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Falastin: A Cookbook by [Sami Tamimi, Tara Wigley, Yotam Ottolenghi]

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4.8 out of 5 stars 1,469 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews


“This is a beautiful book and I want to cook every single recipe in it.”—Nigella Lawson

“Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley’s beautiful 
Falastin is a love letter to Palestine—its warm and hospitable people and its bright and mouthwatering cuisine. A cookbook should make you dream, it should invite you to an expanding table, and, more important, it should make you drop everything and head straight to the kitchen. This book does all that. One day I hope to visit Sami’s homeland; but until then, with Sami as my host and Tara as my guide, I’ll let the scents and flavors of the Palestinian kitchen take me there as I pull up extra seats at my table to share this colorful and soulful food with family and friends.”—Naz Deravian, author of Bottom of the Pot  

“A stunning collection of recipes and stories that showcase the best of Palestinian culture. I want to eat everything in this book”
—Yasmin Khan, author of Zaitoun and The Saffron Tales

Falastin is not a political book; it’s a people book. But most of all, it’s a cookbook that translates the rich culinary history of traditional Palestine into healthy, vibrant food for the twenty-first-century table.”—177 Milk Street

“[A] celebration of Palestinian cooking . . . Adding to the overall connection between words and stomach are elegant photographs and additional instructions. . . . The temptation to try [all the recipes] is almost overwhelming. Expect enthusiastic demand from home cooks and foodie readers.”Booklist (starred review)
“[An] expert dive into the food of Palestine. The dishes overflow with bold flavors. . . . Like the best cookbooks, this one opens a window to expand both palates and minds.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


This is a book about Palestine—its food, its produce, its history, its future, its people and their voices. It is a book about the common themes that all these elements share, and how Palestine weaves narrative and cooking into the fabric of its identity. The two go hand in hand. Recipes are like stories: events brought to life and shared in the making and telling. They are passed from one person to the next, and in that movement, some details change, others come to the fore, while others will be left by the wayside. And stories are like recipes: a series of individual experiences blended together to create a whole. Where stories and recipes intersect is the nexus, the point, of this book. Rather than telling “a” story or “the” story of Palestine, then, we’re telling lots of stories. These come in the form of both our recipes and the profiles of some of the people and places we’ve met along the way.

First, however, an outline of what is at the heart of this book: the story of
Falastin, the place and its people; the story of Falastin, our book; and the story of Sami, your host, and Tara, your guide.

Falastin: the place and people

There is no letter “P” in the Arabic language so “Falastin” is, on the one hand, simply the way “Falastinians” refer to themselves. On the other hand, though—and in the Middle East there is always an “on the other hand”—the word is a big one, going far beyond a straightforward label. It is about geography, history, language, land, identity, and culture. Ask a Palestinian what the word “Falastin” means to them: the answer will rarely be short and will often end with the word “home.”

For us, for the purposes of our book, “Falastin” is about all of these things. Geographically, it refers to a small piece of land at the easternmost corner of the Mediterranean Sea where Palestinians have been living for many centuries. This statement is complicated by the fact that this land is also home to other peoples, Israelis; something of which we are very mindful. Our aim with
Falastin is to tread the fine line between paying heed to the situation on one hand and remembering, at the same time, that our book is first and foremost a celebration of the food and people of Palestine.

As well as being a geographical label, “Falastin” is also about identity. For us, it embraces all those who identify as Palestinian, wherever in the world they’re now living. The Palestinian story, post 1948 and with the creation of Israel, could be seen as one of relocation. There are as many different stories as to why a Palestinian is now living where they are living as there are Palestinians. And with more than 12 million Palestinians worldwide, that’s a lot.

There are those who’ve chosen to live abroad and those who have had no choice but to live abroad. There are those who have been displaced closer to home and those who are still living where their parents and grandparents lived before them. Some have known nothing but life in a refugee camp and have never seen the nearby coast, and others have traveled the world freely and have now chosen to return. And then there are those who’ve never actually been to the country itself but who still strongly identify as Palestinian, through the stories and memories passed down from their Palestinian family.

The people of Palestine go by several different names, depending on whom you ask. Some favor “Palestinian,” others prefer “the people of the north,” “Arabs of the Negev,” “Arab refugees,” or “48ers.” “Arab-Israeli,” “Israeli Arab,” and “Palestinian-Israeli” are also used. For us, the words “Falastin” and “Falastinian” are inclusive, managing to incorporate all these various words at the same time as somehow transcending their often loaded meanings.

Falastin: our book 

Falastin is a new kind of Palestinian cookbook: a contemporary collection of more than 110 recipes we hope you’ll cook, eat, love, and make your own. It’s the culmination of Sami’s lifetime obsession with Middle Eastern food and cooking—born and raised in East Jerusalem, relocated to London in his late twenties, and a founding member of Ottolenghi—and Tara’s decade-long obsession with Middle Eastern food and home cooking—raised in London and adopted into the Ottolenghi family.

The recipes come, therefore, from all sorts of places. Some are those Sami grew up with and which will always remind him of home. His father’s easy za’atar eggs, for example, or his mother’s buttermilk fattoush. Others are those most Palestinians grew up on: classics such as chicken musakhan or the upside-down rice cake, maqlubeh. One recipe—that for hummus—remains untouched from when Sami first published it in his second cookbook, 
Jerusalem. After all, there are some things that can’t be played around with or improved upon.

We haven’t felt bound by a set list of “traditional Palestinian dishes,” though. We’d rather shine a new light on an old classic than re-create it verbatim. Doing this—“playing around”—is a risk, we know, because loyalty to the way a dish is cooked is not, of course, just about the dish. It’s about tradition and identity and being able to own these things through food. The process has not always been easy for Sami. Like a lot of Palestinian chefs working today, he keenly feels this tension—between a sense of loyalty to the way a dish is traditionally cooked and the desire to move it forward so as to keep it fresh and relevant.

Jerusalem was Sami and Yotam’s joint effort to celebrate the food of their hometown and bring it to a wider audience, then Falastin is Sami and Tara’s focus on the food of Palestine. Speaking in general terms about “Middle Eastern food” is rather like saying “European food,” or “Italian food”: it does not pay heed to all the distinct people, produce, and dishes that distinguish one country from another within a region. It doesn’t allow for the importance of sumac in a dish such as chicken musakhan to shine, for example, or reveal how many Gazan dishes have the trio of dill, garlic, and chile shaping them. It doesn’t tell us anything about the red tahini of Gaza or the white salty cheese of Nablus or Akka. Keeping our focus exclusively on Palestine allows us to explore not only the food of this land and people but the regional differences within.

At the same time that it explores the regions of Palestine, the purpose of
Falastin  is to be full of recipes that work for and delight the home cook today. We really want you to cook from the recipes in our book—to find them practical and doable as well as delicious. This means you’ll find fewer recipes for stuffed vegetables in Falastin  than you would in a “traditional” Palestinian cookbook, fewer recipes for celebratory dishes that take half a day to prepare, less call for hard-to-find kishek or jameed, the fermented discs of yogurt and wheat in which to bake a leg of lamb. Loyalty to the Palestinian pantry, though—and a reliance on the ground allspice and cumin, olive oil, pulses, grains, za’atar, sumac, lemons, yogurt, dill, garlic, and green chiles that fill it—is unwavering. Our recipes feel distinctly Palestinian, even when they are presented in a slightly new light. Luckily, for those living outside the Middle East, the Palestinian pantry is also one that can be easily sourced and put together from mainstream stores and websites.

As well as our recipes, another way to get to know the country is through its people. When talking about Palestine in general terms, conversation can quickly become political and difficult. The day-to-day frustrations for a Palestinian trying to go about their business, when heard by those who don’t need to carry an ID card with them or require a permit to travel around their country, are easy not to comprehend. For most Palestinians in the West Bank, the reality of checkpoints, a separation wall, and the complicated systems and differing rules surrounding Areas A, B, and C (see page 130 for more on this) makes, frankly, for a pretty grim picture.

Focus, though—travel around the country meeting and eating with people—and the picture painted is a different one. The link between the land and the produce and the people who grow, farm, and make it is strong. Meet someone who explains how they make their labneh or yogurt from the milk of their own sheep or goat, for example, or smell the fresh za’atar leaves on a small farm holding on a sunny spring afternoon, and the outlook is clearly brighter. How things are seen depends on who is looking and through what lens. For all the differing points of view, the reality of someone’s story—the story they live with day in, day out—cannot be denied. This is why we want to tell the story of
Falastin through profiles as well as recipes. These are not our stories. They’re not even always our views. They are, however, stories we’ve been moved to tell from people whom we’ve met. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07VSXL2H3
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ten Speed Press (June 16, 2020)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ June 16, 2020
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 419602 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 1,469 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
1,469 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on June 17, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wow... What a Treasure. So far, every recipe has been great.. also some great writing as well!
By Trent Vernon on June 17, 2020
The wait is over! I have been waiting for this to arrive since I first ordered it in January. I was able to already complete some cooks from it prior to arrival. The cover recipe (little gem salad, smashed cucumbers, shatta (a recipe in itself), and smoked eggplant. Shatta takes three days to ferment (I kept forgetting to blend it so mine was still fine after 5 or six days), and the smokey eggplant puree is heavenly. All in all, I think I nailed the cover photo recipe very good!

Other recipes I have tried.. Chicken Musakhan, Shatta, and Chicken Shawerma pie were amazing.

I have complete a few soft peruses of the book, and other than the dessert section, there is not a single recipe that doesn't scream out to me to make. Each recipe has a blurb at the start with backstory as well! As for the sweet section, I just am not a fan of the middle eastern sweets.. rose water, orange blossom water, etc, etc.. so that section will probably be the least cooked from.

If you are already familiar with ingredients you're going to need, (sumac, pomegranate molasses, tahini, (lots of tahini), allepo pepper, urfa biber, grape leaves).. then you can jump right in! Newcomers to this cuisine might need to search out a Middle Eastern market or do some Amazon shopping first!

Also, the food photography is just wonderful!

I cannot recommend this book enough, now back to cooking!!
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Reviewed in the United States on June 23, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Many flavors of Palestine
By Ehmuhlee on June 22, 2020
As soon as Falastin arrived I immediately had no less than 20 recipes marked that I want to make. There are a lot of ingredients that will make a trip to the nearest Middle Eastern grocery, spice shop, or online order necessary, unless you already have spices like sumac and za’atar in your pantry. This is one of my favorite aspects of cooking… connecting with worlds outside of my own and food is the perfect medium for bringing people together.

The recipes I started with are :
• Sweet and spicy seeds and nuts
• Na`ama’s buttermilk fattoush
• Spicy roasted new potatoes with lemon and herbs (Batata bil filfil)
• Chicken musakhan
• Knafeh Nabulseyeh

I love the mix of spices and variety within this book. They have a delicate layering of flavor that makes MIddle Eastern flavors shine. There are so many somewhat familiar or reasonably easy recipes - like the spiced nuts or fattoush, and then there are more specialized like the Knafeh Nabulseyeh. It’s far less work than it appears. Working with filo dough or kataifi pastry seems exotic to the American in me, but it’s very simple and makes a bit impact. It’s a fun texture and the flavor of the Knafeh (sometimes also called kunefe) is a wonderful mix of savory cheeses baked in crunchy shredded filo, and drizzled with sweet orange blossom syrup. I also scattered some dried flower blossoms along with the pistachios on the top because I love any excuse to use them both. If you’ve never tried Knafeh, you’re in for a treat. 

The syrup makes more than necessary so you can use it in tea or in another creation.

While I wish I was back in Brooklyn and able to visit the iconic Sahadi’s, I don’t have that luxury right now and they aren’t currently shipping outside NYC, but I was able to procure everything that the average neighborhood grocery didn’t have at a 2 aisle wide Middle Eastern grocery. They had everything except the sumac, which has a slightly lemony flavor but adds a beautiful dark purple color. It is worth seeking out and very versatile.

Many people are familiar with Ottolenghi, however Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley who are more behind the scenes of the Ottolenghi brand are having their time to shine, too, and rightfully so. 

Falastin (Palestine) is the product of being keenly aware of the political complexities in the relationship between Palestine and Israel while simultaneously being able to maintain a friendship and business partnership. 

Additionally, having Tara Wigley as a big part of this project is important, because it upholds the Palestinian generational culture of women being the home cooks - and helps Falastin reach Arabic markets. I also endorse her love of preserved lemon... another one to make at home (with plenty of time) or pick up at your local Middle Eastern Grocery.

More updates and photos to come… I’m excited to make the Beet and feta galette with za’atar and honey, Labneh cheesecake with roasted apricots, honey and cardamom, Chicken shawarma pie and many more. I'll be working through this book with my cookbook club through the Summer and after.

I’ve received a free copy from Ten Speed Press in exchange for a free and unbiased review. 
The only thing I would change is I wish the UK cover was available in the US, but regardless the contents are the same. This is a perfect way to virtually travel and enjoy the food and stories of Palestine for food lovers of any persuasion.

Update : I have also made the Beet + feta galette with za'atar and honey. It takes a bit of work, but is well worth it and very flavorful, not to mention beautiful! The Chicken shawarma pie has been one of my favorites thus far. It's has several parts and takes a couple hours (though some pieces can be done simultaneously) but wow is it a show stopper!

The labneh recipe worked well and the cheesecake with roasted apricots, honey, and cardamom is a fun twist on an old classic. I love the flavors. Another labor of love recipe, but I think they are worth it. Most of the time is chilling and waiting.
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Reviewed in the United States on June 30, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Travel Deliciously at Home
By Christine W. on January 7, 2021
This magical cookbook has given me a chance to adventure without taking a flight. I let my teen daughter choose a few recipes (knowing she would be more invested in trying new foods that way). Then I made a journey to a great middle eastern grocer. I’m lucky to live in Southeast Michigan where this is not so rare, but Yelp helped me find a great one and I had the nicest chat about za’atar with the owner. It’s so hard with masks to meet new people, but I knew we were both smiling, and he threw some hummus in my bag as a thank you. The dinner, lemon chicken and spicy roasted potatoes, was absolutely spectacular. A middle eastern playlist from Spotify made it even better.
I’ve also been so moved by the stories I’m this book. A man who stands guard over a 4,000 year old olive tree is surely my soul mate. And A woman tracking down nearly extinct giant watermelons and purple carrots. I immediately donated money to her organization rescuing heirloom seeds. I can’t thank the authors enough for this incredible journey during a time when I barely leave home. Best cookbook ever!
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Falastin: um livro que é muito mais do que receitas
Reviewed in Brazil on September 10, 2020
Poncho Gj
5.0 out of 5 stars Es más que un libro de cocina
Reviewed in Mexico on June 22, 2021
2 people found this helpful
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Philip F E Dutton
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast for the eyes and the taste buds
Reviewed in Germany on April 18, 2021
One person found this helpful
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Debora Gikovate
5.0 out of 5 stars Falsatin, indispensable
Reviewed in Brazil on June 19, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars Bel libro
Reviewed in Italy on December 3, 2021
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