The journey of these rolls can be traced through Lebanon to Armenia, where these kubez el tahineh come from. 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 w tahini, the Palestinian equivalent of peanut butter and jam, where creamy tahini is mixed through with a little bit of grape or date molasses.
Keeping notes: These are best eaten fresh on the day of baking but are also fine for 2–3 days once baked, warmed through in the oven. They also freeze well, after they’ve been baked and left to cool: you can pop them into the oven straight from the freezer until warmed through.
Makes: 10 rolls
Photography: Jenny Zairns
Season: Year Round
1 1⁄2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
110ml whole 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
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 1⁄2 teaspoon 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 35 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 41⁄2cm 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.
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.
Falastin is a love letter to a place and its people from Ottolenghi co-founder Sami Tamimi and co-collaborator Tara Wigley. It’s full of recipes and stories from across Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, Nablus, Haifa, Akka, Nazareth, Galilee and the West Bank — an important cookbook that will make you fall in love with the food and stories of Palestine. Recipe extracted from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27). Photography by Jenny Zarins.