Jerusalem: a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Jerusalem: a CookbookThis lovely book is not only a cookbook, but also a history book about the food of Jerusalem, and the friendship between the authors. Sami Tamimi is from the Arab east side of Jerusalem, while Yotam Ottolenghi grew up on the Jewish west side of Jerusalem. They did not know each other growing up, but met later in Tel Aviv, and then to London, where they became close friends and business partners. Throughout their book are stunning color photographs – a visual feast – not just of the mouth-watering dishes being discussed, but also of kitchens, marketplaces, cityscapes, and people relishing food.

Ottolenghi and Tamimi both grew up among people who used local ingredients and ate seasonally. Their recipes use tomatoes, okra, cauliflower, cucumbers, and beets, plus many more vegetables. Fruits include figs, lemons, pomegranates, apricots, and then there are herbs, nuts, dairy products, grains, beans, lamb, chicken, and fish. There are plenty of recipes here for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, and an added bonus is that the cover of this book is padded, therefore, easy to wipe off for those of us who are messy cooks.

Before providing the actual hummus recipes, the authors give us “Hummus wars”, an example of how they intertwine history and culture with the recipes.  “Political and nationalistic discussions about hummus — where it started and how; who was the first to crush the chickpeas and mix them with sesame paste and when — are almost compulsive. No one enjoys them anymore, but no one is ready to concede, either.”

I decided to make a batch using their recipe. I promise you that this recipe makes the best hummus you have ever made in your own kitchen. The same goes for the “Mejadra” recipe of brown lentils, onions, seeds and spices. The authors interject in this recipe, “The two of us can spend many pointless hours discussing what makes the best comfort food and why, but never seem to reach any kind of serious conclusion. Mejadra, however, is where the dispute ends. When served alongside Yogurt with cucumber or just plain Greek yogurt, the sweetly spiced rice and lentils strewn with soft fried onion is as comforting as it gets in Jerusalem.”

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi have created a beautiful book that celebrates the food and culture of the city in which they grew up. It’s a book to be savored.

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One Response to “Jerusalem: a Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi”

  1. crowdedearthkitchen Says:

    Great post! Crowded Earth Kitchen is working on compiling a cookbook of global recipes for a charity project, and always find it inspiring to see what great books are out there!

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