Holly S Warrah

Founder of Arabiczeal.com

American national Holly S. Warah, worked as an English instructor in a college for ten years, before taking on one of the hardest jobs in the world – being a homemaker and mother! The 47-year old from Seattle moved to Dubai over 12 years ago and lives in Umm Suqeim with her three children and Palestinian husband Sami. When Holly isn’t blogging, she also loves writing fiction, reading literature from around the world, travelling and taking photographs, testing recipes and trying out Arabic dishes at various restaurants in the city.

About the blog

Arabic Zeal began over two years ago as I wanted to share my experiences with Arabic food and culture. I find that food is a terrific bridge between people, and in my own small way, I hope it break downs the barriers between Americans and Arabs. Whenever I post a recipe on the blog, I include cultural information, such as how the food is eaten and the significance of the dish, to give it some substance.

Secret ingredient

Pomegranate molasses – I add it to salad dressings, marinades, safiha meat pies and stew. It’s also great as a garnish or drizzled over fattoush and salads, but beware – it’s potent and tart.

Favourite food memory

My first Ramadan experience! I was a newly-wed in Bethlehem, at my husband’s family home, and in the still-dark hours of morning, we were woken by a man walking the streets beating a drum. The neighbourhood came alive, shops and bakeries opened, neighbours bought fresh bread, and the family gathered to eat eggs, hummous, little plates of jam, labneh and chunks of sesame halva, with bites of bread, and strong, sweet mint tea.

A foodie personality I would love to dine with

Martha Stewart. I would ask her what she thought of Dubai when she visited, and serve Middle Eastern mezze – fattoush, grilled bell peppers, fatayer, stuffed eggplant, falafel and grilled halloumi. I’d also tell her the stories behind each dish.

A cookbook close to my heart

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ten Speed Press). The city of Jerusalem is special to me as that is where my husband and I were married. I appreciate the diverse approach of this cookbook, and I can practically smell the food when I see the photos.

Top foodie tips

* Prepare clarified butter by melting a pound of butter, simmering for a few minutes, cooling it down, and then removing the white solids by straining with butter muslin (cheese cloth). Make this in bulk and store in a glass container in the fridge. Use it not only in Middle Eastern pastries and grilled halloumi cheese, but also for crêpes, omelettes, or anything that involves butter and high heat.

* The key to making a traditional American-style pie crust is to roll out the dough only once. If the dough tears, press or glue it back together with a paste of water and flour. Avoid re-rolling as that ruins the flaky layers of the crust, and before baking, brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar to hide any patches.

* If using canned tomatoes for a soup, sauce, or salsa, use cans of Italian whole peeled tomatoes – instead of the chopped ones – and chop them yourself, as the quality and taste of whole tomatoes is superior.


Egyptian foul – I have it with fresh parsley and chopped tomatoes, wheat pita bread and mint tea on the side. It’s a complete meal and the perfect fast food – inexpensive, delicious and healthy!