Dijaj Mahshi

‘I remember all the family coming over on Christmas eve and gathering around a small fire in the middle of the room, my uncles roasting apples, nuts and eggs on the open flames and my mother, grandmother and aunts telling us kids the story of the nativity and giving us chocolates’, mama beams as she recalls the Christmases of her childhood in the old city of Jerusalem in Palestine. ‘We didn’t have presents, just new clothes to wear for church and lots of delicious food; everything you could imagine and at the centre a glorious stuffed chicken filled with meat, spices, rice and nuts’

I listen to these stories of my family and squeeze my eyes shut trying to imagine Christmas in Jerusalem, a dream stolen from me and my family during the Nakba on 1946 and the occupation of 1967.  For so long, we hoped that things would get better and we might go back, but that hope is now stale and corrosive in our hearts- more painful than comforting.  The truth is that we are tired of hope.  And yet we rely on it to keep us going.  As my mother and I stand in my kitchen stuffing our chicken, looking forward to our tasty supper, I ask her how she copes with the disappointment.

‘Well, they can’t occupy our memories… or our kitchen’ giggles mama.  And I suppose that is where we take our hope from.


1 large chicken

8 shallots, peeled and halved

1 white onion, peeled and quartered

2 red onions, peeled and quartered


Chicken Marinade

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tbsp paprika

Salt and pepper to taste


Hashwe (The stuffing)

½ cup of almonds and pine nuts, toasted

2 cups cooked basmati rice

200g minced beef

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tbsp paprika

½ tbsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste



Pat the chicken dry and then in a large bowl add the chicken, olive oil and spices and rub into the chicken leave to sit for 1-3 hours.

Fry the minced beef in olive oil until brown then add the Hashwe spices and stir until well coated.  Add the cooked rice and toasted nuts to the beef mixture and combined.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Using your hands or a spoon scoop the rice, meat and nut Hashwe into the chicken and pack it tightly.  Use a needle and thread or a tooth pick to stitch the chicken shut.

Place the onions in an oven-proof dish and sit the chicken on top of them.

Put the chicken in the middle of the oven for 1 hr 10 minutes until golden brown.


Photographs:  Mark Kensett

Words:  Written by Phoebe Rison, originally for Amos Trust’s Words of Hope

2 thoughts on “Dijaj Mahshi

  1. Dunya

    Your blog is beautiful, a collection of not only wonderful recipes but also heart warming stories and memories. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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