Zaitoun – Yasmin Khan

Zaitoun – Yasmin Khan

Yasmin Khan has led an interesting life. Inspired by the old Jewish adage that ‘an enemy is just a person whose story you haven’t heard yet’, she’s travelled the world as a food and travel writer meeting people and collecting their stories, translating them into recipes for celebrating life, and all that unites us.

It’s not so different, she tells us, from her first career as a human rights campaigner, where she also travelled the world discovering and sharing people’s stories.

Yasmin’s newest book, Zaitoun – Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen, explores the cuisine and food culture of the Palestinian communities she visited traveling through Israel and the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories).

It shares places she was drawn to for culinary, cultural and agricultural reasons, so it’s part travel guide, part cookbook, part photographic journey, and really, part journal of all she loved and embraced.

Her writing and recipes are colourful, immersive and inviting, full of inspiring dishes I would happily share at any gathering.

Yasmin takes us on a journey through Haifa and Akka with recipes for enticing mazzeh (small dishes), Jerusalem for salads, Nablus and Jenin with soups, Gaza and Bethlehem for main courses, and Nazareth and The Galilee to finish with sticky syrup-branched pastries, and pages full of exotic, aromatic desserts.

Fast 5 with Yasmin Kahn
What couldn’t you live without in the kitchen?
My pestle and mortar! Using freshly ground spices makes your food taste so much better, adding depths of flavour to the aromatics. I use it daily to crush cardamom seeds for my porridge oats, smash garlic, basil, nuts and oil together for a quick pesto, and to grind saffron, cumin and coriander for stews and soups.

What is your most memorable meal and why?
When I was travelling around the West Bank for the research of my book Zaitoun.I shared a wonderful meal in Ramallah, sitting outside under a full moon with a group of Palestinian yoga teachers. They had cooked so many incredible dishes such as fresh salads made from rocket and clementine, thin cigarillos of stuffed vine leaves, rich roast aubergine stews with chickpeas and tomatoes, and meatballs with roast potatoes and a tahini sauce. We sat under the stars feasting on this incredible spread. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of Palestinian warmth and hospitality.

What’s your worst kitchen disaster?
Touch wood, up to this point I’ve never had any serious kitchen disasters, or certainly none that I can remember! I think you can salvage most dishes by adding more ingredients or changing how the dish is plated, or even what you call it. Once I burnt a pot of pomegranate and lentil soup so when I came to serve it, I called it a smoky pomegranate and lentil soup. My guests didn’t know I’d made a mistake and luckily for me, the charred flavour worked!

What would you want to eat for your last meal?
Ghormeh Sabzi-an incredibly fragrant Iranian stew made with lamb, dried limes, red kidney beans and half a kilo of fresh herbs such as coriander, parsley, chives and fenugreek.

The great coriander debate  –  yes or no?
In Iran we eat fresh herbs by the handful and often serve a plate of them on the dining table to accompany main dishes. I love the brightness and zing that all fresh greens bring – and that includes coriander!

We have three recipes to share with you from Zaitoun

Yasmin Khan’s Zaitoun is published by Bloomsbury ($45.00) Out now!

Asparagus with Eggs and Za’atar – Yasmin Khan
Donyana Salad
Roast Chicken with Sumac and Red Onions – Yasmin Khan
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