Israeli twist on the humble courgette

– Amba spiced courgettes with barberries and labneh –

From the kitchen of Emma Spitzer

Amba is a commonly used spice throughout Israel. It has a tangy, sharp and slightly spicy flavour which can really enhance a humble ordinary vegetable like a courgette. You can find Amba, also known as mango powder, from most middle-eastern supermarkets, or failing that, Amazon stock it. I would happily offer a substitute spice if there was one but the uniqueness of this dish lies in its really distinctive flavour. Feel free however to substitute the barberries if you can’t find them with raisins.

Serves 4


  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 2 courgettes, halved length wise and sliced
  • 1 tsp of Amba spice
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 heaped tbsp of labneh – see below
  • 25 grams of pine nuts, toasted
  • 25 grams of barberries


Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for around 5 minutes until they are starting to soften. Add the courgettes and the amba spice and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes until the courgettes are cooked through and starting to brown. Remove from the heat and season with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt if needed.

Spread the labneh onto a serving dish, top with the courgettes and garnish with the pine nuts and barberries.


Labneh is the Middle Eastern equivalent of mayonnaise; the recipe is as simple as its one word title. Tangy and sharp, this cheese is made from straining yoghurt and removing the whey. It’s a good job it’s so easy to make as it’s highly addictive. 

Makes enough for 8 portions


  • 1kg of full fat organic natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp of salt


Combine the yoghurt with the salt and place in a sieve lined with a large piece of muslin or cheesecloth. Bring the four corners of the cloth together and secure with some string or a clip. Suspend the sieve over a deep bowl with enough between the bottom of the sieve and bowl to catch all the liquid that drains off the yogurt. Place in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours but preferably overnight, or up for 48 hours; the longer you leave it to strain, the firmer the labneh will be.

To serve; remove the now firm labneh from the cloth, place into a bowl, make a small dip in the top with the back of a spoon and add some good quality olive oil. Alternatively, you could roll the labneh into balls with lightly oiled hands and store in some olive oil with your favourite herbs. They will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

Note: try adding a tsp or two of za’atar or sumac for a colourful and zingy dip, or thin down with some garlic and lemon juice for a nice dressing.



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