Recipes from Caravan-Serai

Our friends over at Caravan-Serai published an impressive “12 Days of Holiday Cooking” and we’d thought we’d share a couple of our favorite with you. These are all holiday dishes with a Middle Eastern twist.

Caravan-Sarai is a Seattle-based tour company that specializes in Middle Eastern travel. They have expanded beyond to Iran, the Caucasus, and Cuba. Travel to Cuba includes a qualified guide, accommodation, most meals, and connections with charter flights to and from Havana. These are perfect for special interest groups visiting Cuba—call Willamette Intl Travel for learn more: 503-224-0180 or email

Not traveling in a group? Individual or Couples travel to Cuba is a budding trend but there are many ways to tour the islands: again, call us to find out more.

For now, check out the recipes below, guaranteed to warm you up on a cold winter’s night:

1. Pumpkin Moutabal

This is a simple, tasty appetizer, similar to baba ghanoush.

• One small pumpkin (any kind will do)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 2 cups of yogurt
• 2 Tbsp of tahini sauce
• Salt to taste
• Olive Oil to drizzle on top

Cut one small pumpkin in half and roast it in the oven until it becomes soft. Scoop out the seeds and throw them away – if you like roasted pumpkin seeds scoop them out and keep them for later. Scoop the flesh out and set it aside. In a separate ball mix the garlic, salt, tahini and yogurt. Add the pumpkin and mash it in to the yogurt mix. Scoop into a serving dish and sprinkle with olive oil and some parsley. Serve with pita bread

2. Moroccan Lamb with Dried Apricots & Prunes

• 2 LB of lamb (preferably lamb shanks)
• 1 large onion finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic crushed
• 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger
• a pinch of safron or more for the color
• salt to taste
• 2TB of melted better
• 2 TB of sesame seeds toasted
• 1/2 cup of sliced or slivered almonds

In a large pot put first the butter the onions and garlic, mix all the spices, sprinkle 1/3 of spices mixture on the onions, rub the lamb with the rest of the spices and put over the onions and garlic. Brown the lamb on low heat till the onions are transparent and the lamb is slightly golden. Then add enough hot water just to cover the lamb. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium – low and cook until the lamb is cooked. Remove the lamb to a plate and keep warm. Reduce the sauce to 1/2 by letting it simmer on low heat. Adjust the taste and heat the lamb with the sauce before serving.

Dried fruit: in 2 separate sauce pans soak the prunes and apricots separately in a little bit of water, cinnamon, and sugar just before cooking add a little bit of the lamb sauce, cook till soft and the sweet sauce is reduced then add a 1/2 ts of orange flower extract before serving. Spoon over the lamb and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the fruit. Note: you can use dried figs or fresh figs instead of prunes and apricots

Suggestion: serve with Couscous as a side dish. Before serving sprinkle with about 2 tsp of orange flower extract, mix with powdered sugar and cinnamon to taste, mix in almonds and serve.

3. Ferial’s Fab Fig-Bar Crumble

For the filling:
½ cup sugar
8-10 fresh figs, diced (a heaping cup) if no fresh figs are available, the filling can be made using “Fig jam” purchased from Middle East markets
½ cup finely chopped walnuts

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, figs and walnuts. Heat until it boils, then set aside to cool.

For the crumb crust/topping:
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (available at Middle Eastern grocers) or substitute ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1¾ cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the crust/topping, in a large mixing bowl cream the brown sugar, butter and oil. Stir in the salt, orange blossom water (or vanilla extract), flour and oats and blend thoroughly. Spread slightly more than half the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 11-by-7-by-2-inch baking pan (pressing into the pan with your fingers).

2. Spread the fig filling over the bottom layer of crust mixture, then “crumble” the remaining crust mixture over the top, pressing lightly. It’s OK if fig filling peeks through. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool before slicing. Serves 12

4. Cuban Pumpkin Soup

And here’s something directly from Cuba — Creamy Pumpkin Soup, popular in autumn and winter.

  • 1 oz butter
    1 onion, diced
    2 pounds peeled and diced pumpkin
    2 tsp. diced Chile pepper
    5 cups chicken stock
    2 springs fresh thyme
    salt and freshly ground pepper
    1/2 cup cream


  • 1/2 cup cream
    1/4 tsp. each ground cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper
    Chopped chives

Melt butter in a heavy sauce pan and sauté the onion until tender. Add the pumpkin, chile pepper, stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the pumpkin is tender. Puree until smooth. Before serving, stir in the cream.

To make the topping, lightly whip the cream with the seasonings. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a little of the whipped cream and some chopped chives.

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