This soup was inspired a few years back by Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good collection of clean, good-for-you recipes.

Our version incorporates local spices that add warming, Middle Eastern flavors, and we use the broccoli stem as well as the florets to achieve a more substantial, filling soup without adding any potatoes or cream. One of the flavorings we use here is mastic, which may be unfamiliar to some. It’s a gum collected from a species of tree in the cashew family that is sold as small, translucent granules often called pearls. The flavor is distinctive: resiny, almost piney and redolent of sunbaked hillsides. It’s very strong, so use it sparingly.

Cut the florets from the broccoli head, and then chop the stem, discarding any woody part at the base.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic and mastic for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. 

Stir in the broccoli florets and chopped stem, then add the hot water, bay leaves and cardamom. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli is softened. Add the arugula and stir for a couple more minutes, then take the pan off the heat. 

Remove the cardamom and bay leaves, then blend the soup to a creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

In a dry skillet, toast the flax seeds over medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan continuously. Serve the soup hot, with a sprinkling of flax seeds on top for some crunch.


Reprinted with permission from Bilhana: Wholefood Recipes From Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco
Yasmine Elgharably and Shewekar Elgharably, 2020, AUC Press,

Yasmine Elgharably is a self-taught home cook with a business background and a huge passion for Middle Eastern food. She is the founder of a partner in, a recipe sharing platform helping cooks across the Middle East. She is also based in Cairo.

Sheweker Elgharably is a certified holistic health coach and culinary nutrition expert based in Cairo, Egypt. She completed the Integrative Nutrition Program and the Culinary Nutritional Program at the US-based Academy of Culinary Nutrition. Originally an established interior designer, after seeing how small food and lifestyle changes have a huge impact on health, she wanted to help people strive to live healthier and happier lives. Shewekar is also the founder of #HealthyRocks.