How Gaza Women Prepare Winter Delights!
Last year, Anera supported eight women’s cooperatives in Gaza with dough mixers, pans, cooking utensils and stoves to support their professional work and help them generate income despite difficult economic conditions.
Palestinian culture is reflected in the food and treats enjoyed by families while gathered together, bantering about daily life, telling stories, and recalling the past. Inside Al Hakourah Women’s Cooperative in Gaza, a group of women gather around a table, sleeves rolled up, to make a delicious winter treat - date cookies, or ka’ak bi ajwa in Arabic (كعك بالعجوة).
It’s not only the final product that makes these cookies alluring. The recipes themselves have history and sentimental value. Passed down from a beloved grandmother or a neighbor, they guide the baker on how to produce a delicious treat made of local ingredients.
The dates that form the main ingredient in the filling for the cookies are picked locally from the date palm tree farms in Gaza. The stands of date palm trees are the pride of the surrounding villages.
The date harvest season begins in August and runs through the end of November. During these months at the cooperative, a half dozen or more women go out and collect and buy dates from the farms in order to dry them. They then turn the dates into products they sell to make an income all year long.
During the harvest season, some women visit the local produce markets to search for the best prices, while others rent a palm tree for the season to ensure the quality of the dates for their products.
The date cookies are as attractive as they are tasty. The women of the cooperative have even received training from a prominent chef in Gaza on the best plating and decorating techniques. “Eyes eat before mouths,” observes Sohair, the head of the cooperative.
Amal, another one of the cooperative members, notes that dates are a nutritious dessert that children love during the winter months. Sohair and Amal have proven that the cooperative is sustainable, having been members for nearly a decade. The cooperative receives orders all year from local grocers and traders selling fresh homemade baked goods in the markets.
Enjoy a Recipe from Al Hakoura Women’s Cooperative for
Palestinian Date Cookies
- 3 cups, flour
- 3 teaspoons, anise seeds
- 3/4 cup, vegetable oil
- 1 cup, sugar
- 1 teaspoon, instant yeast
- 1/2 cup, water
- 4 teaspoons, sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons, baking powder
- 500 grams (approx. 20 ounces or 2 1/2 cups), date paste (if unavailable, mash pitted dates to a paste)
- 1 tablespoon, ghee (if unavailable, substitute with butter)
- 1 tablespoon, anise seeds
- 1 tablespoon, cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon, sesame seeds
- Prepare the filling by mixing the date paste with the ghee and the other ingredients. Divide the mixture into balls (a bit smaller than a golf ball) and then roll them out into ropes. Set aside.
- Prepare the dough: In a bowl, add the flour and anise seeds and then the oil. Rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it is well mixed.
- Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the water. Slowly add to the flower mixture along with the rest of the dough ingredients while kneading gently until the dough comes together.
- Divide the dough into egg sized balls.
- Flatten the dough and roll it into really thin sheets. If the dough is thick your cookies will be chewy as opposed to crisp.
- Place the lengths of date filling on top of the flattened pieces of dough and fold the dough over the filling. Join the ends, forming a ring.
- Bake in the center of a very hot oven (approximately 400℉) till the bottoms are golden brown (approximately 20 minutes) then turn on the broiler for a few minutes until the tops are golden brown.
- Remove from the oven to cool for 10 minutes before enjoying.