The Middle East (especially the Arab Peninsula) and the Arab peoples living in the different countries of North Africa came under Ottoman rule in the 15th and 16th centuries. Modern-day Turkey borders on two Arab countries to its south, and there are Arab populations in some of Turkey’s provinces. This close proximity and intermingling has resulted in much cultural interchange, and the unity of religion has further strengthened these relationships.
It would be incorrect to speak of a homogenous Arab cuisine. But though it exhibits differences according to region, there are some common points in Arab cuisine that should be mentioned here. It is quite a rich culinary culture from the standpoint of variety, based mostly on meats and grains. Meats are mostly smaller animals such as sheep or goat, and at times the meats of animals such as camels and gazelles are used. Meat is always cooked directly over the fire. The likelihood of bacterial spread in meat cooked in meat touching the flame is less than that in meat cooked in a pot. This cooking method has now become traditional in Arabic cuisine. Food cooked in this manner is called “kebab.” There are scores of types. This variety is broadened further by the types made with the addition of vegetables which entered Arab cuisine in the middle ages.
Foods made with grains are as rich in variety as those made with meat. Wheat products such as bulgur and flour, and grains such as barley and oats are used in the preparation of many dishes. There are also foods where dough and meats are used together, such as lahmacun and pides. Some food products used dry are an indispensable part of Arab cuisine; at the top of the list are chickpeas and lentils. Arab cuisine is also quite rich in sweets, with a preponderance of dough-based desserts with sugar syrup and pekmez (grape or other fruit molasses).
2 T olive oil
1 t pepper paste
4 zucchinis, cubed
¼ kg yogurt
Red flake pepper (to taste)
Sautee the onion and pepper paste in the oil until onions are transparent. Add zucchini and continue sautéing. Add salt, pepper and red flake pepper, add one cup of water and simmer until the water is absorbed. Serve topped with yogurt.
500 gr cubed lean lamb
1 kg rice
2 potatoes cut into round slices
1 onion, chopped
500 gr yogurt
150 gr margarine
2 T olive oil
3 thin green peppers (Anaheim type)
Simmer meat for 30 minutes in water just to cover. In another pot, add oil and arrange potato slices on the bottom. Over this add the onion. Then add half the rice, followed by the meat. Add remaining rice, add water and margarine over the top, and cook until rice is tender and water is absorbed.
When done, the pot is inverted onto a large tray for serving.