Middle eastern breakfast, take 2: homemade staples

It’s the weekend, you are not in the mood for fool, falafel or hummus. Does that mean you can’t enjoy a big middle eastern family breakfast?

Definitely not!

A few middle eastern kitchen staples are enough to give you a colorful and tasty spread to enjoy with minimum effort

In this post I’ll cover part two of my middle eastern breakfast trio:Homemade staples like labneh, nabulsi cheese, jams, zaatar , dukka and olive oil.

zaatar and dukka

Dukka and zaatar

Dukkah and zaatar are spice blends popular in the Middle East. Zaatar is a herb based spice blend while dukka uses nuts or legumes as its base. Zaatar and dukka are usually served with some olive oil and warm pita bread. To eat them you dip the bread in the olive oil then the dukka or zaatar. The result is an explosion of flavors : a wonderful blend of spices, nutty fruity olive oil and chewy bread.

labneh balls chef in disguise


If there is one item you will probably find in every middle eastern house hold, it will be labneh. Labneh makes a wonderful sandwich with a few mint leaves or some pitted olives or better yet with a sprinkle of zaatar, it is also a great base for dips. To put it simply labneh is strained yogurt, it is super easy to make and very tasty and the best part is, you can flavor it any way you like. Mint, oregano, sumac, olives, chili flakes, your imagination is the limit


Nabulsi cheese:

Nabulsi (or naboulsi) cheese is one of the most popular white brined cheeses made in the Middle East. Its name denotes its place of origin, Nablus, Palestine  Nabulsi cheese is white and rectangular in shape. It is semi-hard with no gas holes. It becomes soft and elastic when heated making it idea for frying or grilling. It can be eaten fresh as salty table cheese, can be used as a stuffing for phylo dough, short crust pastry or a simple pita pocket. Fried in oil, it makes a great appetizer or breakfast item (you can see fried nabulsi cheese on the right behing the labneh in my picture)

olive oil and seeds bread chef in disguise

Seeds and olive oil bread

I usually have a bag of this bread stashed in my freezer at all times.All I need to do is heat it for a few minutes, make some tea, add sliced tomatoes and  nabulsi cheese and voila! Breakfast!

What makes this bread special is the combination of seeds (sesame, Nigella and anise seeds), spices (mahlab, ground anise and ground fennel)  and olive oil. The seeds add texture and little bursts of flavor when you bite into them. While the olive oil adds a nutty rich flavor and a beautiful yellowish hue. The characteristic pattern that sets this bread apart comes from the hand carved wooden molds traditionally used in making this bread.

Braided cheese

string cheese

Armenian string cheese الجبنه المشلشله or Syrian string cheese as it is often refered to in the middle east is a type of milk string cheese made in much the same way as mozzarella is but what sets it apart is the addition of mahlab, nigella seeds and the unique braided or plaited shape. The braid makes this cheese a fun snack for kids and adults alike. unbraiding it and eating it strand by strand is only part of the fun. This Armenian string cheese is perfect for making grilled cheese sandwiches or using as a stuffing into pastry and fatayer as it melts beautifully.

Homemade jam

strawberry jam

The type of jam can vary with the season, from strawberries in the spring to orange jam in winter and cherry jam in the summer

No matter what the season is, homemade jam is a great option to add color and a sweet note to any breakfast spread

You can find part 1 of this series here and part 3 here