This year my Christmas present from my Mother-in-law was a copy of the book "Jerusalem", co-authored by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
This is at first sight a cookbook, but once you get into it you see that there is more to it than that. It is a book about culture, history and inter-personal relationships as well as about food. It explores the many diverse historical and cultural threads that are interwoven in this complex and fascinating city - a city that has great significance for three of the world's greatest religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Yotam and Sami were both born in Jerusalem and lived there as young boys, but there the similarity ends. Yotam's family is Jewish, whereas Sami's is Palestinian, so you can imagine that there are major differences between their backgrounds, but both have a love for food and cookery that transcends this barrier, and they are now business partners. As the book says: "It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it - what have we got to lose? - to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will."
Those of you who are familiar with Yotam Ottolenghi's work will know that he is not a vegetarian, but simply a person who has a particular love of vegetables. It won't surprise you to learn therefore that non-meat dishes are predominant in this book, although meat dishes are also included. I was also struck by the relative simplicity of many of the dishes, and I felt that I would probably be able to make most of them with this book's guidance. There are for instance lots of salads that need little if any cooking - only assembly and presentation. For example this fattoush made to Sami's Mum's recipe:- [A fattoush is a salad that includes bread as an ingredient]
By the way, the photography in this book is stunning. It is of two types - photos of food, by Adam Lovekin; and photos of people / places by Adam Hinton. For me, a book about food or cookery is a let-down if it does NOT have good photos, because I find it hard to visualise recipes through text alone. No concerns on that score here. It's hard to single out out any dishes as "special" in a book like this. There are just too many candidates. So, I have chosen some based on looks alone.
This one is Eggs with Lamb, Tahini and Sumac. How about that for a colourful plateful?
This one is probably very good for you: Watercress and Chickpea soup with Rose Water and Ras al Hanout.
For the meat-lovers I chose this one: Kofta b'sinyah - lamb kofte made with pine-nuts, garlic, parsley, chilli etc, etc.
But for sheer theatre, try this: Maqluba - a very complicated-sounding dish involving rice, chicken, tomatoes, aubergines, cauliflower and a whole mass of flavourings. It is made on what I would call the Tarte Tatin principle - in that it is inverted once cooked. But what a stunner to look at if you get it right! (Which is evidently not easy.)
You know I don't eat fish, but I feel obliged to show you at least one photo to represent the fish section of this book. Even I think this looks "nice", just as long as I don't have to eat it! This is Pan-fried Mackerel with Golden Beetroot and Orange salsa.
And then of course there is a section on sweets and desserts... This is Poached pears in white wine and cardamom.
And then... No, I mustn't show you the whole book. You must go and buy it yoursef. You will enjoy it; it's a very desirable book!
It is a very educational / informative book too. I particularly enjoyed reading about the very different spices and flavourings used in Jerusalemite cuisine, such as za'atar, sumac and chrein. These are not commonly encountered in British cookery and are hard to imagine - though the explanatory text in this book is very helpful in this respect. This is what they say about za'atar: "Za'atar is sharp, warm and slighty pungent, almost at one with the smell of goats' dung, smoke from a far-off fire, soil baked in the sun, and - dare we say it - sweat." Can you imagine it now? In fact the standard of the descriptive writing in this book is what sets it apart from most "cookbooks". Every recipe comes with its own little bit of history or description, or a personal anecdote from one of the authors. It is definitely not just an anthology of recipes! I'm very impressed with this book, and can't recommend it highly enough.
I can imagine that you'll be showcasing many recipes from this book over time. I never buy a recipe book if it doesn't show a photo of the recipe, I hate having to imagine what a recipe is supposed to look like, so much better to take the guesswork out of it. Many thanks for all your visits to my blog this year, I appreciate all the comments you've left. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your interesting posts and look foward to reading many more in 2013. Happy New Year.ReplyDelete
Looks a great and colourful book Mark with some lovely recipes for you and Jane to try, the photos I am pleased come up to your expectations.ReplyDelete
David, just for the record: I very seldom cook a dish from a recipe. I am an "instinctive" cook, and I use the recipes for inspiration. Jane sometimes cooks from a recipe, but often improvises too. The exception is where quantities need to be exact, e.g. in baking.Delete
Very jealous, I had this book down on my Christmas wish list. I had to draw the line somewhere so I deleted it. I really need to but it now though.ReplyDelete
You are the second person on my blog list who has written about that book. Sadly another cuisine which is mostly off limits to me. But I do love Middle Eastern food.ReplyDelete
I LOVE this book and have a copy signed by both of them, as I was lucky enough to meet them both, and sit next to them for dinner, at a recent food festival!I just popped over to wish you a very happy New Year! Love Karen xxxxReplyDelete
What an awesome gift, looks like a great book. Here's hoping you make some of these recipes this year and post the results! I'd love to try the pears. I have an abundance of them (usually) each year. Hope you have a brilliant NYE & new year. It's been great finding your blog this year. Best wishes!ReplyDelete
I also got this book for Christmas and absolutely love it. I think I have at least 30 tags in there of recipes I have to make...ReplyDelete
Hi Mark, Wishing you and Jane a Happy New Year! I hope the weather's less soggy in 2013! Looking forward to growing season already! Cheers, JenniReplyDelete
I love Za'atar but not being super familiar with the smell of goats dung I can't say whether the description is accurate of not - I enjoyed reading it though. I use za'atar and sumac a lot. Chrein though I'm not familiar with at all will have to do a bit of research....ReplyDelete
I expect we could call upon Hazel Dene for a comparison between the smells of za'atar and goats' dung!Delete
I am sure both you and Jane will enjoy cooking from this book - wishing you all the best for 2013.ReplyDelete
Happy New Year to you!ReplyDelete
Looks like a wonderful book. I find it interesting how cuisine fits into culture and place. Enjoy and Happy New Year!ReplyDelete
How refreshing a partnership - an example to all in that part of the world.ReplyDelete
I'm always on the look out for vegetable based meals that are not vegetarian as these always seem to add quorn or some other such meat substitute or use ingredients that I don't buy. This is why HFW vegetable programmes were a disappointment to me. He seemed to see cooking vegetable centric meals as being vegetarian.