Palestine on a Plate: Memories from My Mother’s Kitchen, written by Joudie Kalla, features the 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), and Sabanekh Wa Jibneh (Spinach & Cheese Parcels) along with more creative dishes featuring Palestinian flavors like the Za’atar Buns, Artichoke Hearts with Lamb, Saffron & Lemon Cod with Jeweled Herby Rice, and Tahini Brownies. I will also be sharing her recipe for Halloumi Meshwi (Pan-Grilled Halloumi with Lemon) following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Interlink Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
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.
Palestine on a Plate
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, and Sweet Tooth.
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 as well. 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.
Halloumi Meshwi (Pan-Grilled Halloumi with Lemon)
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.
Looking for more Palestinian recipes? Try Maftoul bil Sukar (Palestinian Couscous with Sugar and Butter), Shay bil Maramiya (Palestinian Sage-Scented Tea), and Musakhan Wraps (Palestinian Chicken Wraps).
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.
Halloumi Meshwi (Palestinian Pan-Grilled Halloumi with Lemon) Recipe
Excerpt from Palestine on a Plate
Halloumi Meshwi (Pan-Grilled Halloumi with Lemon)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Black pepper
- 2 (7 ounce, 200 gram packages) halloumi cut lengthways into 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) slices
- 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Juice of 1 lemon or lime
- In a shallow bowl, season the flour with the red pepper flakes and some black pepper. Dip the halloumi pieces in the flour and turn to coat.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and shallow fry the halloumi for about 1-2 minutes. Once it has begun to brown, turn the pieces over and cook the other side for another 1-2 minutes.
- When ready, plate up the golden halloumi and squeeze on some lemon or lime juice. Eat straightaway, otherwise it will get chewy.