Warming Palestinian recipes from Zaitoun

Thick and creamy roast cauliflower soup.
Thick and creamy roast cauliflower soup. Photo: Matt Russell

Two sumac-rubbed roasts and a comforting cauliflower soup to warm you up.

Roast cauliflower soup

Cauliflowers are a prized vegetable in the Palestinian kitchen, where their sweet, earthy flavour is celebrated. The most coveted varieties are known as zahra baladi (wild flower); they take a year to grow and, when harvested, are the size of my forearm. In Palestinian folklore, they are believed to cure everything from respiratory problems to post-natal pain. In this recipe, cauliflower is cooked into a thick and creamy soup, with just enough warming spice to make you feel as though it is indeed warding off all potential ailments. 

INGREDIENTS

Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen.
Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen. Photo: Matt Russell

1 large cauliflower (1kg)

2 onions, sliced into half moons

extra virgin olive oil

1½ tsp ground cumin 

1½ tsp ground coriander

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

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30g salted butter

4 garlic cloves, crushed 

1 large potato (400g), skin left on, roughly chopped into 3cm squares

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 litre gluten-free vegetable or chicken stock

1½ tbsp flaked almonds, to serve

chopped parsley leaves, to serve

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced).

2. Cut the cauliflower into equal-sized florets and place them, along with any leaves, on a baking tray with the onions. Drizzle over two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle on the cumin and coriander, one teaspoon salt and half a teaspoon of pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together, then bake for around 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked through but still has some bite.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the garlic for a few minutes over a low heat. Add the potato, turmeric and stock, cover and cook for 10 minutes, until the potato is soft.

4. When the cauliflower is done, reserve a few spoons of it for the topping (including leaves, if you have them) and add the remainder to the soup. Simmer everything together for five minutes before blitzing with a hand-held blender until it is smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

5. Toast the flaked almonds in a dry pan over a low heat until they turn golden. When you are ready to serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and top with a spoonful of roast cauliflower florets and a scattering of toasted almonds and parsley.

Serves 4-6

Roast chicken with sumac and red onions. Recipe extract for Good Food online from Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan, single use only. 

Roast chicken with sumac and red onions.  Photo: Matt Russell

Mussakhan (roast chicken with sumac and red onions)

Mussakhan is a classic Palestinian dish eaten in villages throughout the region. Traditionally the meat is laid out on a giant piece of bread with the flavoursome roasting juices poured over it, so that they seep into the dough. This platter is then placed on the table for everyone to pull off sections of bread and chicken: a wonderful sharing meal. As it can be challenging to find such large pieces of flatbread in most shops, I've suggested using individual naan breads instead, but, of course, if you can, seek out traditional sheets of Arabic taboon bread from Middle Eastern stores. If you are avoiding gluten, the chicken is just as delicious on its own, or served with rice or a salad.

INGREDIENTS

1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on

2 generous tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1 heaped tbsp sumac, plus more to dust

juice of 1 lemon

4 garlic cloves, crushed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large red onions (about 500g), finely sliced into half-moons

1½ tbsp pinenuts

3 tsp light olive oil

naan or Arabic taboon bread, to serve

chopped parsley leaves

METHOD

1. Slash the flesh of each piece of chicken diagonally a few times, around two centimetres apart, and then place the meat in a large bowl or plastic food container.

2. Pour over the extra virgin olive oil, spices, lemon juice, garlic, 1½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and rub this into the meat. Add the red onions and toss everything together well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for one to three hours.

3. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan-forced).

4. Transfer the meat to a baking tray and roast for about 35 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when pierced at their thickest part. Once the chicken is cooked, cover in foil and leave to rest while you prepare the toppings.

5. Fry the pinenuts in the light olive oil for a minute or so until they turn golden brown, then tip on to kitchen paper to drain.

6. To serve, toast the naan or taboon bread and then place the chicken and red onion on top. Finish with a smattering of pinenuts, sumac and chopped parsley. Drizzle over any remaining roasting juices so they soak into the bread, then sprinkle over a little more extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4

Slow-roast shoulder of lamb. Recipe extract for Good Food online from Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan, single use only. 

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder. Photo: Matt Russell

Slow-roast shoulder of lamb with Palestinian spices

This show-stopping roast is a great dish for entertaining. When slow-roasted in this way, the lamb becomes so meltingly soft that it falls off the bone, perfect for stuffing into pockets of flatbread alongside salads, yoghurt and pickles, shawarma-style. Start it the night before, so the marinade has a chance to infuse the lamb. The pomegranate molasses will blacken a little in the oven, but don't worry, that isn't a sign that the meat is burning, it will still be utterly juicy and succulent under the crust.

INGREDIENTS

2kg whole shoulder of lamb, on the bone

2 generous tbsp extra virgin olive oil

100ml unsweetened pomegranate molasses

5 garlic cloves, crushed

25g coriander leaves and stalks, finely chopped, plus more to serve

dried mint

1½ tsp ground cumin

1½ tsp ground allspice

1 heaped tbsp sumac, plus more to serve

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

handful of pomegranate seeds, to serve

METHOD

1. The day before you want to eat, place the lamb in a large roasting dish and slash the meat in a cross-hatch fashion on both sides, cutting deeply and right down to the bone.

2. Mix the remaining ingredients together, except the pomegranate seeds, seasoning with 2½ teaspoons salt and one teaspoon pepper. Rub this marinade into the meat, then spend some time massaging it into all the little nooks and crannies. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate overnight.

3. The next day, take the lamb out of the fridge 20 minutes before you cook it so it comes to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan-forced). 

4. Pour a mug of just-boiled water into the roasting dish, then place the lamb in the middle of the oven. After 30 minutes, cover it with foil to stop the edges burning and baste the meat every hour. Cook for about four hours. You'll know it is ready when it is so soft that you can easily pull the meat from the bone. 

5. When the lamb is cooked, leave it to rest for 15 minutes. Scatter with pomegranate seeds and coriander just before serving, and have some sumac handy at the table to sprinkle over each portion.

Serves 6

This is an edited extract from Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan, published by Bloomsbury, $45, photography © Matt Russell