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With Palestine portrayed in the news as a conflict-ridden and divided region, it is easy for one to forget its rich, cultural history, and the food is no exception. In her new cookbook, Palestine on a Plate, Joudie Kalia continues the legacy of her family’s traditional recipes by giving a voice to the underrepresented cuisine of her native Palestine and its power to bring people together. Check out these three featured recipes from the cookbook!

Kubbet Batata Helweh (Sweet Potato Kubbeh with Green Herby Salsa)

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Kubbeh is a dish that has many flavors, styles, and techniques. It is most famous in Syria, where in one city alone they have over 20 different types of kubbeh.

Serves 8–10
2. lb (1 kg) sweet potatoes
4. cups (20 oz/600 g) fine white bulgur
21⁄3–3 cups (550–700 ml) hot vegetable stock
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons dried Marjoram
a bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
vegetable oil, for frying

For the salsa:
a bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
a small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 red chili, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
. cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon salt

For the stuffing:
2⁄3 cup (150 ml) olive oil
8 large onions, sliced
scant 1 cup (3. oz/100 g) sumac
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).Roast the potatoes in their skins for about 30 minutes. You can cut them in half to make this process faster, which also helps to caramelize the potato, adding greater flavor. Drain the potatoes of any liquid and squeeze them to remove any excess juices.

Meanwhile, soak the bulgur in the hot vegetable stock for about 5 minutes and then drain well.

Make the salsa while the potatoes are cooking. Combine the chopped ingredients in a bowl and add the lemon juice, vinegar, and oil. Season with the salt and set aside.

Peel the skins from the potatoes and mash them in a bowl. Add the mash to the drained bulgur, then add all the spices and the salt, diced onion, garlic, marjoram, and parsley. Mix well, taste, and add more seasoning if needed. To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and the onions until soft. Add the sumac, salt, and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Now to form your kubbeh. Take a golf ball-sized piece of the potato mixture and roll into a ball. Use the thumb on your right hand to start hollowing the ball out, then insert a small amount of stuffing and mold the potato mixture around the stuffing to seal. You should have an oval football shape. Repeat until all the mixture has been used.

Heat enough vegetable oil in a pan for shallow frying and fry the kubbeh for about 2–5 minutes until browned. Serve with the salsa and enjoy the sweetness of the spiced sweet potato with the tangy green salsa and sour sumac onions.

Tips: Rather than frying, you can bake the kubbeh in a 425°F (220°C) oven for 30 minutes.

There are three different types of bulgur (cracked wheat, see page 17). One is fine white bulgur as we use here; another is very fine, like semolina, and also called fine bulgur (but you definitely don’t want to use that type here); and lastly, there is a thick, coarse variety. Be sure to use the right one for this dish,otherwise the kubbeh will be too heavy and won’t hold their shape.

Teta Huda’s Mussaka’a (Fried & Baked Spicy Eggplant & Tomato Stew)

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Mussaka’a is one of my family’s all-time favorites. It is easy, delicious, and packed full of flavor with just a few ingredients. My mother makes this for my father a lot at the request of Teta (Grandmother) Huda, his mother—if there is a dish to remember someone by, this would be his dish. He never used to eat eggplants, and in fact hated them until he met my mother, but through her cooking, she converted him.Making this ahead of time is great, since it is best served cold or at room temperature (mussaka’a literally means “cold”). This recipe is for my dad. I have used the recipe from my grandmother Huda, who never stopped persevering in her eggplant mission with my father!

Serves 4
12⁄3 cups (400 ml) sunflower oil
2 large eggplants, chopped
into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
sea salt and black pepper
4–6 tablespoons (60–90 ml) olive oil
1 whole head of garlic, peeled and cut into thick slivers
1 large onion, chopped
2 hot green chilies, halved lengthways
9 oz (250 g) grape tomatoes (preferably Datterini, see note), halved
generous 2 cups (500 ml)
tomato passata or puree
toasted Khubez (Pita Bread,see page 48), to serve

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Heat the sunflower oil in a pan over high heat until it is very hot, then add the eggplants. Lightly fry for about 5–10 minutes (depending on the size of your chunks), then remove from the heat, sprinkle with salt, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and fry the garlic and onions until they begin to gently caramelize. Add the chilies and fry a little to release the intensity of the flavor. Add the tomatoes and cook until they split open and cook down in the pan with the garlic, onions, and chili.

Once they have reduced slightly, add the passata or purée and leave it to simmer gently for about 10 minutes—you are looking for a deep, rich garlic flavor with a spicy kick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once it has reduced by about one-third, add the fried eggplants and mix together. Transfer everything to an ovenproof dish and bake for about 30–35 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about one-third again; you don’t want a really saucy dish—it should be thick but with some movement. Remove from the oven, taste to check the seasoning and adjust if needed, and then leave it to cool. Transfer to the fridge to chill. This dish should be eaten cold or at room temperature. Enjoy with warm toasted Khubez (Pita Bread).

Tip: Datterini tomatoes (sometimes called date tomatoes for their shape and sweetness) are my preferred type of tomato to use in cooking—they are far juicier and plumper than other varieties and really taste as a tomato should.

Freekeh, Fig & Pistachio Cake with Lemon Zest

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I love freekeh and use it in so many ways in my cooking. The balance of the savory freekeh and the sweet figs, with the slightly sweet and salty pistachios really works well. I also add the lemon to give a hint of citrus to bring it all together. My granny would be proud of this recipe—it has Palestine written all over it!

Serves 8–10
generous 1 cups (10 oz/285 g) cracked freekeh, ground to a powder in a high-speed blender or spice grinder
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
generous cup (6 oz/170 g) sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon, plus the juice of a lemon
2⁄3 cup (2. oz/75 g) whole shelled pistachios
generous 1 cups (375 ml) Greek yogurt
3 eggs
4 tablespoons (2 oz/55 g) salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste

For the topping:
8 figs, cut in half from root to bottom
scant cup (1. oz/50 g) pistachios, chopped
a sprinkling of brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a 10 inch (25 cm) round baking pan with parchment paper. Mix the freekeh, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar, lemon zest, and pistachios together.

Mix the yogurt, eggs, and melted butter together in a separate bowl. Add this to the dry ingredients, then add the lemon juice and vanilla bean paste. Mix together until well combined.

Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan. Place the cut figs in a circle across the top and scatter with chopped pistachios and brown sugar. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. This cake will keep for about 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

Tips: If freekeh is a little too intense for you, use half freekeh and half all purpose flour—some people are not used to the intense nutty flavor of it, but I assure you, it is divine. Don’t be tempted to make this cake in a loaf pan—it will not rise properly since the freekeh is so dense. It is always best made in a round cake pan.

Palestine on a Plate is now available for purchase here.