‘Bethlehem’ is a new recipe book celebrating Palestinian food

‘Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food’ is a recipe book by Fadi Kattan that celebrates culinary tradition and explores untold stories

Spread of food from the recipe book ‘Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food’ by Fadi Kattan
(Image credit: Location photography - Elias Halabi. Styled food photography - Ashley Lima)

Bethlehem is a journey that I would share with anybody who wants to know about my city, my city's people, and my city's food,’ says Fadi Kattan of his debut cookbook, Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food. ‘[It’s] a collection of recipes and portraits which deliver a very intimate story… the story of food in Bethlehem directly from the people who make the food.’

Fadi Kattan on ‘Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food’

Chef Fadi Kattan looking at photographs

Chef Fadi Kattan looks through photographs

(Image credit: Location photography - Elias Halabi. Styled food photography - Ashley Lima)

The Franco-Palestinian chef grew up in the holy city, and was inspired to celebrate the underrepresented culinary history of Palestine. In 2023, he co-founded Akub, a modern Palestinian restaurant located in the heart of London’s Notting Hill, and there he serves up tempting dishes on ceramic restaurant crockery (that's also available to buy) by Nur Minawi – a Jaffa-based third-generation Palestinian ceramicist. Now, one year later, Kattan has curated an archive of recipes that capture the flavours, aromas, and stories of Bethlehem’s rich culinary landscape.

Flatbreads topped with tomatoes from Palestinian recipe book

(Image credit: Location photography - Elias Halabi. Styled food photography - Ashley Lima)

Kattan’s recipe book is an ode to the resilience of community through troubled times. ‘The most challenging part [of creating Bethlehem] was to be able to balance my emotions between the total fascination and love I have for the city and for Palestine, with the pain of living under occupation. I didn't shy away from either. I took on what reality is and tried to transmit this through the book,’ he tells Wallpaper*.

table of food from Palestinian recipe book

(Image credit: Location photography - Elias Halabi. Styled food photography - Ashley Lima)

Speaking with local farmers, artisans, and family members, Kattan painted an evocative picture of traditions made in the kitchen through profiles that accompany the recipes. ‘I learned from my grandmother, Julia, the most important tradition is hospitality and kindness,’ he says.

dishes of Palestinian food from recipe book

(Image credit: Location photography - Elias Halabi. Styled food photography - Ashley Lima)

The recipes span from cheese-stuffed grape leaves to tender slow-roasted lamb seasoned with fenugreek and cardamom, and carefully strained labneh (a Middle Eastern yogurt) dusted with nigella seeds. Asked for a favourite, Kattan finds it hard to choose.

‘I love all of them. It just depends on the season, the time, the mood, and the produce available,’ he says. ‘I wanted the recipes to be accessible, and replicable anywhere. I think maybe I'd say one of the recipes I love the most, because it's pure simplicity, is the fig recipe, where you just cut it in four, add some olive oil and sprinkle some milk, and that's it.’

table loaded with dishes of Palestinian food from Bethlehem recipe book

(Image credit: Location photography - Elias Halabi. Styled food photography - Ashley Lima)

Most importantly, Kattan’s work nods to the unsung heroes championing Palestinian food and community, with the effort to preserve long-held traditions. ‘Traditions are kept alive in spite of everything that's been done to try and erase them… [Our culture] survives because each home, family, and artisan repeats that gesture of our craft of cooking. It's the gesture of making Palestinian za’atar bread or ka’ak (a semolina shortbread pastry). It's the gesture of mixing the tahini with dibis (grape molasses) for breakfast. It's the gesture of soaking the taboon bread in broth and olive oil.’

dish of Palestinian food topped with pine nuts

(Image credit: Location photography - Elias Halabi. Styled food photography - Ashley Lima)

Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food by Fadi Kattan is available to pre-order, and released in the US on 14 May 2024, and 16 May in the UK. The recipe book is also available from Amazon

Tianna Williams is the Editorial Executive at Wallpaper*. Before joining the team in 2023, she has contributed to BBC Wales, Ford UK, SurfGirl Magazine, and Parisian Vibe, with work spanning from social media content creation to editorial. Now, her role covers writing across varying content pillars for Wallpaper*.