Review by Ali Burdon (Very Berry Handmade)
Palestine on a Plate, by the very talented Joudie Kalla, is a fantastic introduction to the wonderful heritage of Palestinian food. It begins with a fascinating introduction to the history and flavours of the food, which shows great insight into the connections between food, family, home, tradition, heritage and culture.
As you move on to the recipes, I defy you to just flick through this book without heading to the kitchen to check if you have all the ingredients to make all the lovely dishes. The photos, by Ria Osbourne are just wonderful, conveying the beautiful colours and textures of the food and the settings on which the dishes are served. The art direction by Manisha Patel, is also hugely deserving of a mention - the food looks, as it should do, absolutely mouth-watering.
There are 6 sections of recipes: Good Morning Starters, Hearty Pulses and Grains, Vibrant Vegetarian, The Mighty Lamb and Chicken, Fragrant Fish and Sweet Tooth. Although 2 of the chapters are obviously not relevant to vegetarians, I’d still be tempted to buy this book even if I wasn’t a meat-eater. I did a quick, very rough, count and at least 30 of the recipes are suitable for vegans too, with many more that could easily be adapted - the focus is so much on vegetables, pulses and grains, and their lovely vibrant flavours.
The recipes are mostly quite simple, allowing just a few ingredients to take centre stage. One of my favourite dishes (of the ones that I’ve tried so far) from the book is Fasoulia Bil Zeit (green beans with spicy tomato and olive oil sauce), which has just 6 ingredients and is utterly delicious. The introduction to the recipe also tells me that Gaza is famous for chilli - something I did not know - and that’s another great feature of the book, it’s great for a beginner to Middle Eastern cooking, to be served up all these useful little nuggets of information, scattered through the text.
Some of the recipes have a bit of a modern twist, which is fun, I love the sound of lemon and rose doughnuts, soft boiled eggs with Za’atar soldiers, tahini brownies, Za’atar buns and banana and medjool date cake. Yum!
I also appreciated the very practical introduction to the important ingredients in Palestinian cooking, which might not all be familiar to cooks in the UK! I recognised ingredients such as Labneh (strained yogurt) and Za’atar (a delicious herb and spice mix), but Maftoul (Palestinian pearl cous cous) and Loomi (dried lime) were new to me, so it was great to be introduced to these. This section includes recipes for the various seasonings such as Dukkah and Ras el Hanout too - so good to be able to mix up your own versions, and tweak flavours to suit as you become more confident.
This book is a real celebration of this inspiring food culture and it is put together with so much love and commitment; I’m hugely enjoying using it and learning from it.
Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother's kitchen by Joudie Kalla
Published by Jacqui Small