A few nights ago, I had the honor of cooking dinner for Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, the London-based authors of the new cookbook Jerusalem. The thing is, I was cooking eight recipes from the new book, so not only did the food have to taste good and look beautiful, but it had to turn out the way that Sami and Yotam intended. Talk about pressure!
Yotam is from Israel, while Sami is from Palestine, and the recipes in Jerusalem are inspired by their roots. The recipes are clear and accurate, and there are many gorgeous shots of the dishes, so it is possible to recreate them exactly as they should be. I won’t say that the recipes are easy, however, and making a menu of eight of the dishes took a lot of concentration and love. But the challenge of following a recipe through from start to finish, especially ones as thoughtful and frankly spectacular as these, is well worth it. I know I’m a better cook after having met this challenge.
JERUSALEM DINNER MENU
Fava Bean Kuku
Burnt Eggplant with Garlic, Lemon, & Pomegranate Seeds
Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce
Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad, Marinated Sweet & Sour Fish
Semolina, Coconut, & Marmalade Cake
Walnut and Fruit Crumble Cream
I’ll be making all of these recipes again. Each one holds an element of surprise, whether it’s using an ingredient like ground star anise to flavor a dessert or sour barberries in the classic Persian baked egg dish kuku, or a technique like turning simmered oranges into salad dressing or making your own buttermilk by combining yogurt and regular milk.
My favorite was the Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce. To make it, you whip up a batch of their basic hummus recipe (which turns out to be the best hummus I have ever made!). Then, you marinate chopped lamb in a mix of spices and vinegar, and fry it briefly in olive oil. The warm lamb goes on the hummus along with a parsley lemon sauce, toasted pine nuts, and a scattering of chickpeas. Heaven.
I’m happy to report that the dinner was a success. Both Yotam and Sami said it tasted like “our” food, and everyone else just said it was delicious. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to cook from this book, and I can’t wait to dig in to the other recipes. The book authors will be on tour in North America for the next couple of weeks, catch them if you get a chance!