“I am Palestinian and a chef” — Joudie Kalla

Palestinian culture revolves around love and family; Joudie Kalla’s new book Palestine on a Plate: memories from my mother’s kitchen is a charming expression of this. We had a little chat with Joudie Kalla to discuss everything about her interests, the book and Palestinian culture. So kick off your boots and get to know Joudie:

For those who aren’t aware, can you tell us a bit about your background?
I am Palestinian and a chef, I have grown up most of my life in London and have been working as a chef for about 20 years. My main focus now is Palestinian cuisine and writing, catering and supper clubs. I studied art, architecture and design at university and then went on to do a master’s degree in Paris. I left to pursue my career in cooking and joined Leiths Cookery School. I ran my own catering business and then my own deli for three years and now remain focused on my project of Palestine on a Plate. I live in London with my two shih tzus, Kalabizo and Elektra.

What inspired you to create this book?
After opening my deli, Baity Kitchen, I started to record all the recipes I was cooking, which were all from my mother, grandmothers and aunties from Palestine. There were a lot of them and so the recipes kept coming. People were loving all the food they were eating and I felt that I needed to secure them somewhere. Not to be forgotten. Slowly the idea became an Instagram page, a Facebook page, supper clubs and then a cookbook. It is really a historical memory of my family and roots in Palestine, where all their childhood memories were based.

Palestine on a plate

What’s your favourite aspect of Palestinian culture?
I think it would have to be family and meal times. They were the moments we were all together. It would be the time we spent talking about the food we were eating and also about our days. Meal times are very much a celebratory thing in my house, all the time. There was never one dish on the table, but several in fact, which was always so impressive. It holds a very important place for me to have that and recreate it in my own life. Creating a unity and an identity.

What’s your favourite recipe from the book?
Gosh, this is a hard question, so I have decided to answer it on a daily basis. So, today would be the Rummaniyeh, which literally translates to ‘pomegranatey’. This is a beautiful brown lentil and aubergine dish, draped in garlic, lemon, pomegranate molasses and olive oil, which is served warm with toasted pita bread. Simple and absolutely delicious. And it just so happens to be vegan which makes it that much better.

What are some of your favourite herbs & spices?
I think for herbs, it would have to be coriander. I use it in my chicken liver, and drizzle with pomegranate molasses, chilli and lemon and not forgetting the caramelised onions. It is a perfect accompaniment to bring the flavour out, as is tahini. I love it. I use on toast, in my brownies, with fish, and meats. It is so versatile and also very good for you. My last in the top three would probably be really good Palestinian za’atar which is bright green, full of sesame seeds, sumac, marjoram and of course thyme. Great drizzled on some flat-bread with olive oil and also scattered on salads and rubbed on fish and meats. It should have a beautiful fragrance to it.

Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen by Joudie Kalla, photography by Ria Osbourne, published by Jacqui Small (£25).

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In the kitchen...

Try Joudie’s Lentil and Aubergine Stew with Pomegranate Molasses.