Ful or broad beans have become somewhat of a delicacy in the Arab world. No mezza is complete without a plate of mushed up broad beans stuck alongside a tower of flat flatbread. This steaming batch of Ful offered a warming aroma that drew me closer. Each restaurant in the Old city of Jerusalem competed for the best plate of starchy goodness, presenting their dip on small plates with crownings of olive oil and parsley. It’s shocking that such a simple, ‘peasant’ side dish could gain the respect of millions of Arab ‘followers’ – but I must say it has also captured my heart, this dish is a must try!
2 cups boiled and pealed broad beans
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin – optional
parsley, finely chopped for the garnish
Mash the broad beans. Add all the ingredients and mix. Serve on small plates with the ful spread into a thin layer. Drizzle with olive oil and crown with parsley.
In our last few days of venturing Jerusalem’s Old City, Mum and I went on a hunt for the best coffee shop. It was essential that we brought back a bag of freshly brewed coffee for my Teta and my Aunty Helen back in Australia.
A small cup of super strong, super sweet Arabic coffee is a must have every time we pay my grandparents a visit. When I was young I remember standing over the stove glaring into the bright red coffee pot waiting for the water to boil. I remember yelling out what coffee to sugar ratio to add to the water, and disputes resulting from the innocent question. My grandparents prefer what they call ‘three and three’- three parts coffee to three parts sugar. My parents on the other hand prefer ‘three and two.’ My Teta prefers plain coffee beans in her grind where my mum likes her coffee beans ground with fresh cardamon pods. Nonetheless, coffee of this sort is quintessentially Arabic, and I always enjoy it!
Nothing says Arabic food like Arabic bread. A meal is never ever complete without it! But unlike the arabic bread that we find in Sydney that is flat and soft, the bread that I found in Jerusalem was thick and rough, burnished over an open flame. As a kid I remember emergency calls from my Teta to my Mum, begging her to pick up 10 bags of arabic bread on our way to Teta’s house. Bread in my grandparents household was some what a security blanket. It was something that took my grandparents back to when they were young and living in Palestine. It made them remember coming home to steaming hot bread, fresh out of their mothers wood-fired ovens that immediately satisfied.
Growing up in Sydney, a trip to Granville with my Teta and Mum was a fortnightly must. It always fascinated me that I could experience the Arab world in a suburb only half an hour from my house. After hours of being lugged around Arabic grocery stores and the ‘quick’ trip to the Arab butcher, I was always promised a hot Mana’ish (or Zatar bread) at the end of it all. The sour oregano mixture on top of hot puffed flat bread never failed to re-ignite my happy childish self after a long day of grocery shopping. So when I came across Mana’ish on a long narrow street of the old city of Jerusalem, memories of my childhood trips to Granville returned and an instant feeling of warmth came over my winter-struck body.
The Old City of Jerusalem
Rolling out of the mini van, feet firmly planting themselves onto the ancient stone ground, I couldn’t have felt a more immense happiness. After hours of standing in between large dark men and women bearing screaming babies in a queue of what had to be a thousand people, I was glad to be home. More than glad. Lucky.
The checkpoint on the border of Jordan and Israel was far from a welcoming airport that I have become so accustomed to. Arriving at the front of the line, a man with dark green eyes and thick brown hair called us over to his booth. He sat firmly in his chair with eyes planted on us, scanning each family member as if a grocery item. It was a good ten minutes before he lifted his head from his keyboard and questioned us about our arab descent. He was sceptical about the reasons for our entry into his land. But after more scanning, and a reassuring smile from me, he let us through. He let me home.
The gates of the old city offered great vibrance and a warming welcome. Carts filled with kilos of plump, hot-pink strawberries lined the walls of the old city and the perfume of cardamon pods and strong black coffee filled the cold winter’s air. My journey to discover the food so loved by my Palestinian ancestors had begun.