It’s really hard to talk about the food of Israel without going into the recent history of this area and it is exceptionally hard to talk about the recent history of this area without pissing a whole lot of people off. In the end though, as food is so emblematic of culture I am going to do my best here.
When looking into what I should make for Israel, I knew that I wanted to represent both sides of the Israeli equation. On the one hand you have the Mediterranean and Levantine influences of the surrounding nations. This means things like falafel, stuffed vine leaves, hummus and other such delicious pieces. On the other, you have the Jewish food that came in during the early 20th century when a lot of Jewish immigrants made their way to then Palestine to start new lives.
This means, therefore, that I will be making two main dishes in order to represent both the Middle Eastern and Jewish inhabitants of this nation. For lunch it was the former, and dinner it was the latter. It truly was a very Israeli Sunday.
When I looked online to find what Israel’s national dish was, the same thing came up again and again: falafel. It’s one of those ubiquitous foods of the region that I’ve never made before and has a buttload of variants. Luckily, there are a lot of recipes online touting whatever is the Israeli version of falafel and I ended up using this great one from Haaretz.
Given that I am on a weight loss kick (22 pounds down and counting) I made a variation on this whereby I shallow-fried it and made them into patties rather than cute little balls. It meant that one side of mine were slightly burned (unlike my husband’s which were all fine), but they were still incredibly delicious. I love the blend of the different spices in this and it made me so hungry that I did end up quickly noshing on some before it was fully cooked.
As a side dish to this I had flatbread, hummus and some homemade Israeli salad. Never heard of this before a few days ago, but I really did enjoy the recipe from Eating Bird Food. It reminded me a lot of the Lebanese fattoush, but with fewer ingredients and a more herby flavour profile. It will make for a nice simple salad in a pinch if I have some extra herbs laying around.
I had centuries of Jewish food tradition to choose from here. I could have tried to make challah, blintzes or kugel, but I had a real hankering to make some warming matzo ball soup from scratch. And by scratch I mean homemade broth and schmaltz using this recipe from International Cuisine rather than pulling out some stock cubes. No, this was a recipe that started at me rendering chicken wings at 8:30 in the morning and then finally dishing up 10 hours later… and it was so worth it.
This was truly a delicious soup. I don’t know if, next time, I would go through the whole rendering process again as I’m not sure how much flavour frying the vegetables in chicken fat actually brought. However, everything else made this such a delicious soup to end a Sunday on whilst watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Truly this is a perfect recipe for a winter’s day… which is why I am writing about making it in early July. What can I say, when you want soup, you want soup.
Well, that certainly went a lot better than Monaco. I’m hoping that, with the next country, I can keep up the momentum and make another delicious dish – this time from a country that I cannot imagine I will ever visit. Next time, it’s gonna be South Sudan.