Jack’s Palestinian Comfort Food: Snack Attack!

For those days when nothing seems to work right, I usually turn to food to distract my mind. It’s no wonder that, with the times we are going through, I can’t seem to lose any weight no matter what I try.

Like many around the world, diving into a tub of ice cream often does the trick, especially when it’s Ramallah milk-white ice cream made with gum arabic. Although this type of ice cream is part of Syrian and Turkish traditions, Rukab Ice Cream and Baladna, later on, have become main destinations on Ramallah’s Main Street for locals and foreigners alike. But if you don’t want to consume so many calories, a few slices of watermelon with salty Palestinian white goat cheese works too!

I guess what counts for me as comfort food changes with the season, or with what I can find inside our fridge late at night. During cold winter days, or when I end up catching a cold, my absolute favourite is a nice bowl of chicken soup. Not just any chicken soup, but my favourite is simple Palestinian soup made from natural chicken broth. Quite often the simple things in life are the most rewarding. What makes this soup so special for me is also quite simple: a bunch of white rice and a good sprinkle of freshly and coarsely chopped parsley leaves. Finally, a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice makes it just perfect.

To make this wonderful soup you start with preparing chicken broth. You don’t want to cut any corners here if you want to get a thick soup full of flavour. Preparing the broth is fairly straightforward. Drop a about 1 kg of cleaned and cut chicken pieces with bones into a cooker with 3 litres of water, a pealed whole onion, a few black peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, a couple bay leaves, and salt to taste. Slowly bring to a boil; reduce heat. Skim foam. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. Set chicken aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones and discard the bones; save meat for another use. Strain broth, discarding vegetables and seasonings.

To prepare the soup, pour the strained broth back into the cooker. You can add the chicken pieces if you like. Bring the broth to a boil then add half a cup of rice. Cook until the rice is ready. Just before you turn off the stove, add two tablespoons of coarsely chopped parsley. This will make sure the parsley stays green and fresh looking. Serve hot with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top.

Watching the news of our brothers in Gaza taking shelter at the schools; the difficult conditions of refugees in Iraq and Syria due to ISIS attacks, I can’t imagine how even the simple comforting from a home cooked meal is out of reach! I pray for all this craziness to end so they can return safely to their homes.

Here’s another simple hearty recipe I enjoy on evenings when I feel like having a light snack: I pour a good amount of Palestinian slightly sour yogurt into a bowl, cover it with a layer of extra virgin Palestinian olive oil, and sprinkle some salt on top. I toast a piece of Palestinian taboun bread and use it to scoop up the yogurt and olive oil. A cup of tea with fresh mint leaves is just the icing on top of the cake.

If I keep going I won’t be able to stop! There are just too many of these simple, yet amazing snacks to write about in one piece. I guess this is my motivation to write more columns for This Week in Palestine.

— Jack Rabah

ps. Appeared in This Week in Palestine magazine Sept, 2014 issue under TWIP Kitchen column


You may want to read this: Sharon and my Mother-in-Law

For many years, I heard about the Palestinian architect Suad Amiry as the head of Riwaq Center for Architectural Conservation. When TEDxRamallah was held in 2011, unfortunately, I couldn’t attend, but was glad to watch the speeches a couple of months later on YouTube.

The speech that I enjoyed the most, and was very inspired by, was that of Suad:

Last year I got a copy of her book, Sharon and my Mother-in-Law, and read it cover-to-cover in a couple of days. The book gives the reader a vivid and visual image of what life was like under Israeli incursions and curfew, through real life, and in many times ironically funny stories.

I encourage you all to read it!

Sharon and my Mother-in-Law

Sharon and my Mother-in-Law

— Jack Rabah

My grandfather the Arab Matador

The city of Ramallah was established when Rashed Haddadin settled there after coming from the other side of the Jordan river (Jordan). He and his grandchildren’s families grew into the eight clans of Ramallah. Our clan is called the Abu Jaghab clan.

It is said that our great grandfather was going to water his bull at the spring. He was known to be a stubborn man, and when his bull refused to drink he was pissed. He took the bull by his horn and started pushing his head down towards the water while shouting: “ijghab” (drink) or I will break your horn!

Apparently he was more stubborn than the bull and he broke his horn. From that time on the name “Jaghab” stuck to us. Alternatively, the clan of the horn “dar abu karin” in Arabic is used to refer to our clan.

Nowadays when we are caught practicing any stubborn behaviors they say .. Well you are really from the clan of the horn 🙂

— Jack Rabah