Palestine on a Plate: Memories from My Mother’s Kitchen, written by Joudie Kalla, features the diverse, flavorful cuisine of Palestine with over one hundred recipes and stunning photography. There are plenty of traditional dishes that have been passed down through the generations and into kitchens around the world such as Mussakhan (Chicken with Sumac, Olive Oil & Onions), Samakeh Harrah (Sea Bream with Spicy Red Sauce), Halawet Il Jibn (Sticky Sweet Cheese & Cream Wraps), Sabanekh Wa Jibneh (Spinach & Cheese Parcels), Kufta Bil Tahineh (Ground Lamb Kufta with Tangy Tahini Sauce), and Ijeh (Fluffy Egg Fritters with Tomato Salsa). You will also find more creative dishes featuring Palestinian flavors such as Za’atar Buns; Fennel, Apple & Pomegranate Salad; Artichoke Hearts with Lamb; Fava Beans & Carrots; Spiced Lamb Ribs; Saffron & Lemon Cod with Jeweled Herby Rice; and Tahini Brownies.
Joudie Kalla studied at London’s Leith’s School of Food and Wine and has worked as a chef for over 16 years. Even though she didn’t grow up geographically in Palestine, she was immersed in the food and culture through her family. Her mother, aunts, and grandmothers helped influence her love of Palestinian cuisine. Along with working at Pengelley’s, Daphne s and Papillon, she had her own restaurant in London, Baity Kitchen, for three years. She has also been running her own successful catering business for over seven years and hosts monthly supper clubs. Check out her Instagram page for more food and photos.
Chapters are divided based on course: Introduction, My World of Ingredients, Good Morning Starters, Hearty Grains & Legumes, Vibrant Vegetarian, The Mighty Lamb & Chicken, Fragrant Fish, Sweet Tooth, Suppliers, Acknowledgments, and Index.
Kalla begins with an introduction into her life and the history of Palestine. Palestine is home to the three biggest religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) with the establishment of Islam after the battle of Yarmouk in 636 CE. The cuisine has been influenced by Europe, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan. Due to its location between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, Palestinian cuisine uses a variety of spices. Kalla introduces the most popular spices, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, and other ingredients with photos, descriptions, uses, and recipes for homemade spice mixes. The book ends with a list of suppliers to help locate ingredients and other books on Palestine.
The photography is by Ria Osbourne. Every recipe includes a beautifully-styled photo of the finished dish along with gorgeous photos of the food, people, and scenery of Palestine. A few of the recipes also have step-by-step photos, such as Auntie Shahla’s Sfiha (Strudel Pastry Stuffed with Ground Lamb and Sumac), Warak Inab Ma’Lahme Wa Kousa (Stuffed Vine Leaves and Zucchini), and Fatayer (Spiced Meat Parcels with Pomegranates).
Measurements are provided in US Customary. The name of the dish is written in Arabic and English. Every recipe also includes a headnote with background information, tips, and serving options.
This book is a great pick for those interested in Palestinian and Middle-Eastern Cuisine. Kalla learned how to cook the dishes from her mother, aunts, and grandmothers. She adapted the recipes to make them less time-consuming, less difficult, and less fatty. The recipes focus on family-style cooking with the complexity ranging from quick and easy to long-simmering stews. I personally love the variety of vegetarian dishes. Seafood lovers will find an assortment to choose from. There are also plenty of drinks, meat dishes, soups, salads, snacks, and desserts. Most of the ingredients are available in the average American grocery store, especially since many are now stocking pomegranate molasses, specialty cheeses, spices, and more. Some that may require a trip to the Middle Eastern market include tahini, sumac, cardamom pods, loomi (dried limes), orange blossom water, rose water, dried molokhia (jute mallow), and saffron.
I am sharing Kalla’s recipe for Halloumi Meshwi, Palestinian Pan-Grilled Halloumi with Lemon. Halloumi Meshwi are slices of Halloumi cheese lightly coated in seasoned flour and pan-grilled in oil until golden. They are quick and easy, making them the perfect appetizer or light snack. After frying the halloumi, serve them immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice. After sitting for a while, the texture will become chewy.
Halloumi is a white, semi-hard cheese originally from Cyprus. It is made from a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk (though occasionally cow’s milk is also used). Its high melting point makes the cheese popular for grilling or frying. I have seen it in the refrigerated specialty cheese section of some larger grocery stores (like Whole Foods and Wegmans). It is often packaged with mint. If halloumi is not available, you can use another non-melting cheese like akkawi.
I also made Maftoul Tabbouleh (Palestinian Pearl Couscous Tabbouleh), Shorabet Lahmeh Wa Shariyeh (Pomegranate Meatballs with Vermicelli and Tomato Soup), Ma’zaher Bil Leymoun Wa Shai (Orange Blossom and Lemon Iced Tea), and Lemon & Rose Doughnuts.
Traditionally, Tabouleh is made from a mixture of bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, lemon juice, and olive oil. This version uses Maftoul (pearl couscous) in place of the bulgur for a wonderful addition of texture. I loved the light and refreshing flavors paired with the springy bite of the couscous.
Shorabet Lahmeh Wa Shariyeh is a Palestinian meatball soup with pomegranate molasses, tomato broth, and vermicelli (small, thin pasta). As I was adding the vermicelli to the soup, Evan decided to add an extra handful. So my soup was more like a thick sauce in the end. It was still quite delicious and a huge hit with the family.
I tried the Ma’zaher Bil Leymoun Wa Shai (Orange Blossom & Lemon Iced Tea) just as summer was starting to draw to an end. It was perfect for the still hot afternoons. Tea is infused with water, then served with a splash of orange blossom water, lemon, ice, nectarine slices, and lemon. This may just be my new favorite tea. The flavor was so light and refreshing with a floral quality from the orange blossom water.
These Lemon & Rose Doughnuts may not be a traditional Palestinian dessert (don’t worry, there are plenty more authentic recipes in the dessert chapter), but includes the essence of Middle Eastern sweet flavors with baked lemon doughnuts topped with a lemon rosewater glaze and dried rose petals. They were quite addictive. It was hard to stop at just one, or two.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Halloumi Meshwi (Palestinian Pan-Grilled Halloumi with Lemon)
Adapted from Palestine on a Plate
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Black pepper to taste
2 x 7 ounce (200 gram) packages halloumi
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
In a shallow wide bowl, combine the flour with red pepper flakes and black pepper.
Cut the halloumi lengthwise into 1/2 inch (1 1/2 centimeter) slices. Dip each side of the sliced halloumi in the flour mixture to coat.
In a large pan, drizzle oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the halloumi in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Cook until golden on the bottom, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan onto a towel-lined plate and repeat with remaining halloumi slices.
Squeeze lemon juice over the slices and serve immediately.