The Lemon Tree – Based on a True Story

This is a book review

The plan was to read a completely different book for the month of May. However, I had to scheme through this book for some work I am undertaking and found myself captivated. I tried to fast read it within three days, but the more I read, the more I found myself slowing down and reading full pages.

The Lemon Tree is a wonderful book about a true Palestinian Israeli conflict. Different than the book I read in April, this book zooms into one significant story that took place in Palestine/Israel, and brings to us the sorrowful truth of the current situation.

The story has two main characters; obviously, one is Palestinian and the other is a Jewish Israeli who is originally from Bulgaria. The Palestinian man, is someone I myself have interviewed and therefore, I have pre knowledge of the story only from his side, whereas the book, is a complete research made from both sides. However, the story I know, is the same story written with differences in some details. I could not possibly say my version of the story is the exact one, for it is not so much different. Besides, memory, translation, and personal reflection, can always differ, from storytelling, to story-comprehending.

The author,  Sandy Tolan, includes in his book a flash back to pre 1948, when Bashir (the Palestinian man) was living in the house his own father has built, while Dalia (the Jewish woman)s parents decided to make Aliyah (immigration) to Palestine in response to Ben-Gurion repeated call in 1945, demanding at least three million Jews to make Aliyah within the next five years. Dalia’s parents, decided to make their move in 1948, when Dalia was only a year old, while Bashir, who was about five years old, was forcibly expelled along with his family from his home, his city, and his country.

The story, recites the transition, where Bashir went, and how Dalia moves to his empty house. It later encounters their first meeting, when Bashir went to visit his house for the first time in 1967, and since then, their conflicted relationship begins, bringing to us facts behind the conflict, that any two people from both sides will encounter, from misunderstandings, differences, and the possible will and want to finding peace and comprehension.

In this world, we all have similarities, but we can only find them when we open the door to one another. Dalia, opened the door to Bashir, and Bashir accepted the door open and entered. They both created a relationship, that reflects the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from a human based experience.

I believe The Lemon Tree book succeeded, to bring forth an adequate way to comprehend how the conflict is foreseen from both sides. The book might not articulate a 360 degree coverage of both situations, but it nonetheless, collects enough information to bring forth, the struggle and survival factors of individuals who decide to live the conflict. And I use the word ‘decide’, because it is a decision to make to live life with open eyes, rather than to shut them, and live without noticing the apparent struggle. Nonetheless, the Palestinians, whom in this conflict are the oppressed, might not always have the luxury of the choice to decide.

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How to make a Middle Eastern Okra Stew

Cooking Middle Eastern food, can get confusing. Every home makes Middle Eastern food differently. There is not like a one recipe used by everyone. But instead, the same dish everyone knows is made differently from one household to another.

Today, I am sharing the dish that I have made for the very first time yesterday. It is a very popular dish amongst the Arabs, the Arabs from the Levant; Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Bamieh. I would love to hear feedback from your side if you do make Bamieh. Where are you from? How different do you make your Bamieh from the recipe I will be sharing below?

Bamieh is the Arabic word for Okra, and once we say Okra, we all know what dish we are talking about. Cooked with beef mostly, some tend to prefer it vegetarian like myself. But the recipe I am sharing with you is by my mother.

bamieh, okra, tomato, stew

My mother is an amazing cook. Honestly, not because she is my mother, but she is so good. The only difficulty I face with her when I collect her recipes, is how bad she is in sharing ingredients, because like most Arab mothers, they only work with sight  and sense. They do not follow specific steps, they rather cook their dishes naturally.

The Bamieh I made yesterday, I must admit, turned out a little dull. Tasteless in comparison to how my mother makes it. And it is because I did not follow her steps. I wanted to cook it vegetarian, so I did not have any stock, and when I was advised to used ready cubes, I hesitated and used half a cube.  So I turned out having an Okra stew that required a lot of salt and pepper.

Okraintomatoes

However, in this recipe shared today, I will be adding beef stock, and if you prefer to go vegetarian like me, then I do recommend you do add fresh tomatoes, and cube stoke.  Some people garnish their dish with coriander cooked in garlic, others use basil like my mother.

Some people saute onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes withe Okra before adding boiled water. This can also be a better option for those who prefer their Okra vegetarian, and here is a quick how to do it:

In a sauce pan, add olive oil, onions and saute, then add garlic and Okra and saute some more, add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and spices (salt, pepper, mixed pepper, dried coriander) and saute, then add your beef stock, chicken stock or veggies stock, and leave to boil).

However, if you do follow the steps below, your Bamieh should turn out delicious. Remember, it is all about your tomato sauce that you need creativity it. Okra tastes fantastic if you love it, since many people I know hate it. I feel like with Okra, it is a love hate relationship, and nothing in between. I personally love how it melts in my mouth when I do have it. So all you need is the right steps for a good tomato sauce.

Bamieh

Here is my Mother’s own classic recipe:

via Bamieh – طبيخ بامية

Ramadan’s Favorite Sambosek Recipe

So if you do fast Ramadan, Sambosek is essential on the Iftar table for some reason.

The Middle Eastern or Levantine version of the Sambosek is a little different than the Asian one.

We usually have two types:

Minced Beef or Cheese

Sambosek-Ramadan2018

Now to each home a unique recipe is put together to form the Sambosek to individual taste.

In my house, with my family we never actually made Sambosek, my mother was not a big fan of frying. However, today, many people are substituting frying with oven baking, and this is how I cooked my Sambosek which can be both fried and oven baked.

So this year, I decided to take the recipe from those who make it, my mother in law, and my uncle’s wife.

The minced beef is usually mixed with onions and roasted pine nuts, whereas the cheese can be used as desired, some people use one kind of cheese, and anything really should work, I on the other hand, got my hands on an amazing recipe, which I will be sharing below.

Sambosek-Side-Dish

So, there you go, I will now share the recipes to both Sambosek, and please let us know how they turn out.

Tip: Always have your Sambosak dough covered in ziplock or fabric while preparing, to keep it from drying, which will make it easily break after.

For full recipe click Sambosek

Cinnamon Roll Cake Recipe

Honestly, this is probably the easiest and fastest cake I have ever baked.

Now the trick is, they do use a ready cake mix, which I kind of dislike, as I usually prefer making my cakes from scratch, but sometimes, you are just in a hurry and want to get just not any cake, but home baked cake. This can be it.

However, I do plan to try it out again by substituting the cake mix with the ingredients of the cake mix and see the turn out, I sure will update you all on that.

Meanwhile, and since this cake was very popular on my instagram and I received the most ever messages in my inbox with people asking me for the recipe, I no longer wanted to delay sharing it anymore. And since Ramadan is tomorrow, this actually can be (for people who fast) the best quick fix if you really get the sugar cravings after iftar.

I first tried this cake at my cousins house, and I loved it, asked her for her recipe, and she gave me the recipe of Cookies and Cups with her amendments which I have used and included below. I must assure you, this cake will become your next obsession.

So what my cousin changed in the recipe, is she substituted the icing to hot milk instead. And to be frank, the cake without the icing (that contains 2 more cups of sugar) is already very sweet, and the substation of the milk instead, gave the cake a moist to die for.

So here goes the recipe,

Please let me know once you do try it, I always love to hear comments.

Original recipe found on Cookies and Cups 

The following has my cousin’s adjustments and some of my substituted options to some ingredients

Ingredients

1 Box of Yellow Cake Mix (I could not find Yellow cake mix in my neighborhood shop, so I used the Vanilla which was fine)

4 Eggs

3/4 Vegetable Oil (you can use coconut oil instead, I tried both and they worked fine)

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1 cup of Sour Cream

1 cup of Brown sugar (I used half a cup the second time, as 1 cup was too sweet)

1 teaspoon of ground Cinnamon

For the Icing: 

1 Cup of Milk (you can use low or full fat and you can also use up 2 cups)

3 Spoons of powdered sugar (feel free to use less or even none)

For the full Recipe click Cinnamon Roll Cake

New Recipe on my Blog – Kofta Bil Wara’

I can not believe I am back in here, I mean on my food blog.

I have been away for too long now, few years. Got caught up with life.

But and nonetheless, we can never get caught up from food.

So I have been stacking up, big chunks.

And this recipe, I have only tried to do a few days ago, and I did not do a proper photo shoot but instead just used my iphone casually, but I do plan to update my blog post with new proper photos soon.

However, I did promise myself, and friends of mine to start posting as soon and as quick as possible, even if my photographs are not top notch.

Ramadan is also around the corner from today, so we need those recipes coming to help us cook easy and good food for ourselves, family and friends.

I found this recipe on instagram @whenapricotsbloom, she has a step by step video posted on her profile. Loved it, did the very same on my instagram story, since I have always been wanting to try it but could not get my hands on a recipe and my mother never makes it at home. I am also a fan of Sarah’s feed (from when apricots bloom) which is focused on Levantine food, with a great easy to follow methods. I sure plan to try more recipes from her feed and website.

Vine Leaves

This dish comes from Jerusalem, Al-Quds (the arabic word for Jerusalem). It is made of mainly Wara’ which stands for Vine Leaves or Grape Leaves, and is filled with Kofta. It is easy to make and is very delicious.

I followed Sarah’s steps as found on her profile @whenapricotsbloom, however, I did look up other recipes and did minor changes which I will point out below.

Some people add a dressing to the cooking dish before cooking the kofta bil waraa, which consists of olive oil and pomegranate molasses. I plan to try the dressing next time I cook it and keep you guys posted. My turn out without the dressing was great, only my Kofta was a little dry, and so I suppose it is the kind of meat I probably used, which is minced beef, while some use minced lamb for more fat. Online I read some people mix both, which could give the Kofta more juice. My mother (who most of the recipes on my blog belong to) suggested I add oats, or olive oil to the Kofta before stuffing into the leaves.

Kofta

I personally, want to make sure to make my beef parries thinner next time, and maybe add an extra vine leaf, since I am a fan of the taste, specially after it has been roasted.

My Kofta unlike the recipe on Sarah’s blog was ready bought with onions, parsley, salt and pepper. But of course it is up to you if you would like to prepare your Kofta at home, or if your local butcher can give it to you ready.

Either way, this recipe is fantastic, and is sure worth trying.

Kofta bil Wara’ – كفتة بورق العنب

Recipe used by When Apricots Bloom – Fil Mish Mish with minor changes

My following Ingredients makes enough for 3 people (total of 14 to 16 patties)

Middle-Eastern-Food, Kofta-bil-waraa, Levant-Food, Arab-Food

Ingredients

1/2 Kilo Kofta (your choice of beef or lamb, I used beef)

Vine Leaves

1 teaspoon mixed spice

6 – 8 Tomatoes

1 green chili (optional)

Salt

 

Full Recipe found via Kofta bil Wara’ – كفتة بورق العنب

 

Book Review: Struggle & Survival in Palestine/Israel

‘Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel’ book is an incredible read by all means, I actually can not wait to start reading it all over again and copy out the quotes that I found to be informatively mind changing.

For those of you who wish to lean about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and for those who know enough but wish to learn more ethnographic stories collected from pre Ottoman to the recent situation, this book is highly recommended. It is a collection of stories/essays about individuals who set an example of many who follow, be it Palestinian or Jewish, the authors are mostly scholars, anthropologists and specialized in the Israeli Palestinian conflict as well as Middle Eastern studies and they bring together a wide perspective juxtaposed to form a some kind of 360 historic view upon the situation. Israelis who were immigrants and how their immigration reflects upon them and how it slowly translates into their recent development into different ideologies and perception, sided with vis versa stories of Palestinians and their evacuation making them refugees or revolutionists or with shattered identities. This book is massive explosion of information, and what I love mostly about it is the diversity in its selection to collect stories that include the refugee, holocaust survivor, the zionist understanding in different perspectives from murder fanatics to just lovers of the land, the person behind Rabin’s assassination and the Leftist who bought a Palestinian home to the humanitarian who joins Palestinian protests and revolutionists, while stories of the Palestinians include, the modernists, the educated, the farmer, the refugee, the suicide bomber, and the activist. The book ends with the tragedy of the present day, the ongoing injustice and blind folded Zionists who continue to make this reality and long living tragedy.

On May 15 the world all together will remember the Nakba; marking 70 years this year for the 700,000 Palestinian made refugees who have become today around 7,000,000 stateless, homeless, with minimal to no human rights and we still continue to live recognizing the state of Israel who happen to be the reason behind this catastrophe.

This book, helps us understand a better picture of the conflict, a sided view of understandings, and a to understand the stories in this book is a step closer to a more free humanity.

From the book:

Page 93: ‘From then on, Yizhar seemed to have lost his naive faith in the wisdom and sound judgment of political leaders… Page 95: There seems to be no doubt as to his innocence, and the storyteller hopes his commander will let the man go, yet ‘security’ has the upper hand, and at the end of the day the shepherd is taken away. There is no big drama in the stories; they are but a glimpse into the reflections of a single soldier who sees things differently.

Page 117: ‘Canaan’s biographers underline his nationalism and the connection between his ethnography and his political involvement during the mandate, linking his interest in popular culture with a desire to defend Palestine against the political, demographic, and cultural challenge of Zionism.’

Page 145: ‘Abul Rahim became aware at a still young age of the danger the Zionist project in Palestine and the British Mandate’s commitment to support it. Jewish colonies were built on the coastal plains not far from his lands. He saw peasants evicted from sold lands becoming homeless and unskilled laborers in towns.’

Page 166: ‘In American Hillel discovered that nations were in fact political and civiv entities rather than organic cultural communities, as they were understood to be in Eastern Europe and Palestine; one could, for example, be both American and Jewish without the one identity threatening the other. For Hillel, distinguishing between Jewish as a religious adulation and Hebrew as national affiliation both reflected reality and provided solution to the problem of dual loyalty. The Jews in America were Jewish by religion and American by nationality. In Palestine, they were Jewish by religion and Hebrew by Nationality. The tragedy of European Jewry was that they were denied the liberty of choosing their nationality and were frequently not accepted into the body politics. The entire raison d’etre of Zionism became cleat to Hillel: to grant this freedom of choice to Jews.’

Page 193: ‘Walid told us what had happened to him. We knew that he had fled his village as a boy in 1948 amid the chaps and dear and found himself alone in Lebanon. He thought his family had preceded him there, but instead they had hidden in the mountains and returned to their village after the fighting stopped, becoming citizens of the Israeli state… Page 194: ‘In keeping with his greater life philosophy, his struggle for him as a Palestinian was about positive change, redemption, and humanity.’

Page 234: ‘My mother came running from the kitchen to find an Israeli army unit handcuffing her children and dragging them into the street. The event was customary. Soldiers often stormed into homes people’s homes and broke the arms and legs of men and boys so as to send a stern message to the rest of the neighborhood that they would receive the same fate if they continued with their intifada.’

Page 302: ‘Israeli advertisements for homes in Abu Tur and other formerly Palestinian neighborhoods of West Jerusalem henceforth employed this tern as a means to identifying the value of the property in question: “authentic Arab-style house in Baka… with original tiled floors and high ceilings”; “superb Arab house completely refinished in the heart of New Tzedek”; “Arab house for sale in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem… with lots of arches.”…Page 393 ‘I just want to make a Zionist statement before I go on, in terms of living in an Arabic house. This did not bother me in the slightest. I mean, if it had bothered me, I wouldn’t have made aliya. And because we had contact with the Kurdish family who lived here before us, I actually associate the house more with their period than with the previous Arab owners, none of whom I had any contact with. This isn’t to say that I am not interested in the history of this house, the question of why there was a cistern underneath the property, and so on. As an archeologist and ancient historian, I’n very interested. But politically speaking, it’s not a problem for me.’

*Aliya in the above context mean immigration to the State of Israel

Our Beauty

The perfect place for coffee time… or journal writing, book reading, self reflecting, listening to a podcast or favorite music, this place is the perfect place for good time, for inner time, for culture time. Take a dear person, show them around what really is ours, our culture, our history, our art, our ambiance. This is the meaning of true beauty, not trying to hard to be someone other than the self, but trying enough to be the best self.