Pita Bread

Every summer growing up, my mother was sent to stay with her Aunt Rifkah in Taybeh (yes, the same Taybeh that makes he delicious beer…. and the one Jesus stayed in). She says that her aunt would wake up in the early hours of the morning to make fresh pita bread. she would then wake up her rabble of visiting nieces and nephews and as the sun began to rise they would all set off down the road out of town to my Aunt’s lands. Once there they would be put to work climbing fig trees to collect the fruit and collecting vine leaves from the grape vines that used to snake along the floor- a traditional practice which decades later i would be training women how to build frames to grow their grapes along! (life can be so odd…..) . After a good few hours of work in the sun, Rifkah would unload a basket that she can carried on her head and out would come the freshly made pita breads, boiled eggs, freshly made cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers, zayt and za’atar; in the shade of the trees protecting them from the hotting sun, they would have their breakfast.

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Labaneh Balls

You may have already dried our Labaneh dip with chili and walnuts. its delicious. its not hard to make labaneh, you just hang up some yoghurt in a muslin and go to sleep. Despite it being very easy, its even easier to just get some out of your fridge in the morning. So if you make a lot you can preserve some and they will last you months.

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Sumac Eggs

Believe it or not this is basically a weekday breakfast in Palestine. Its simple enough if you aren’t making the labaneh and bread from scratch and you already have them in your fridge/ freezer. Just fry up some eggs and chop some tomatoes. this is a good breakfast for 4.

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Whipped Feta Yoghurt with garlic roast aubergines

This dish is one of my mother’s favourites. The garlic, aubergine, parsley and olive oil combination is a traditional and classic combination in Palestine. We have added the feta yoghurt to this traditional dish to make it a whole lunch that you only need mint tea and warm bread to make perfect. the aubergines are traditionally deep-fried, but we increasingly bake in the oven- its easier and healthier as i work to shift the baby weight!

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Ka’ak al Quds

In Jerusalem, street corners are bustling with street sellers who have wooden carts piled high with Ka’ak. You can stop by or call out of your car for the Ka’ak, baked eggs, falafel and tiny parcels made of old Arabic newspapers willed with salt or za’atar. they call out that they have fresh ka’ak and are usually sold out before the morning is done. It makes a pretty perfect breakfast. In Palestine, people get to work extremely early in the morning and then stop for breakfast with their colleagues in the office kitchen at about 9am and its oven ka’ak with a selection of cheese, vegetables, yoghurt, hummus and falafel enjoyed with hot sweet minty tea.

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Chili Ful with Tahini Yoghurt

This dish always reminds me of going to Gaza. We used to stop for lunch near the beach at Khan Younis in between visiting communities and projects. I always let my friend Azzam order for me as he is a real foodie and its great to eat to someone else’s taste every so often. He always used to order a minty, yoghurty, hummusy dish which was served warm and had an unreal amount of spice on it- a lot of Gazan food is very spicy.

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Palestinian Chips

People mock me when I call these Palestinian chips.  As if putting the word Palestinian in front of them make them somehow different, or gives even the humble chip a Palestinian origin like we seem to be able to do with almost everything else!  But honestly, they are different.  Not just the shape, which is actually absolutely essential to their identity- just ask Mama!-  but also the amount of salt and PEPPER you put on them.  you must actually be able to taste strong pepper and it makes them delicious.  You will find these in every Falafel place in Palestine and of course in my house. 

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Falafel

I know that we are all supposed to love and admire vegetarians and vegans for their sacrifices for the planet and all but honestly, I still haven’t fully forgiven them for ruining the falafel.  In the 1990s and 2000s, all these trendy vegetarian restaurants popped up serving dry and crusty BAKED falafel.  I mean, honestly.  Whenever someone tells me that they don’t like falafel, I simply assume they have only tried this type and so don’t take them too seriously. 

Let me tell you about a small standing only restaurant in Bethlehem called Afteem, just down a small alley from the hot and busy Manger Square where a giant gas fired wok of oil is perched on the pavement frying thousands of falafel a day which are then-still warm-pressed into fluffy pitta breads, nestled amongst fresh and crunchy chopped vegetables and pickles, and drenched in Badounsia (a punchy tahini and parsley sauce). 

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