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.
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.
My favourite thing about these little buttery, crumbly, fragrant cookies is actually the look on my Mama’s face when she talks about them. She closes her eyes and says ‘hmmmm. They would melt in your mouth. Literally melt in your mouth’ and she talks about her mother’s Ghraiba. Teta shafika was a pro at making these, whipping them up in no time and perfectly shaping them every time. The last time I made these, my mother walked into the kitchen just as I was about to shape the cookies and she told me that her mother always shaped them into S’s, so I decided to do the same and I think I always will now…