Gazans are noted to be resilient but little is known about their rich culinary tradition. Ironically, years of living under occupation has dispossessed the Palestinian kitchen resulting in several ingredients and recipes disappearing from dinner tables. The Palestinian Hosting Society founded in 2017 by Mirna Bamieh, an artist and cook, aims to reconstruct some of these lost recipes through food walks and shared meal tables.
In keeping with her collective’s tradition of food art displays Mirna brought alive the Gazan Dukka — a traditional Palestinian recipe eaten dipped in olive oil at the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai last week. Also called the ‘soil of the Gazans’ because of its colour, the Dukka is essentially a mix of roasted ingredients pound together.
To make the Dukka Mirna mixed half a kilo of powdered wheat kernels into a large bowl . The kernels had been roasted in a thick bottomed pan on low heat. To this she added roasted and crushed brown lentils, dil seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and sesame. Mixing them liberally together Mirna added some salt, summac, lemon salt and lots of red chili flakes as the Gazans like their Dukka hot.
The interactive picnic concluded with small takeaways jars of Dukka and a tasting session where we savoured it with an assortment of bread, cheese and salads with ladles of olive oil. The Dukka recipe seemed easy and very similar to the Indian style of chutney powder mix especially due to the strong aroma of roasted cumin and coriander seeds.
According to the UN over 5 million Palestinians are living as refugees today. Restrictions over food and water resources and wild plant foraging has not only damaged the richness of Palestinian cuisine but it also taken away the identity of the Palestinians’ role as a host.
Mirna’s collective reactivates Palestinian recipes through public tables. After an intensive research period the Palestinian Hosting collective creates a menu that is shared over one long table for 50-60 guests. To date, the collective has created several such tables including — ‘Family Dinners’, ‘Our Nabulsi Table’, ‘Our Jerusalem Table’, The Old City of Jerusalem, a table, a tour and a map’, ;The Wheat Feat and ‘The Edible Wild Plants table’.
Some of the disappearing Palestinian recipes and ingredients that Mirna showcased in a talk before the Dukka demonstration included — the red tahini, rich with a nutty flavour, its ingredients are roasted on fire for close to 8 o 11 hours; rolled cyclamen leaves with rice and meat stuffing; a bitter almond drink, carob bseseh are roasted semolina balls mixed with carob molasses and sesame and Malateet an ancient printed bread depicting circles symbolising rain droplets when they first touch the soil. More details of several such interesting recipes can be found on Mirna’s page https://www.palestinehostingsociety.com/.