The new cookbook Falastin is a love letter to Palestine – its food and its people. The book’s authors, Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, are well-versed in the region’s cuisine. Tamimi was born in Palestine and co-founded the Ottolenghi restaurant and deli empire in London. He also co-wrote Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook with Yotam Ottolenghi. Similarly, Wigley has been co-writing with Ottolenghi since 2011, and helps develop, test and write the recipes for his Guardian and New York Times columns.

The two travelled through Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Nablus, Haifa, Akka, Nazareth, Galilee and the West Bank to find inspiration for the cookbook. The result is a collection of both contemporary and traditional recipes, reworked in the Ottolenghi test kitchen and made with the home cook in mind.

“The journey of these rolls can be traced through Lebanon to Armenia, where these kubez el tahineh come from,” Wigley and Tamimi write. “They are simple to make, impressive to look at and loved by all. They’re a particular favourite with kids. Eat them as they are, or sliced and spread with dibs wa tahini, the Palestinian equivalent of peanut butter and jam, where creamy tahini is mixed through with a little bit of grape or date molasses.”

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Keeping notes: these are best eaten fresh on the day of baking, but are also fine kept for two to three days (just warm them in the oven). They also freeze well after they’ve been baked and left to cool – to serve, just pop them into the oven straight from the freezer until warmed through.

Sweet tahini rolls
Makes 10 rolls
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus resting and cooling
Cook time: 18 minutes

1½ tsp fast-acting dried yeast

1 tsp caster sugar

110ml full-cream milk, lukewarm

300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
75g unsalted butter, melted

1 egg, lightly beaten

Olive oil, for greasing


100g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
120g tahini

1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

First make the dough. Put the yeast, sugar and milk into a small bowl and mix to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes, until it starts to get frothy.

Meanwhile, put the flour and ½ tsp of salt into the bowl of a free-standing mixer with the dough hook in place. Mix on a low speed, then slowly pour in the yeast mixture. Add the melted butter and continue to mix for about a minute.

Add the egg, then increase the speed to medium and leave for 5 minutes for the dough to get well-kneaded. Using your hands, scrape the dough into a ball: it will be slightly sticky and elastic. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it a couple of times so that the dough gets well greased. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

Put the sugar and cinnamon for the filling into a small bowl. Mix well to combine, then set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 35cm x 50cm. Drizzle the tahini over the dough, then, using the back of a spoon or a spatula, spread it out evenly, leaving 1cm clear of tahini at both the shorter ends. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the tahini and leave for 10 minutes, until the sugar looks all wet.

Starting from one of the long sides, roll the dough inwards to form a long, thin sausage. Trim away about 2cm from each end, then slice the dough into 10 equal pieces: they should each be just over 4½cm long. Sit each piece upright, so that its cut side is facing upwards, then, using your hands, gently flatten out to form an 8cm-wide circle. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan-forced.

Transfer each roll of dough to a large parchment-lined baking tray, spaced 2-3cm apart. Brush all over – just the top and sides, not the base – with the egg yolk, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 18 minutes, or until cooked through and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside for about 20 minutes – you don’t want them to be piping hot – then serve.

Extracted from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, $49.99). Photography by Jenny Zarins.