PALESTINE ON A PLATE
I love a traditional Sunday Lunch but last weekend thought I’d give something different a try. I picked up the book Palestine on a Plate at work and was immediately attracted by the vibrant colours shouting out at me from the page. After inviting a few unsuspecting friends (who were probably dreaming of rib of beef) I set forth on a shopping trip of mammoth proportions – they certainly do use a lot of ingredients in Palestinian cooking! Thankfully we have Pepper’s World Foods in town – an emporium of the unusual and exotic.
Decided the way to go was a meze style feast (mainly so I could make use of all the crockery I seem to have accumulated from around the world) so decided on a menu which provided many contrasting flavours and textures. We started with Mutabbal – an aubergine dip, Hummus and Fatayer (meat parcels with a minced lamb filling). These were really spicy but dead easy to make and scattered with pomegranate seeds looked very pretty on the plate. I also loved the addition of chilli flakes and cumin seeds to the pastry.
Next we moved onto Salatet Adas Wa Halloumi Maswi – or Lentil, Beetroot & Halloumi Salad to you and me. I couldn’t find any preserved lemons in town so simply roasted some alongside the beetroot … which seemed to work. The dressing contained sumac (which is made from dried berries and has a kind of lemony flavour) and was a delicious contrast to the earthiness of the lentils and beetroot. I served this alongside Salatet Djaj Wa Freekeh : Freekeh Salad with Marinated Chicken & Pomegranate Dressing which was I think the star of the show. Spicy chicken with a sweet and sour dressing and a lovely crunch from the freekeh.
Decided to do a trio of puddings : Tahini Brownies (well who doesn’t like a brownie), Namoura (a sticky semolina dessert) and Ruz Bil Haleeb (a creamy orange blossom rice pudding). Had a bit of trouble finding the right sized tins so ended up with a lot more brownie mixture than I needed and too little of the semolina! Then the syrup mixture for the semolina cake set rock hard and my rice pud turned out like wallpaper paste!! But I managed to salvage everything in the end and was quite pleased with the result, although next time I will add more orange blossom water to the syrup.
My first foray into Palestinian cooking and I don’t think it will be my last – especially as I now have industrial quantities of zatar, sumac and rose petals! Some of the recipes do look rather daunting because of the long ingredients lists, and admittedly it did take me most of the day to create this menu, but as long as you are organised and methodical the recipes are actually quite simple.
Finally I must thank Andy not only for taking most of these photos but for bringing some superb wine, tucking in with gusto and not mentioning that missing rib of beef !!!
TRY IF : You like spicy food that looks and tastes amazing.
MDD LIKES : The mouth watering photography.