It’s actually hard to know how to improve upon Hummus. However, like with everything in Palestine, if you add spiced meat and nuts something ordinary becomes sublime. If hummus is for every day, then this recipe is for special occasions- a holiday brunch with the family, or festive nibbles with friends.
Labaneh reminds me of warm and sunny mornings with extended family, eating a few labaneh balls for breakfast with zataar and olive oil, all mopped up with soft warm pita bread and washed down with sweet mint tea. I hope you have tried my labaneh balls, which is a great way to preserve labaneh and give them great flavour.
‘you shouldn’t want him to stay young, it’s a blessing that he grows up’ Mama says to me over a giggle as we eat our lunch. She reaches over to squeeze my arm and then quickly refocuses on the mshat on her plate, pushing one into the yoghurt dip and rolls her eyes at me.
‘Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you’ my mother would say encouraging me to repeat after her. She would do this if I exhibited any self-doubt or when I felt excluded by my brothers or my classmates. It’s not surprising that she would insist on me being confident and self-assured when she herself had to be, especially as she had to go against the grain so often in her life to do what she wanted to do.
This stuff is divine. Whether used to dip kettle chips, warm pita, cucumber sticks into or poured over rice this feta dip is absolutely delicious and I can’t help but eat it all when mama makes it. And its PINK!
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.
Hummus is usually served cold like any regular dip, but I love it on a weekend morning hot and chunky with lots of sumptuous flavours.
I was tired from a day visiting farmers, but as I listened to my friend Samer enthusiastically talking about our work, I was slowly perking up. I was sat in Samer’s lovely house in Nablus eating the plentiful delicious dishes his wife had cooked for us with the soft chatter and banging from his three children in the next room. Samer’s passion for story-telling and the charming way he giggles as he talks was raising a smile on my face. ‘Seriously, Phoebe, you don’t understand. We literally saved the Palestinian Almond. You and me. We had a vision and we did it- hundreds of farmers thank us for that’ Samer is referring to programme we implemented with his extraordinary research to stop a pest from taking over and completely destroying all of Palestine’s almonds. The situation was so bad that almond farmers where ripping up their trees or abandoning them all together. I don’t know if he is right about our impact or my role in it, but I hope he is.
‘Halloumi!’ Otis always shouts when I ask him if he wants anything from the shops. He loves the stuff and it’s the only lone cheese he will eat. And eat it he does. Our main challenge on a Sunday morning is to stop him from eating it all at breakfast.
My mother has always told me about how the doctor who attended my birth said he had never seen a family so happy to have a baby girl- after all, in Palestine boys are highly prized and all respectable families have at least a few! Rumour has it that my father jumped so high that his head touched the ceiling, and I like to think that is true. ‘I really didn’t think I could have girls you see’, my mother confided in me as we tucked into this dish one lunch time as my new born son slept next to us in the mosses basket. After her two boys and a few miscarriages, my mother felt like she was simply a mother of boys. Strangely, I have secretly felt the same in the last two months since Rupert was born. Even though I had always had my heart set on having two boys, I do wonder if the baby I lost last year was a girl and I do hope that I will one day have one. Just like my Mama and maybe Christopher will jump high enough to touch the ceiling too.