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Beautiful book with very authentic feel and amazing recipes. It's definitely more than just a cookbook but rather an immersion into ancient cooking tradition... I know it's going to be one of my favorites.
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.
To begin with I wasn't inspired to cook anything out of this book and wondered why everyone raved about it. None of the recipes appealed to me. However, now I have ventured into cooking from this book it is by far the best cookery book I own. My favourite dish is a chicken recipe with fennel and orange, so easy but a taste sensation. Tonight I am doing the roasted cauliflower salad and aubergines with onion and lemon.
This instantly became my favourite cookbook, due to the wonderful recipes, they are mainly healthy, flavourful combinations that have invigorated my recipe repertoire. Dropped one star as unfortunately the recipe instructions are not in a bullet point list, they are in free text, so it can be hard to find which step you are on. I am a competent cook and can follow recipes easily, but I really struggle with this when I'm trying to juggle doing 5 things and trying to find my next step in the (well written) text! That is my only criticism, and I think this will be my favourite cookbook for decades to come - I love this cuisine.
Probably the best cookbook I ever used. Every recipe comes good if followed as is. Takes a few days to get the ingredients but that's the fun part and most found in World Food section at ASDA believe it or not. The rest order from Ottolenghi's website or online via Amazon. If entertaining your guests will travel with the food you make. My diet changed, I'm not only healthier but I have developed a profound love for Middle-Eastern culture from this cookbook. In our times worth having to celebrate the beauty of this marvelous melting pot so conflicted in the news. Ottolengi's Mediterranean Feast on Channel 4 website will communicate his passion. Watch it and drool!