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Food and Recipes

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Palestinian flavour
submitted by Sufian Mustafa

Even though food flavour is unified throughout Pal¬es¬tine, the Palestinian cuisine can be divided roughly into four re¬gions, according to the variations in taste: the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Galilee and the area known as the Tri¬an¬gle. Variations are evident in the intensity of the taste of food and not in the reci¬pes themselves.

The difference between what Palestinians cook in the villages and in the cities is only in the in¬gre¬di¬ents used, and not in the taste. For ex¬am¬ple burgul is more popu¬lar amongst peasants whereas rice is more popular in the cities.

Palestinian food is char¬ac¬terized by its sour yet sweet taste. It derives its sourness from the use of yo¬gurt and its byproducts, lemon, pome¬granate, un¬ripe grapes, to¬ma¬toes and tama¬rind. The sweetness comes mainly from dried fruits such as rai¬sins, dates, apricots, figs, and mo¬lasses, which are also sweet and sour in taste.

Palestinians also mix bitter and sour tastes. The most deli¬cate taste of bitterness is ex¬pe¬ri¬enced with virgin olive oil in dressings and sauces. Olive oil blends well with sour juices and contributes a great deal to the ba¬sic Palestinian taste.

Tahina, a paste derived from ground sesame seeds, is also a typical Palestinian flavour. It is al¬ways present on the Palestinian ta¬ble in the form of dips, spreads, salads or sauces, and even in sweets. The degree of seed roasting de¬ter¬mines the taste of the tahina; this is a source of taste variation in different regions.

Yogurt is always present on the table as well, ei¬ther fresh on its own, in salads and drinks or of¬ten as a hot sauce. It is also used for the preparation of basic foods such as kishik, which is burgul soaked in fer¬mented yo¬gurt and then dried. Jmeed, too, the main in¬gre¬dient for Munsaf sauce is made from dried butter¬milk.

The spices most used in Palestinian cooking are cumin, car¬da¬mom, cinna¬mon, nutmeg, all¬spice, black pepper and summac. Herbs are usually con¬sumed fresh. In the past they were picked when fami¬lies went on pic¬nics (Shatha), or from the gar¬den. Thyme, co¬ri¬an¬der, pars¬ley, rose¬mary and mint are the most popu¬lar herbs. They are used in stuffings, salad dressings and in sauces.

Dressings are made of any sour liq¬uid, usually lemon juice mixed with ol¬ive oil, with a com¬bi¬nation of gar¬lic, finely chopped spring on¬ion, fresh herbs and summac. There are five basic sauces in Pal¬es¬tinian cooking: yogurt, tahina, to¬mato, veg¬eta¬ble and brown sauce. A whole variation of each is achieved by using different aux¬il¬iary materials such as herbs and spices.

Source: www.chefsufian.co.uk

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