“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one. I hope one day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

– John Lennon

What can I say about Falasteen!

(Falasteen is the Arabic and original name of Palestine)

I can start by saying, I am Palestinian. But despite the fact, I only got to visit Falasteen once in my whole life! That one time, I went to Falasteen, I made sure to tour the whole country, because I knew I might never get the chance to visit again! And tour, I did – in the country where I come from – I took it all in! I visited the enchanting gated Old Town in Al Quds (Jerusalem), where you can find all kinds of small shops to buy all kinds of goods, including the beautiful produce of Falasteen, from which I vividly remember beitinjan battiri (which are the narrow long eggplants). I had these delicious eggplants, stuffed and cooked in tomato sauce, at my Dad’s aunt’s house who happens to own a beautiful and ancient house inside the old gated city of Al Quds. In the afternoon, and passing through the monumental Al Aqsa mosque, you watch the prayer, and your heart can’t help but feel peace.

Out of theĀ hustle and bustle of the city, moving on to the beautiful beaches along its coasts, from Heifa, Yafa, and the almighty Akka, whose waves roar and shower you with salty rain even when you are way up on the rocky hill! I also remember very clearly, how my grandma took me to visit the famous Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani’s home in Akka.

Amongst the cities I visited, is the city of Nablus šŸ™‚ I say this with a huge smile, because my soul mate happens to be Nabulsi! The beautiful Nablus, with its Old Souk, of narrow passages, where the walls are low, making you feel like you are taken to a secret place, in which you unravel layers upon layers of goods. From spices, to produce, to the all famous Knafeh Nabulsyeh (dessert, otherwise known as Knafeh), to Warbat and Kullaj (both desserts). Goodness,Ā GraciousĀ do these Nabulsis have a sweet tooth?! But one that knows real good desserts.

Of course, no visit to Falasteen is complete without visiting the charming, the ancient and the soul soothingĀ Beit lehemĀ (Bethlehem)! Every time I think of Beit lehem, I can still hear the chants of the priests and the church visitors; until this day! I remember visitingĀ the home of an old lady, theĀ acquaintanceĀ of my Grandma, and at one point while everyone was consumed with conversation, she said: “Shhhhh… Listen to the chants…. like medicine to the soul.”

Then there is the very social, out and about city of Ramallah. From which I remember Booza Rukab (literally meaning ice cream kneas!). Basically, hand pushedĀ strollersĀ selling homemade ice cream in specialty mixes, the most delicious of which are the Arabic ice cream with pistachio and the MistkaĀ (mastic)! Heavenly, creamy spoonfulsĀ of frozen goodness!

I cannot fit all the cities, the surrounding villages and all the fabulous details about Touring Falasteen, in this post (that is why I wrote a beautiful and dedicated whole book on Falasteen and its cuisine “Plated Heirlooms” see video above for an idea of what the book includes and end of this post for where to buy). But for today’s post I will mention the city where my family comes from. The beautiful and the hilly city of Al Khalil (Hebron), where the ancient monument of Abraham is. Food wise, Al khalil is the city of vine trees: therefore its people are known for Wara Dawali as we call it (stuffed vine leaves) and Mahashi (Stuffed vegetables). This city is also known for growing some of the best goats and sheep: therefore known for makingĀ Idreh (a dish of rice and chickpeas cooked in meat broth, including pieces of lamb meat on the bone, created to showcase the goodness of the lamb meat). Because in Al Khalil sheep and goats are grown, they are also known for dairy products and the cooking of Mansaf. Even their stuffed vegetables, which are everywhere elseĀ cooked in a tomato-based sauce, in Al khalil, are usually cooked in a yoghurt sauce as in the Stuffed Zucchini recipe in Minted Yogurt sauce. Ā This explains to you, why I cook a lot of foods in a yogurt-based sauce.Ā Khalilis do however also mix in a little tomato with the yoghurt sauce, creating dishes utilising the best of both worlds.

“The Flavours of Tradition” Palestinian Menu

click the titles for recipes

Starter

Main

Dessert

 

Menu Rationale

Today’s menu celebrates the best loved Palestinian Musakhan as its main focus. Musakhan is a Palestinian dish that is made all over Falasteen, but is theĀ specialty of the Northern Region of the country, where the olive trees grow. ThisĀ dish was created to – and is still made to – test the Olive Oil of the season (the beautiful and full story of Musakhan, including Taboon bread is fully covered in my book ‘Plated Heirlooms’). Musakhan is mainly made by creating a confit of onions and sumac in olive oil, to which chicken broth is added and then cooked slowly to infuse all flavours. Chicken pieces, traditionally on the bone, are roasted on the side to later on be added to the finished rounds of Taboon Bread. Traditionally, the special bread is dipped in the “broth’ed” onion confit, placed on a serving tray, topped with a spreading of the onion mixture and all are then topped with the chicken pieces, toasted nuts and garnished with chopped parsley. For best results, Palestinian homes use a traditional oven for making the Musakhan and roasting the chicken, and if you are lucky you would own the original Taboon oven. However, the recipe had been modified for home ovens, without compromising on the final outcome: flavour or texture.

The more modern presentations of Musakhan include, Musakhan rolls, Musakhan pizzas and Musakhan canapes.

Stir-fried Chicken Giblets, is one very old and traditional concoction of Palestinian Cuisine. Many view this as old and not trendy, therefore, the young don’t like to cook it Ā and seem to think that they don’t like it! To be fair, I have tried some terrible versions of this dish, that tasted like a nightmare to say the least. But when giblets are cooked right, they taste heavenly. This recipe of giblets, with the tanginess from the Pomegranate Molasses and the squeeze of lemon, together with the onion and garlic infusion, make it super fresh and extremely good. You have got to try it to know. And if you think the concoction is not attractive looking, and not modern, just follow this link and look how I transformed this appetiser into not just one, but four preparations that are not short on presentation or flavour! Give it a try you will be happy you did.

The Hareeseh will have you drooling any time, any where! It isĀ semolinaĀ drenched in sugar syrup oozing of sweet goodness, melting in your mouth and tasting just angelic! In my recipe I do not use eggs, or samen (ghee or clarified butter), which some recipes use. Instead I use yogurt for the wet ingredients. The outcome is light, fluffy and never overly filling, which allows you to have more of this goodness.

Then there are the Eggplant Mutabal and the Cream of Vegetable Soup, which in Palestinian cuisine are made to celebrate the goodness of the produce. The vegetables there are mostly eaten in a seasonal fashion, fresh and with unmatched flavours. As such when they have not seen a day ofĀ refrigerationĀ or cross-country transport, are not bruised nor abused, these vegetables taste good enough as is so will create fabulous food. WhenĀ fresh vegetables taste like vegetables should! Good and fresh.

Falasteen is a beautiful country. A place that is magically enchanting. A rich soil,Ā inhabited by generous people. People who love its land, and its produce. People whose foods are reflective of how they celebrate their produce. With foods created merely by the seasons and the offerings created by the geography. Foods that celebrate a love for life and good taste. This menu is made to give you an introduction into the flavours of the land and its produce, and one that also celebrates the traditions.


Relative Links

 

This recipe is from the repertoire of over 280 recipes in my book Plated Heirlooms.Ā The book contains recipes fromĀ allĀ sections of the Palestinian cuisine, starting with Mooneh (pantry recipes) to dessert and everything in between. Plated Heirlooms is a documentation of recipes and cuisine rationale as well as the compiled story of theĀ cuisine.

All Plated Heirlooms recipes come with background information and thorough descriptions that in the end tie up with the rest of the book’s narrative to explain to you the formation and makings of Palestinian cuisine.

You can order “Plated Heirlooms”Ā here and we will ship it to you anywhere in the world.

 

Don’t forget to get in touch with your family this Ramadan and to enjoy their company
Ramadan Kareem

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25 responses to “A Palestinian Menu – The flavours of Tradition & The Love For It’s Land’s Produce

    1. Dima I enjoyed reading your articule while eating kimchi beef . It just took me back 30 years ago when I was living in Palestine. Very well structured well done.regards mamoun k

    2. Thanks Mamoun :)) I am happy you enjoyed reading the post. You think it inspired you to spread out that bread, cook the chicken and have Musakhan in Australia? lol Thant would be nice šŸ™‚
      Salam to all.

  1. Hi Dima, a wonderful recipe roundup & beautiful photos of Palestine. I've never made namoora before, but you have inspired me with your delicous photography. Thanks & Happy Ramadan

    1. Thank you Holly, nice to hear from you. I am happy to know you enjoyed the post and are inspired to make the Namoorah, I know you will love it, it is phenomenal šŸ™‚ Do let me know how it goes and what you think, and share a photo with me to enter draw šŸ˜‰

  2. Good golly Miss Molly! We would love to sink out teeth into these delicious treats. This post has given us ideas. We will discuss when next we talk. Honestly, the food looks sensational and I would really love to visit the homeland of your grandparents.

  3. hareeeeeeseh… why do we crave sweets in ramadhan!!! while we all wait for ramadhan to take chance of the holy month and loose some kilos… we end up gaining and just happy and proud about it!:) namourah… hareeseh… basboosah… yummm(though i had to reduce the ingredients;))

    msakhan is another story… when we girls get married our parents continue spoiling us and asking us over for lunches and dinners… when we become mommies… spoiling gets even more and more… we become expats and THERE we wake up and start looking for recipes:) ur blog was a great help dima… and i'm more comfortable and self confident about cooking… thanks:)

    1. Nisreen, I totally relate to everything you just said. Totally! Everything!
      I have no idea why, but I am always around sweets, and alwas refrain. In Ramadan I just keep eating sweets! And craving more! lol what is that?!!
      And yes, when at home, life is different. When at home, there is Mum! Here we are the mums, but hey, it is nice to give that experience to our children.
      I am happy that I can be of help, I really do this to inspire such experiences to live on. Happy that you are loving your kitchen more and more, with a little love from mine. Love that!

  4. Goes without saying, this post is full of colourful description of not only the food but the people and their tradition. I never understood why my friends would argue between a palestenian and Lebanese dish, claiming they were truly different, when in my eyes it was more or less the same. Now I understand it is probably that one ingredient that the cook will not change because it is reminiscent of his/ her roots.
    I also found Arabic food to be bland and very heavy on the tang but I was eating it at the wrong venues. Inspired by your blog and having had the best shawarma ever in Copenhagen, Denmark ( second best in holland…seriously why don't they make it properly here in UAE) I feel really bold to take the risk and try your recipes out for myself. Tonight will be kibbeh and humus and chocolate dipped date-balls ( starting light, I know, b
    ut I'm no Nigella!)
    Thx again Dima, you're AWE-some (as my little one would say…emphasis one AWE

    1. Very true, it is the addition of one ingredient, or the use of 1 different herb or spice that makes the difference between foods of different areas. It is however, like I always say, all called Arabic cuisine, and all very similar in essence, despite these differences.
      Geography plays a huge part, so you will find that Arabic countries by the Mediterranean are very much similar in their cooking to those European countries of the same geographic area… Does it make it non Arabic? or non Mediterranean for that matter? It just makes it specific to that areas produce.
      Sisi, I am very happy that you are enjoying the blog, and the recipes and that you are actually trying out our delicious Arabic recipes šŸ˜‰ Thank you.
      I look forward for your comments, so keep them coming and share some pics of foods you try with me.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.. very vivid..
    I also appreciate your love for good fresh produce from good healthy soil.. something that is lost on many people these days.

    As a fellow Palestinian (and Nabulsi), I smiled the whole way through your post.
    Thank you
    Hadeel

    1. Hahahaha, i knew you would šŸ™‚ But hey, always love to draw a smile on everyone's face. Yes I agree, we could all use a little bit of extra awareness as to healthy produce and eating real healthy and natural foods. Not chemical sugar substitutes and call it healthy!
      Thank you for the sweet comment.

  6. Very inspiring! Love it to bits. The menu pours with delicious yummy flavors and the stories behind it take you to all these ancient old charming Souks and streets. I m in deep love of Jerusalem and this love is nourished and flourished by our Grandma (Um Ghaleb)(May God bless her soul) from the many tales, stories and dishes she used to tackle our senses with. As for Al khalil it always brings back so good scenes of good people good food and good sense of humor :)) 3azama 3la 3azama ya sit :))

    1. hahahahahaha! Nada!!! You are out of it!
      You made me laugh out loud you know! Thanks Habibti.
      Happy you liked the post, and do keep dropping by and commenting I love it when you do šŸ˜‰

      By the way, where are the pics? Yalla send some through…

  7. Lovely, heart-felt post. Your mussakhan looks a million times more awesome than the restaurant version I tried. Where in Dubai can I find pomegranate molasses Dima? I love the flavour, and have got to start using it more in my cooking!

    1. Thank you Arva, so happy you enjoyed the post and like my Musakhan šŸ˜‰ Also happy to hear that you intend on using pommegranate molasses more often in your cooking, it is an awesome flavour.. Usually it is next to the vinegars section at the supermarket. If not found, just ask an employee there they can show you where they place them. But no specialty store required all supermarkets have them šŸ™‚

  8. a very lovely post and blog, and ur comments here are spot on ..Ramadan Karim.. i am searching for a really good kafta bil tahineh recipe..with beef..cant find good lamb here..i know some poeple do it in the oven and some on the stove or both..Palestinians are the experts at making it ..so im sure u know the perfect way ..please post one sooon..,miriam

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