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Food and Recipes

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Too Cold without One
submitted by Sufian Mustafa

Winter in Palestine could be quite cold in the evenings that one has to have lots of hot drinks to keep warm. Traditionally, families used to huddle around a stove that provided the only source of heating on long winter nights. Stoves were fuelled by coal or wood and, more recently, kerosene and gas. With alcohol not being a customary drink in Palestine, hot beverages were called for to warm body and soul.


The tea plant is of Asian origin. It is probable that the ancient Chinese knew it since the 28th century BC. The West did not get to know tea before the 17th century. Tea became the drink of choice in England in 1657 and the English were the only people in Europe to drink more tea than coffee. Tea is an aromatic plant that contains caffeine that ranges between 2.5 – 4.5 %, whereas coffee has a caffeine level of 1.5% only. In most Arab countries tea is had for breakfast and often for supper as well, especially when the evening meal is made up of labaneh, goat cheese, za’atar, and halaweh (a sweet made of sesame seed oil and glucose). Tea is often flavoured with fresh mint leaves or dried sage leaves.


Coffee originated in Ethiopia or the Sudan, from which it reached Yemen where it was first planted in AD 675 but its cultivation remained rare until the 15th century. In 1714, the French were able to transfer the coffee plant from Yemen to the American continent, thus introducing the cultivation of coffee to Latin America.

The coffee plant grows in the Arabian Peninsula, India, Africa and Central and South America. Different types of green coffee beans are roasted to obtain flavour and aroma. Coffee as we know it today was first roasted and brewed in Yemen, from which it travelled to other Arab countries. It was the Turks who introduced coffee to France.

Arabic coffee, more popularly known as Turkish coffee, has to be brewed in a specific way: fresh water is boiled in a small pot and then removed from the fire. Finely ground coffee is added, to the tune of one heaped teaspoon for every small cup, and it is sweetened according to taste. The mixture is brought back to the fire, stirring constantly, allowing it to boil and calm down several times before it is removed from the fire and allowed to settle for several minutes. Arabic coffee is customarily flavoured with cardamom seeds that are mixed with the coffee beans before grinding. Coffee is served unsweetened during mourning.

Herbal Drinks

A variety of herbs is used to make hot beverages. These include thyme, sage, mint and camomile. These herbs could be used on their own or added to tea for flavour.

Spiced Beverages

Other popular winter drinks are those made by boiling water and adding to it spices such as cinnamon, cloves and anise seed. These drinks are further flavoured by the addition of chopped nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pine nuts.


This soothing winter beverage is often sold on street corners. It is traditionally made of milk that is thickened with a powder obtained from the orchid flower and it has the consistency of a thin pudding, which can be drunk from a cup or eaten with a spoon. Sahlab is sweetened with sugar and served with a sprinkling of cinnamon, coconut flakes and chopped walnuts.


Soups are also a must in winter for warming the soul. The most popular soups are those made with cracked or whole lentils, vegetables, or freekeh, which is cracked, green wheat that is cooked in chicken stock. Rice, burgle or rishtayeh (a dough resembling tagliatelle) can replace freekeh. Herbs such as parsley, coriander or dill are added to soups for taste, colour and goodness.

Source: www.chefsufian.co.uk

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