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Easy Middle Eastern Dishes to make in college

Bring a taste of home with you to college with these fun and simple recipes!

Have you ever been to a Middle Eastern restaurant and, upon taking the first bite of your meal, instantly fallen in love with the food? You want to make it yourself, so you try to remember the name of the dish and Google the recipe when you get home. You look through the recipe, taking note of all the spices that contributed to the rich, flavorful experience you enjoyed earlier. The foreign names may intimidate you, and you may potentially give up the whole idea of trying to remake your newfound favorite dish at home. Or, if you’re feeling determined, you may go through with the recipe, but the finished product just doesn’t feel the same.

Worry not! This article details five simple and easy Middle Eastern dishes that use familiar kitchen tools and accessible ingredients found at your nearest grocery store.

Lentil Soup

Lentils are a staple in Middle Eastern dishes, just as this recipe is sure to become a staple in your fall and wintertime diet. This hearty soup is rich and filling, making it perfect for a college student looking to warm up with a hot meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of yellow lentils.
  • One tomato.
  • Two onions.
  • One carrot.
  • One potato.
  • Three cloves of garlic.
  • 1 teaspoon of each of the following spices: cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
  • Oil (for frying the onions).
  • 4 cups of water.
  • Salt to taste.

Directions:

  • Cut up the tomato, carrot, potato and garlic in a bowl and add the spices to the mixture.
  • Pour water into a pot and add in the vegetable and spice mixture.
  • Simmer until vegetables are soft, then turn off the heat.
  • When cooled, blend in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Bring the mixture back to a boil, then turn off the heat.
  • Mince the onions and fry with oil until golden brown, then set aside.
  • Serve soup warm and top with fried onions.

Bonus tip: Add in pita bread pieces from the hummus recipe below for texture and a delicious crunch!

Um Ali

Although this decadent dessert has a dark backstory, its grim origin is no match for its heavenly flavor and delicate texture.

Ingredients:

  • Four large croissants.
  • 1/2 cup of sugar.
  • 2 cups of milk.
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream.
  • 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut.
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins.
  • 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts, or any other nut you prefer.
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Directions:

  • Add milk, sugar, vanilla and cream to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then set aside.
  • Tear apart the croissants into small pieces and add to a baking dish.
  • Top croissants with nuts, raisins and shredded coconut.
  • Pour the milk mixture over the croissant pieces.
  • Broil in oven until golden brown.
  • Cool and enjoy!

Shakshouka

This popular Middle Eastern breakfast food is sure to literally spice up your mornings.

Ingredients:

  • Four eggs.
  • 1 large onion.
  • 1/4 cup of parsley.
  • One large tomato.
  • Two cloves of garlic.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of each of the following spices: cayenne pepper, black pepper, cumin powder and salt.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1/2 cup of cheese (whichever you prefer, such as mozzarella, parmesan, feta, cheddar, etc.).

Directions:

  • Mince the onion, parsley, tomato and garlic cloves.
  • Sauté the onions and garlic in a saucepan with the olive oil, then add the tomatoes and mix thoroughly.
  • Add the salt, cayenne pepper, cumin powder and black pepper to the pan and mix well to combine all of the ingredients.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk to combine yolks and egg whites, then pour into the saucepan.
  • Add the minced parsley to the pan and wait until the egg is fully cooked.
  • Sprinkle on your cheese and allow it to melt on top of the dish.
  • Allow to slightly cool, then serve.

Bonus tip: Add 1/4 cup of dill, mince, then add to the dish with the parsley for an extra tangy kick!

Roz be Laban (Egyptian Rice Pudding)

A dessert commonly served on special occasions in Middle Eastern culture, celebrate your college successes with this delectable treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of washed rice.
  • 3 cups of water.
  • 2 cups of milk.
  • 1/2 cup of sugar.
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream.
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch.
  • 2 additional tablespoons of milk.
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
  • 1 teaspoon of rosewater.
  • Chopped pistachios, raisins or other preferred toppings.

Directions:

  • Add rice and water to a saucepan and allow water to boil.
  • Simmer until the rice is very soft and the water is gone.
  • Add the milk (2 cups), cream and sugar to the cooked rice and stir until combined. The mixture should now have a creamy texture.
  • Mix together the cornstarch and milk (2 tablespoons) in a separate bowl, then pour into the rice mixture in the saucepan.
  • Add vanilla and rosewater to the mixture, then stir until combined.
  • Pour the pudding into serving bowls and top as desired.

Hummus and Pita Chips

Perhaps one of the most well-known Middle Eastern dishes, hummus is loved by all who come across it. Luckily, it’s also the simplest recipe to make in this article!

Hummus

Ingredients:

  • One can of chickpeas.
  • 1/4 cup of tahini sauce.
  • One lemon, juiced.
  • 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar.
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt and cumin powder each.
  • Two cloves of garlic.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
  • Four large ice cubes.

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until creamy.
  • Pour mixture into serving dish.
  • Garnish with olive oil and cayenne pepper.
  • Yep, that’s it!

Bonus tip: Use a spoon to make a little well in the middle of the hummus once it’s in the serving dish. This will allow the olive oil to sit in the middle of the dish, while the cayenne pepper is sprinkled around the rim. Not only does this produce a beautiful appearance, but it allows you and any others you share your creation with to decide how much olive oil you want in your hummus. It also keeps the hummus from drying out in the middle. You may also top the dish with olives as a finishing touch.

Pita Chips

Ingredients:

  • Pita bread.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Salt.
  • Pepper.
  • Garlic powder.
  • Onion powder.
  • Note: All amounts of seasonings/spices are to taste and based on preference.

Directions:

  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and cover with one tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Cut pita bread into four to six triangles, depending on the size of the bread and how large you want your chips to be.
  • Place pita bread pieces on a baking sheet in rows, then drizzle the remaining olive oil on them.
  • Sprinkle the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder on top.
  • Bake in the oven until golden brown.
  • Chips should be crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside.

Perfect for the busy college student, these recipes can adapt to your tiny dorm kitchens and limited cooking equipment, space and time. Refer to this list the next time you’re looking to try something new in your dorm kitchen or craving one of your favorite Middle Eastern dishes.

Writer Profile

Salma Heram

George Washington University
Biology, minor in Korean and Public Health

Salma is a sophomore at the George Washington University and lives in Richmond, Virginia. When not juggling her college course load, she loves photography, writing, exploring different cultures and trying new foods.

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