Monday, December 2, 2013

Homemade Pita Bread, Tahini and Pickles


I spent almost half my lifetime in Oman but my experience with Arabic food is very limited. Hardly surprising, because Salalah, the town I lived in was more or less like Kerala. It was surprisingly green for a desert, got the occasional rainfall that the Arabs loved to watch and most importantly, the place was infested with malayalees. I know, I know, the gulf is teeming with our kind but if it hadn't been for the Arab's blatant disregard for family planning, we would have surely outnumbered them in Salalah. The interaction with locals was minimal - the only one I can recall as of now is being chased by a Arab boy till I fell off my cycle. Indians had a separate school, shops and offices were managed by Indians and other nationals and even the hospital and clinics had Indian staff; thereby cultural influence was minimal. So, like all other malayalees, we went to Indian and Indianized Chinese restaurants and places serving Arabic food (if there were any at the time) were totally ignored.

Not to say I haven't eaten any Arabic food at all. 

We had the Khubz or Arabic pita bread once in a while. 

Then there were several delicious shawarma sandwiches that came to their end at my hands. Funnily enough, it was not until I came back to India and my college friend excitedly told me about a new shawarma place that had opened up in Cochin that I came to know that a shawarma was called a, em, shawarma. The sandwich is very commonly available here now, but they all say that it nowhere as good as the original one from the Arab world. Ah, how I would like a bite of it now.

There was the whole grilled chicken available throughout the length and breadth of the town. It was minimally spiced, had crispy brown skin and was mind blowing tender and delicious. Different families gave different names to the grilled chicken. My favourite one was circus kozhi - circus chicken - because of the way the chicken went round and round as it slowly cooked on the rotisserie. 

Then there were beautiful lamb kababs that was served with a green salad and khubz. I have no idea what these kababs were called, but I remember fighting tooth and nail for the last one left with my brother Believe me, they were good enough to die for (or kill for, as almost happened in my family several times).

Sadly, I have not had the famed hummus, kibbeh or tasaly. I can only wonder if the Saudi kabsa is in any similar to our own Hyderabadi biryani and if the parippuvada is an offspring of falalef. But wait, with all those blogs out there, I should be able to create at least a few of these dishes at home! 

Pita Bread

3 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk together sugar, yeast and 1/2 cup warm water. Cover and stand in a warm place for 10 minutes or until frothy.

In a large bowl, mix wheat flour, plain flour, salt, olive oil and yeast mixture. Pour in remaining water little by little and mix well. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes till smooth.

Keep in an oiled bowl, cover with a moist tea cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place till double in size. Divide the dough into 13 balls and let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Shape each dough ball into a cylinder, roll it up and flatten into a round disc. Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 15 cm round.

Heat a pan over medium high. When the pan is hot, cook the pita bread on one side for a minute. Flip over and cook the other side. The bread should puff up while cooking. 

You can simply apply some olive oil on the hot pita and sprinkle over some dried herbs like parsley, oregano, basil and sesame seeds over it. Or else serve with a tahini sauce and pickle. 

Tahini is ground sesame seed paste. It is used in many middle Eastern dishes like hummus and also makes a great base for healthy dressings. To make tahini, toast 4 cups of sesame seeds over low flame, tossing the seeds frequently. It should take about 8 minutes. Once the seeds have cooled down, blend the toasted seeds with 8 tablespoons olive oil. Refrigerate in airtight container.

Tahini Sauce with yoghurt

1/4 cup tahini
1 cup yoghurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons water
1-2 garlic cloves (the small kind), grated
Salt & Pepper

Combine tahini, yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and water. Adjust seasoning. Mix in lemon juice before serving.

Note: Adjust consistency as you wish using olive oil and water.

Pickled onions

4 onion, sliced
5-6 thin beetroot slices (for colour)
2 green chilies, sliced
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Whisk together vinegar, sugar and water till sugar is completely dissolved. Pour over onions, beetroot and green chilies. Refrigerate in glass container for atleast two days before using.
Note: You can add spices for flavor.

Ma’a salama!


  1. I was just about to enter the kitchen to cook the dinner and looking at the pita bread I am going to change the menu ;-)
    It looks perfect and so inviting!

  2. i love pita bread... if it wasnt so difficult to make id be eating it regularly :)
    gorgeous pictures.

  3. I so love Arab and Middle Eastern food Leena and Lance say I think I am Arab. You should also try using sumak and lots of parsley in your ingredients.
    Read a couple of books by Ottolenghi - Jerusalem and Plenty. The second one is all vegetarian - perfect for 50-noyembu. Definitely the best books I have seen

    1. I wanted sumak, but couldn't get hold of it. Just going through Ottolenghi site. Very interesting.

  4. Homemade pita! you have made it so well.
    Kurachu kozhi kudi ittirunekil kidilam akkum:)

  5. perfectly clicked and they look mouthwatering....Felt like grabbing them off the screen

  6. Pita looks like store brought :) so perfectly done Indu

  7. I love Pita and I prefer the homemade over store bought ones. Addition of Tahini and pickled veggies makes it yum.

  8. Pitas look so good. I hate sticky dough but have to get over my inhibitions. very nice post.

  9. Looks so good I am hungry looking at your pics great shot and lovely recipe :)

  10. Yummy looking soft bread..
    First time have a beautiful blog and lovely recipes.
    Following you..visit my place in your free time.

  11. The best shawarma sandwiches I have had were in the language college I studied in Moscow, russia. I could die for a bite of that chicken shawarma sandwich right now. My experience with home made Pita has not been good. Yours on the other hand look great! And I like the sound of circus chicken! I think that's what I am going to call it from now on. Merry Christmas Indu. It was nice reading about your experience in Oman.

  12. Wow its so delicious and I've searching this kind of recipe, Thanks God I found it. I'm a personal chef in austin and I love to cook. Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Indu he bread looks fresh and filling...very inviting. Am nominating you for the "Liebster award".. Please follow the link to grab your award.
    wishing you a happy new year


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