New Middle Eastern Street FoodSnacks, Comfort Food, and Mezze from Snackistan

This book picks out the Middle East’s most exciting street foods and meze dishes, together with a variety of homely and simple snack recipes elicited from family and friends.

Hot on the heels of The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian, Sally Butcher brings us The New Middle Eastern Street Food Cookbook: a fabulous collection of quick, healthy, and easy-to-prepare recipes from Snackistan, a fictitious land where tummies are always full, and there’s a slightly naughty smile on every face. It features simple fare that people actually eat on a daily basis: street food, or dishes they prepare at home, or cook to share with friends, or look forward to indulging in at the end of the week. Street food has come of age and, increasingly, formal dining is being nudged aside in favor of meze-style spreads. In malls and farmers markets across the world, food on the hoof has become a stylish and popular way to feed.

Sally Butcher is a London-based food writer and cookbook author. She runs Persepolis, the acclaimed Persian food store in London. Her most recent book The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian (also published by Interlink) has been a hugely successful and was shortlisted for the Guild of Food Writers’ Cookery Book of the Year Award. Her first book, Persia in Peckham, was also published to critical acclaim and short-listed for the 2008 Andre Simon Award. It was also selected by the Sunday Times as their cookbook of the year. When Sally is not running her store, she blogs and tweets prolifically and has amassed a devoted online following.






This is one of our most popular imported products in our store: the salty citrusy flavor is impossible to resist. In case you can’t make it to Peckham to buy them from us, here’s everything you’ll need to re-create the scrumdiddlyumptiousness of them in your own home.




2/3 cup/150ml lemon juice (fresh is best, but you can cheat and use good bottled stuff)


½ tsp ground saffron steeped in 2/3 cups/150ml boiling water


11/3 cups/7oz/200g raw almonds


3 tbsp olive oil


1½ tsp sea salt


1 tsp citric acid (aka lemon salt) 


Mix the lemon juice and saffron water together. Spread the almonds out in a shallow dish, and trickle the juice-water over them, turning the nuts over in the liquid so that they are well coated. Leave them for around an hour, turning them occasionally.


After the time is up, drain the almonds and pat dry: unless you are at least a rial millionaire, I insist that you retain the saffron marinade in the name of thrift.*


Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.** Spread the almonds out on a small baking tray and bake them for around 10 minutes.


Next mix the oil and salts together in a bowl then tip in the hot almonds, stirring with a spoon to ensure that the nuts are all coated. Spread them back onto the baking tray and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, or until they are a rich golden brown.


Leave to cool a little before sampling: these dudes get really hot in the oven. I speak from burned-tongue experience. They will keep for 2–3 days: after that, they start to go a little soft, so best just to eat them all up real quick.


*Tip: Keep it in a little jar in the fridge. You can add it to fish, vegetables, salad dressings, roast chicken…Or just use it for more nuts.


**Note: As a serious food writer (ahem), I am undoubtedly supposed to be writing about the proper way to do stuff, but look: between you and I, these work out just as well in the microwave. Instead of cooking them for 10 minutes followed by a further 10–15, just cook them for 3 minutes followed by another 5 minutes. Obviously all microwaves vary, so do check that they are “roasted” to your satisfaction. They will seem soft at first, but crisp up as they cool.



Lady Beet has but to lie down on a plate to look effortlessly alluring—if she was a real woman I’d hate her. Jesting aside, you really don’t need to do much to this thrifty little root to turn it into a fine snack or mezze dish, and this salad is nothing if not simple.




3 medium beets

scant ½ cup/100ml plain, runny yogurt (runny usually = cheap)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sekanjebin* (optional—you could just use 1 fat tsp honey instead)

 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 level tsp ground cardamom

¾ in/2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

handful of fresh mint, shredded


Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.


Top and tail the beets, retaining any of the prettier parts of foliage still attached, then wrap them in foil and bake for around 1½ hours, or until they are tender when prodded. Unwrap and allow to cool a little.


When the beets are cool enough to handle, slice into 18 in/3mm (ish) thick rounds and arrange on a pretty platter. You can enjoy this salad at any temperature you like: still-warm works for us.


Whisk the yogurt with the oil, sekanjebin, vinegar, spices, and seasoning before drizzling it artistically over the beets. Strew the shredded mint over it along with any retained beet tops. Try not to drool: it is very unbecoming.





1½ cups/350ml water

1¾ cups/350g sugar

4 tbsp white vinegar

a dozen sprigs of fresh mint, shredded


This stuff is so useful—I sneak it into all kinds of recipes. You can buy it in Middle Eastern stores, but it takes just 10 minutes to make your own…


Place the water in a pan, add the sugar, and bring to a boil. Bubble for 10 minutes, remove from the heat, and add the vinegar. When it is a bit cooler, add the mint, bottle, and chill.  


Handy hint: If, like me, you enjoy beets with a little too much gusto, be advised that white vinegar and cold water and baking soda go a long way towards removing beet stains.


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