Our friend, a Palestinian chef, lives in Al-Azarieh in the West Bank. This is the place of the resurrection of Lazarus where Mary and Martha lived (friends of Jesus). In the Bible we know the town as Bethany.
The place has changed. The wall between Israel and the West Bank changed this suburb of Jerusalem. For 10 years, life is not the same as before. Every morning our cook has to pass through the checkpoint to come to work and has to be back before 22:00. Forbidden to go elsewhere than to his work. No passing the checkpoint by car, he has to use public transportation. His children have never seen the sea. For them, he only would like a good school system and to take them to the pool. I saw him looking at a postcard of a landscape of French Brittany with his kid's eyes. We could continue this list for a long time. I struggled for having all this, for a little trust. Pride, modesty and pacifism are strong values in Palestine, whatever other people think.
When I met him, he kept singing. And he was not a tenor... One day, I ended by joking, telling him he makes me rather laugh than anything else with his songs. He said, "singing is the only thing we have now."
He forgot to mention food... which is so an integral part of the culture. Here is his recipe of the semolina cake, sometimes with coconut, sometimes almonds, sometimes called it basboussa, sometimes called it harissa (nothing to do with Tunisian chili paste).
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Prepare the syrup. Boil until slightly syrupy conssitency : 3 glasses of water with 3 glasses of sugar. Add a few drops of lemon juice. Let it cool until room temperature.
In a first bowl : mix 2 glasses of shredded coconut, 2 of flour, 2 of fine semolina and 1 of sugar.
In a second bowl : mix 3 eggs with zest of 2 lemons, vanilla seeds or extract.
In a third bowl : mix 2 glasses of yogurt and a tablespoon of baking powder. Pour over the previous bowl. Mix again and add 25 cl of fresh cream before mixing again.
Add a glass of sunflower oil in the first bowl and mix by hand this time. The Arabs say that the noise resembles something like "bss-bss", which gave the name of Basboussa.
Gather all the boils and again mix by hand until a smoothy paste.
Coat the mold with a brush and tahini (as it is done with butter). No need to use flour.
Put the dough into a pan and bake it during 30 minutes until it is golden.
Remove from oven, cut parts, add the cooled syrup (no need to use all the syrup).
Cool to room temperature, this is better than hot. PuRecipe shredded coconut on each side.