I have worked in humanitarian aid and development in the Middle East for over 10 years. All humanitarians love being posted in the Middle East because they love the delicious food, so much so that in the sector it has a name: The Arab Inches. A reference to the amount of weight that you put on when you live and work there. This enjoyment of food (and weight gain!) is due to delicious dishes like this: Perfect, delicious and honestly just impressive. If you are cooking for friends I promise they will squeal as is comes to the table and will eat it all up. Maqlooba means upside down in Arabic because of how we turn the pot upside down on the dish to reveal what can best be described as a rice cake. While traditional maqlooba relied on lots of deep friend vegetables, you can also roast them in the oven with some olive oil which is healthier.Read More
When Otis is at preschool and Rupert is napping, Mama and I Love to pass the time watching Arabic cooking videos with a cup of string coffee in hand. These Arabic recipe videos aren’t the trendy, neat ones that you see going viral on social media, but long, unedited, detailed, raw and delicious. We sit for ages discussing with surprise the ingredients, or saying what we would do differently and deciding if we could manage to make it for supper if I run out to the shops right now! These videos get hundreds of comments on them- almost every single one about how someone’s mother did it just like that or just a bit differently- hundreds of Arab women from around the world remembering their mother and grandmothers through these wonderful videos. this really made me think about the important that we women play in the cultural heritage of our countries. Especially us who fight everyday to justify our existence and maintain our identity in spite of occupation, war and displacement.
It’s been a tough few months for my husband at work. He has a new job and it comes with some pretty hefty responsibilities. I was talking to mama about this and she said ‘well, we’ll need to make something extra special for dinner tonight’. And this is the essence of Palestinian thinking; that food makes things better. It nurtures, celebrates, rescues, transports, warms and cheers up.
When we moved to the UK in the late 1990s, finding our ‘own food’ was so hard. You couldn’t find staples like halloumi, hummus, zataar, sumac, fresh herbs, vine leaves etc, certainly not in central Hertfordshire where we were living. We used to stockpile when we were back in the middle east, go without or make/grow our own. These days it’s much easier to find what we need and like in the regular supermarkets, however we still have to make and grow some things that we need.