Saturday, 29 September 2012

Jerusalem, Recipe Book by Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi

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.


  1. Thanks for reminding me that I wanted to get this! The programme that he did on the food of Jerusalem for bbc was great; he was able to bring a part insider/ part outsider perspective, having grown up, but not lived there for some time.

    ps you been to the night feast thing yet and if so, what d'you reckon to it?

    1. It really is a great book and takes a similar perspective to the show, there's lots of traditional recipes but also ones inspired by the flavours but not what you'd actually find there.

      yes, went down last two nights, on thursday just for ribs, which as great as i thought they would be and then last night tried some of the beef rendang and cod doughnuts, both of which were good. was pleased to see it so busy and bumped into lots of people i hadn't seen in ages but also meant i probably didn't try as much as i might have, great beers for £3 a pint though, can't do better than that. Have you been down, what did you think?

  2. Overall, really good! Great venue and a nice variety of stuff on, and not just the usual suspects that you see at various other North-Eastern scran-fests, not that there's anything wrong with those guys but familiarity breeds... something anyway.

    Native oysters taste COMPLETELY different to rock oysters, which taste a bit different to eachother depending where they come from. I didn't know that, but enjoyed finding out. Broad Chare scotch eggs are shit-hot. I knew that, but enjoyed having it confirmed. Beef rendang was v nice and the wine was good.

    We went on thurs, but didn't get to try the ribs, gutted! By the time I realised he was there, there was already a scrum/queue that brought to mind a particularly middle class version of the scenes you get in war-torn countries when the UN food-aid guys rock up. We only had half an hour before having to dash to the theatre, so no deal. I guess I'll just have to book a cheap advance return ticket to King's Cross some Thursday in the future... Other minor whige- the queues were pretty mad for a Thursday, but I spose this is what happens at a free, very well publicised event.

    Anyway, very good fun, and mega-congrats to organiser people I thought.

    Postscript: The theatre show was a very "arty" and abstract riff on the staccato and fractured thoughts that inhabit the minds of lonely people. It was ok, but half way through I was thinking about ribs.

    1. I know exactly what you mean about the same old local faces, i don't actually attend too many of the food events up here as many don't really cater for what i like about food but as UNF showed by bringing vendors from further away it not only supports the local businesses but allows the north east to become a destination for this sort of thing (at least once a year) and bring in people who might not usually attend.

      The crowd at UNF was totally different from what you'd usually find at a food festival up here and much more like the younger food scene thats been established in london/manchester.

      I also didn't know that about oysters, the other half got very sick from a dodgy one when we were in france last year and have avoided them since as a pact of solidarity.

      That theatre show sounds interesting, but i think i like ribs more (they were so good when i dropped some i ate it off the floor)

  3. The floors looked clean enough to me!

    Agreed re the "different crowd" thing; blatant proof that someone needs to open an NE version of meatliquor/ pitt cue etc round these parts; there's blatantly a market for it, and what's more I'm sick of London friends banging on about the latest filthy burger hotspot while we ain't got nowt comparable.

    1. o i've been saying that for months, im so glad to here someone else thinks the same! London is awash with dirty burgers, can't we have at least one!? i go down every few months just to eat, i've actually thought of setting somewhere up myself, but have yet to progress on the idea. thinking a spuntinos type bar joint with burgers, ribs and fried chicken, great cocktails and beers *drools*

    2. *cough* needing a business partner *cough*

    3. Do it! If you build it, etc etc. I always think Grainger market would be perfect for such a place, if it wasn't for the fact it shuts at 5pm...


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