I grew up in Jerusalem but left as soon as I could. Its been a love-hate relationship ever since. For years it was strictly an ‘in & out’ arrangement, where I would come to my parents’ house and head back as soon as I could to modern civilization. Anything more was too much to handle.
I’ve been spending more time in the city recently for food purposes and I find am making peace with it through my stomach.
Once it stopped being a threat, attempting to swallow me back and suffocating me inside its dense stone walls I allowed myself to rediscover it, its timelessness quality and that je ne sais qua quality that gets people to lose their mind and fight over it, as if it could be won and be owned.
The heavy, overbearing seriousness with which reality is grasped by is refreshing, be it for a few hours at a time and it is nothing short of a trip abroad less then an hour away, as well as back in time.
Once again the power of food proves itself as a peacemaker and a softener of the heart.
I recently made mujadara, a dish that could probably spark yet another right of ownership war, as is the case with most dishes local to the region. It usually consists of lentils and either rice or bulgur, but I decided too give it a facelift and make it my own. I replaced the grains with spelt kernels, the lentils with lima beans and the yogurt topping for sheep’s milk feta cheese, leaving the fried onions (aka the best bit), untouched. With carbs, proteins, cheese, aromatic herbs, a satisfying crunch and a bouncing bite all in attendance and at their sharpest the only thing missing is dessert.
Spelt and lima bean mujadara
1 cup whole spelt kernels
1 cup lime beans, soaked in water overnight and cooked in boiling water until softened, about 35 minutes
1 red onion, chopped finely
1 sprig of rosemary, needles separated
½ lemon, freshly squeezed
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Sea salt, freshly ground, to taste
1-2 tbs sesame seeds, lightly roasted in a dry pan, then ground in a mortar & pestle
A handful of peanuts, lightly roasted and chopped
Sheep’s milk feta cheese, crumbled
- Place the spelt kernels in a medium sized saucepan, pour 1 ½ cups of water and bring to a boil over medium- high heat. When the water is simmering, cover and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and set the saucepan aside, still covered, for about 5 minutes. Use a spatula to fluff the spelt.
- While the spelt is cooking heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. add the chopped onion and fry over a medium- low heat until fried and crispy, but not charred.
- In a large bowl, add the cooked spelt lima beans and the fried onion. Add the rosemary and season with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
- Transfer to a serving plate and serve warm, sprinkled with ground sesame seeds, chopped peanuts and crumbled feta cheese.