Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How tent camp couscous became a national dish

Here's one staple of the Israeli kitchen that no Arab will be able to claim was stolen from them: Israeli ptitim or 'couscous'. According the The Age, p'titim began life in the tent camps or ma'abarot as a cheap means of feeding Jewish refugees flooding in from Arab countries:

Israeli couscous looks like little pearls of white pasta - and is often called pearl couscous. It is made with pelletised semolina. In Hebrew, it is called ptitim and is not actually couscous. It was developed to feed the Mizrahi Jews fleeing to Israel from countries such as Iraq and Syria during the 1940s.

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion wanted a wheat-based, rice-like staple to feed them and a company developed ptitim made from hard wheat and then roasted. Boil it in salted water for 10-12 minutes and serve like rice, or use it as the basis for a salad - perhaps adding some finely chopped mint, parsley and tomatoes, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and sea salt flakes.

It is excellent if toasted in a little oil in a heavy-based saucepan for a few minutes. This seals in the starch and you can then cook it like risotto with onion and perhaps some vegetables, adding ladles of hot chicken stock and stirring as you go.

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