Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

Falastin

What’s the USP? I can’t do better than quote the introduction: ‘This is a book about Palestine – its food, its produce, its history, its future, its people and their voices’. There are also recipes, more than 100 of them.

Who are the authors? You’ll know Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley from such books as Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. Tamimi co-founded the Ottolenghi restaurant empire. Wigely worked in publishing before joining the Ottenleghi test kitchen a decade ago.

Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the short foreword by Ottolenghi and seven-page introduction, there are page-long introductions to each of the nine chapters that cover everything from breakfast to sweets as well as articles covering subjects including ‘The yoghurt making ladies of Bethlehem’, ‘Vivien Sansour and the Palestinian Seed Library’ and ‘The Walled Off Hotel, the seperation wall, and the Balfour balls up’.   

Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? As has been noted before on this site, thanks in part to Ottolenghi, ingredients such as za’atar, Aleppo pepper, date syrup, rose harissa, sumac and labneh now seem quite commonplace, at least to the enthusiastic home cook. If you do have trouble tracking them down in your local shop, you can source them online from ottolenghi.co.uk.

What’s the faff factor? This is not restaurant cooking but on the other hand, these are not quick’n’easy one pot wonders either. You’ll be chopping, finely slicing, picking leaves, chargrilling, roasting, whipping, braising, frying, baking, blitzing, caramelising and making dumplings, dressings, and dips; soups, salsas, and sauces. Nothing however is excessively complex or beyond the abilities of your average keen cook.

Must cook recipes: spiced chicken arayes (pan fried pitta bread sandwiches); chilled cucumber and tahini soup with spicy pumpkin seeds; spiced salmon skewers with parsley oil; upside-down spiced rice with lamb and broad beans; sumac onion and herb oil buns; knafeh nabulseyeh (a sweet mozzarella, ricotta and feta kataifi pastry dessert drenched in orange blossom water syrup.

What will I love? Tamimi and Wigley have already proved beyond doubt that they are a class act and Falastin does nothing to alter that. The recipes are uniformly enticing and well written, the articles are informative and fascinating, the book is beautifully designed and the location and food photography by Jenny Zarins is gorgeous. As is usual with the Ottolenghi family of books, there’s a code to access a fully illustrated and searchable database of all the recipes online (you can even print off a shopping list for each recipe) which is a very useful and fun bonus.

What won’t I love? I can’t believe you’re even asking this question, go to the back of the class.

Should I buy it? If you’re already a fan of Tamimi and Wigley (and Ottolenghi of course) there is just no way you won’t want to add this terrific book to your collection. If you are just getting into Middle Eastern cooking then is a great place to start.

Cuisine: Palestinian/Middle Eastern
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five Stars

Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

Cook from this book
Sweet tahini rolls (Kubez el tahineh)
Chicken musakhan
Labneh cheesecake with roasted apricots, honey and cardamom

Sweet tahini rolls (Kubez el tahineh) by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

286_sweet_tahini_rolls

The journey of these rolls can be traced through Lebanon to Armenia, where these kubez el tahineh come from. They are simple to make, impressive to look at and loved by all. They’re a particular favourite with kids. Eat them as they are, or sliced and spread with dibs w tahini, the Palestinian equivalent of peanut butter and jam, where creamy tahini is mixed through with a little bit of grape or date molasses (see page 336).

Keeping notes: These are best eaten fresh on the day of baking but are also fine for 2–3 days once baked, warmed through in the oven. They also freeze well, after they’ve been baked and left to cool: you can pop them into the oven straight from the freezer until warmed through.

Makes 10 rolls
Dough
1½ tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
110ml whole milk, lukewarm
300g plain flour, plus extra
for dusting
75g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
Olive oil, for greasing
Salt

Filling
100g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
120g tahini
Topping
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

First make the dough. Put the yeast, sugar and milk into a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes, until it starts to get frothy. Meanwhile, put the flour and ½ teaspoon of salt into the bowl of a freestanding mixer, with the dough hook in place. Mix on a low speed, then slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Add the melted butter and continue to mix for about a minute.

Add the egg, then increase the speed to medium and leave for 5 minutes, for the dough to get well kneaded. Using your hands, scrape the dough into a ball: it will be slightly sticky and elastic. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it a couple of times so that the dough gets well greased. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size. Put the sugar and cinnamon for the filling into a small bowl. Mix well to combine, then set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 35 x 50cm. Drizzle the tahini over the dough, then, using the back of a spoon or a spatula, spread it out evenly, leaving 1cm clear of tahini at both the shorter ends. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the tahini and leave for 10 minutes, until the sugar looks all wet.
Starting from one of the long sides, roll the dough inwards to form a long, thin sausage. Trim away about 2cm from each end, then slice the dough into 10 equal pieces: they should each be just over 4½cm long. Sit each piece upright, so that its cut side is facing upwards, then, using your hands, gently flatten out to form an 8cm-wide circle. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Transfer each roll of dough to a large parchment-lined baking tray, spaced 2–3cm apart. Brush all over – just the top and sides, not the base – with the egg yolk, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 18 minutes, or until cooked through and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside for about 20 minutes – you don’t want them to be piping hot – then serve.

Extracted from FALASTIN: A COOKBOOK by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Jenny Zarins

Cook more from this book
Chicken musakhan
Labneh cheesecake

Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

 

Labneh cheesecake with roasted apricots, honey and cardamom by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

323_labneh_cheesecake

Cheesecake is not, traditionally, a dessert eaten in Palestine, but all the ingredients are: the labneh and filo, for example, the nuts and floral orange blossom. The base was Noor’s idea: blitzing up the sheets of filo to make crumbs. Mixing this with the nuts calls baklava to mind. The result, we think, is distinct and special.

Getting ahead: If you are making your own labneh (which couldn’t be easier: it just requires getting organised a day ahead), then it needs to be made 1–5 days before using. To get the 500g of labneh required, you’ll need to start with 850g of Greek-style yoghurt, mixed with ⅔ teaspoon of salt (see page 48 for the recipe). The base and cheesecake are best baked the day before serving, so that it can chill in the fridge overnight. The apricots are best roasted and put on top of the cake on the day of serving. Once assembled, the cake is best eaten the same day.

Playing around: Rose water or vanilla extract can be used instead of the orange blossom water, if you like. If using vanilla in the filling, use 1½ teaspoons of vanilla paste or the scraped seeds of ½ a vanilla pod, in addition to the vanilla extract already there. Lots of other fruits – stone fruits or otherwise – work as well as the apricots here. Peaches, plums and cherries are also good, as are strawberries. As ever, with nuts, other nuts can be used apart from those we suggest: Brazil nuts, for example, or macadamia nuts. They both work well in any combination in the base: just keep the net weight the same.

Serves ten to twelve

Base
5 sheets of good-quality filo pastry (about 110g)
90g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
40g walnut halves
60g pistachio kernels
1½ tbsp plain flour
50g caster sugar
10 cardamom pods, shells discarded and seeds finely crushed in a pestle and mortar (or ¾ tsp ground cardamom)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp flaked sea salt

Filling
500g labneh (either shop-bought or 850g of Greek-style yoghurt, see headnote and page 48, if making your own)
500g ricotta
210g caster sugar
⅔ tsp flaked sea salt
5 eggs (2 whole, and 3 with yolks and whites separated: you will only be using the yolks of these)
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tbsp orange blossom water
1¼ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tbsp cornflour

Topping
75g runny honey
2 tsp orange blossom water
40ml orange juice
6 cardamom pods, shells on, seeds roughly bashed together in a pestle and mortar
350g ripe apricots, stones removed, cut into 6 wedges
A small handful of picked mint leaves, to garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform baking tin and set aside. To make the base, lay out one sheet of filo on a clean work surface. Measure out a third of the butter – this will be used for brushing the sheets – and set the remaining 60g aside for later. Brush the sheet until well coated, then top with the second filo sheet. Continue in this fashion until all the filo and butter has been used up, finishing the last layer with a coating of butter. Transfer the filo stack to a parchment-lined baking tray and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes (or longer) before breaking apart into large shards. In two batches, place the shards in a food processor and blitz for about 10 seconds, to form fine crumbs. Place in a medium bowl, then add the nuts to the processor. Blitz for about 20 seconds, until fine but not powdery. Add the nuts to the filo along with the flour, sugar, spices, flaked salt and remaining two-thirds of butter and mix to combine. Tip the mixture into the base of the lined tin and press it down firmly and evenly so that the whole base is covered. Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the filling, clean out the food processor and add the labneh, ricotta, sugar and salt. Pulse for just a few seconds, to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs, egg yolks (the spare whites can be saved for something else), orange zest, orange blossom water, vanilla extract and cornflour. Pulse for about 15 seconds, to combine, then pour the mixture into the cake tin. Bake for 60–70 minutes, or until the cake is beginning to take on some colour around the edges but still has a slight wobble in the middle. Remove from the oven and leave to cool at room temperature for an hour before refrigerating for at least 4 hours or (preferably) overnight.

On the day of serving, preheat the oven to 200°C fan and prepare the topping. Put the honey, orange blossom water, orange juice and bashed cardamom pods into a small saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. Cook for 4–6 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced by half and is beginning to form a thin syrup. Spread the apricots out on a parchment-lined baking tray, on their side, and drizzle over half the syrup. Bake for about 8 minutes, turning the apricots over halfway through baking, until completely softened but still retaining their shape. Remove from the oven and set aside for about 30 minutes, until completely cool.

Just before serving (or up to 1 hour, if you want to prepare ahead), release the cake from its tin and transfer to a round serving platter. Top with the apricots – there should not be any overlap – and drizzle with the remaining syrup. The bashed cardamom pods can be used for garnish as well – they look nice – but these are not to be eaten. Scatter over the mint leaves, if using, and serve.

Extracted from FALASTIN: A COOKBOOK by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Jenny Zarins

Cook more from this book
Chicken musakhan
Sweet tahini rolls

Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

Chicken musakhan by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

246_chicken_musakhan

Musakhan is the hugely popular national dish of Palestine: growing up, Sami ate it once a week, pulling a piece of chicken and sandwiching it between a piece of pita or latbread. It’s a dish to eat with your hands and with your friends, served from one pot or plate, for everyone to then tear at some of the bread and spoon over the chicken and topping for themselves.

Traditionally, musakhan was made around the olive oil pressing season in October or November to celebrate (and gauge the quality of) the freshly pressed oil. The taboon bread would be cooked in a hot taboon oven (see page 341) lined with smooth round stones, to create small craters in the bread in which the meat juices, onion and olive oil all happily pool. It’s cooked year round, nowadays, layered with shop-bought taboon or pita bread, and is a dish to suit all occasions: easy and comforting enough to be the perfect weeknight supper as it is, but also special enough to stand alongside other dishes
at a feast.

Playing around: The chicken can be replaced with thick slices of roasted aubergine or chunky cauliflower florets, if you like (or a mixture of both), for a vegetarian alternative. If you do this, toss the slices or florets in the oil and spices, as you do the chicken, and  roast at 200°C fan for about 25 minutes for the cauliflower and about 35 minutes for the aubergine.

Serves four
1 chicken (about 1.7kg), divided into 4 pieces (1.4kg) or 1kg chicken supremes (between 4 and 6, depending on size), skin on, if you prefer
120ml olive oil, plus 2–3
tbsp extra, to finish
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp sumac
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
30g pine nuts
3 large red onions, thinly sliced
2–3mm thick (500g)
4 taboon breads (see headnote),
or any flatbread (such as Arabic
flatbread or naan bread) (330g)
5g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper

To serve
300g Greek-style yoghurt
1 lemon, quartered
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan.

Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1½ teaspoons of sumac, the cinnamon, allspice, 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine, then spread out on a parchment-lined baking tray. Roast until the chicken is cooked through. This will take about 30 minutes if starting with supremes and up to 45 minutes if starting with the whole chicken, quartered. Remove from the oven and set aside. Don’t discard any juices which have collected in the tray.

Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan, about 24cm, and place on a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook for about 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the nuts are golden brown. Transfer to a bowl lined with kitchen paper (leaving the oil behind in the pan) and set aside. Add the remaining 60ml of oil to the pan, along with the onions and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Return to a medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions are completely soft and pale golden but not caramelised. Add 2 tablespoons of sumac, the remaining 2 teaspoons of cumin and a grind of black pepper and mix through, until the onions are completely coated. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When ready to assemble the dish, set the oven to a grill setting and slice or tear the bread into quarters or sixths. Place them under the grill for about 2–3 minutes, to crisp up, then arrange them on a large platter. Top the bread with half the onions, followed by all the chicken and any chicken juices left in the tray. Either keep each piece of chicken as it is or else roughly shred it as you plate up, into two or three large chunks. Spoon the remaining onions the top and sprinkle with the pine nuts, parsley, 1½ teaspoons of sumac and a final drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once, with the yoghurt and a wedge of lemon alongside.

Extracted from FALASTIN: A COOKBOOK by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Jenny Zarins

Buy the book 
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

Cook more from this book
Labneh cheesecake
Chicken musakhan