In many cultures, food is a celebration and reflection of life, culture, family and friends. According to author and chef Joudie Kalla, the word Baladi is Arabic for “my home, my land, my country.” In her introduction to her latest cookbook, she goes on to explain her Palestinian heritage and the complexities of the land which is made up of many cultures through occupation.
The book is Kalla’s own celebration of her heritage, filled with pages of gorgeous photos, not just of the food, but the lifestyles and marketplaces. The glossy pages make the photos by Jamie Orlando Smith and Jacqui Small absolutely shine. This is a beautiful hard-bound book to flick though.
The presentation of the recipes keep to the idea of home, land and country, divided into lifestyles: Markets and Village Life, The Fields and Earth, The Bakery, The Farm, From the River to the Sea, and Hills and Orchards. Each section starts with a page-long introduction of Kalla’s memories and why she chose that particular theme, just as her recipes often begin with a paragraph about the food.
Kalla’s instructions are easy to follow and Baladi offers an enormous range of recipes across its 256 pages. The ingredients aren’t difficult to find although, as with most recipe books from other cultures, there may be the occasional ingredient that requires some investigation.
From simple to complex recipes, Baladi is suitable for cooks of any experience. It’s well worth a read for both the delicious offerings and the loving reflection of Palestine and its people. Add it to your Christmas gift list.
Salatet bateekh ma’ feta
(Watermelon, feta and red onion salad with mint)
This achingly simple salad was the hit of the dinner party and is still being talked about weeks later. It’s refreshing and tasty, with the contrasting flavours of each ingredient blending into an addictive explosion of taste. The salad would go with any meal and acts as a palate cleanser amongst other strongly-flavoured dishes. I can’t recommend this salad enough, especially with summer coming on. It will surprise your guests, quench your thirst and leave you craving for more.
(Sweetened caraway pudding)
Kalla explains that Karawya is a dessert that is usually made to celebrate a birth due to the nutrients it provides the mother for her milk. It’s a dessert that looks far more complicated than it is, topped with a big variety of different soaked nuts, shredded coconut and edible rose petals (which make an awesome cup of tea if you have any leftovers!). Karawya is very quick to make although it does require a couple of hours in the fridge to set. The result looks spectacular and can easily be sweetened to taste. The added touch of cinnamon and the distinct flavour of caraway makes this a memorable and very impressive-looking finale to a fine meal. Serve it in a large dish, or let it set in individual serving bowls. Either way, your guests will thank you and be gob-smacked by how impressive it looks.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 10
Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Released: October 2018