I recently wrote a post about some of my favourite recipe books, and although these covered a wide range of different varieties and styles of cooking I think they all have a common theme. They are more than recipe books, they tell stories. And not just about food, about people - who we are and how we interact and our cultural history.
The new book from famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem, is a magnificent book which tells the rich tapestry of the cities history through its dishes, flavours and ingredients. Having both grown up in the city at the same time but Sami on the Arab east and Yotam on the Jewish west it really is a fascinating portrait of a very complex city.
As well as the detailed introduction which explains a little about the history and passion of the region, all the recipes come with short passages of explanation and the relaxed narrative style means you could be absorbed without the slightest intention of doing any cooking.
This is just what I like in a recipe book, I want to be able to pick it up, flick through it and feel like i'm learning more than just the correct weights and measures for making a quiche. The recipe book market is seriously crowded and most of what is published is repeated recipes on tired themes. I can't say I know a lot about cooking from this part of the world and it makes me want to learn more especially because dishes typical to this region that most readers might know a little something about - kugel, bagels, strudel - are left out.
I own Ottolenghi's previous book, Plenty, and although is a beautiful book, full of many interesting dishes, I've mainly used it for inspiration and ideas having barely made a full recipe from it. I never found it that accessible (and not just because it was vegetarian food) so wondered how i'd fare with Jerusalem.
Although there are still many unusual spices and herbs, and this is after all why Ottolenghi is loved, there were instantly many recipes that caught my eye and I thought 'I have to make that NOW'.
After a trip our to stock up on what appeared to be essentials for any meal in the book - tahini, za'atar and sumac (and if anyone knows a good source of affordable saffron, do let me know) - I made Na'ama's Fattoush, a chopped salad with stale bread and a homemade buttermilk dressing and Kofta b'siniyah, meatballs with a tahini sauce. Both were absolutely delicious and really easy to make. This is homely, sociable food, to be shared on large platters with lots of drinks.
|Fattoush and Kofta B'siniyah from Jerusalem|
Jerusalem as you'd expect of any Ottolenghi book is, of course, beautifully put together with lots of enticing photography and a lovely cloth finish on the cover. Hopefully the other halves mother doesn't read my blog, because i'm definitely buying her a copy of Jerusalem for Christmas.
Jerusalem is published by Ebury publishing and is available to buy now, RRP £27.