We continue in the kitchen with some delicious bread, spices and desserts all home-made from the family’s cultivated and wild-harvested crops.
The winter here is field crop season. This family makes about a dozen large burlap sacks of wheat annually which is used for whole wheat flour to make bread. The bread is always mixed with white flour which they have to buy from elsewhere.
Another use for the brown flour is Maftoul, which is like a large, firmer couscous. The first step is to roll the whole wheat flour with water until it makes small balls. Then these small balls are dried in the sun. When they are done, they are again rolled with flour and water until they are fairly large.
Onions in oil are added to the middle of the mixture and the whole thing is steamed.
When you’re rolling the maftoul, sometimes you get a large ball of dough. this dough is actually used to create a seal between the steamer and the pot of boiling water.
After about half an hour, you remove the maftoul from the steam and let it sit. You break up any clumps and sprinkle olive oil on top, presumably to keep them from sticking together.
This final mixture is then dried in the sun one more time. It’s a lot of work but handmade maftoul is really incredibly delicious. It has a delicious wheaty flavor with a hint of pepperiness from the olive oil and a quite firm texture. Because of the double rolling and sundrying, the core is very firm and prevents it from getting soggy like couscous.
Sundrying is ubiquitous (as there is obviously a lot of sun). Here they sundry the maftoul, zaatar (oregano), mouloukhia (a leafy green with no English name), figs (teen), tomatoes, wild sage for tea and more.
Tamarind (tamar hindi) and carob (kharoob) are gathered and made into molasses or syrup. The tamarind is diluted to make a really delicious juice. The carob molasses is used to make a pudding by adding starch and water and then stirring constantly over heat. They make about 20 liters of concentrated carob syrup every year. Apparently the carob is one of the more difficult things to harvest. The tree drops a very thick layer of leaves on the ground which means you don’t know what you could be stepping on…