The Iraqi Family Cookbook

The Iraqi Family Cookbook
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pearl Couscous

This is a form of round pasta that is called Israeli couscous too. It is a very popular pilaf that is enjoyed in many Middle Eastern countries. I did not grow up with it in Iraq, but attempted to cook it and very much enjoy it cold or at room temperature as a meal by itself or a side dish.
2 cups dry pearl couscous
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup dried sour cherries or dried cranberries
¼ cup golden raisins
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a big pot, bring water to a boil and add salt. Put the couscous in and stir. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour in a colander to drain.
Heat oil in a sauté pan and sauté the onions for 1 minute. Add the nuts and sauté for another minute until lightly toasted. Add raisins and dry cherries and stir for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the couscous and stir.
Sprinkle the cinnamon and stir. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Yogurt Dill Sauce

You can serve this sauce as a dip with pita bread or with a rice dish.
2 cups whole milk plain yougurt
1 cup chopped dill, or 2 tablespoons dry dill
2 cloves of garlic,crushed
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Combine all the above ingredients in a bowl. Check if it need more salt. Spoon the mixture in a serving dish and drizzle olive oil on top. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Will keep in the fridge for three days.


Cardamom Cookies- Shakar Lama شكر لما

These are very delicious cookies similar to sugar cookies.

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
 ½ teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
 ½ teaspoon baking powder
Blanched almonds for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degress F.
In a bowl, whip the butter and sugar and set aside.
 In another bowl combine all the dry ingredients.
 Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix well using your hand or a wooden spoon.
Take a walnut size of the dough. Roll it in your hand, and press it flat.
Put a slivered almond on each cookie.
Arrange these cookies in a pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Makes 24 cookies.
When cool, store in a plastic container.

Friday, October 25, 2013

White Beans Soup فاصوليا بيضة

This is a vegetarian soup that is filling and very delicious.  I usually purchase dry beans and soak them in water overnight. The next day, I strain them and follow the recipe. Make sure to add salt when beans are cooked, otherwise they will take a long time to cook.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound white beans soaked in water
6 cups boiling water
1 (8-ounce can) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Heat oils in a deep pot and sauté the onions for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and beans.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes. Check the beans if they are soft and cooked. Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, salt and pepper and stir. Cook for 20 more minutes and add more water if needed. Add vinegar and check the salt and seasoning. Serve in a bowl as a soup or with white rice. Bean soup thickens when it cools. You can add more water when reheating it.

Sesame Bread-Qosa, Gursa. كرصة الموصل بالسمسم

This is typical bread baked in the northern part of Iraq. My aunt who lived in Mosul used to bake it in a tannour oven, but I successfully bake it in a conventional oven.
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
3 ½ cup all purpose flour
½  cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 egg, beaten
1/2  cup sesame seeds
Dissolve yeast in ½ cup of warm water, and add sugar and stir. Cover and set aside to activate the yeast, and should starts bubbling within 5 minutes.
Measure the flour in a bowl and add the salt and nigella seeds, fennel and stir. Pour the oil in the flour and rub it in your hands a little. Pour the yeast mixture and the rest of the warm water, and stir.
Knead the dough using your hand or a food processor.  Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rise in a warm place for one hour.
Remove the dough and put it on a floured board. Cut it in 4 portions. Form the dough in nice smooth balls and cover with a towel to rise for 30 minutes.
Take the ball of dough and flatten it using your hands. Slash the top with a knife. Bush with egg wash and sprinkle one tablespoon of sesame seeds on top. Arrange the dough on oiled pan. Cover with a towel and leave it to rise for 45 minutes.
Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for 35-45 minutes depending on your oven.
When cool, keep this bread in the fridge or put them in the freezer bag and freeze, until ready to use.
This is very delicious bread to serve with feta cheese with tea or with dinner. Enjoy!
Makes  4

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lamb Shanks with Potatoes

2 pounds lamb shanks
3 cups boiling water
1 cup tomato sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Arabian Spice(combination of cinnamon,allspice,cardamom,black pepper)
3 potatoes, peeled and sliced in ½ inch slices
Place lamb shanks in a deep pot. Sauté for 5 minutes and turn on both sides. Add onions, garlic, salt and spices and stir. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Add water and stir. Cover pot and simmer on medium low heat for 90 minutes. When shanks are tender, add the potatoes and adjust the salt and spices. Simmer for 30 more minutes until potatoes are tender.
Serve with saffron rice, and salad.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wheat Berry Salad

This salad is very filling and you can enjoy it as a vegetarian dish or as side dish with grilled meat.
You can purchase this wheat from Middle Eastern grocery stores or Health Food stores. We usually cook this wheat as a pilaf with meat stock and serve it warm with lamb shanks or chicken. I wanted to make a salad to serve with crab cakes and decided to boil the berries and mix with veggies.
Wheat berries take at least one hour to cook. I try to soak them in water overnight or for a few hours before I boil them. They will cook faster within 20 minutes.

2 cups wheat berries, soaked in water for 6 hours
4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 Persian cucumber chopped
5 radishes, chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 sprig of scallions, chopped
½ cup black olives
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
In a deep pot, bring water to a boil. Strain the wheat berries and put them in boiling water. Cover the pot halfway and leave it to cook for 30 minutes. When the berries are soft, put the wheat berries in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Transfer the berries to a salad bowl and drizzle the vinegar and olive oil, and lemon juice over the berries. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add olives, cucumbers, scallions, parsley and radishes, and stir. Cover and refrigerate for an hour for the flavors to blend.
You can add chopped tomatoes and celery if you wish.
Serve it with grilled chicken, or fish.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eggplant Omelet

This is a very filling and satisfying omelet. I grilled vegetables on an outdoor grill. I had leftover eggplants and decided to make this dish for a brunch, or a light dinner. Traditionally, we dice the eggplants and sauté them in oil until soft. In this recipe, I used grilled eggplants.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to drizzle over eggplants
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, or Arabian spice
1 large American eggplant
½ cup scallions, chopped
½ cup leek, sliced
½ cup green pepper, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Slice the eggplant in half an inch thick. Sprinkle salt over the slices. Put eggplant in a colander to drain for 30 minutes.
Pat the slices with paper towel to remove moisture, and spread on a baking sheet.  Drizzle extra olive oil over the slices. Put the slices under the broiler for 5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a sauté pan, heat the oil and sauté the onions, leeks and green peppers for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and spices.  Arrange a layer eggplant over the onion mixture.
Crack the eggs in a bowl, and scramble them. Pour the eggs over the eggplants. Cover and cook on top of the stove for 5 minutes until eggs are set.  Sprinkle the parsley over the omelet and place under the broiler for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and serve with bread.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vegetarian Bulgur with Peasالبلغر مع البزالية

When my friends invited me for grilled kabob, I decided to make this dish to take with me. It is perfect to serve with meat kabob or vegetable kabob.
1 ½ cup coarse bulgur
1 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon Arabian spice (bahar)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup pitted black olives
¼ cup water
In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add salt, and drop the bulgur in the water. Leave it to boil for 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from the stove and pour the bulgur into a colander to drain.
In a deep pan, heat the oil and sauté the onions. Season with salt and spices. Add the peas and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the black olives. Add the bulgur to the onion and peas mixture and add ¼ cup of water. Cover the pan and leave it to simmer on low heat for 15 more minutes until bulgur is soft. Check if it needs more salt.
Serve it with cucumber yogurt salad and pickles.
If you cook this recipe as a side dish, you can serve it with grilled kabob, or grilled chicken.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Phyllo Cheese Roll

These rolls are very delicious. You can serve them for a brunch or as an appetizer. You can prepare these rolls and freeze them. Bake them when you are ready to serve them.
Makes 2 rolls
1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried mint
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
1 pound phyllo
Olive oil
Put the feta cheese, ricotta cheese and egg in a mixing bowl and stir. Add parsley, dill and mint and stir to combine, and set aside
Use 5 phyllo sheets for each roll. Roll out the sheet of phyllo and brush with olive oil. Place another sheet on top and brush with oil. When 5 sheets are stacked and covered with oil, spread the cheese mixture along one side of the phyllo stack to make 2 inches wide filling.
Roll up the phyllo to the end of the stack. Place the roll on an oiled tray with the seam down. Score the top of the roll into 8-10 sections.
Bake in 350 F oven for 35 minutes. Leave to cool and cut it through the scores.

You can keep the roll uncut. Wrap it with foil and freeze it. When ready to serve, place it on 300 degrees F oven for 10-15 minutes. Do not microwave it. Phyllo will become soggy.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Iraqi Cucumber Pickles-Turshi Khiyar طرشي خيار

While making my weekly visit to the farmers market, I picked a few pounds of crispy crunchy Persian cucumbers, plus other vegetables for the week. I decided to make some pickles.

Pickles are served with every meal in Iraq. We prepare big jars of seasonal vegetables. In the winter, we pickle beets, turnips, cauliflower and cabbage. During the summer, we pickle green peppers, small eggplants, a variety of cucumbers, and green beans. When growing up in Iraq, we used to buy bushels of these vegetables, and spend hours in the kitchen poking these vegetables with a knife and sprinkling salt over them to drain some of their liquid. We had the whole family, including children, and grandparents participating in this process.
We use two methods: salt brine or vinegar. You could use quart (32-oz) mason jars or Pint (16-oz) mason jars.
Salt Brine Method
4 pounds small cucumbers
¾ cup Kosher salt (not iodized, or fine salt)
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Rinse the cucumbers and place in the colander to drain. Poke each cucumber with a knife. Place in the colander and sprinkle ¼ cup of salt over them. Leave to drain in the sink for a few hours.
In the meantime, Bring 3 cups of water, and ½ cup of sat to a boil. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool.
Stack the cucumbers in clean sterilized jars. Pour the brine over to top jar. Add 2 cloves of crushed garlic and one tablespoon of chopped parsley to each jar and seal. When cucumbers change color, in 10 days, they are done. Refrigerate the jars after opening.
 Sometimes, we used to put the jars under the heat of the sun to speed the pickling process.
Another method is to pour the boiling liquid over the cucumbers and seal the top. This will speed the pickling process.
Vinegar Method
You could use white, or any light color vinegar. You could use apple cider vinegar but will change the color of the vegetables.
4 pound Persian cucumbers, or pickling cucumbers
4 cups vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/3 cup salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sugar
In a pot, bring the vinegar, salt, garlic and spices to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the cucumber to top jar. Seal the jar. Pickles will be ready within a week.
If you find the vinegar too strong, you can measure 3 cups vinegar and 1 cup water and follow the above recipe.
You could use these methods for other vegetables.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lamb with Chickpeas Soup- Tashreeb Laham باللبلبي تشريب

Chickpeas is a very popular legume that we add to a large variety of dishes. We add it to bulgur pilaf, a stew, or for salad. Street vendors sell a bowl of lablabi with a slice of lemon. It is a very satisfying and delicious snack.
For this recipe, you can use canned chickpeas, but traditionally we soak the dry chickpeas in a bowl of water overnight.  The following day, we cook them in a pot of water for an hour until the chickpeas are soft. Then add salt and sometimes we add turmeric and Arabian spices.
1 pound lamb shoulder, cubed with bones
4 cups water
1 onion, sliced
1 (15-ounce can) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bahar (Arabian spice)
Tannour bread or Nan for serving
Rinse the lamb, and put in a pot with water. Bring to a boil. Add the onions, salt and spices and cook for 45 minutes until meat is tender. Add the chickpeas and simmer for 10 more minutes.
To serve this soup, put a few pieces of tanour bread in a bowl and scoop the soup over it. Serve slices of lemon and scallions with the soup.
Sometimes we add Noomi Basra (dried lime) to this soup to give it a sour flavor. If you are using whole dried lime, make sure to remove the seeds before adding them to the soup as they give a bitter flavor.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fried Rice Kibbi-Kubbat Halab. كبة حلب

Have you thought of what you could do with leftover cooked rice? This is a traditional appetizer recipe that we make with boiled long grain rice, and we add saffron or turmeric to it while rice is boiling to give it a yellow color. We also add golden raisins and almonds to the filling. Sometimes, we add chopped parsley to the filling when cooled.
I was able to alter the recipe a little since I am using leftover rice, and the result was very delicious and successful.
3 cups cooked rice, leftover, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ pond ground lamb or beef
½ cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Arabian spice (bahar)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
Heat oil in a sauté pan, and add the meat. Cook the meat for 5 minutes and add the onions, salt and spices and stir. Lower the heat to simmer and cook until onions are soft. Add the pine nuts and set the meat filling aside to cool.
Put rice and one egg in a food processor and process for a few minutes until rice becomes a soft dough. If the rice is still hard, add the second egg and pulse to make nice smooth dough. If dough has a lot of moisture, add cornstarch to the dough and mix.
To form the kubba, or kibbi, have a small bowl with vegetable oil to wet your hand for shaping the bubba.  Take a small piece of the dough the size of small egg. Roll it in your hands and make a hole in the middle to form a cup. Fill the hole with one teaspoon of the filling and seal it. Shape it like a football.
Heat 2 cups of oil in a small deep pot.  Drop 4 kubba in oil, and fry for about 3 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
Serve them with pickles. You can freeze them, and reheat them in the oven when needed to serve.
For a vegetarian filling, saute onions and add peas and chopped mushrooms. Add salt and spices.
Cool before filling the dough. Drain the filling from any liquid.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tahini Pistachio Halva-Halawat Tahini bil Fistuq حلاوة بالطحينة

Halva is candy that resembles fudge.  Growing up in Iraq, my mother made a variety of halva, and we used to snack on it. We serve halva with a cup of Arabic coffee too. In order to serve it with coffee, I decided to stuff pitted dates with halva, and serve them as candy.
This halva is made with sugar syrup, but I prefer to use honey. You can use any type of nuts. Walnuts and pistachios are preferred for this recipe.
½  cup tahini
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
¼  cup whole pistachios, shelled
½ cup toasted sesame seeds
Pout the tahini and honey into a bowl. Whip it for 3 minutes. Add cardamom, sesame and pistachios and stir with a wooden spoon. Remove it from the bowl and plate it on a fruit dish. Decorate with pistachios. You can refrigerate it and serve it when ready.

For the date halva candy, take one teaspoon of halva and fill the pitted date. You can arrange the dates on a plate. When done, I decided to arrange a few pieces in a foil container to give to friends.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cheese Bourek- Bourek Bil Jibin بورك بالجبن

This is my mother’s recipe that she used to make very often to serve with afternoon tea. You can use any type of cheese, but feta cheese is very close to the farmers cheese we had.
Bourek is simply a turnover that is savory or sweet filled with cheese, vegetables or meat. You can use the same dough recipe to fill them with apricot or fig jam.
Traditionally, we use the following dough recipe, but for convenience, you could use puff pastry or phyllo dough. You can fill the bourek and bake them or freeze them and bake them when needed. We usually fry the bourek, but I prefer to bake them, and serve them warm, or put them in a freezer bag, and when you need to serve them, put them in a toaster oven for 10 minutes.
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup water
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, whisked

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt and set aside. Measure ½ cup of warm water, and add the sugar and yeast and stir. Set aside to activate the yeast for 5 minutes
Add the oil and the yeast mixture to the flour and kneed it by hand for 5 minutes. You could use a food processor for the dough. Add a few tablespoons of water if you find the dough a little hard. (some flours absorb more water). When the dough feels smooth put it in an oiled bowl, cover it with a towel and leave it to rise for 30 minutes.
Prepare the Filling:
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, whisked
1 teaspoon dry mint
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the dough on a floured board. Use a glass or a wide round cookie cutter to cut circles. Put one teaspoon of the filling in the center of the circle. Fold the circle to make half moon. Crimp the edges by twisting the edges, or use a fork to press down the edges to seal the dough. 
Arrange on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and brush the top with egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes.
Make 18 turnovers.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chocolate Covered Date Nut Balls

I usually make date nut balls and roll them in shredded coconuts or toasted sesame. I created this recipe for Valentine’s Day and dipped the date nut balls in melted chocolate. The result was very tasty and elegant. You can try it using any kind of nuts. I prefer walnuts with dates.

2 cups soft pitted cooking dates
or Majdool dates, pitted
  2  tablespoons butter                                                                                                
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup dark chocolate, melted
Melt butter in a pan and sauté the dates for 2 minutes. Add toasted sesame seeds, walnuts, ground cardamom and cinnamon. Stir using a wooden spoon to combine and make a soft ball.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 30 minutes.
Take a small ball of the mixture the size of a cherry tomato, and roll it in your hands.
 Using a bamboo skewer, dip the date balls in the melted chocolate, and arrange on a tray lined with parchment paper. You can decorate the top with a piece of walnut, or leave it plain. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve at a room temperature.
Use them within 2 weeks, or store them in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lamb Stew with Potatoes and Peas

You could use stewing beef for this recipe, but you need to cook it longer.
1 pound stewing lamb
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Arabian spice-Bahar (cinnamon,allspice,cloves,cardamom,black pepper)
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup frozen peas
Heat oil in a pot and sauté the lamb for 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, cinnamon stick, spices and stir. Pour the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the water, and simmer on medium heat covered for one hour until lamb is cooked.
Add the potatoes and peas, and add 1 more cup of water and simmer until potatoes are soft and cooked. Check the sauce if it needs more salt. Serve it with saffron rice and salad.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cornstarch Pudding- Mahallabi محلبي

This is a very delicious and light dessert that we serve after a heavy meal. You can eat it for breakfast and top it with fruit if you prefer.
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon rosewater
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Bring one and a half cups of milk to a boil. Add the sugar and stir. Mix the cornstarch in ½ cup of milk and pour over the milk and sugar mixture. Keep stirring until it thickens. Remove from heat and add the rosewater and cardamom and stir. Pour pudding in small custard cups and decorate with pistachios.
Put in refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lamb Fritters- Irooq عروك

This is a very delicious snack that we serve as an appetizer, light dinner or for picnics. We call it Shitfayat in Mosul dialect, but it is known as Irooq. You will need diced lamb or ground lamb. You can use beef if you prefer.

1 small onion chopped

½ cup Italian parsley, chopped

½ cup scallions, chopped

2 eggs

¼ cup water

1 pound ground lean lamb

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon Arabian spice (bahar-black pepper,cinnamon,allspice,cloves,cardamom)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, put all the above ingredients except the oil, and stir. It should have the consistency of thick batter. You could add more water if needed and stir.

Heat oil in nonstick pan. Take a tablespoon of the batter and drop it in oil. Spread the batter with a spoon, and leave it to cook on one side. Then turn it to the other side to cook until crispy. Remove from oil, and drain the fritters on paper towel. Continue with the rest of the batter. Do not crowd the pan. Fry three at a time. When cool, you can put them in freezer bag and freeze them, or serve them immediately with tomatoes and pickles.

Make sure to heat them in the oven before you serve them for a crispy bite, otherwise you can serve them at room temperature.

Makes 12