Garlicky green bean and rice salad

I hate to write this, but I always used to struggle visiting with distant relatives- apart from the wonderful maza always laid out. I was always so shy and felt so awkward having to be on best behavior, listening to endless stories about people I didn’t know and unable to keep track of how we were all related; Mama’s cousins, and cousins cousins and uncles etc. all the generations mixed in age but the custom to marry young and having seemingly endless children. along with the endless jokes and laughter was the inevitable anger and theorizing about the political situation in Palestine, Mama’s family are all well educated and politically active and so everyone has to say their bit- always followed by a pitiful silence of regret, fear and sadness that even now fills me with dread.

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Ba’dounsia

I remember when I first started traveling back and forth to Palestine a few times a year with work, my team and I used to stay in a lovely little hotel a short walk form the city centre. the lovely thing about being where we were is that we found all the little simple places that people who really know Ramallah would go to. one of my favourite of those places was a tiny shawarma shop where you had point through the glass counter – as it was pointless trying to speak more loudly than the Arabic dance music playing-at everything you wanted to add to your shawarma wrap while the big man in his vest, cigarette perched between his lips, would overfill your sandwich for you all while shouting into the phone nestled between his shoulder and cheek with a large fan pointed directly at him trying to cool his perspiring body. He was always especially generous with the Ba’dounsia which suited me just fine. I loved his Shawarma. And making this sauce- which is essential for Kofta, kebab, cauliflower fritters, courgette fritters and falafel- takes me right back.

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Dill Yoghurt

When I make this yoghurt I am instantly transported back to markets in Palestine where the heady mix of pungent tomatoes, squashed cucumbers underfoot and earthy smells of veg about to reach past its best is spiked with perfectly fresh a breezy smells of mint and dill.  I know you may not think that the smell of rotting tomato and fresh dill is a very pleasant one, but when it reminds you of your childhood, of sunshine and of an existence before you knew about the Nakba, the occupation and the injustice it is perfect. 

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Summer Muttabal

Look, I actually think that regular muttabal is perfect in the summer. I just want to make that clear. However, this version is utterly perfect in the summer with a BBQ and treated like a salad more than a dip. Spoon heaps of it onto your plate to eat with your BBQ kofta, grilled fish and garlicky BBQ vegetables and it is perfect. while still smoky, its somehow brighter and fresher than our usual- and incredibly popular- muttabal.

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Shatta Sauce

Can you have fish without chips? or mash without gravy? or anything without Shatta Sauce? NO. I make a fresh batch of this every 2-3 days because its so delicious and goes on everything. It lives on a low shelf in my fridge so that mama can get to it before we wake to douse her breakfast in and its served either on all of our food- rice, salads, meats, hummus, labaneh- or in a small bowl for us to dip everything and anything in. I strongly recommend that you make it and make it again.

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Vegetarian Fattet Beitinjan

In Palestine you can get fattet anything.  It refers to the pieces of bread that have been torn into pieces at the bottom of this dish.  For me this is a lovely homely dish and a wonderful celebration of my favourite vegetable, the aubergine!  It reminds me of a time most Palestinians only know through the oral tradition of story-telling of dancing and olive picking and camping out under the stars and pickling summer veg.

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Gazan Seabass

The Mediterranean is well known for its delicious seabass.  And the best way I have had it cooked is in Gaza.  My mother has a wonderful photograph of her and her sisters and cousins holidaying in Gaza wearing fashionable 60s bikinis and Jackie Kennedy-style scarves over their heads secured with sunglasses.

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