Cookbook Review: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Jerusalem: A Cookbook is the third cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, following Ottolenghi and Plenty.  Ottolenghi is a UK-based chef who has several restaurants and take-out delis in London.  There was an amazing write-up in the New York Times in July 2013 about how Jerusalem was the cookbook of the moment.  I recently got a copy and can now understand why the book has been so popular.

In Jerusalem there is a convergence of Jewish traditions from Israel and Europe and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences.  One of the authors is Israeli, and the other is Palestinian, and the dishes in the book reflect those influences, highlighting unique flavors from the region.

The book is divided into sections based on ingredient or type of dish, such as meat, fish, stuffed, and meatballs.  Like Plenty and Ottololenghi, vegetables often are the star of the dish.  The book has gorgeous photographs of the finished dish for most recipes as well as from the city of Jerusalem.

So far, every dish I have tried has been a winner, with bold but balanced and flavorful cooking, fragrant with exotic spices and herbs.  In terms of difficulty, the recipes are mostly all in the easy to moderately difficult range.  Look for upcoming individual recipe reviews with step-by-step photographs for hummus, kawarma, turkey and zucchini meatballs, chocolate krantz cake, and the fantastic chicken with caramelized onions and cardamom rice.

Some recipes requires certain equipment: food processor to make hummus, a stand mixer to mix dough for the chocolate krantz cake.  More importantly, the Jerusalem cookbook also requires many specialty ingredients that cannot be easily substituted: spices such as sumac and whole cardamom pods, pomegranate molasses, date syrup.  Most ingredients can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores.  I found many of these ingredients, including thick labneh yogurt at Crossroads Market in Palo Alto.  They also sell spices in bulk, which is a bargain.  Penzey’s Spices also carries cardamom pods, sumac, and za’atar.   Many recipes feature lamb, which can be somewhat hard to find.  Most supermarkets have lamb chops but not other cuts or ground lamb.  In the Bay Area, several farmer’s market sellers carry cuts of lamb.

Highly recommended.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

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