For those who are fascinated by food in general, and Palestinian cuisine in particular, popular UAE-based chef and writer Dima Al Sharif’s first cookbook, Plated Heirlooms, which will be launched in the UAE in February, should do the trick.
It explores Dima’s native home and its rich culinary history through generations of Palestinian cooking, and will be much more than a compilation of recipes.
Dima, who grew up as part of the Palestinian diaspora in Jordan, was always surrounded by quality food. Her family owned the first and largest citrus farms in Jordan and from there Dima learnt the importance of quality ingredients. She credits her mother and grandmothers for making her understand that quality food is an essential ingredient to good living. ‘But it was a life lesson that didn’t truly resonate with me until I became a mother myself,’ she says, ‘and, while residing in a foreign country, I realised just how much I missed my family’s home-cooked meals.’
Dima later channeled this passion into a career as a professional chef, but what she loved most was how, through food and the sharing of family recipes, she felt truly connected to her Palestinian heritage.
‘For me food is an expression of culture and is intrinsically influenced by an appreciation of the land from which it was yielded,’ says Dima. ‘Palestine is such a fertile country with a rich and complex history, and its culinary culture reflects this. Food is respected, nothing is wasted and you can tell from which region a family comes by the flavor profile of its musakhan.’
Dima spent three years researching and drafting the book, drawing on her childhood memories spent in the kitchens of her grandmother and mother, and sitting with family members, extended family, friends and industry colleagues to develop the authentic Palestinian recipes. More than 250 recipes feature in the book and all have been tested by Dima for technical accuracy.
Each recipe is also inspired by familial stories that weave a rich tapestry of the history, diverse geography and culture of Palestine. All of the stories have been diligently fact checked and referenced by Dima.
Through its eight chapters Dima explores traditional Palestinian cuisine, its cooking techniques, as well as some of the country’s native ingredients. There is a section devoted to the olive tree and its fruits, while the book’s most extensive chapter looks at the tradition of mooneh, the Arabic word for pantry. It describes the tradition of pickling and preserving seasonal foods for the months when they are not available, or as was often the case in Palestine, to ensure an available food supply during uncertain times.
‘Palestinian cuisine is the least known of all the Middle Eastern cuisines,’ says Dima. ‘It has suffered from decades of occupation and the diaspora, the uprooting of olive trees and the mass destruction of farms. Yet, Palestinian cuisine, culture and community will always live on in the hearts of their people, wherever they are.’
Plated Heirlooms will be available in all good bookstores in the UAE in February 2016.
For pre-orders, please visit http://www.dimasharif.com/p/plated-heirlooms-cookbook-by-dima-sharif.html or visit Dima’s stand every Friday at The Farmers’ Market on The Terrace, Bay Avenue, Business Bay.