In my early 20’s, I worked as a waitress at Jan’s Tea House in Jerusalem, which was a very unique establishments owned by 2 partners- a Dutch & a Palestinian men.
Jan’s was located under The Jerusalem Theater, and it had a bit of “being in a cave” feeling to it. There were only 2 tables for seating; the rest were large pillows placed on the floor. The place had plenty of carpets and Middle Eastern décor all around.
I enjoyed working there since there was a lot of interaction with the guests, and it didn’t quite feel like going to work, but more like doing something fun, making new friends and getting paid….
One of the friends I’ve made there was Mouhamed, the Palestinian chef. We use to talk about food, his family, the political situation in Israel and life in general.
One day, Mohamed invited me and the manager of the place, to have lunch at his house in the old city of Jerusalem. The house was built out of Jerusalem stone. There were 2 rooms only, a bathroom with a hole in the ground for a toilet… All and all a very modest home of a struggling family of 6. His wife, kids & mother in law greeted us in Arabic (Which I do not speak), with open arms and treated us like queens.
Mohamed made Maklouba, a Jordanian dish that makes my mouth water just thinking of it. I had to get the recipe right away, and had made it just recently for a dinner I cooked for friends.
The dish is made in stages and might seem like it’s a lot of work, but it’s not really, and it’s worth every minute you put into the preparation.
This with a nice Israeli salad of small diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red bell peppers and chopped Romaine lettuce, will make a wonderful memorable meal, I promise!
2 ½ LB lamb stew meat cut in cubes- Trim some of the fat, cook in a low wide pot. Cover meat with water + 1 inch. Put salt & bay leaf in. Boil and cook until meat is tender. Skim foam occasionally.
3 lb cauliflower, cut into chunky flowerets-Roast in oven
2 lb rice- soak in water for ½ hour, then drain.
1 cup almonds- sauté in a pan.
Drain meat, save liquids. Mix the liquids with ½ tsp Turmeric, ½ tsp ground allspice, salt and pepper.
Place the meat in the pot, place cauliflower on top, then rice, almonds and liquids.
Liquids should be 1 inch above the rice. Cover, cook for about 20 min until rice is done.
Let rest for 10 min, then turn upside down onto a platter. Garnish with cilantro and toasted pine nuts. Maklouba is typically served with yogurt. The sourness of the yogurt lends itself well to this dish.