Last month in a small village hall in West Sussex I met some inspiring people – Rachel Nassif, from the Help Palestine Community Co-operative, Rosemary Moon, a wonderful cookery writer and Fair Trade advocate, Manal Abdallah from Canaan Fair Trade and Abu Rafat Odeh al Qadi a farmer from Palestine. Sometimes you don’t have to travel far from home to discover a new culture.

The hall in Boxgrove near Chichester was packed for an evening entitled ‘Cooking Palestine’.

Abu, Manal and RosemaryRosemary, presented a fascinating and amusing demonstration using a mixture of ingredients from Palestinian, as well as local, Fair Trade supplier’s to produce some really delicious and colourful dishes.

Throughout the evening she chatted to Abu and Manal. It was very moving to hear about the obstacles farmers in Palestine have had to face and how Fair Trade has made so much difference to their lives and the lives of their families.


More on this in a forthcoming post but first I’d like to pass on the delicious recipes Rosemary shared with us.

Recipes for Zaytoun olive oil and Za’atar

During the evening Rosemary introduced us to Za’atar, a delicious Palestinian mix of thyme, toasted sesame seeds and sumac. In Palestine it is said to improve intelligence and cure rheumatism. Bread dipped in olive oil and Za’atar is the traditional breakfast and as the Palestinians say “Za’atar and olive oil are the two lions protecting the home”.

All recipes serve 3-4 generously

Squash humousTWK

Roasted squash humus


  • 350-400g squash, butternut, crown prince, or similar
  • 1-2 tsp za’atar
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  •  salt and pepper
  • chopped coriander (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 220C, 425F.
  2. Seed the squash and cut into 3 or 4 slices and place in a tin.
  3. Sprinkle with the za’atar and drizzle with oil.
  4. Bake for 30-45 mins, until tender, then allow to cool.
  5. Cut the flesh from the skin into a bowl.
  6. Crush the garlic and add it with all the remaining ingredients and sufficient olive oil to make a humus of the consistency that you prefer.
  7. Enjoy as a dip or in big scoops on top of salads.

 Zaytoun couscous salad


  • 125g (half a bag) maftoul (large wholewheat couscous)
  •  Zaytoun extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 2-3 sticks celery
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 avocados
  • 1-2 red chillies
  • 4 tomatoes
  • coriander leaves and watercress


  1. Prepare the couscous as directed.
  2. Add a little olive oil when prepared and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Seed and finely chop the cucumber.
  4. Finely slice the celery including the leaves.
  5. Grate the zest of the lime into the couscous then squeeze the juice into a bowl.
  6. Scoop the avocado flesh from the shells, roughly chop then toss in the lime juice.
  7. Seed and finely chop the chillies and roughly chop the tomatoes.
  8. Add all the prepared ingredients to the warm couscous and toss together, adding seasonings and olive oil to taste.
  9. Serve warm or cold.

Winter salad from Palestine

Zaytoun winter salad

Rosemary quite rightly says “We get too hung up on recipes for salads – they are just meant to be a collation of whatever is best to eat at the time. My winter salad was made with local Hairspring watercress (from Hambrook), cucumber, mint and coriander leaves, Zaytoun dates and caramelised almonds, and cooled Florence fennel, which had been cut thinly and sautéed in Zaytoun olive oil until browned and caramelised. Add some pomegranate seeds and a dressing of more olive oil and a fruit vinegar and that is that!.Delicious, seasonal and satisfying. Serve the salad on a flat platter rather than in a bowl. Try adding fresh apricots when in season.”

Rachel’s story – A desire to support the people of Palestine

Rachel, from Help Palestine Community Co-operative, organised this wonderful evening. Her co-operative, based in Portsmouth on the south coast of England, sells a variety of Fair Trade products from Palestine including some wonderful products from Zaytoun. She later explained “We set up the co-operative in order to do something positive for those living under occupation. Zaytoun import and store the goods and we act as a distributor … We also source none food stuffs from other providers.
      I love visiting the West Bank” Rachel continued “and have just had 10 days out there. My visits motivate me and encourage those I visit. The Co-operative enables me to talk about the political situation and the occupation in a variety of settings. It enables me to encourage the sustainability of Palestine and provide a market for people who deserve to have their produce sold internationally. It is a form of non-violent protest against the occupation, declaring that we will find a way to enable Palestinians to make a living against all the odds.”

Zaytoun fair trade range

In another post I will share with you Abu’s story and explain why he came very close to abandoning his land, as many other Palestinian farmers have had to do.


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