A taste of Jerusalem

From sweet pistachio baklava to smoked aubergine dip, Jerusalemʼs traditional cuisine leaves a lasting impression

By Hanan Kattan
Published 23 Aug 2017, 09:00 BST, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 10:40 BST

A taste of Jerusalem

Photograph by Getty Images

Jerusalem holds a special place in my heart — childhood holidays were at our ancestral home in Bethlehem, where we ate home-cooked dishes, from hummus to moutabal (smoked aubergine) to fatet djaj chicken and traditional tabun bread, baked in an outdoor oven at my grandfather's olive farm. That bread left such an impression that I named my first restaurant, Tabun Kitchen, after it.

Spice it up

Sumac: This red spice, made from powdered sumac berries, imparts a zingy, lemony tartness to food. It's a key ingredient in musakhan — a popular Palestine dish — and is delicious sprinkled on fried eggs or a spinach manaeesh (Palestinian pizza).

Za'atar: Aromatic spice mix, made of thyme, sea salt, toasted sesame and sumac. It's added to olive oil and spread over flatbread to create manaeesh za'atar . Also delicious sprinkled on labneh (strained, salty yoghurt).

Sweet treats

Zalatimo Sweets is the place for baklava. The pistachio rolls, baked in layers of delicate filo pastry, are my favourite.

Where to eat

Try musakhan (chicken marinated in sumac, olive oil and pine nuts) at Pasha's, in East Jerusalem. Lina, in the Christian Quarter market, has been making great hummus for over 35 years. Visit Abu Kamel, near Abtimos Market, at the weekend for makloubeh, a Palestinian staple of rice, vegetables and marinated lamb. Afterwards, stop at a street stall for sesame seed ka'ak bread, or a piece of warm kanafeh , a dessert made of Nablus cheese, kataif pastry and syrup.

Make it at home: Jerusalem falafel


400g chickpeas, 1 chopped onion, a handful of parsley and coriander, 4 cloves of garlic, 50g Abido Falafel Spices, 1tsp plain flour, salt and pepper

Combine chickpeas, onions, parsley, coriander, garlic, spice mix and a teaspoon each of salt, pepper and plain flour. Pop it all in a blender and process till smooth. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, form balls of dough and deep fry at 180C until golden brown. For more flavour, stuff them with chopped onion sautéed in sumac.

Hanan Kattan is the founder of Tabun Kitchen in Soho, London, which focuses on modern Palestinian home cooking.

Published in the September 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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