So WHAT if I promised myself not to buy any more cookbooks? Clearly, this doesn’t count!

“Jerusalem by” Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is FINALLY available. I’ve made almost every recipe in “Plenty”, Ottolenghi’s vegetarian book, and have been eagerly awaiting this new collection of yum.

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Ottolenghi and his partner (in food, not life, well, you know what I mean – food is life but anyhow) , return to their native city of Jerusalem and its unique culinary identity and roots to explore and expand on the magic that makes their recipes so revolutionary.

Jewish Ottolenghi and Palestinian Tamimi  shared a city but didn’t know each other until they met in London.   After they each (independently) left Jerusalem and lived in Tel Aviv for a bit,In 1997, both men moved to London—again, independently. Ottolenghi was planning to pursue a Ph.D., but before enrolling at university, he signed up for a course at Le Cordon Bleu just to prove to himself that he wasn’t cut out life as a chef.  He found a job as a pastry chef at Baker & Spice, where he met Tamimi. Tamimi was making a name for himself by adding a Middle Eastern spin to English standards. Perhaps it was their mutual ‘huh” over bland, beige food that helped them bond, but whatever it was, THANK YOU!

I had the pleasure of eating at Nopi, the fabulous Ottolenghi restaurant in London and delight in recreating some of the flavour profiles at home.

“Plenty” has been my favourite book for a while. It is rare that a few days go by without my flipping through the book and either craving something, or getting serious inspiration.

“Jerusalem” captures that city’s colours, smells and tastes. It features 120 recipes from their cross-cultural perspectives.

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From lamb-stuffed quince with pomegranate and cilantro to tonight’s dinner featuring swiss chard with tahini, yogourt and buttered pine nuts and sweet potatoes with fresh figs IT LOOKS GREAT and I can’t wait to work my way through it!

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Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Figs

This is Sami’s mom’s Fattouch recipe – enjoy!

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Na’ama’s Fattoush

SERVES 6

scant 1 cup / 200 g Greek yogurt and ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp / 200 ml whole milk, or 1 2/3 cups / 400 ml buttermilk (replacing both yogurt and milk)

2 large stale Turkish flatbread or naan (9 oz /250 g in total)

3 large tomatoes (13 oz /380 g in total), cut into 2/3-inch / 1.5cm dice

3 oz / 100 g radishes, thinly sliced

3 Lebanese or mini cucumbers (9 oz / 250 g in total), peeled and chopped into 2/3-inch / 1.5cm dice

2 green onions, thinly sliced

½ oz / 15 g fresh mint

scant 1 oz / 25 g flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp dried mint

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup / 60 ml olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

2 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar

¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sumac or more to taste, to garnish

Arab salad, chopped salad, Israeli salad—whatever you choose to call it, there is no escaping it. Wherever you go in the city, at any time of the day, a Jerusalemite is most likely to have a plate of freshly chopped vegetables—tomato, cucumber, and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice—served next to whatever else they are having. It’s a local affliction, quite seriously. Friends visiting us in London always complain of feeling they ate “unhealthily” because there wasn’t a fresh salad served with every meal.

There are plenty of unique variations on the chopped salad but one of the most popular is fattoush, an Arab salad that uses grilled or fried leftover pita. Other possible additions include peppers, radishes, lettuce, chile, mint, parsley, cilantro, allspice, cinnamon, and sumac. Each cook, each family, each community has their own variation. A small bone of contention is the size of the dice. Some advocate the tiniest of pieces, only inch / 3 mm wide, others like them coarser, up to ¾ inch / 2 cm wide. The one thing that there is no arguing over is that the key lies in the quality of the vegetables. They must be fresh, ripe, and flavorsome, with many hours in the sun behind them.

This fabulous salad is probably Sami’s mother’s creation; Sami can’t recall anyone else in the neighborhood making it. She called it fattoush, which is only true to the extent that it includes chopped vegetables and bread. She added a kind of homemade buttermilk and didn’t fry her bread, which makes it terribly comforting.

Try to get small cucumbers for this as for any other fresh salad. They are worlds apart from the large ones we normally get in most supermarkets. You can skip the fermentation stage and use only buttermilk instead of the combination of milk and yogurt.

If using yogurt and milk, start at least 3 hours and up to a day in advance by placing both in a bowl. Whisk well and leave in a cool place or in the fridge until bubbles form on the surface. What you get is a kind of homemade buttermilk, but less sour.

Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add your fermented yogurt mixture or commercial buttermilk, followed by the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and leave for 10 minutes for all the flavors to combine.

Spoon the fattoush into serving bowls, drizzle with some olive oil, and garnish generously with sumac.

Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi; Hardcover, 320 pages. Ten Speed Press (October 16, 2012),

ISBN-10: 1607743949.

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