It is safe to say that Yotam and Sami’s new creation is more than just your stereotypical cookbook. Alongside uniquely colourful, spice-infused recipes Jerusalem tells an enchanting tale of a culturally complex and diverse city. After delving into these wonderfully imaginative descriptions you will undoubtedly be eager to visit the birthplace of these elusive flavours yourself. Flicking through the recipes and inquisitively selecting what to try will help to satisfy your taste-buds in the meantime however, and you will be thrown into a whole new realm of cuisine.
I loved every page of Ottolenghi’s new book, which I can strangely – for a cookbook – confess I have almost read. The loving stories of family, comfort and food offer both reading enjoyment and the soft teaching of two Jerusalemites’ separate upbringings within the same city, one as a Jew and the other as a Palestinian. Their conflicting religious ideologies meant their experiences of Jerusalem’s cuisine were quite difference and it is these experiences which they have now innovatively and passionately combined and presented in the pages of Jerusalem. To put it simply, Jerusalem gives us foodies a new and heavenly take on traditional Middle-Eastern dishes; previously unheard-of flavours are utterly delicious.
So where to start? The Beef meatballs with broad beans & lemon is an absolute gem of a recipe, as is Prawns, scallops & clams with tomato & feta, and of course the sweetly Roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs. Quite frankly it is frustrated naming only a few when this is such a dreamy ‘food bible’, but if I go on you won’t need to buy the book. In short, Jerusalem embraces recipes involving pulses, toasted pine nuts, tahini, fish, meat and more – stuffing, grilling, blending and simmering each to allow each one to evolve with its own distinct flavours.
It saddens me to have to criticise such an exceptionally inspiring cookbook, but it cannot go unsaid that, for a typical student, many of the ingredients are not found easily. Ottolenghi’s spice-trail necessitates your cupboard to contain a selection of sumac, ancho chilli, dukkah and za’atar, to name but a few, and their highly ingredient-rich recipes usually require both expense and time. For many this might seem unappealing and implausible, but I still insist that this cooking ‘nest-egg’ ought to sit proudly on your shelf (it’s worth it for the photographs alone) – or at least on your parents’ shelf – I assure you that once you start cooking they won’t mind.
Na’ama’s Fattoush Recipe
200g Greek yogurt and 200ml full-fat milk, or 400ml buttermilk (replacing both yogurt and milk)
250g stale Turkish flatbread or naan
380g tomatoes, cut into 1.5cm dice
100g radishes, thinly sliced
250g Lebanese or mini cucumbers, peeled and chopped into 1.5cm dice
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
15g mint, roughly chopped
25g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tbsp dried mint
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp lemon juice
60ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
¾ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sumac or more according to taste, to garnish
If using yogurt and milk, start at least three hours and up to a day in advance by placing both in a bowl. Whisk well and leave in a cool place or in the fridge until bubbles form on the surface. What you get is a kind of homemade buttermilk, but less sour.
Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add your fermented yogurt mixture or buttermilk, followed by the rest of the ingredients, mix well and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavours to combine. Spoon the fattoush into serving bowls, drizzle with olive oil and garnish generously with sumac.
Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi is available now from Ebury Press.
Words: Natasha Straker