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Hummus, Sabih and other food from Israel

Posted on : 22-08-2017 | By : Cindy | In : Uncategorized


Sabih. Photo from ‘Jerusalem’ recipe book.

I love my butcher! Almost every week since returning from Israel I have asked him for the same thing: 300 grams of finely chopped lamb shoulder.  It can’t be run through the mincer; it has to be chopped with a knife and it takes time. If I had to do it myself I would not be so frequently making this delicious meal of hummus topped with spiced pan fried lamb, green chilli lemon sauce and pinenuts. The recipe I follow (and the picture of it above) is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Jerusalem’ cookbook.

Our first dinner out in Tel Aviv I didn’t recognise the hummus smeared around the plate. It was smooth and pale unlike the coarse, coloured version I have always made (see Hummus recipe post). We had lined up with all the locals at a trendy outdoor food bar pumping with cool music and ordered several dishes without really knowing what they were. We ended up with a delicious spread of hummus with chickpeas, hummus with lamb, salads and thick fluffy pita bread – far too much for three of us!

This Israeli style hummus is so easy to make. In a food processor blend 400g can of chickpeas, 200g light tahini, 4 tablespoons lemon juice, 4 garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon salt. With machine running gradually add about 100ml iced water until the hummus is pale and creamy. You can adjust the quantities to suit – I like lots of garlic and lemon juice, and less salt.

The next day we were in Jerusalem walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel – a 550 metre narrow and often claustrophobic tunnel constructed over 3000 years ago with such perfect engineering that experts still today have not figured out how they did it! It was packed with people including a group of schoolkids, one of which, as we walked through the ankle deep water guided by torchlight and bending our heads at the low parts, lit up a cigarette!

Then it was off to the famous Mahane Yehuda market where the smells were infinitely better – fresh peaches, cherries, dates, figs, delicate saffron and rosebud tea. There were olives, cheese, meats, nuts and seeds including roasted sunflower seeds, a favourite Israeli snack food. There were huge rounds of halva, Turkish delight in rose, green and orange, men pouring syrup over rows of baklava and others offering samples of tahini straight from the enormous stone wheels that were crushing the sesame seeds.

Just outside the market we stopped for lunch – ‘the best Sabih in Israel’ according to our Israeli guide. It was amazing – fresh pita bread stuffed with eggplant, hard boiled egg, finely chopped tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, tahini sauce, mango sauce and zhoung – a spicy, chilli, parsley, coriander sauce.

Wandering back through the market, we finished our lunch with a thumb sized cup of thick Turkish coffee and a tiny triangle of baklava – heaven!

I loved how every meal came with a salad – cucumber, tomato, herbs and often chickpeas or seeds. The salad pictured below was at an amazing hummus restaurant somewhere between Caesarea and Megiddo. It was a small, nondescript building tucked in behind a service station – a place only a local would know about – and judging by the queue, they did! The pita bread was still warm from the oven, the food deliciously fresh and the Turkish coffee afterwards flavoured with cardamon.

Trying the local food has got to be one of the best things about travel. Can’t wait for the next trip!!


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