White bean, garlic and basil spread


In continuation of my quest for hearty, delicious lunches, here is a quick and delicious white bean spread, perfect on a wholegrain toast with some avocado and tomato. The basil flavor really comes through and makes this pop as a dip or spread. I had it today for breakfast and now, I want it every day.


Prep time: 15 minutes


1 15 oz. can (approx. 425 gms) white, cannelini, or great northern beans

10 basil leaves

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (don’t worry–its going in the food processor)

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Drain the can of beans and rinse well, until the foam disappears from the beans. Add to a food processor. whitebeansrinsed
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients into your food processor and blend everything until smooth. Add more water if you want a smoother or creamier consistency. whitebeanprep
  3. Taste and adjust for sourness, salt and pepper.beansblender
  4. Eat as a dip with pita chips or use as a sandwich spread. Bon appétit! whitebeantoast

Ful medames (Stewed fava beans)

Driving home one day from a cafe, my partner and I noticed a new Middle Eastern market which has opened up in what is fast becoming the Durham Muslim community’s hub (yay! finally!).  It was spring break, and with time on our hands, we decided to stop and browse.  My partner, who lived for some time in Jerusalem, was thrilled.  Though the selection of fresh vegetables was limited, we loaded up on lots of other goodies: a sturdy jug of Lebanese olive oil for $10, bulgur wheat (in lots of different sizes), fava beans, eggplant spread, pickled labneh, tahini, fresh pita…. There is also halal meat available, for nonveggies. 

I’ve been having a Middle Eastern spell lately, and this morning, I created my version of Ful Medames – a super easy, fast, delicious, and healthy breakfast.  It takes about 10 minutes and is fantastic with some pita bread, warmed and slightly crisped in the oven, and some soft or hard boiled eggs.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2


1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed

1 clove garlic, grated or mashed

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Bunch of parsley, finely chopped

  1.  Drain and rinse the fava beans well under cold running water.  Place the beans in a pot and cover them with water (there should be at least 1″ more water than beans). Bring the water and beans to a boil on medium heat.  Let the beans boil for about 8 minutes, until soft.
  2. While the beans are boiling, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Transfer the beans into the bowl and mix well.
  4. Using a fork, lightly mash the fava beans, making sure to leave some unmashed, so that you have different textures.
  5. Serve with pita/bread and/or some eggs!


Breakfast in a Jiffy

Poha is a super easy, very delicious, and highly transportable breakfast dish (makes a great packed lunch). It’s great when you are not in the mood for eggs or bread, but want something savory. Imagine this as a South Indian version of fried rice. The main ingredient is flattened or pressed rice – poha – which is jazzed up with curry leaves, mustard seeds, red onion, turmeric, coriander leaves, and a nice bright acidic kick at the end, which brings the flavors to life. What I love about this dish is also that, unlike many Indian recipes, the different elements remain distinct, making it visually appealing, which is, as we all know, more than half the battle with food. I’m also amazed at how quickly this dish can be ready. This does not take more than 15 minutes to make, from start to finish.

PS—You can see that I used a wok to make this, but feel free to use any large saucepan or frying pan. I will extol the virtues of a wok in some other post…

poha dagdi
This is not the prettiest picture, but I just wanted to show you what uncooked poha looks like
A few of my favorite things: red chilies, curry leaves, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and peanuts



Prep time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2


3 cups poha (flattened rice)

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 medium red/yellow potato

2 red chilies, dried

1 tsp. mustard seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tbsp. channa (chickpea) dal

1 stem curry leaves

¼ cup peanuts

Asafetida, a pinch

1 tsp. turmeric powder

1 small red onion, cut into half moons

1 cup green peas (optional)

Bunch of coriander/cilantro leaves

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt – to taste

  1. Put the potato in a saucepan, cover with water and boil until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, put your poha in a large bowl and wash with cold water as you would rice.  Keep rinsing the poha until the water goes from starchy to clear (this will take a few rinses). Strain the water and gently press the poha—don’t squeeze it—to release the remaining water. Transfer the poha to another bowl.
  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the red chilies, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds.
  4. When you hear the mustard and cumin seeds crackle, add the curry leaves, channa dal, peanuts, and pinch of asafetida and sauté for another minute.
  5. Add the red onion, turmeric powder, and a pinch of salt and sauté for another two minutes.
  6. Once the onions start browning, add the poha into the pan. Mix everything together and lower the heat. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Add your peas, if you are using them and mix everything together once more.
  7. In the meantime, remove the potato from the boiling water. Once it has cooled, cut it into cubes. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a separate small saucepan and sauté the potato, until the skin crisps up (about 2-3 minutes).
  8. Add the potato to your poha mixture. Turn off your stove.
  9. Squeeze juice of half a lemon on top of the poha mixture. Garnish with a bunch of coriander leaves. Serve with a slice of lemon.



Shakshuka: a Middle Eastern Breakfast Delight

Shakshuka is one of those Middle Eastern recipes that is claimed by different ethnic communities across the region. According to Yotam Ottolenghi, the dish was created in Tunisia but was brought to Israel by Jewish communities. However, I’ve also heard that the dish originated in Yemen or Saudi Arabia.

The first time I ate shakshuka was in 2006, in the Sinai peninsula in northern Egypt, where Hani, our Bedouin host, served it for breakfast along with homemade tahini and hummus, pita bread, and guava juice. I loved–and still do–the simplicity and vibrancy of the dish, and its one of my favorite breakfast dishes of all time.

When I eat it, it still brings up memories of the Mars-like landscape of the Sinai peninsula and the simplicity of vacation time. That’s me, sleeping on the beach as the sun rises…


Yotam Ottolenghi has a recipe for shakshuka that is different from mine (he uses saffron and other ingredients, which I omitted here), but, at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I find my version simpler and closer to what I remember from my experiences in Egypt.  But really, you can be flexible with what herbs you have on hand. Ottolenghi uses parsley and coriander, which works very well, but I love the combination of basil and coriander too.

I had the pleasure of procuring some beautifully bruised red and yellow peppers at the Farmer’s market today.  Shakshuka is the perfect showcase for them, not to mention a great way to wander back to a serene holiday.

Farmer's market produce
Farmer’s market produce
Onion half moons frying


shakshuka final


Serves: 2
Prep and cooking time: 15 minutes


1 tbsp. olive oil
4 eggs
1 white onion, cut in half moons
½ red pepper and ½ yellow pepper (or just one)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes
Handful of basil
Handful of coriander
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and fry till yellow, about three minutes.
  3. Add the peppers and saute for another three minutes until softened.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cayenne pepper. Mix everything together. Add a tbsp. of water in case the mixture is dry. The texture should be thick and a bit wet – like a chunky pasta sauce. Add half of the coriander leaves and half of the basil leaves to the mixture.
  5. Once the tomatoes have softened, crack four eggs on top of the mixture, being careful not to break the yolks. Add a few grinds of black pepper and a dash of salt. Reduce the heat to low.
  6. Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are no longer wobbly, but the yolk is still runny (about four minutes) on low heat.
  7. Garnish with the remaining coriander and basil. Serve with pita or any good bread. Hummus (homemade if you can do it) is a great accompaniment!