Comfort food from a conflict zone

What does decades of conflict do to the foods native to a region? This article in Samaa looks at 3 typical Iraqi dishes and the ways in which a prolonged period of conflict in the country has impacted them.

Iraqi cuisine: comfort food from a conflict zone


The politics of food: Palestine on a plate

palestine+on+a+plate+book+coverLondon chef Joudie Kalla’s book “Palestine on a Plate” combines cuisine, history, and politics to bring to light traditional Palestinian recipes. Here’s an excerpt from her interview in Bloomberg.



Here in the U.K., a lot of “Middle Eastern” restaurants have popped up, and they are, in fact, Israeli. And it’s all the dishes we grew up on, in Arabic names, and it’s very frustrating. I’m not anti-Israeli, not anti-Jew, not anti-anything, just anti-misinformation. I think to label makloubeh and sayyadiyeh—dishes that actually mean something in Arabic and are historically from Palestine, from Arabs—to be presented and cooked and sold as Israeli is offensive and frightening. It’s the deletion of a culture and people.

Iraqi potato-chicken pie

Iraqi cuisine or Mesopotamian cuisine has a long history going back some 10,000 years – to the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Ancient Persians. Tablets found in ancient ruins in Iraq show recipes prepared in the temples during religious festivals – the first cookbooks in the world.  Today, the cuisine of Iraq reflects this rich inheritance as well as strong influences from the culinary traditions of neighbouring Iran, Turkey and the Syria region area.


A typical Iraqi meal starts with a mezze (appetizer), such as kebabs , which are cubes of marinated meat cooked on skewers. Soup is usually served next, which is drunk from the bowl, not eaten with a spoon. For gadaa and ashaa, Arabic for lunch and dinner, the meals are much alike. A simple main course, such as lamb with rice is served, followed by a salad and khubaz , a flat wheat bread served buttered with fruit jelly on top. Other popular dishes include quzi (stuffed roasted lamb), kibbe (minced meat, nuts, raisins, and spices), and kibbe batata (potato-beef casserole).

Iraqi potato-chicken pie

3 large potatoes, boiled
1/4 cup bread crumbs
½ teaspoon salt
½ pound lean ground meat (I used chicken)
1 small onion, chopped
Ginger-garlic paste — 1-1/2 tsp
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Arabic spice or a combination of(allspice, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1. Mash the potatoes and place in a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs and salt. Mix by hand, and set aside.

2. Prepare the filling. Sauté the meat and add the ginger-garlic paste, onions and spices. When cooked, add salt and chopped parsley. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

3. Brush the pie dish with 2 tablespoons of oil. Take half of the potato mixture and press it down to cover the surface of the dish. Spread the meat filling on top and cover it with a layer of potato. Smooth the top of the pie and brush it with oil. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes.

Sources: Wikipedia
Food in Every Country

Syrian chicken (with ginger, lemon, and star anise)

Fragrant, packed with flavour and so delicious you will want to cook it again and again — for yourself, your family and your friends. The profusion of spices doesn’t overwhelm but lends a delicate personality to the dish because of the way in which the spices combine and stir poetry in the pot. A clear winner, this.



I followed this recipe with a few alterations as noted below.


2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
A medium to large chicken, cut into pieces
Olive oil
2 onions, thickly sliced
100 grams ginger, cut into matchsticks (I subsituted with ginger poweder)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 small red chillies, split
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 pinches saffron threads (I omitted this, didn’t have saffron at hand)
1 star anise
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 lemon, juiced and zested (the zest adds an extra aromatic layer)
1 tablespoon honey (add more if you like it sweeter)
100 grams currants


Combine the salt, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric in a large plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and shake to coat.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the star anise, onion, ginger, garlic and chilli to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, adding a little more oil, if necessary. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cumin seeds and thyme and cook for 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the lemon juice and zest, honey, currants, and enough water to just cover the chicken.

Cover with a lid and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through, and the sauce is slightly reduced.

Stir in the coriander and serve with rice or roti.