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Budget Bites

Easy everyday dinners from the Middle East

If the flavours of the Middle East are your jam but you are short on time and cash, give these recipes a whirl, says Hannah Twiggs. Three yummy dishes, two new cooking methods, one region, zero stress

Tuesday 04 October 2022 10:06 BST
Menemen is a popular traditional Turkish dish
Menemen is a popular traditional Turkish dish (Sorted Food)

Middle Eastern cuisine is vibrant and packed full of flavour – and easily achievable at home without breaking the bank. With these three quick and easy to follow recipes (featuring two unique cooking methods), plus one handy shopping list, your dinners this week are sorted. Maximum flavour, minimal stress.

If you loved the trendy panzanella we were all making in the summer, then you’ll enjoy the fattoush recipe below. The menemen, similar to shakshuka but scrambled, is an easy everyday winner. And for a not-so-traditional take on a Persian mainstay, try the cheat’s halloumi tachin.

As part of our Budget Bites column – in response to the rising cost of living we teamed up with Sorted Food to bring you easy, affordable, quick and (most importantly) tasty recipes once a month – the below dishes are perfect for time-poor cooks on a budget.

One shopping list with ingredients used across all recipes also ensures minimal food waste, making your weekly food shop go that bit further. You just need to decide where to shop, and when to cook! Run, don’t walk…

Shopping list

  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 x 20g packet fresh dill
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 x 30g packet fresh mint
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 200g Greek yoghurt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 225g halloumi
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato puree
  • Smoked paprika
  • Ground cumin
  • 50g couscous
  • 250g microwave white rice
  • 6 pitta breads

Menemen with pitta breads

Menemen is a bit like shakshuka, only scrambled. Pair this one with some super quick garlic rubbed pittas – an easy everyday win.

Serves: 2


1 brown onion

2 green bell peppers

50g unsalted butter

3 pitta breads

3 tbsp tomato purée/tomato paste

1 tbsp smoked paprika

4 large eggs

1 clove garlic

10g fresh dill


1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Halve, peel and finely dice 1 onion, then deseed and finely dice 2 green peppers.

3. Tip 50g of butter into a medium frying pan and place it over a medium heat. Once the fat starts to foam, add in the onion and bell pepper. Season with a pinch of salt.

4. Fry for 6-8 minutes, tossing occasionally, until softened and golden in places. Get on with the rest of the dish in the next steps while you wait.

5. Cut 3 pittas in half crossways and lay them on a medium baking tray.

6. Pop the tray into the oven and bake the pittas for 8-10 minutes, until deep golden brown.

7. Once the veg has softened, add 3 tbsp of tomato paste and 1 tbsp of paprika. Fry everything for a further 2-3 minutes, until the tomato paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.

8. Add 100ml of water. As the liquid comes to a boil, make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to release any caramelised bits – this is where the flavour is! Season to taste with a generous pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper.

9. Once the liquid has come to a boil, reduce the heat to low and crack in 4 eggs. Slowly give everything a mix, creating large curds of white and yolk. Once the eggs are mostly cooked but raw in places, take the pan off the heat and allow the eggs to cook in the residual heat while you finish the dish.

10. Peel 1 clove of garlic and cut in half. Once the pittas are ready, rub the garlic all over the pittas and load them onto a serving plate.

11. Give the eggs one final mix and rip over large fronds from 10g of dill. Take the pan and the plate with the pittas to the table and tuck in family style!

Fattoush with garlic yoghurt

This classic Middle Eastern salad makes for a crunchy, light dinner or fun packed lunch (Sorted Food)

Fattoush is the Middle East’s answer to Panzanella – pitta breads are baked till crisp and folded through a couscous salad.

Serves: 2


3 pitta bread

1 tsp smoked paprika

4 tbsp olive oil

50g couscous

200g cherry tomatoes

¼ cucumber

1 red onion

20g fresh mint

10g fresh dill

75g Greek yoghurt

1 clove garlic

1 tsp ground cumin


1. Preheat the oven to 200C, fill a kettle and put it on to boil.

2. Cut 3 pitta breads into bitesized squares and tip them onto a medium baking tray, along with 1 tsp of smoked paprika and 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Give everything agood mix, season with a pinch of salt and spread everything out into 1 even layer.

3. Bake the pitta in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until crisp andgolden. Get on with the next step while you wait.

4. Tip 50g of couscous into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and season with agenerous pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper.

5. Tip in enough boiling water from the kettle to just cover the grains andgive them a quick stir with a fork. Set aside and allow the couscous to soften while youget on with the rest of the dish in the next steps.

6. Cut 200g of cherry tomatoes in half and dice ¼ of a cucumber into similar-sized chunks. Halve, peel and finely dice 1 red onion, then wash in a sieve under cold running water – this will reduce its harshness.

7. Finely chop 20g of mint and 5g of the dill. We will use the remaining 5g of dill for garnish later.

8. Once the couscous has softened, chuck in the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and chopped herbs. Give everything a good mix.

9. Once the pitta is ready, chuck it into the bowl with the couscous and veg. Toss everything together again and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set the bowl aside and allow the pitta to soften slightly in the salad while you make thegarlic yoghurt in the next step.

10. Dollop 75g of yoghurt into a small bowl. Peel and finely grate in 1 clove ofgarlic. Beat everything together and season to taste with salt.

11. Divide the salad between bowls and dollop on the garlic yoghurt. Top with large fronds from the remaining 5g of dill. Sprinkle over 1 tsp of cumin and serve.

Cheat’s halloumi tachin with cucumber yoghurt

A cake made of rice and cheese? Say no more (Sorted Food)

Tachin is a mainstay of many a Persian dinner spread. We have added crispy halloumi to this not-so-traditional take a classic baked rice dish.

Serves: 2


¾ cucumber

250g microwave white rice

2 large eggs

125g Greek yoghurt

1 tsp ground cumin

2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

225g halloumi

10g fresh mint


1. Coarsely grate ¾ of a cucumber into a bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt. Set aside and allow the salt to draw some moisture from the cucumber while youget on with the next steps.

2. Microwave a 250g pouch of rice for half the manufacturer’s stipulated time to soften it slightly.

3. Beat 2 eggs in a large mixing bowl with 25g of the yoghurt and 1 tsp of cumin – we will use the rest of the yoghurt later. Peel, then finely grate in 1 clove of the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Tip the warmed rice into the egg mix and fold everything together, ensuring all the grains are coated.

4. Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a small, oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat.

5. Once the oil starts to loosen, rip bite-sized chunks from a 250g block of halloumi. Fry for 1-2 minutes, until the chunks are golden on 1 side. Preheat the grill to its highest temperature while you wait.

6. Flip the chunks of halloumi, then tip the tachin mix into the pan and fully cover them. Use a tablespoon to press the rice mixture down and smooth it out on top.

7. Fry for 5-6 minutes, until the halloumi chunks and tachin mix are light golden brown on the underside.

8. Pop the whole pan under the grill and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, until the top is light golden brown. Get on with the rest of the dish in the next steps while you wait.

9. While the tachin grills, squeeze any moisture from the cucumber over the sink and return it to the bowl.

10. Peel and finely grate in 1 clove of garlic and add the remaining 100g of yoghurt. Give everything a good mix, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

11. Once the tachin is ready, carefully turn it out onto a chopping board. Cut it into wedges.

12. Divide the cucumber yoghurt between plates and lower on the tachin wedges. Finish with the leaves from 10g of mint. Get involved!

Recipes from Sidekick, which publishes a wide choice of ‘Smarter Recipe Packs’, each containing three awesome recipes that work together to make sure nothing is wasted. The app then provides a full shopping list of ingredients to buy – you choose where, so you can shop local or online. These are used multiple times across the dishes, meaning users are left with zero food waste at the end of the week. Subscriptions start at £4.99 per month. Head to find out more.

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