Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mast Va Khiar with Khoubis Arabi

Yogurt Cucumber Salad with Pita Bread

Middle-Eastern food…..mouthwatering pastries… Arabic music…..belly dancing performances and Dabke dancers…….cultural and religious artifacts and cooking demonstrations…….a bit of cultural exposure, that sums up pretty much how we started our last weekend! We have been looking forward to our annual Middle-Eastern Festival and this time, I carried my camera too, thinking that I will capture some sights and share the flavour virtually with you all but the moment we reached there, I saw myself transforming into a personification of gluttony, walking around with two legs and hands and a single mouth, raiding the food stalls with inexplicable greed and gluttony! Based on my previous experiences, this time I knew exactly what to gobble up…we started our Mezas (Appetizers) with Baked Kibbee (beef and wheat mix layered with meat, onions and pine nuts), Meat Fatayer (yeast dough pie stuffed with meat, Grape leaves stuffed with beef and rice and Falafel (chick-pea and fava bean patties) with Hummous (Chickpea dip with tahini, lemon juice and garlic). Though we had the option to try out the vegetarian Mezas, we were more keen on trying out Shawarma (marinated grilled chicken), Beef Gyros and our favourite Kafta (lamb and beef mixed with parsley and spices). After stuffing ourselves with so much of food, I could not leave the place without having a bite of my favourite dessert, Galaktoburiko (custard phyllo pastry). The thought that this festival is an annual affair and I will get to enjoy all this food only next year, made me go for one more piece of the same dessert :) We also bought some Baklawa (layers of phyllo dough filled with crushed pistachios), Bird Nest (something similar to baklawa but in a different shape) and Burma (shredded wheat filled with pistachios) to munch on later. Watching the dabke dancers stomping and jumping and kicking their feet in rhythm …….. belly dancers shimming the shoulders and shaking the hip to the music in the air and the jiggling of coins from their hip belt……devouring the succulent main dishes and lip smacking sweet treats, it was definitely an evening worth all the wait :)

Did I stir-up your appetite with the listing of all the food I had? :) I have something for you, the classic middle –eastern bread, Khoubis Arabi/Pita Bread and a refreshing and filling Yogurt – Cucumber Salad/Mast Va Khiar, an appetizer that can be scooped up with bread. Both the recipes are taken from “Secrets of Cooking – Armenian/Lebanese/Persian” by Linda Chirinian. I have also tried Hummous Bi Tahini (Chick-pea and sesame seed puree) and Falafel (bean croquettes) from the same book which came out quite well. Sometime back, Sra posed a very simple yet thought provoking question,” what unlikely things have you done for your blog?”. Out of the many interesting comments that popped up, my immediate response was to declare that I had tried out many new dishes which I would not have, if not for blogging, but later it struck me that I did a very “unlikely as well as unusual” thing which was to pick some cookbooks on one of my visits to the library!! Though I just flipped the pages, and enjoyed the beauty of those pictures and returned the books without even reading, that was so unusual of me to do something like that…till then I never knew where the cookbook section was : P This was a one time, non-recurring event as well !


  • 1 cup whole wheat flour PLUS 3 ½ cups All-purpose flour (Maida)
  • A ¼ oz packet of dry yeast OR 1tbsp dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • ¾ tbsp salt
  • 3tbsp vegetable oil
  • Mix yeast with 1 ½ cups warm water and 1 tbsp sugar thoroughly and proof for 10 minutes, till it is foamy on top.
  • Making the dough: In a large bowl, add wheat flour, all-purpose flour (maida) and salt and combine well. To this add the yeast mixture and 2 tbsp oil and mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones until liquids are absorbed. At this stage, add the rest of the oil (1 tbsp) and knead well till the dough forms a ball. You may use food processor to knead the dough. Grease your hands with some oil and rub the dough with your palms and place this in a lightly oiled large glass or porcelain bowl and cover with a plastic wrap and set aside for about 2 hours until the dough doubles in quantity.
  • Preheat oven to 500F.
  • Trick to get perfect pita pockets: After about 2 hours when the dough doubles in quantity, punch down the dough and deflate the air inside and let it rest for 5 minutes and then divide the dough into 6-8 pieces. Taking one piece at a time, flatten and bring the sides folding over towards the center as though you re wrapping a package and seal together all the sides, by gently pressing at the center. Turn the sealed side down and place on a lightly floured surface and cover with flour dusted plastic wrap and again let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll each ball into a flat circle and place on ungreased baking sheets and bake for around 4-5 minutes, until it puffs up and slightly turns golden colored. Cool slightly on racks and store in plastic bag while it is still warm, otherwise bread tends to dry out.

Tricks I learnt: This was my second attempt at making Pita Bread/Khoubis Arabi and it was 100% successful….all my rolled breads puffed up quite well, forming perfect pita pockets; but that was not the case first time when I tried, only 4-5 puffed up well and the rest got over cooked as I waited till it turned golden brown and some did not puff up on time. So, the basic rule here is to wait only till it puffs up well and changes the colour lightly.....don’t wait until it turns fully golden because the bread will not be soft at all; even if it does not puff up, if you see the bread changing its colour, immediately remove from the oven as the bread is cooked well even if it does not puff up, but it will not be as soft as the puffed up ones. Also, you should knead the dough several times and roll evenly to get pita pockets. Another important thing to be noted is that the dough should be moist. Don’t be stingy while adding the oil; 3 tbsp oil is a definite requirement. The oven temperature is also a vital aspect and cooking time varies depending on the oven settings. Though the original recipe calls for 6-8 minutes of cooking, my oven takes only about 5 minutes to do the job. So, it is advisable to start baking one rolled dough at a time, check the accurate baking time for puffing up and once it’s cooled, see if it is cooked enough and once you have an idea about the exact baking time required, you can keep 2-3 at a time and bake. This is as simple/difficult as making home made pizza dough or Naan (Indian bread) at home. Something that you can perfect by practice. Check out Jugalbandi’s whole-wheat pita bread too.

My home grown mint ..

MAST VA KHIAR - Yogurt Cucumber Salad

  • 4 cups yogurt
  • 2 cups thinly diced cucumbers
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves OR 1tbsp dried crushed mint
  • ¼ to ½ cup scallions (Green/Spring onions) chopped
  • ¼ to ½ cup seedless raisins (preferably dark raisins)
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • Pour yogurt in a cheese-cloth or a thin kitchen napkin and place in a colander or a bowl and drain for 1 hour.
  • Mix yogurt, cucumbers, mint, salt, pepper and scallions. Stir in raisins just before serving, as it gives out colour if soaked in yogurt for a long time and garnish with diced cucumber or mint leaf or scallions.

You can serve Mast Va Khiar/Yogurt cucumber salad as a dip for pita wedges and for those who like to double dip, serve them in individual cucumber boats to lighten up the atmosphere. To make cucumber boats: Cut the cucumber into desired length and halve them vertically and scoop out the seeds and mushy parts and fill it with the dip.

My second entry to Green Blog Project - Summer 2007 hosted at Letzcook.


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. Wow great post and tips on baking pita bread i need to give this a try! each an every post is so unique with an artistic look. love the cucumber boat :) thanks !

  2. Oh, what a beautiful entry! You are such an artist! I love all the photos and the food, so lovely.

    I share with you the love for Middle Eastern food. I can stuff myself so much whenever I visit a ME restaurant. But it's because the food is too good, not because I am too greedy ;)

  3. After that big, mouthwatering list, you treat us to pix of just salad and pita? You're giving me an ulcer, Shn!
    And cookbook reading is nice, don't you agree? Timepass, even if you don't make anything from it.

  4. Slurp! those pitas are so good! gimme some :).

    i am inhaling the warm and sweet aroma of that fresh baked pita, Shn! it THAT good!!

  5. I am opening my mouth there Shn... can you please throw some in! ;)
    That pic looks gorgeous..... and yeah as Sra mentioned..... why such a big list and only the bread and salad for us to see!!! :( LOL!! Now you go right back there and take some pics for us. ;)

  6. that first pic is drop-dead gorgeous.

  7. Beautiful Shn. your presentation skills are excellent. Tks for the detailed recipe for Pita bread. Viji

  8. You like those deserts?? :) I made hummus and falafel once. Otherwise we always go to our favourite Arabic restaurant and devour whatever we like :) I don't think I'll ever make qubbous!!

  9. Cucumber curls are teasingly inviting. There is no word to describe that beauty.

  10. Such a delicious entry.. The cucumber basket too cute!!
    The pics are gorgeous and the salad looks so rich, creamy and yummy!!

  11. he he he... ur list of food u had in fest seems like never ending one;) good to know u had gr8 time:)
    so u did check few cookbooks in th end? LOL... i have started coolecting them, not coz i am gonna cook anything from them. just love to see those pics and they look gr8 in my kitchen cabinet;) easy way to impress guests;)
    i have been toying with the idea of making pita @home ever since i saw jai n bee's post. now armed with expert's tips i will make it pretty soon :)
    just this weekend gathered all courage and made naan and boy!!! it did came quite well. slowly my big black oven and i are kind of jelling weel;)

  12. Yes Madam,you did made me drool early in the morning!:))
    I love Gyros and Pita bread.That is a great recipe for Pitas.I have never tried to bake,but always buy.Kids eat Chicken Tikka masala stuffed in these!I will make them at home.Looks all puffed up!:)
    I loved the photos too,very pretty.Great writing about ME food.

  13. Shn, those Pitas are something to die for. I have never found store bought look so gorgeous.

  14. hi! so here's the recipe for khobez! thanks! :) will try it.

  15. Great pictures and thanks for the detailed recipe of Pita bread! The dip looks creamy and dreamy too.

  16. You made Pita Bread too... you bloggers are so very talented. Loved the first pic of the "Mast Va Khiar"...totally Mast :)

  17. Superb pix!!! and wonderful post!
    Love the cucumber boat!
    I made Pita bread too and I was so thrilled when they puffed up!!!
    Hehehe!! even i love to look thru cookbooks.. even if I do not make the dishes in them!!

  18. you make them so pretty and presentable. I am in loss of words. the pita bread has puffed up so beautifully and the cucumber boat looks awesome. so much hard work which really pays off.

  19. I have tons of things already on my to do list and now this post of yours adds one more thing to that list....hehehe...lovely recipe and post...

  20. Wow! Beautiful!

    Congrats on making your own pita bread. I have tried that too, following Tyler's recipe. But I thought it was too difficult and time-consuming. :) I hate working with dough of any kind.

    You are already on your second entry for GBP! I have cooked twice too, for GBP, but couldn't get around to typing thhe recipe yet. Will have to check on the deadline to make sure I won't miss it.

  21. Wow, Shn! I can't stop looking at that first photo...until I can't stop looking at that pita! Great post. Middle Eastern food is one of my favorites.

  22. Oh great! So much of hard work goes into making that perfect pita bread.
    It was so interesting to read your evening @ the middle eastern food fest.
    I do a similar thing with recipes books i get from the library....flip through and see all the great pictures and return the books.

  23. OMG.....Lovely photos.....Cute cucumber cart......Great work....

  24. wow... I loovvvve that first picture...simply gorgeous!!! Hope you had a nice vacation shn...

  25. Lovely pics and very innovative in presentation...I have to try your recipe for pita bread, donno when i gotta time to do many on my list already...the decorative curls looks awesome!

  26. Gorgeous is the word for this presentation. Can't help drooling.
    Do you think this is fair? Where is my share gal?

  27. The first picture is fabulous. This is a grand post Shn:) I am a vegetarian but can imagine all the fun you had with the food there. Thanx for sharing :) I am going to try pita bread and the dip. You have explained it so well with tips :)

  28. i have been drooling on my laptop girl... love any kind of Middle eastern/Mediterranean fare.... looks very yummm... am bookmarking the recipe... thanks for sharing...

  29. Hi, really impressed with your blog and yummy recipes. Thanks for dropping at my blog, with your comments only, I caught your blog. Once again thanks. Keep on visiting.

    BTW your detailed post and great tips were so helpful. All the photos are really beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  30. wow! i was just staring at the first picture for a while!
    will have to try the pita bread sometime!
    and your cucumber boat again proves your creativity!

  31. Yes, you certainly did stir up my appetite! And seeing as I was just hit by an attack of the mid-afternoon munchies I think it's safe to say I'll be obsessing about your blog until dinner!

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  32. I love pita bread...your's look perfect...great presentation :)

  33. Um, YES, you stirred up my appetite! Thanks for the lovely post and that particularly artful presentation of the yogurt sauce.

  34. shn, your mint photo is so pretty! i totally have to try your pita recipe...the ones i have did not work well, yours look wonderful! the festival you went to had some great food! i love, love, love the galactiboureki! (i know i spelled THAT wrong!) lol!

  35. You actually made Pita bread at home??? Wow!!! I haven't ever tried making it's always been the store bought ones for me. Yours look perfect.

  36. Like your tips my dear.....thanks for sharing......Nice post from simple dish but looks very yummy.:)

  37. Enthoru kalakkan post kanmaniye! kalakalakkan! cucumber boats....
    oh, how im going to show off in my next party!:)

  38. Shn, you never fail to amaze me! Once again, you should be writing that book :)

    I had a Lebanese neighbor years ago -- we used to eat kibbe with raw lamb (!) and hummous with chick peas still warm from the pressure cooking. I have wanted to try making pita bread, so really appreciate all your tips! If you like Lebanese food, try that brushed with melted ghee and a sprinkle of zatar ;)

    The yogurt dip looks yummy too, especially in the adorable cucumber basket :)

  39. Perfecto! fluffy and looks tooooooooooo good......I'll be definitely trying this pita bread recipe. I love middle eastern food too but haven't tried middle eastern desserts yet....will have to try them next time. Thanks Shn for sharing this wonderful recipe.


  40. Roopa, Thank you dear :) Let me know your experience and the end result if you give it a try.

    Anh, heheh...I am greedy too dear...I cant resist food and food temptation :)

    Sra, You be glad that I gave you only the list and not the pictures of those probably would have attacked me :)) yes, looking through the pics of cookbooks is a fun affair but i havent picked any after that first time :P

    Musical, why dont you give it a's worth the effort :)

    Coffee, hahaha...I can see you sitting right there with wide open you scoop just for you :)))

    Bee, that comment was from a team who takes gorgeous pics, huh ? thanks so much :)

    Vcuisine, am sure you have already tried out a pita recipe....i always admire your energy and cooking skills !!

    Jyothsna, yes, I LOVE those desserts, though I am not one with a sweet-tooth :) as long as you re in ME, you dont have to make pitas , Lucky YOU :)

    Suganya, Thank you:) Those curls are made with green onions/scallion, not cucumbers.

    Cinnamon, thank you and a warm welcome to Mishmash!

    Sia, if you have already made Naan, this is easier for can prepare the dough in advance too, if you re too busy to do everything the same day :)

    Asha, it's surprising to me that you have not tried pita so's a kid's play for you...and once you start making them at home, you will never buy it from stores....infact we also had it with chicken tikka that day :)

    Indosungod,home made ones are tastier...try making this at home and then you will not use the store bought one :)

    Maninas, yes,,,is there any difference from the one you tried out ?

    Laavanya, yes, the dip is lip-smacking...surely creamy and dreamy :)

    Sandeepa, "you bloggers " ???? so who are you , madam..?? :)))yes, the dip is totally mast-mast :) try and see for yourself :)

    Manasi, thank you so much , my friend :) try this dip, if you have not yet made it at home...I vouch for it :)

    Sharmi, thank re always encouraging in your comments :)

    Poonam, thanks :) Welcome to Mishmash! :)

    RP, your GBP entry is grand...i saw that post...btw, if u re in a mood to try the pita again, give this recipe a chance....since you have already tried once, i am sure your second attempt will yield very good results :)

    Susan, thank you dear :)

    Pravs, hehhe....the problem with is that when I see those tempting pics, I get hungry :P

    Sukanya, Thanks :)

    Sig, thanks dear...yes i did laze around for some days :P

    Padma, thanks...thanks :) do try and let me know :)

    foodie, come home, i will treat you properly :)

    Archana, hope it comes out well for you...pls do let me know if you give it a sure you will like both :)

    Priyanka, thanks so much...let me know if it works for you or not :)

    Jyothi, thanks so much and welcome to Mishmash!

    Nanditha, thanks dear....this veggie treat is for you guys :)

    Ari, hahha.,.thanks so much :)

    Sunita, thank you :)

    Mona, thank you:) I cant see your page..pls share the link

    Susan, thanks dear :)

    Cinderelly, hey I was thinking of you that day when I saw the belly dancers :)) you cant spell ir right, and guess what, i can never pronounce it right :D

    Jayashree, thanks :) Why dont you give it a try. ?

    kajal, thank you :)

    Inji Pennu, hehhe,....oru thamasha -kkari thanne :)) enna adutha party ? :)

    Linda, which book, dear :))) raw lamb...ewww !!i have never used zatar...will check out that in my next grocery shopping....infact in that book i read that pita , in some places will be brushed with some waiter , to get rid of the extra flour and to get a glazed look....I wish you all the best in your pita adventure...let me know how it comes out for you...dip is too good , trust me :)

    Rg, thanks for dropping by....let me know if it turns out well for you...hope you like it :)


  41. Have always enjoyed the pita breads in the greek restaurants..urs look really good n easy to prepare..worth giving a try..

  42. Hi! when i googled to get some recipes found ur blog..and actually tried 2 recipes from it..pita bread ant the agar agar pudding.Both turned out great!I made pita with my mom so on the whole it was a great experience and my husband loved the pudding.Thankyou so much-just thot i owed u that.

  43. Anon, that was so nice of you to drop a word and leave your feedback. Means a lot..:) Thank You !


  44. Hey its me again!! :)

    Tried your recipe and it was fantastic!!

    see this link :

    Thanks for another brilliant recipe!!


  45. OMG - those pitas look divine. I simply must try them.....

  46. I tried your recipe and it turned out amazing!! I let several people try them and the verdict was unanimously delicious. I did make a few changes. I used bread flour in place of the wheat flour because I did not want to run to the store. I also used olive oil instead of vegetable oil for the flavor. Your extra tips where very helpful and I must admit I was somewhat intimidated after reading other readers comments but it was fairly easy, just time consuming. Thank you so much for your fabulous recipe! :)

  47. I tried your recipe and it turned out amazing!! I let several people try them and the verdict was unanimously delicious. I did make a few changes. I used bread flour in place of the wheat flour because I did not want to run to the store. I also used olive oil instead of vegetable oil for the flavor. Your extra tips where very helpful and I must admit I was somewhat intimidated after reading other readers comments but it was fairly easy, just time consuming. Thank you so much for your fabulous recipe! :)


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