Wednesday 24 April 2013

Cookbook Crush: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

I’m this kind of annoying passionate person who, when I love something I have to tell the whole world about it. Not that the whole world reads my blog (I wish) but a few people who will end up on this blog might love me forever if I happened to introduce them to my favourite cookbook ever: Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi. I’m not exaggerating, let me explain.

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi were both born in Jerusalem. Even though they never met in their native country, they had similar paths: both moved to Tel Aviv and then to London where they became friends and business partners. They realised they had common food memories, coming from the same city and so decided to write Jerusalem together. This cookbook is a kind of homage to the food from their land, compiling both old and traditional recipes as well as dishes that have been inspired by the flavours and local ingredients of Jerusalem.

The book itself is beautiful (there are 2 versions), mine has a beige and gold cover which doesn’t make it look like your average cookbook. This book looks like it’s sacred; about to reveal some precious secrets about cooking.

There are 9 sections in this book: vegetables, pulses and grains, soups, stuffed, meat, fish, savoury pastries, sweet and desserts and finally condiments.

The food photography is amazing, not every single recipe has a picture but the one which do are truly stunning: a real focus on the dish itself and no overuse of props, like you tend to see these days.  In addition to the food photography many street scenes of Jerusalem are portrayed such as markets, food stalls or even the dining table of a simple local food joint.

It’s all about chopped fresh mint, parsley, coriander, fresh chilli, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, pine nuts and many exotic condiments that give so much taste to the food. You’ll find an extensive use of lemon juice and olive oil plus many local Jerusalem ingredients such as cucumbers, tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, courgettes and so on. The recipes are easy to follow and once you have the essential ingredients in your pantry you’ll find that they’ll be useful for pretty much every other recipe.

Consider a trip to an ethnic food shop to get started with Jerusalem to find things like sumac, date syrup, tahini and cardamom.  Moore Street is very good for this if you are Dublin city centre based like me.  Also, another reason why I adore this book is that I feel like I’m eating colourful and tasty, but also healthy food. You’ll find many salads, soups, vegetarian dishes, dips and Greek yoghurt based sauces that don’t require the use of fattening ingredients. Simple and delicious food at its best; this is what Jerusalem is about.

My pics of some of the dishes we made from this book
Lamb, couscous, hummus, meatballs: everything cooked from this book is guaranteed to be packed with flavours and to make your tastebuds explode with contentment. Mr FFID only bought me this book a month ago as a surprise and I’ve made the following dishes which all were divine, if I do say so myself:

  •    Open Kibbeh (p160)
  •  Stuffed aubergine with lamb and pine nuts (p166)
  •   Turkey and Courgette Burgers with spring onion and cumin (p200)
  •  Kofta b’siniyah (p195)
  • Butternut squash and tahini spread (p68)
Mr FFID even used this book to reproduce the following recipes, we loved them:

  • Red pepper and baked egg galettes (p243)
  • Braised eggs with lamb, tahini and sumac (p205)

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book for its flavoursome cuisine and amazing photographs.  I’m totally in love with it: it’s like eating sun on a plate!
Do you have Jerusalem? What is your favourite recipe from this book?