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.
If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t make these myself at home if I lived somewhere I could easily get them. However, in the English home counties if you want to eat pink pickled turnips, then you have to make them yourself. I love mine in falafel sandwiches or next to my foul and fried halloumi over brunch or even chopped into fattoush salad. However, my mother eats them every day with most meals and throughout the day as snack. So eat and enjoy.
This is one of those recipes that have many uses; as part of a buffet, a light lunch, canapés before a nice lunch, and the reason we keep making them at the moment… for preschool lunch boxes. My son Otis goes to preschool three days a week and he isn’t a sandwich boy. These are a perfect lunch for little hands and big appetites; Otis loves them. you can freeze these in batches and get them out as needed to pack into lunch boxes (they will defrost in the lunchbox overnight in the fridge).
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.
‘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’
This is a simple salad that really relies on the quality of its ingredients to truly have the ‘wow factor’. I love this salad served alongside oven-baked chicken, but I reckon it will beautifully accompany most meals.
This salad is so tasty- its flavour and texture are both wonders in the mouth. Whether the main side dish for your supper or one of many dishes in a buffet, this salad holds its own and will have your friends and family coming back for more!
Hilbeh means fenugreek in Arabic. My first memory of making this cake was actually in the UK shortly after we moved here. My mum had brought a jar of fenugreek with her from the Middle East and I remember sitting in our sunny dining room sifting through a tray of the seeds to remove any chaff and small stones. You don’t really need to do that anymore, with modern agricultural food practices. Fenugreek came crashing back into my life in a big way three years ago when I struggled to establish breastfeeding with my eldest son, as fenugreek is supposed to support milk production. And eating this cake was certainly no hardship!
My mother swears by these for parties. And she is right. They are delicious and no matter how many you make, they all get eaten. They also look fabulous and can be prepped well ahead of time and put in the oven as your guests arrive. We also have them for weeknight suppers served with rice or some grilled chicken. This is also a colourful and fun way to get veggies into your little ones.
Growing up, Mahshi kousa was by far my favourite mahshi. I think that warak inab and beitinjan might have slightly edged ahead now, but growing up that soft, sweet courgette flesh around delicious spiced rice and meat was undeniably my favourite. Almost 3 years ago when Otis was about 7 months old, we went to visit my mother who had made up a huge pot of mahshi kousa for her first born grandchild. I thought he was way too young, but she put one in his hand and he went n to eat three whole courgettes! Otis shares so many of my tastes so I shouldn’t be too surprised. It won’t be long until we are giving Rupert his mahshi.