The Allure of Ancient Jaffa in Tel Aviv

I’d not been to Tel Aviv before, so deciding which area to stay in required a bit of research. Friends had recommend a range of areas but in the end we opted for Jaffa, which is the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv. It is an ancient port city that is steeped in history with a natural harbour that has been in use since the bronze age. It also offers great vistas of the whole of Tel Aviv as you can see.

The area is predominantly Muslim and home to winding alleys with shops and art galleries, as well as the lively Flea Market, which was a stones throw away from our apartment. The area is filled with cool eateries and hip bars and whilst our Airbnb apartment was in the thick of it, the noise level was low and we slept like logs.  We were also lucky to only be 5 minutes walk from the sea.

The stone staircase leading to the door of our apartment were the most ancient we had ever climbed; it really did feel as if we were stepping back in time with every step. You can see what I mean if you look on my instagram under my instatories under ‘Israel’.

The food in Jaffa is seriously good and a place to head for lunch if you are staying in Jaffa – or indeed another part of Tel Aviv – is Abu Hassan. It’s one of the oldest and most loved hummus restaurants located on Dolphin Street. It attracts locals – Jews and Arabs, as well as tourists and labourers. The concept is simple – there are four dishes (no written menu – only the dishes presented in writing on the wall) – hummus, masabacha, brown beans and labna. To accompany the dishes you are served warm pitas, fresh onions, chilli in lemon water and falafel. It is masabacha that I have tried to replicate in a recipe for you today.

The main difference between masabacha and hummus is the texture. Whilst hummus is smooth, masabacha keeps some of the chickpeas whole. It is also eaten warm – although it is also equally delicious eaten at room temperature. To top the masabacha some chickpeas are added on top in a little water and lemon juice with a little cumin powder or smoked paprika and some freshly chopped parsley. This is my recipe. It is pretty straightforward once you have soaked the chickpeas for 24 hours in cold water.

 

 Masabacha 

Serves 4

8 garlic cloves, unpeeled

255g dried chickpeas

1 tbsp baking powder

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80ml chickpea cooking water

3 tbsp chickpeas

125ml reserved chickpea stock

1/4 tsp cumin powder

4 tbsp tahini

125ml olive oil

5 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

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chickpea juice

2 tbsp chickpea juice

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove

1 pinch of salt

 

 

  1. Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Add the baking soda and stir. Refrigerate the chickpeas overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas the following morning and place in a pan along with the unpeeled garlic cloves. Cover with fresh cold water so that it covers the chickpeas completely. Simmer for 40 minutes, by which time the chickpeas will have softened. Remove the scum that will form whilst cooking and add more water if it looks to be getting dry.
  3. Strain the chickpeas, keeping all the water and place to one side. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly. Remove 3 tbsp of chickpeas and place to one side.
  4. Place the chickpeas, all the garlic (except one which you will use later) – with the skins now peeled, 80ml of reserved chickpea cooking water and cumin powder in a blender and whizz. Gradually add the olive oil and tahini so that you end up with a very creamy, smooth hummus. Add salt to taste. Place in a medium sized, shallow serving bowl.
  5. In a separate small bowl mix the chickpea juice ingredients.
  6. To serve make a slight well in the centre of the hummus and scatter the remaining whole chickpeas on top.  Spoon in the tahini-lemon mixture – you may find you won’t need to add it all so spoon it in gradually. Sprinkle with cumin and/or paprika powder and garnish the parsley. Serve with pita bread.

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After lunch it is worth spending time walking around the beautiful narrow streets of old Jaffa. Whilst it might be very hot, if you are visiting in summer, the narrow streets do offer some shade and being near to the sea a gentle breeze is a welcome respite.

A meander around the famous Jaffa Flea market is an absolute must – it sells a range of trinkets, bags from Afghanistan, evil eye pendents, jewellery and clothes, as well as a host of interesting antiques. Being so close to our apartment I spent a fair amount of time nosing around this market as you can imagine.

There are also a number of interesting shops surrounding the market and neighbouring streets. My favourite without a doubt was this little gem. Erez Zielinski Rozen Perfumery.

If you like brands like Aesop and Le Labo then this is really going to appeal. The good news is that the price tag does not equal the other two brands, thankfully. The smells were divine and the packaging and branding were elegant and understated. You can’t buy it in the UK so it feels deliciously unique and original. A few bottles of perfume and hand made soap may have found their way home in my luggage.

If a food market is what you are after then a short taxi ride (I think the taxi drivers were the nicest I’ve experienced – not trying to rip you off and pleasant to talk to) will deliver you to the Carmel Market (in Hebrew it is known as ‘Shuk HaCarmel’ so use that name if riding in a cab).

First opened in 1920, 11 years after the establishment of the city, the market or ‘shuk’ occupies one street, which runs south from the junction of King George Street, Allenby, and Sheinkin Street to the Carmelit Bus depot in the south. The lower part of the market (nearer the sea) is the place to head where food stalls and fresh produce are on offer.

If you are feeling peckish, then head to THIS guy below.

…..he is located on the right hand side – if the sea is behind you – in the food section of the market –  for an egg, potato or a mix of both, or lamb burika.  He is a real entertainer and is pretty mesmerising to watch as he prepares his tasty treats. Burika is basically a paper thin pastry dough that is smeared with herbed mashed potato that is folded and dunked in boiling oil, then an egg is wrapped in it. It comes out crisp and is then popped into a pita bread along with hot sauce (harissa I guess), fresh tomatoes, cabbage, onion and then presented in a little paper bag. Order one to share as they are filling.

Whilst munching on your burika you can stroll through the market taking in the smells, sounds and general buzz of the market.

As the sun sets head back to the harbour by Jaffa to watch the setting sun.

Then grab a pew and wait to be entertained by the whirling dervish waiters at ‘Old Man and the Sea’ 

Sit outside and soak up the ambiance of the locals and tourists promenading around the harbour, whilst you devour your feast.