Jerusalem isn't a new cookbook, but since its release last fall it's received much praise, including a recent nomination for an IACP cookbook award. It's a slow time of year for cookbook releases, which makes this a good time for me to look over the books on my shelves for ones I have yet to review. Jerusalem is one I have continued to hear praise for, so this week we'll crack open the cover and see what's inside.
Yotom Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi are Jerusalem-born chefs and business partners of a chain of London restaurants. This book, the third they have co-authored together, is a mixture of memoir, travelogue, history book, and cookbook. Known for their inventive vegetarian food, this book includes 120 recipes--with both vegetarian options as well as recipes for meat and fish dishes. It includes recipes for beans and grains, soups and condiments, as well as savory pastries, and sweets and desserts. There are recipes for meatballs with various spices and sauces, mejadra--a spicy lentil and rice dish, and an entire chapter on "stuffed" foods--lamb stuffed quince, kibbeh, stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant, stuffed artichoke...you get the picture.
The book's introduction gives readers an overview of the cultural and religious influences that have shaped the history and the food of Jerusalem. There isn't an overview of kitchen equipment, or a list of helpful cooking tips. There isn't a guide to various ingredients either, as there is in many ethnic cuisine cookbooks geared towards Western cooks. The recipes in this book however, don't use ingredients terribly foreign. Sure, there's harissa, pomegranate molasses, rose water, and various grains like freekeh, but by and large the ingredients used in this book can be found at a well-stocked supermarket.
Throughout the book, recipe headnotes include a dishes origins or it's history in Ottolenghi or Tamimi's family. Essays are sprinkled throughout the book, like about maqluba--the one-pot meal of rice, vegetables, and meat; lamb shawarma; and muhallabieh--various puddings and thick sweet drinks. These essays give insights into the history and importance of a dish and how religious tradition, poverty or cultural influences have all played a part in shaping the cuisine of Jerusalem today.