, add 1 cup of the flour along with the sugar and the yeast mixture. Mix well with a spoon, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes.

Related: Flexitarian Recipes Where Meat Isn’t the Star

3. After 10 minutes, add the rest of the flour (1 ½ cups plus 2 Tbsp), ½ cup olive oil and the salt and mix well until a shaggy dough forms.

za'tar flatbread dough in bowl

4. Using your hands, knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, then smooth it out and set aside to rise for about 30 minutes, covered.

5. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Mix the za’atar and ½ cup olive oil together.

Related: This Middle Eastern Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad is Full of Whole Grains

6. Once the dough is ready, separate into 10 equal-sized balls. Using a rolling pin and a floured surface, flatten each dough ball and spread a few Tbsp of za’atar paste on top until sufficiently covered.

za'tar flatbread on baking sheet about to go in the oven

7. Place on a floured sheet pan and bake for 13-15 minutes until the bottom is golden. Top with fresh chopped vegetables of choice and enjoy.

Like Amina’s za’atar manaeesh? Try her roasted cauliflower with tahini or her 20-minute pomegranate molasses glazed salmon.

Glazed salmon on top of bed of asparagus

This 20-Minute Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Salmon is the Perfect Weeknight Meal

You have probably heard of honey glazed salmon… but have you heard of pomegranate glazed salmon? Pomegranate molasses is an ingredient commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine and has both sweetness and tanginess that adds so much depth and flavour to any dish. It is the star ingredient in this glaze, along with garlic, honey and chilli flakes for some heat. You can typically find pomegranate molasses in the international aisle at your local grocery store, but if you can’t find it, you can make your own at home. Simply mix together pomegranate juice, a bit of lemon juice and sugar (to your preference) and reduce it down until it looks like a thick glaze.

Glazed salmon on top of bed of asparagus

Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Salmon

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Salmon
½ kg salmon fillet (or 4 pieces)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil (or any vegetable oil)

Glaze
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 ½ Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 ½ Tbsp honey
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli flakes (more or less per preference)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Spring onions for garnish

Glazed salmon ingredients on table

Directions:

1. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides.

Four raw salmon filets on white plate

2. Heat up a cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium high and add the olive oil. Wait until pan is hot, then lay the salmon skin side down and cook for 3-4 minutes. Make sure you don’t crowd your pan.

Four salmon filets cooking in pan

3. Flip the salmon to sear on the other side for 2 minutes until golden. Remove and set aside.

Two salmon filets cooking in pan

4. Decrease the heat to low and add in the crushed garlic. Cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.

5. Add the pomegranate molasses, honey, salt, and chilli flakes and stir for a minute. Add the squeeze of lemon.

6. Place the salmon back into the pan and cook for 5 more minutes or until cooked through (depending on thickness of the salmon).

Related: Easy Grilled Salmon Recipes You’ll Love

7. Plate the salmon (recommended on a bed of roasted vegetables) and spoon the glaze on top. The glaze thickens when it cools down, therefore it is recommended to serve immediately. If it does cool down, you can heat it back up and add a splash of water to loosen it.

8. Garnish with spring onions and additional chilli flakes.

Like Amina’s glazed salmon recipe? Try her curried Brussels sprouts or roasted cauliflower with tahini.

Bulgur salad in white bowl

This Middle Eastern Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad is Full of Whole Grains

Bulgur wheat is one of the most underrated grains, but it’s oh-so versatile and packed with fibre. It’s a common Middle Eastern staple and comes in various sizes — from very fine (which is used for tabbouli) to coarse grind (which has a similar cook time to rice). If you’re looking for a creative way to give bulgur a try, this winter salad is the perfect recipe. It’s crunchy and nutty, with hints of sweetness and tartness from the pomegranate and lemon juice; and the parsley and green onion add freshness. It’s the ultimate balance of flavours and ready within minutes.

Bulgur salad in white bowl

Middle Eastern Bulgur, Pomegranate and Almond Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4

Ingredients:

Bulgur
¾ cup coarse bulgur wheat (makes 2 cups cooked)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ cups water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Salad
1 cup pomegranate seeds (roughly half a large pomegranate)
¾ cup slivered almonds (or whole or blanched almonds)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped parsley
¾ cup chopped green onions
½ cup crumbled feta (optional)

Dressing
3 Tbsp olive oil
⅓ cup pomegranate juice
Juice of 1 lemon (roughly ¼ cup)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Bulgur salad ingredients on kitchen counter

Directions:

1. Wash and drain the bulgur. In a pot on medium heat, add the olive oil and washed bulgur. Saute for a few minutes to toast the bulgur.

Related: Fantastic Warm Salad Ideas to Enjoy Right Now

2. Add the water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. As soon as it starts to boil, cover and turn heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork when it is ready.

Bulgur cooking in pot

3. Meanwhile, deseed the pomegranate. You can do this by using your fingers or tapping the back of half the pomegranate with a wooden spoon to release the seeds.

Pomegranate seeds in bowl

4. In a pan on medium heat, toast the almonds in the olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring continuously until they turn golden brown. Remove immediately off the heat.|

Almonds roasting in pan

5. Chop the parsley and green onions.

6. Mix all the salad dressing ingredients together in a jar and shake well.

Salad dressing in jar

7. Assemble the salad by mixing all the ingredients except for the toasted almonds and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. (You can also eat this salad warm!). Before serving, add the toasted almonds, mix well and enjoy.

Bulgur salad in white bowl

Like Amina’s bulgur, pomegranate and almond salad? Try her roasted cauliflower with tahini and curried Brussels sprouts.

roasted cauliflower with tahini

This Middle Eastern Roasted Cauliflower With Tahini is What Vegetarian Dreams Are Made Of

If you’re serving up a vegetarian side, don’t settle for boring. Take it up a notch with this easy recipe! Cauliflower is the perfect vegetable to serve in the fall — and roasting it brings out its nutty and sweet flavour. It is typically mild in taste and can use some spices to jazz it up. In this recipe, it’s marinated in olive oil and warm Middle Eastern spices, then roasted to perfection. The key to roasting cauliflower is to use a high temperature so the outside can caramelize, while still maintaining a bit of a bite. But we’re not done yet. Serve this cauliflower with a luxurious drizzle of tahini sauce and garnish with parsley, cilantro or flaked almonds. Then just watch it disappear off the plate.

roasted cauliflower with tahini

Middle Eastern Roasted Cauliflower With Tahini

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:

Cauliflower
1 large head of cauliflower or 2 small ones (roughly 600g without stems)
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp salt + more per preference

Tahini Drizzle
½ cup tahini paste
3 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
1 small garlic clove, crushed
5-7 Tbsp water, per preference

Garnish
Handful of parsley or cilantro (optional)
Flaked almonds (optional)

roasted cauliflower with tahini ingredients

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Wash the cauliflower and pat dry using a paper towel. Trim off the ends and green stems. Cut into florets.

chunks of cauliflower on baking tray

2. Prepare the marinade by mixing together the olive oil, onion powder, cumin powder, chilli powder and salt.

roasted cauliflower with tahini marinade

3. On a large sheet pan, toss the cauliflower with the marinade ensuring they are well coated. Do not overcrowd them on the pan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until they are caramelized. Toss around halfway through baking time.

roasted cauliflower on baking tray

Related: How to Grow Fall Vegetables and What to Do With Them

4. Meanwhile prepare the tahini drizzle by mixing together the tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Whisk everything together using a fork. The tahini will thicken a lot and seize up and it will seem like it is ruined. However, keep whisking and gradually add water a few Tbsp at a time, until it becomes smooth again. Adjust the thickness of the sauce to your preference by adding more or less water.

white bowl filled with tahini

5. Take the cauliflower out of the oven and taste for salt. Add more if required while they are hot. Toss in lemon juice if you desire. Serve the cauliflower with the tahini sauce drizzled on top. Garnish with parsley, cilantro or almonds if using.

roasted cauliflower with tahini

Like Amina’s Middle Eastern roasted cauliflower recipe? Try her curried roasted Brussels sprouts.

These Curried Brussels Sprouts Are the Fall Side Dish You Need Right Now

Fall is all about making roasted veggies — and Brussels sprouts should be high up on that list. Their small size and nutty taste make them perfect for roasting. The key is to get the edges crispy and caramelized by roasting them cut side down at a high temperature. And don’t even think about removing the small leaves that fall off — those become so crunchy and make the best Brussels sprouts chips. In this recipe, we use a delicious curry spice mix to take them to next level. All you need to do is cut the Brussels sprouts, toss them in the spice mix and roast them on a sheet pan. The perfect side dish for any meal!

Curried Brussels Sprouts

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 lb Brussels sprouts
3 large garlic cloves
1 ½ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp chilli powder (more to taste)
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
Lemon wedges (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash the Brussels sprouts well and pat dry using a paper towel. Trim the ends and cut in half lengthwise. It’s fine if some of the outer leaves fall off, keep them to roast on the pan.

2. Peel the garlic and crush it using a garlic press. Mix together the curry powder, chilli powder, paprika, salt, olive oil and crushed garlic.

3. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the marinade ensuring they are well coated. Turn the Brussels sprouts cut side down on a sheet pan and space them out evenly (do not overcrowd!).

4. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown. Serve as a side with lemon wedges.

Looking for more fall recipes? Try this vegan pumpkin soup or this easy paleo butternut squash tart.