Palestinian Food Recipes From the Anera Community
As you prepare your breakfast, think of others– Mahmoud Darwish
(do not forget the pigeon’s food).
Today, in honor of International Hummus Day (yes, that’s a thing!), we share some of the delicious Ramadan recipes that have come our way over the years.
Recipes passed down through family often hold special meaning. In Gaza, meals are sometimes prepared in locally-made, Anera-supplied solar cookers. Sumaya, a farmer in Deir el Balah, cooks vegetables grown in her greenhouse. “Our favorite dish today is molokhia,” she says. “I pick the jute leaves from my garden and use a recipe from my mother. And,” she says with a laugh, “I never worry about the food being burned.”
At the Dar Al-Tifel Al-Arabi school for girls in Jerusalem, founded for orphans from the 1948 conflict, Nawal has been preparing meals for the students for three decades. A vibrant community has been built around the school, premised upon giving and sharing. And as head cook, Nawal is at the center of it. Her own daughters attended the school. Local supporters often contribute food. When Anera visited, spaghetti sauce and meatballs were on the menu, provided from a philanthropist’s kitchen.
In Gaza, where Anera training and irrigation systems have supported sweet potato farmers, Aysha’s sweet potato pie provides a special treat for her kids.
Children too can get in on the action. In Gaza, Anera’s ECD programs incorporate active learning projects, including making healthy meals. Ghada, a preschool teacher comments, “The kids follow the recipe, and if they face any problems, they need to figure out how to resolve it on their own.” Preparing food in this way allows young children to confront challenges and develop problem-solving skills in collaboration with peers.
“When children make healthy meals, they learn and experience the meaning of health. They won’t forget what they did because it will be carved into their subconscious memories,” says Suad, another preschool teacher.
Sambusek are crescent-shaped Ramadan pastries, commonly stuffed with meat or cheese and zaatar – but feel free to get creative! This recipe for the savory appetizers comes from Ola, the mother of a colleague in Gaza, and her sister Alia in Jerusalem.
1/2 lb. flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. yeast
1 cup yogurt
1 cup water (room temperature)
Mix all ingredients together. Knead thoroughly. Cover and put aside in a warm place for an hour. Tear the dough into balls and roll out into rounds the side of a hand. Spread the filling over half of each round, leaving a little room on the edges. Brush the rims with water and fold the dough over to enclose the filling, pinching it closed. Bake in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes.
Maqluba means “upside down” in Arabic. It’s a fitting name for this rice dish, which is cooked with chicken and an assortment of vegetables. Before being served, the whole dish is flipped over on a plate and the pot lifted to give the dish a cake-like shape.
This maqluba recipe comes courtesy of Sabah who worked in our Gaza office for over three decades.
1 whole chicken, cut into four pieces
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 eggplants, peeled and sliced
3 large onions, peeled and sliced
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. cardamom
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp. salt
2 lb. basmati rice
4.5 oz. whole almonds
- Thoroughly clean the chicken with lemon, flour it and place it in a pot.
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon each of allspice, cardamom, cinnamon and salt on the chicken.
- Let it boil for 15 minutes, then simmer over a low flame for 90 minutes.
- Peel and slice the potatoes, fry until golden and put them aside. Slice the eggplants, fry until golden, and put them aside. Slice the onions, fry until golden, and put them aside.
- Place the cooked chicken into the pot as a base, then add the slices of fried potatoes, then eggplants, then onion. Place the tomato slices on the sides of the pot.
- Wash rice thoroughly and leave it in boiling water for 15 minutes. Sprinkle all the remaining spices (salt, allspice, cardamom and cinnamon) on the rice, and then pour the rice on the top of all the layers.
- Put a small flat plate on top of the rice while pouring the boiled chicken soup slowly over it to ensure that the vegetables remain on the bottom of the pot. Make sure the water level is 1 inch above the rice.
- Cook on high heat for 10 minutes, then on very low heat for 30 minutes. Turn over the hot pot on a large tray and leave it for 20 minutes. Remove the pot slowly and carefully to get the desired shape.
- Fry the almonds to decorate the top of the maqluba. Serve with a fresh salad (check out the fattoush recipe below) and enjoy!
Our colleague in the Jerusalem office shares her recipe for this diced salad popular in Palestine and Lebanon.
4 medium tomatoes
4 large cucumbers
1 large green bell pepper
6 small radishes (or 2 large ones)
3 small scallions/spring onions
1 small bunch of arugula
1 medium head of lettuce
1 bunch of fresh mint (for garnish)
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground sumac
1 tbsp. dry mint
½ cup of fresh lemon juice (3 medium lemons)
¼ cup of olive oil
Toasted bread (torn into small pieces) or croutons
Toss the chopped tomatoes, cucumber, green bell pepper, radish, scallion, arugula and lettuce in a big bowl.
Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate container. Add the dressing to the salad, evenly coating the vegetables. Add the toasted bread pieces and toss again slightly. Garnish it with fresh mint.
Our colleague shares a recipe from her mother in the West Bank for a favorite Ramadan dish. For her mother, she writes, “it is not a necessity nor is it a duty to cook, it’s an art.”
The star ingredient of molokhia is its namesake: a bitter, leafy plant also known as Egyptian spinach, among other names.
2 lbs. of molokhia Leaves
1 1/2 chicken
3 cups of rice
1 1/2 tbsp. of salt
1 tsp. of pepper
½ tsp. of allspice
6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. of dried coriander
- Finely chop, rinse and drain molokhia leaves.
- Cut the chicken into pieces, marinate in lemon and salt for 15 minutes and then rinse off. Put the chicken in a pot and dice 1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic over it. Mix it on the stove for 10 minutes.
- Pour 3 quarts of water over the chicken and bring it to a boil. Make sure to skim off the fat that rises to the top every few minutes. Mix 1 ½ tablespoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper and ½ teaspoon of allspice in the broth. It takes about 30 minutes for the chicken to get tender.
- Take the chicken out of the water and put it in a pan, and add pepper, chicken spice, sumac, and smoked paprika. Put it in the oven for 10 minutes until the chicken is crispy.
- Put the drained molokhia leaves in the chicken broth for 30 minutes. Skim off the fat that rises to the top.
- Chop up 4 cloves of garlic and place them in a pan with the dried coriander and 2 tablespoons of cooking oil.
- Take this mixture and pour it over the boiling molokhia stew. Let it boil for 10 more minutes and turn off the stove. Serve with rice on the side and bon appetit!
When Anera visited in 2017, Basima and her family were spending their fourth year celebrating Ramadan in Gaza. Basima is Syrian and husband is of Palestinian descent. Refugees from Syria, they were forced to flee and eventually ended up in Gaza.
“I don’t need many expensive ingredients to make my family happy. I can always find ways to cook delicious food. And we are all thankful for those moments when we are all huddled around one table to eat together.”
Basima grew up watching her mother cook and following her recipes. White bean stew is one of her staple Ramadan recipes, served to break a day of fasting. She pairs it with side dishes of yalanji (stuffed grape leaves), salad and rice with noodles.
In her kitchen, Basima sighs deeply. “Recipes are the only thing I could bring with me. Whenever I feel nostalgic for those old sweet times in Syria, I cook something that takes me back. Food reminds me of home, family and love.”
1 lb. of cubed beef
1 14 oz. can white kidney (or Cannellini) beans
2 medium onions
2 medium to large tomatoes
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
Salt, allspice, black pepper and cumin to taste
Drain and rinse kidney beans. Chop the onions and tomatoes into small pieces. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot and add the chopped onion. Fry until softened. Add the meat and brown on all sides. Add the tomatoes, kidney beans and some salt, black pepper and allspice to taste. Mix everything together.
Mix chicken broth and tomato paste together and add to meat and kidneys. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. At the end, add a splash of cumin.
Serve with rice. Sahtain!
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