Why "Jerusalem" is a delicious gateway to the Middle East

I'd eaten a few shawarmas, dipped stuff in hummus and had some vague notion of key ingredients like olives and pita bread. Yet in truth, I knew nothing about Middle Eastern food before buying Jerusalem. It was all Greek to me.

My well-loved copy of Jerusalem : A Cookbook has pride of place within my growing Middle Eastern cookbook collection.

My well-loved copy of Jerusalem : A Cookbook has pride of place within my growing Middle Eastern cookbook collection.

A COOKBOOK TO COOK FROM

Yotam Ottolenghi's empire has published a number of cookbooks. I own most of them. But the 2012 Jerusalem is my go to. What I appreciate is that it's not one of those cookbooks full of pretty pictures where the recipes all fall flat. The pictures are pretty, for sure. But the greatest thing is that the vast majority of the recipes I've cooked from this cookbook have been downright awesome. Pretty and useful. That's always a good base for any cookbook.

One of the stellar recipes from Jerusalem : A Cookbook. Lamb meatballs with barberries, yogurt and herbs.

One of the stellar recipes from Jerusalem : A Cookbook. Lamb meatballs with barberries, yogurt and herbs.

GOING MIDDLE EASTERN

Jerusalem taught me to not only appreciate eggplant but adore it. It introduced me to the Middle Eastern palate through the delights of bitter Tahini sauce and za'atar with it's woodsy herbs and tart sumac. My favourite recipes from this book, to name but a few, are those for sabih, panfried sea bass with harissa and rose, chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt, and spiced chickpeas and fresh vegetable salad. I can vouch for all of these.

Beyond the recipes, Jerusalem gave me a glimpse into a city split between the two worlds of Israel and Palestine, each represented by the co-authors of this book. With little inserts, you learn about the many similarities between these two solitudes, a stark contrast to what we usually see in the media which portrays nothing but differences and conflict. If a cookbook can offer great recipes whilst also broadening my horizons, it has earned it's place on my bookshelf. Because lord knows how bored I've grown with cookbooks smeared with subtitles like "100 Easy Recipes" or "15 Minute Meals For The Overstretched Commuter Who Hates Cooking". With so many cookbooks published each year, it's not always easy to find one that's as worthwhile as Jerusalem.

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