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Palestinian cooking
Recipes of Siham

The Nablusis are distinguished by their joie de vivre! All through the generations, social life, especially that of women, has been organized around gatherings where they listen to music and sing. Art is thus part of the pleasures of life to which we must add gastronomy. The people of Nablus are excellent cooks with fine taste in gourmet food.
Siham Abu Ghazaleh

Certain cities of Bilâd Ash-Sham are famous for their food. For example, this is the case in Aleppoin Syria, Tripoli in Lebanon but also in Nablus in Palestine. It so happens that these three cities, which formerly maintained important trade ties, have another thing in common. They are also known for their soap production. Nablus, sadly now infamous for the blockade and violence imposed by the Israeli army, is still a great city to live in with especially excellent cuisine. The people of Nablus truly appreciate good food.
It is a tribute to this city so rich in tradition, Siham Abu Ghazaleh, as well as many other people of Nablus who have generously shared their knowledge that I wished the French Cultural Center of Nablus to publish this small booklet. This is Issue 2 of the library collection Palestinian Initiated by the FCC. We hope that, like us, you will enjoy it.
Marianne Poche

Preliminary Note:
I shall use the Arabic names of the products laban (fermented milk, raw or cooked) and samneh (butter).  Both are commonly used in the Palestinian kitchen. These products are derived from baladî, domestic livestock.
Sumac: a small seed shrub widely used in the Palestinian kitchen, its acidic flavor replaces lemon in many recipes.

Muttabal foul

Ingredients for 4 people:
- 500 grams of green beans
- 7 cloves garlic medium size
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 10 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons ground sumac
- 4 hard-boiled eggs

Clean the beans and cut them into pieces and then cook in boiling water.
Meanwhile, crush garlic with a wooden pestle with ½ teaspoon of salt.
When they are cooked, drain the beans and mix with crushed garlic.
Add the sumac then chopped cilantro and olive oil. 
Arrange on a plate decorated with coriander leaves and serve with boiled eggs.

Urs at-tôm

Ingredients for 4 people:
- 5 eggs
- 5 tablespoons sifted flour
- 12 cloves of garlic
- ½ tablespoon of yeast
- 1 teaspoon of salt and a half of coffee
- ½ cup of water
- 2 cups of olive oil for cooking
- 1 tablespoon of sumac

Combine flour and yeast with water and let stand 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, crush garlic with a wooden pestle with ½ teaspoon salt.
Then break eggs and add to the mix with the garlic. Beat. Heat olive oil in frying pan and then fry in two stages for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with sumac and serve decorated with parsley or mint.


The “zarb” is the name given to an oven dug in the ground. By metonymy, it is also the name of the dish you cook inside. The oven is a hole one meter deep and 60 cm in diameter, which is dug into the earth and coated with bricks, the bottom is left as is. Although not specifically Nablusian, the zarb is nevertheless particularly appreciated in Nablus.
It is indeed a particularity of the Samaritan community who cook sacrificed lamb in a zarb on the Easter. Of course, the ovens used by the Samaritans on this occasion are at an entirely difference scale. At the Easter sacrifice, the Samaritans cook entire sheep in their immense ovens. The sheep are less than one year old and on wood skewers.
The ovens are then closed by a burlap flap, which is covered with a mixture of earth and water to ensure its seal.
Each resident of Nablus who owns a garden makes a zarb. It is the former high priest of the Samaritans, the priest Salloum, who died in October 2003, who dug that Siham Abu Ghazaleh in the 1970’s.
Ingredients for 15 people:

- 7 chickens
- A few pieces of fat sheep’s tail
- 15 onions
- 15 potatoes
- 1 cup of vinegar
- Salt
- Black pepper
- Cardamom powder
- Coriander dried powder
- Olive wood
- Six skewers
- Aluminum foil

Cut the chicken the day before and macerate in vinegar and water for two hours after washing.
Then rinse with cold water, drain and sprinkle with salt, black pepper, cardamom powder and coriander dried powder. Arrange the pieces in a dish, cover and leave in refrigerator over night.
The next day, prepare a fire of olive wood in the zarb.  Allow the oven to heat for about 3 hours until the bricks are heated white and that the wood is reduced to embers. Meanwhile, arrange the chicken on long skewers approximately 70cm in length. Put an onion at the end of and also some bits of sheep fat so that the chicken does not dry.
Wrap each skewer with aluminum foil.  Wrap potatoes and onions whole in aluminum foil and put them on the pick as well. Slide the skewers vertically in the zarb.
Close the zarb with an iron lid seal and mud to ensuring the tightness of the oven.
The smoke must not escape. Cook it for two hours, then remove the mud and
Open the lid of the zarb. The chicken and vegetables are ready to be served.

Knafeh Nabulsiyyeh

Nablus Knafeh, which is famous the Near East, is not a dish that is to be prepared at
home but rather that you buy from a baker. Some families of confectioners were or are still famous for their Nablus knafeh. These are the Abaza families, Ibseis, Al-'Aker and Abu Sîr. Today it is the family Abu Sîr which is considered by most as the best knafeh chefs in Nablus. In the old city, better knafeh is that of Al-Halwiyyat held'Aqsa Shantir by the family. A few years ago, Arafat's family was also distinguished by opening a cake store in Rafidia where we also find knafeh.

So we asked Dr. Hisham Ibseis, whose father was one of the best pastry chefs in the city how to prepare knafeh.

- 250 g sugar
- 500 g knafeh pulp that you buy in the pastry shop
- 500 g of Nablusian cheese (white cow cheese, very salted for conservation, but can be removed by soaking in water)
- 1 flat copper plate for good distribution of heat
- 2 tablespoons samneh
- Red food coloring

Put the dough in the copper pan on two burners on the stove and stir with a spatula. When it is warm, put aside it aside.  Cool the dish with cold tap water.
Spread the samneh mixed with the food coloring.
Spread the dough on butter with a thickness of less 1 cm. 
Arrange the cheese on top and cook over two medium burners for about 15 minutes making sure to turn the pan.  Meanwhile, prepare the sugar syrup.
Put sugar in a saucepan and cover with water by one centimeter.
Bring this mixture to a boil. When the dough and cheese is cooked, sprinkle some cheese on the dough and then pour a little syrup.
When this is done, flip the mixture over into an identical pan like when cooking a tarte tatin.  Baste the knafeh with sugar syrup in which you mixed a little  samneh baladi for taste! Sprinkle pieces of pistachios and serve hot.

Meat Akoub

The Akoub, its Latin name gundelia tournefortii, is a  wild plant of the Asteraceae family that is widespread on the limestone hills around Nablus.  A Nablus ingredient of choice, it looks like an asparagus with a taste close to the artichoke.  Only the flower bud and the top of the stem is eaten, the rest is covered with thorns.  This vegetable is very hard to prepare because of the thorns that regrow immediately after being cut if the plant is not cooked right away.
The Akoub season lasts three months from March to May, but people prepare a certain quantity and keep it in the freezer in order to consume it all year round.

Ingredients for four people:
- ½ kilos of 'Akoub
- 600 grams of lamb on the bone
- 1 onion
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 pinches of pepper
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 gallons of boiling water

Wash meat thoroughly and put in a saucepan.
Add the chopped onion with oil, salt and pepper.
Cook ¼ hour over low heat.  Add the 'Akoub and continue cooking ¼ hour. 
Pour 2 gallons of boiling water in the pot and cook for 40 minutes over medium heat. You can eat this dish as is.  
You can add, cooked laban, or make a maqloubeh, the famous dish of the region that has a unique flavor.


- 400g rice round
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ½ teaspoon saffron
- ½ teaspoon dried coriander powder
- 1 clove garlic

Preparation :
Wash rice. Add salt, black pepper, cardamom powder, saffron, coriander dry powder and a clove of garlic crushed in a wooden pestle. Mix all the ingredients. 
Remove meat and 'akoubs from the cooking water and put it in another pot and then cover it with rice.
Pour the broth from the meat you have kept warm. If the amount of water is not enough, add boiling water to completely cover the rice by about ½ cm.  Once it is boiling, cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, taking care to separate the fire and the pot with a sheet of iron in order to disperse heat.
Then, reduce heat and cook for another 30 minutes.
When the maqloubeh is almost cooked, heat 1 tablespoon of samneh baladi.
To verify the correct temperature of butter, you can throw a few grains of rice.
When grains are scorched, the butter is hot.  Add the butter and cook the maqloubeh another 5 minutes. Cut the heat and let stand 5 minutes before turning the Maqloubeh over as you would a tarte tatin on a large round dish.
Serve with salad and laban.


Ingredients for four people :
- 4 lamb chops (approximately 500g of meat)
- 1 liter Laban
- 1 onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 l and a half of boiling water
- ½ cauliflower (about 500g)
- 4 tablespoons rice round
- A bouquet of fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon and a half samneh baladi

Mince onion and mix with the oil, salt and pepper. Simmer with the meat for 10 minutes. Add boiling water, cover and bake for two hours in oven. Cut cabbage flower, put it in a pot and soak in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Then drain, putting the pieces of cauliflower into another Pan with cumin and a little of the cooking broth from the meat. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. After washing, the rice can be cooked either with the cauliflower or with the meat for 10 minutes. 
Gather in the same pan the meat, broth, cauliflower and rice.
Cook laban with a pinch of salt and add to pot.
Peel the garlic and crush it with salt in a pestle. Fry the garlic in a small skillet with the samneh Baladi. Then add it to the mixture with the chopped fresh cilantro.
Serve in a baking pan.
You can also prepare the mutaffayyeh without meat; it is then called Sûmi, in reference to the fasting Christian Orthodox. It can be consumed hot or left to cool. It is possible to replace the cauliflower with green beans, zucchini or faqus (a vegetable, which is somewhere between cucumbers and zucchini). You can also replace the lamb chops by mutton neck and use mansaf spices of the Sindibad brand.


The mussakhan is not a dish that originated in Nablus. Yet, it is very appreciated by the people of Nablus who cook it for guests on certain occasions.
Ingredients for four people  :

4 patties baladi bread (bread wheat)
- 1 kg of onions and a half
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon pepper and half
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 4 tablespoons sumac
- 2 chickens, each guest is supposed to eat half a chicken
- 1 onion
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon and a half of powdered cardamom
- 5 pieces of putty "spice" that comes from Greece
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 100 grams of pine nuts

Preparation :
Chop the onions into small pieces and cook with a glass of oil in a covered pan over a gentle fire stirring occasionally for 45 minutes. 
Add pepper, cumin and sumac. Meanwhile, in a saucepan put the cut chicken with chopped onion, salt, pepper, cardamom and "putty" and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Cover and cook over low heat for ¼ hours.
Add 1 litre of boiling water and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes.
When the chicken is cooked, put each piece in a gratin dish after having dunked them in the pot where onions are cooking.
Then cover each of the pieces of bread with onions and sprinkle with sumac.
Turn on the grill.  Put the bread in the oven to brown the onions. So that the bread does not dry, take care to soak the edges in or leave the oven slightly open. 
Meanwhile, brown the pine nuts in olive oil. Remove bread from oven and grill the chicken slightly in the same way.
When it's done, place each piece of bread on a plate and put half a chicken on each. Decorate with pine nuts and chopped parsley, and serve.

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