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Food and Recipes

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Drinks in Palestine
submitted by This Week In Palestine


The Palestinian summer is so hot during the day that one has to keep drinking to make up for lost body fluids, especially if one is exposed to direct sunlight. The Palestinians, as well as nations in the rest of Asia, have, over the centuries, developed the art of making drinks. The fact that sugar was known to Asia for a long time helped a great deal, since sugar is an essential ingredient in most drinks. Sugar was already being used in Asia a few thousand years ago whereas in Europe at that time honey and fruit were the only known sweeteners. Sugar is extracted from the maple tree, the date palm and from grapes. The two main sources of sugar, however, are sugar cane and sugar beet, both well known to the East.
During the Crusades, the French learned the extraction and usage of sugar in candy, syrup, jam, and molasses. This was instrumental in the development of confectionery and patisserie in France and Europe. The Arabs and the Chinese also knew the art of making iced drinks long before the Christian era. The famous Arab writer of the ninth century, Al-Jahith, wrote about the usage of ice with drinks and fruits in Arabia. Their many syrups were mixed with snow and named sherbets, hence the words syrup, sherbet and sorbet. It was not until the 13th century that Marco Polo brought to Europe the secret of cooling without ice, by running a mixture of water and salt over a container filled with the substance to be cooled. Thus the great fashion for water ices began in Italy.
In France it was Catherine de Medicis, who had arrived to wed Henry II, who introduced iced desserts, among other culinary novelties, to the French court through Moroccan cooks she brought with her from Italy as a wedding gift. The French public discovered them a century later.
Arab and Chinese recipes were gradually modified and adapted, in Europe and later in the USA, to the needs of industrial manufacturing. Palestinians traditionally used Sahlab and carob as ice cream and sorbet stabilizers. Nowadays, stabilizers used in the manufacture of ice products are edible gelatine, egg whites and, recently, carob. Sahlab, however, remained rare due to its steep price. Sahlab is known mainly in Syria, where it is produced. In Palestine, green carob is boiled with milk to make Mqaiqah (a sort of light pudding), and dried carob is used to make a delicious cold drink of the same name, syrup, and sherbet or sorbet.
Other popular drinks are made from tamarind and liquorice. Tamarind is originally from Africa but has an honourable place in Palestinian cooking, finding its way into sauces and salad dressings. Liquorice grows wildly in Syria and is made into a refreshing drink by soaking or infusing liquorice sticks in water with the addition of lemon juice. Iced or chilled drinks are also made from dried fruits, such as Qamar Al-Deen, which is a sheet of dry, cooked apricots that is soaked in water and mixed with lemon juice and syrup. Another drink equal in popularity is Gillab, made of raisin juice and lemon. Mint or rose water is added to cold drinking water, whereas herbs are added to boiled water and chilled for noontime consumption.
Buza Nabulsieh, also known as Arabic ice cream, is made by boiling a litre of milk with a cup of heavy cream and a cup of sugar, adding two level teaspoons of Sahlab dissolved in a little cold milk, and blending all slowly together while stirring continuously. Add ½ teaspoon of ground Gum Arabic and stir over low heat for about 10 minutes then add a tablespoon of orange blossom water and remove from the heat. Beat well with a wooden spoon and pour into a freezer tray and freeze for several hours.
Beat the ice cream with a wooden mallet on a marble or wooden slab until it is elastic and smooth. Chill then repeat process several times. Serve with crushed pistachio nuts.
Before the Israeli occupation, one could see the Buza hanging on hooks for display in ice shops all over the streets of Nablus, an image that can still be seen in Amman, Beirut and Damascus.

Sufian Mustafa
Chef and Researcher

This Week in Palestine
August 2002

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