Today's Financial Times has a delightful article on Palestinian cuisine by cookery writer Anissa Helou, based on her sampling of dishes prepared by the Palestinian singer - and accomplished cook - Reem Kelani at Reem's home near Portobello Road in West London.
Helou writes: I called my Palestinian friend, jazz singer Reem Kelani, to ask if she would show me how to prepare a few typical Palestinian dishes and tell me more about her people’s food. She was delighted, saying that Palestinians do not often have the opportunity to show off their cuisine: “Their cooking remains a closed secret to remind them of their lost homeland.
We settled on a menu that we would prepare and taste together: mussakhan (a chicken, sumac and onion wrap from the West Bank and probably the most famous of all Palestinian dishes), a pumpkin and tahini dip from Jerusalem, and a rose and pine nut punch, which sounded divine. We added a main dish from Nazareth of lamb cooked in a lemony sauce with what sounded like a million garlic cloves, rice vermicelli to serve with the meat, and shatta Ghazzawiyah, a fresh chilli sauce from Gaza to serve with the pumpkin dip. ..
The article is accompanied by this recipe:
Chicken and onion mussakhan wraps
Known as “muhammar” in Galilee and Nazareth, “mussakhan” can be made into wraps, or it can be made into a pizza, with the chicken and onion piled on to a thin dough base and baked. The latter is served as a main dish, while the wraps are served as a starter. This is Reem Kelani’s recipe, and it comes from her sister’s mother-in-law, Izdihar Afyouni. It serves 4-6 people.
Ingredients:500g skinned and boneless chicken breasts; Juice of half a lemon; ½ cup Palestinian extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to brush the wraps; 1 tsp Palestinian mixed spices; Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; 4 medium onions, finely choppe; d1 tbsp sumac, plus extra for garnish; ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted in a hot oven; 2 large shraak (Palestinian flat bread) or markouk (Lebanese handkerchief bread)
● Cut the chicken into long, thin strips and marinate with the lemon juice, half the olive oil, mixed spices and salt and pepper for at least two hours.
● Put the chicken in a pre-heated saucepan, cover and cook in its own marinade, shaking the pan every now and then for about half an hour. Then add 1 cup boiling water and cook until the water evaporates and the chicken is done.
● Fry the chopped onions in the remaining olive oil until cooked but not coloured – add a little water to let them cook thoroughly without caramelising.
● Add the sumac, toasted pine nuts and salt to taste. Cut the bread into rectangular pieces, making sure it is wide enough to roll over into wraps.
● Spread some of the onion and nuts mixture on each piece of bread, then spread some chicken over the onion, sprinkle a little more sumac and roll into long, cigar-shaped wraps.