I saw Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi do a cookery demonstration at the Hay Festival and bought their two previous books, adding them to the pile of cut out recipes from the Guardian. I also watched Ottolenghi's Jerusalem on the television, so I have been waiting for this book with great eagerness.
It does not disappoint.
Jerusalem is a melting pot. It is the point where many cultures meet and this is reflected in the food that is eaten in the city. Ottolenghi and Tamimi are ideal guides to this food as they bridge the Jewish/Arab divide.
The recipes are not a definitive collection of the food of Jerusalem. They represent Ottolenghi's and Tamimi's view of the city and its food, their childhood memories and what they feel is typical. They show how a common thread can be found in recipes from diverse sections of the city, for instance, tracing the influences of Italy and Spain mingling with both the Arab and Jewish influences of North Africa.
It has all the elements which to my mind make up an excellent cookery book. Firstly and most importantly:
1. The recipes are delicious. They are clearly explained and most are illustrated. I have eaten nothing but recipes from this book since I got it. Even though I live in the depths of the country I have been able to source all the ingredients needed.
2. It is interesting to read. Food is not just ingredients assembled in the correct way and cooked. Food is our history and our culture and this book discusses both. It is a fascinating read.
3. It is beautiful to look at with glorious photographs.
I thoroughly recommend this book. Buy it, read it, use it and enjoy it - then recommend it to all your friends.
on 11 September 2012
This is an ambitious and brave book, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and one which delivers.
The complexity of Jerusalem, the city, in terms of politics, history, culture and food is sensitively described. Both authors regard Jerusalem as home, "because it defines us, whether we like it or not". I love their faith in the possibility of food and more particularly hummus, bringing Jerusalemites together, "if nothing else will"
The backdrop of the city is the very beautiful context of this book. However, a cookery book has to be ultimately about the food and "Jerusalem" provides a lavish feast of new ideas, tastes and food combinations.
Thanks to The Guardian, I have already begun to cook from this book. Mejadra, a simple combination of lentils, rice, spices and fried onions is stunning. Lamb Shawarma is deeply and gorgeously spiced.Chicken with caramelised onion and cardamom rice is perfect and simple comfort food.
I am planning my next month of menus around this book. First up will be Burnt aubergine with garlic, lemon and pomegranate seeds. When I have time for some serious weekend cooking, I will make the Chocolate Krantz cake, a yeasted cake which looks soft, chocolatey and worth the effort.
This is a beautiful book with sublime photography. Check out the photo of the Jerusalem skyline at dusk or the overwhelming colours of the roadside grocery vendor. The photos of pan fried sea bream with harissa and rose and the small plates of hummus studded with pine nuts and herbs are genuinely mouth watering.
I feel instinctively that this book will inspire and change my cooking. A completely essential book.
Jerusalem is a melting pot, with a cuisine influenced from many different corners. There's Arab food, Jewish food, Georgian food, Libyan food (with Italian influences), Egyptian food, Persian food and Syrian food. That's just to name a few.
The recipes in this book are presented in more prosaic style than many recipe books (i.e. not always in clear, simple numbered steps) and irritatingly they don't have the timings easily laid out. That means reading the recipe first and adding the cooking stages and estimating the preparation stages. The recipes themselves seem quite fiddly, requiring some pretty advanced techniques and juggling of multiple pots. They will also require making friends with a middle eastern grocer for some of the more exotic herbs, spices and berries - fortunately we have an Iranian grocer a few suburbs away.
I have tried several recipes so far:
Aubergine and moghrabieh soup - requires burning the aubergines on gas burners but the recipe is divine. Takes a couple of hours and the preparation of the aubergine is not straightforward.
Maqluba - each ingredient needs to be cooked separately before putting it all together in a pot. This is fiddly and involves shallow frying, deep frying and spice grinding. It also needs a pot that is exactly the specified size. Mine turned out perfectly and tasted great - especially the caramelised tomatoes. Served with the mint yoghurt.
Lamb schwarma - requires overnight marinading and four to five hours of cooking. The spice grinding was a chore but well worth it to create a complex and deep flavour. Final assembly is very fiddly.
Herb pie - absolutely amazing flavour and an instant hit with all the family. The youngest has asked for me to cook it again next week for his 8th birthday. You will need space for the preparation as the ingredients take a lot of space before they are cooked. The preparation is quite straightforward although working with the filo pastry takes a bit of technique. I used a 22cm square cake tin which was the right size for the quantities given, but the end result is a little small for a meal.
Mejadra - cooked on the assumption that it would be like Egyptian kushari but it wasn't. This recipe didn't turn out that well - rather dry and the rice and lentils broke down more than they should. The flavour was quite dusty, but the fried onions were wonderful and had a flavour that lasted all evening. If I were doing this again, I would check the pan during the 15 minutes covered cooking (despite the recipe telling you to leave it) and would possibly add more cooking liquid during the recipe. I would also cook the lentils less than the recipe says and allow them to absorb cooking liquid at the same time as the rice.
Stuffed quince - the quinces are hard to source and even harder to scoop out. The result, though, is a delicately flavoured but beautifully balanced dish, just a hint of warming allspice balancing against the sweetness of the quince and the sourness of the pomegranate. If you can't get pomegranate molasses, reduce a mixture of pomegranate juice, lemon juice and sugar. Next time, I might just slice the quince and layer it with the meat.
I will prepare more recipes from the book and report back if I remember.
This is a great book if you have time to lovingly prepare food for the family. It is not a book with quick and easy everyday recipes. It also has a cloth covered cover that will pick up stains. Some people will like that (I do - shows a cookbook that has been used) but others will prefer a wipe clean cover.
on 20 January 2013
I coveted this but had not let myself buy it ( I own a very extensive library of cookbooks and sometimes reason kicks in...) - my sister not knowing I really wanted it gave it to me for my birthday - talk about luck :).
I own a number of middleastern cookbooks and I also spent 6 months in Israel + Egypt, living in the West bank with a Jemeni family, working on a kibbutz, and travelling in Egypt. I also spent some time in Jerusalem
Why 5 stars:
- fantastic food photography
- stories and recipes capture beautifully the essence of the melting pot that is jerusalem
- I read a lot of cookbooks - I always have a couple at hand for inspiration - and this one offers up some ideas that I havent seen before - maybe its because the books I own dont have photographs so you dont really "see" the promise of the food. The fact that recipes come from all over the jewish and arab world is lovely - I like the idea of peaceful coexistence in cooking
- some recipes in their correct/original form are daunting - eg Kibbeh and the authors offer alternative preparation options to help those of us who didnt grow up making the dishes maintain our sanity it wont be the way it was meant to be but at least you made it (although a cake like kibbeh will likely never match up to the sublime real thing)
- recipes come with warnings: dont try this unless you have lots of time. There arent many of these warnings but if you tend to dive in without reading to the end and then being unhappy having a warning upfront helps.
- style of writing is very personal - its like learning from a friend
- if you have a well stocked pantry you will have everything on hand to make the recipes described, and if not ingredients are easy to source
- Recipes: I made hummus (best version of this I have ever made and I have made a lot of it through the years), charred eggplant salad (I have made this a lot too, but this again was my favourite version ever), Hummus kwarma (lamb) with lemon sauce and home made pita bread (Claudia Rodens recipe used here)
Every recipe came out wonderfully - I made the lamb kwarma 2 days in a row and my guests the second time round ate so much they could hardly walk out
So if you already own a big collection of middle-eastern cook-books do you still need this one? I vote YES - it is beautiful, its adventurous and you will if you like to experiment and surprise and delight yourself and your friends likely love it
on 23 October 2012
Readers views may differ from mine but for me this is the best production so far by Yotam and Sami. It is a beautifully produced book with excellent photography. Yotam and Sami share with you their love of their native city. This gives the book a far greater insight into the food of the city than can a writer that simply visits to gather information for a book. They show how the food of their city relates to the cultural melting pot that is found there. Even if its recipes are not used, the book makes pleasant relaxing fireside reading for any lover of food and culture.
As far a recipes go, like most from Yotam they have a formidable list of ingredients, but this should not present a problem for anyone that has a well stocked spice rack and access to fresh herbs. After all, recipes are a guide and can be adapted according to what is available both as regards ingredients and facilities just as a skilled conductor can adapt an orchestral score to suit the instruments available and the ability of his players. The resulting food is one to share with friends and family around the table but might be out of place at a pretentious formal dinner party.
on 25 February 2016
I bought this book mainly for the hummus recipe-which is the best recipe for hummus I have come across. I make hummus two or three times a week, so I can highly recommend this particular recipe-the secret ingredient for perfect hummus is the bicarbonate of soda. The book is full of other very good recipes aswell, some of which I have tried with much success. Very good descriptions and easy to follow instructions, accompanied with lovely photos and interesting histories of the Palestinian and Israeli food traditions.
on 12 September 2012
This is the third of the Ottolenghi cookbooks I've bought and I think this is their greatest. By focusing on the food of their childhood and native city, they have achieved something akin to Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food, though this is a far more sumptuous and beautiful production. The city is the most politically contested on earth, it arouses such rage and fervour amongst those who have never set foot in the place, but these two men, both gay, one Palestinian, one Jewish, have shown us what it is like to have this place as your culinary language. In other words to have your sensory roots there.
The recipes are astonishing. I have made two and not only have they been easy, they have been a triumph. I'm Jewish, I have been to Jerusalem many times, the food seems to be the food I was born to make and to eat, fresh, simple, without fuss, rooted in centuries of tradition with the innovation and the vigour of successive new arrivals.
I'll be cooking from this for the rest of my life. Thanks Sami and Yotam.
Another great cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi and restaurant partner Sami Tamimi that presents some of the best Arab and Israeli food that can be found anywhere. Like "Plenty", "Jerusalem" is clearly explained, nicely illustrated and puts emphasis on a lot of easy to produce dishes with wonderful to the taste herbs and spices.
Go to a Jewish restaurant in Jerusalem for the first time as an American or European, and you might be expecting a menu that is dominated by the kind of Eastern European (ashkenazi) dishes that are best known at home. Big surprise--the emphasis is very much on fresh vegetables and herbs and rarely includes preserved foods (except for lemons). This cookbook reflects that more sephardic approach to food, which is often very similar to Palestinian cuisine.
While "Jerusalem" is not a vegetarian cookbook, a large number of the recipes included are for vegetable dishes--many for lightly cooked green veggies combined with grains, legumes, herbs, tomatoes, peppers and onions. There is a consistent emphasis on strong savory tastes--very little bland food here at all. These dishes are anything but ordinary and boring and it's a wonder that there aren't restaurants serving this cuisine springing up everywhere. Meat and fish are not neglected--there are some great combos on offer--but the big stars in this book are vegetarian or convertible to vegetarian.
Two other things I liked about this cookbook were the general tone of the interesting narrative that introduces the book--it emphasizes the commonality between the Jewish and Arab communities--and the photography of the food which was all apparently done on site in Jerusalem restaurants and stores. Dishes are presented in beat up old pots and pans with no attempt at glamor. It enhances the idea that this stuff is the real thing.
MORE: The December 3, 2012 edition of The New Yorker Magazine carried a long and engrossing profile of Ottolenghi that a fair amount of discussion of "Jerusalem". Check it out at: [...]
"Jerusalem" would be a great addition to anyone's kitchen library and particularly if your taste buds are hankering for something with savory high notes. Highly recommended.
on 9 January 2016
My brother gave this book as birthday present and I loved it at first sight. Algthough we are vegetarians and this book includes a meat section, the rest of the recipes as just beautiful and delicious. So full of flavour and history. Sometimes a recipe calls for some exotic spice or herb that I find difficult finding where I live, but since nowadays you can buy anything online, problem solved.
on 5 November 2014
Sami and Yotam have changed the face of middle-class British cooking from their original Islington Deli, and this cookbook shows some of their finest work. Detractors complain that buying all the ingredients required in a single recipe costs about as much as eating out but thanks to them Za'tar and ras el hanout are becoming kitchen staples in Guardian reading suburbs, and anyway, that's a rubbish reason not to cook something.
The food is delicious and what many people love about the books is the variance of interesting flavours and, because of the authors skill, the ability to flick to any page and try something exciting and tasty.
Jerusalem is some of their best work and the book is particularly beautiful with its canvas cover and would make a great addition to any collection. I have bought this both for myself and as a present and would highly recommend the same to others.