Kaikat Al Khaleej

I love having this aroma filled cake for brunch or with tea, it’s perfect. All of the amazing flavors of the Gulf are packed into this small package for a beautiful burst of flavors. I prefer sukary dates which are soft however if you live in the West where good dates are hard to come by you should soak your dates to become soft before baking for about 5 minutes in boiling water.

1 cup dates, cut up
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pinch saffron threads soaked in 1 teaspoon rose water
Pinch salt
Sesame seeds

1.      Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl add sugar and butter. With a hand mixer beat until fluffy. Add egg, mix well.

2.      Add vanilla, baking powder, cardamom, salt, rose water and saffron, mix then add flour and water. Mix well. Fold in dates.

3.      Grease a loaf pan then sprinkle sides and bottom with sesame seeds. Carefully pour batter into pan. Place into oven cooking for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

4.      Carefully empty pan onto a serving plate, slice and serve.

Yields: 1 loaf cake

Cardamom Iced Coffee

When the weather starts to get warm I absolutely adore iced coffee.  I am really not a fan of vanilla or even chocolate coffees so I usually opt for plain. One day I had the idea to add cardamom to mix as I was making it and it quickly became a favorite. Cardamom goes along very well with coffee like it does with most things. You can even make this mixture ahead of time and store in the fridge minus the ice cubes of course, I do.

2 tablespoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste)
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Ice cubes
Whip cream for topping, optional

1.      In a cup add coffee, sugar, and cardamom and boiling water, stir allowing dissolving.

2.      Add coffee mixture into a blender cup. Add milk, blend well. Pour into a tall cup adding whip cream on top.

Yields: 1 cup

Growing Scallions

About a month ago on Pinterest I saw a post where a woman tried growing her on scallions at home. I personally use scallions a lot when cooking. They are not expensive here but I really just wanted to see if this worked so I tried it out for myself. If you want to try it for yourself here is what you do. I took my scallions and placed them in a small jar and added enough bottled water to only cover the roots and bottoms. Every day I wash the roots in the sink and add fresh water to them. I also sit them outside my window seal in the daytime for sunlight.

I am really shocked at how green they have stayed and how fast they have grown. All you do is snip what you need making sure to keep the bulb and root intact. When growing the top will look a bit dead and all you do is snip that but not all the way to the bottom, just keeping a bit. It’s really important to change your water daily because it would get gross just sitting all the time. When I first started this process I was using a small glass jar but as time passed I moved them to a larger one since they grew. I think a clear jar works best so sunlight can get through.

Lemon Pepper Chicken Breast

This is my go to recipe when I need to get some food on the table for my family yet I do not feel like cooking. It’s so fast yet it taste great. You can cook some rice as a side or use the leftover rice that you may have on hand. Oh and did I mention this is a healthy dish?

4 tablespoons olive oil
3 chicken breast, skinless and boneless
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion powder

1.      In a small bowl add 2 tablespoons olive oil, black pepper, lemon juice and onion powder. Stir well.  Pour mixture all over chicken breast, covering well.

2.      In a sauté pan on medium heat add remaining olive oil. Place chicken into pan. Cook for about 7 minutes on each side. Cook through until no longer pink.

Yields: 3 servings.

Arabic Pickles

Arabic pickles are served with every meal throughout the Middle East. You can buy pre-made ones for next to nothing but making your own at home is simple and taste much better. You can pretty much pickle any vegetable that you would like. Some common ones here in Saudi are cucumbers, carrots and cauliflower. I am personally not a big fan of cauliflower so I made a mix of carrot and cucumber sticks. I absolutely love Arabic pickles in my chicken sharwarma. This recipe is very versatile and you can make exactly what you need for the size of jar that you choose. I chose a medium jar and then filled half with water and the remaining half with vinegar so do the same when making yours for the correct quantities. 

*the olive oil will harden when refrigerated but will quickly melt at room temperature. 

2 cups water
2 cups white vinegar
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, cut into sticks
2 cucumbers cut into sticks

1.      Place carrots and cumbers in rotation layers tightly until jar is almost full.Add olive oil and garlic.

2.      In a small saucepan add water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Bring to a full boil then turn heat off. Mix well. Carefully pour liquid over vegetables into jar leaving a small amount of air at top.


I love making Lebanese Mankoush with a side of hot tea for a light breakfast or lunch. Zatar is a huge spice mixture throughout the Middle East. Thyme is known for its many medical properties and you will find countries such as Morocco even drinking it in their tea and coffee. I am huge fan of the Zatar spice mix and will eat pretty much anything that it is applied to. I have added my Zatar spice mix on this recipe. You can make the mix and place into a jar in a dark area for storage. The olive oil should not be added into the mixture. I personally love Zatar all over my salads and cheeses such as feta and houllami. I have also discovered that using milk powder instead of actual milk when making bread such as this or pita gives the bread a better consistency and full taste.

1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sunflower oil + more for rising
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dry milk powder
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon warm water

Zatar mix:
3 tablespoons dried thyme
2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

1.      In a small bowl add yeast, sugar and 2 tablespoons of the warm water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy. In a large mixing bowl add flour, salt, milk powder, oil, yeast mixture and water a little bit at a time. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place some oil in hands and apply on outside of dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm area for an hour.

2.      Preheat oven to 400F. Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece on a non-stick baking mat into an 8-inch circle. Flute the edges with a fork.

3.      In a small bowl add dried thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, salt and olive oil. Mix and brush onto top of dough with a pastry brush. Prick top of dough with a fork all over. Place on a non-stick baking mat or greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Yields: 2 8-inch circles

Mini Basboosa Loaves

Before I moved to The Middle East I thought basboosa was only one recipe and they all were the same. However I quickly learned that saying basboosa is like saying pizza and just because it has the name does not mean any that you will ever make or try will be the same. I have posted quite a few basboosa recipes here at Ya Salam Cooking. This basboosa is a really simple and quick recipe and has a delicious fullness made by using fresh qashta. Crown or Nestle qashta are my favorite brands to use. I decided to make this batch in mini loaf pans and serve each with fresh fruit. I love serving everyone their only little plate of this sweet Arabic dessert; I mean just look how appealing it is. You can serve basboosa alone, with fruit like I have, whipped cream or even ice-cream.

3/4 cup milk
1 (100 gram) can qashta
1-1/3 cups sugar
2-1/2 cups semolina flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
Sugar syrup for topping

1.      Pre-heat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl add milk, qashta, sugar and vanilla. Mix well with a spoon. Add semolina, baking powder, butter and coconut mixing well with a hand mixer.

2.      Grease mini loaf pans well with sunflower oil. Carefully pour pans 1/2 way full. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until thoroughly cooked and edges are light brown.

3. With a toothpick carefully prick holes on top of basboosa. Carefully pour sugar syrup on top.

Yields: 6 mini loaves 

Soto Ayam

While in Indonesia I discovered the delightful soto ayam which is their style of chicken soup. The flavors mesh perfect together and I left the country having found one of my favorite recipes. My family and I visit The Noodle House frequently and the sous chef who is from Indonesia always makes this dish for me. I have always wanted to try it myself at home but never had all the ingredients. However this weekend I made sure to get them so I could make it myself. Unlike the Western soup which is already served for you with everything this dish was served in Indonesia separately. The broth was in one large pot and you would first add the broth and then the toppings of your choice. Soy sauce, eggs, lime, scallions and sambal are an absolute must for this main course.

1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds), cut into pieces (including back)
7 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
1 stalk of lemon grass (cut into 3 strips)
1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2-inch piece of galangal (peeled and sliced)
2-inch piece of ginger (peeled and sliced)
Juice of 1 lime

For servings:
1 packet of vermicelli or 2 packets instant noodles, cooked per package directions
Chopped scallions
Soy sauce
Quartered boiled eggs
Quartered limes

1.      Bring chicken, water, and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil in a large stockpot. Skim foam.

2.      Add coconut milk, lemon grass, coriander, cumin, shallots, garlic, turmeric, galangal, red pepper flakes, salt, ginger and lime juice. Bring to a full boil, cover and reduce too low for 45 minutes.

3.      Remove chicken and shred from bone. Add shredded chicken back into soup. Discard bones. Bring to a full boil, cover then reduce heat to low. Allow to cook another 15 minutes.

4.      Add broth into bowl then add toppings as you like.

Yields: 4 servings

Apple Fries

Apple fries are a great alternative to regular fries and also double as a dessert for your little ones. The hint of thyme really brings out the great flavor and makes this side dish great for all ages. I usually serve these alongside crispy baked chicken nuggets.

 2 firm red apples, peeled, cored and cut into sticks
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1.      In a small saucepan on medium heat add apple juice and butter; allow to cook thoroughly until butter has melted. Pre-heat oven to 350F.

2.      In a small ovenproof baking dish add apple slices. Sprinkle thyme on top.  Pour apple juice over and bake for 15-20 minutes until apples are tender. Remove apple slices and serve.

Yields: 3-4 servings