The act of preparing food for a loved one is such a considerate and intimate gesture of care, it is nothing short of a long kiss or a warm embrace. Sharing food creates a safe space where insecurities can fall to the side, and hearts can dance on a table, or on a roadside booth, each bite digging deeper into someone’s soul, until both heart and tummy are full. And that’s why we couldn’t dedicate an issue to love, especially Iraqi love, without diving head first into the culinary crevices of what make our hearts melt. 

And so we were thrilled when Luna Issa, an up and coming chef from Glasgow agreed to share two love inspired recipes with us. In addition to being a film and TV studies student, Luna makes recipe videos that celebrate the delicious foods that she grew up eating, including plant based versions of some of the most classic dishes. 

Watch the video, and take a look at the recipe below so that you have all that you need to make this hearty meal from the bottom of your heart.

Chef's Note: A stuffed sheikh and a creamy treat!

For this special collaboration with shakomakoNET, I’ve decided to share two recipes that I thought would fit perfectly with the theme of love. 

Sheikh Mahshy, Arabic for stuffed Sheikh, is a simple, tasty dish that consists of stuffed vegetables, usually courgettes or aubergines, cooked in a tomato sauce. I’ve made mine with rice, vegetables, herbs and a few classic flavourings.

Despite its simplicity, Sheikh Mahshy is a dish that takes time and effort to prepare. Each layer of this dish requires patience to make, from that flavourful stuffing mixture to the hearty tomato sauce. And so, by presenting this dish to friends or family, you are expressing that they deserve your time, attention, and care. 

To show love through cooking is one its most pure forms. A dish can bring comfort, and can be a beautiful way of showing appreciation for a loved one. A home-made meal can say ‘thank you for putting up with me, even when I’m annoying’, or simply ‘just because I love you.’ And don’t forget to show some love for yourself! Take an afternoon off, stick on your favourite playlist, and unwind by preparing this delicious dish.

I also thought that it would be nice to include a dessert too, so I’ve made a dairy free Coconut Mahalabiya. Flavoured with cardamom and topped with a ground pistachio mixture, this one makes for a lovely light treat.

Show your loved one (or yourself) some extra TLC by making this sweet treat. It’s the perfect finish to a hearty dish like Sheikh Mahshy, and it’s a lovely way to make a meal that extra bit special.

Remember: As mentioned in the video, the rice mixture I made is enough for two batches so for the written recipe I have halved the amount of ingredients used so that it would be just enough for the amount of vegetables. If you decide to make extra you can freeze the rest and use it at a later date (for the same or a different dish).

Sheikh Mahshy | شيخ محشي


• 8 mini courgettes

• 3 mini aubergines

• 1/2 cup of rice, soaked for 1-2 hours

• 1/2 of an onion, finely chopped

• 1/2 of a tomato, finely chopped

• a handful of parsley, finely chopped

• 1/2 a tbsp of tomato paste

• the juice of 1/4 a lemon

• 1/2 tbsp of pomegranate molasses

• 1 clove of garlic, minced

• 2 tbs of oil (I used olive oil)

• salt to taste (about 1 tsp)

• pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp)

• a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

For the sauce -

• 1/2 of an onion, finely chopped

• 1 clove of garlic, minced

• 1 tsp of tomato paste

• 4 tomatoes, blended (could also use passata or a can of chopped tomatoes)

• 2 tbsp of oil

• salt and pepper to taste


1. Drain and rinse the soaked rice. To the rice add the onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, oil, and seasonings. Mix well and set aside.

2. To prepare the courgettes/aubergines remove the tops and discard (as well as the bottoms of the courgettes). Using a peeler, carefully scoop out a “lid” and keep for later. Scoop out the insides. Once finished, finely chop the removed insides of the vegetables, and add to the rice mixture.

3. Pierce the vegetables a few times and then stuff them with the rice mixture (using your hands or a spoon). Place the lids on top.

4. Moving on to the sauce, heat the oil in a pot on high heat (make sure you use one that’s big enough to fit all the veggies). Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 mins. Add the garlic, and then add the tomato paste after a minute or so. Sauté together for about a minute and then add the blended tomatoes and a splash of water. Mix, cover and allow to cook on high for about 10 mins.

5. Remove the lid to stir and to add seasoning, as well as about a 1/4 cup of water. Then place the vegetables in the sauce. Return to the heat, cover, and allow to cook for about 15 mins. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for about 30-40 mins, until the veggies are softened and the rice is cooked.

6. Garnish with some fresh parsley and enjoy!

Mahalebi | محلبي


• 600 ml of coconut milk

• 4 tbsp of cornstarch

• 1/4 cup of sugar

• 2 cardamom pods

For the pistachio topping -

• 2 tbsp of pistachios

• 1 tsp of ground cardamom

• 1 tbsp of sugar


1. Add the cornstarch to about 200 ml of the coconut milk. Mix well, ensuring all the cornstarch is dissolved, and set aside.

2. Add the rest of the coconut milk to a pot on high heat. Add the sugar and cardamom pods and mix. Once the mix comes to a boil reduce the heat to low and add the cornstarch mixture. Whisk continuously until the milk is slightly thickened. Then remove from the heat and then use a ladle to place the mix into serving cups/bowls.

3. For the pistachio topping add the ingredients to a mini chopper (or food processor) and pulse a few times until the pistachios are fine, but not totally ground into a powder. Place the topping on each cup/bowl on top of the mahalebi.

4. Place in the fridge to set for 1-2 hours.

5. To serve, garnish with a rose tea bud (optional). Enjoy!