Cookbook Of The Week: Jerusalem: A Cookbook + Yotam Ottolenghi's Baharat Recipe

If you're a Yotam Ottolenghi fan, you probably already have a copy of Jerusalem: A Cookbook by the London-based chef and his longtime friend, business partner and chef Sami Tamimi, who helms the kitchen of Ottolenghi's namesake restaurant. Lucky you. It's the ideal time of year to flip through the 300+ pages, as the book very well could have been titled Roasted, Stewed, Stuffed and Baked.

Unlike his previous cookbook, Plenty, Ottolenghi includes meat and seafood dishes here. A lot of them. Beef meatballs with fava beans, roasted chicken with clementines and arak (an anise-flavored spirit similar to ouzo) and cod cakes in tomato sauce make appearances.

This is a comfort-food driven cookbook with its roots firmly planted in the city where both men were born -- Ottolenghi in Jerusalem's Jewish western end, Tamimi on the Arab east side. The culinary diversity is evident in every recipe. Get more, and the recipe for baharat, a spice mix used in a multitude of dishes, after the jump.

Despite the "intense political and religious wrangling" that can get "pretty ugly," as the men put it in the Introduction, "the inherent passion and energy that Jerusalemites have in abundance results in some fantastic food and culinary creativity." Mores so when Ottolenghi and Tamimi are in the kitchen updating Tamimi's mother's maqluba ("upside-down"), a one-pot dish made with fried cauliflower or eggplant, whatever meat is on hand, and a generous amount of the spices (turmeric, cinnamon, allspice) that make food from this region so alluring.

A Street Vendor in Jerusalem
A Street Vendor in Jerusalem
Adam Hinton / Ten Speed Press

As to be expected from Ottolenghi, there are plenty of vegetables and salads to choose from this time of year, like roasted butternut squash with red onion, tahini and za'atar, and roasted cauliflower-hazelnut salad with pomegranate seeds. The "Beans and Grains" chapter includes recipes for barley risotto with marinated feta and a hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce; in the meat and fish chapters, those recipes for poached chicken with "sweet spiced" freekeh, pan-fried mackerel with golden beets and orange salsa, and slow-cooked veal with prunes and leeks are making our current weeknight menu sound rather pallid in comparison.

If you're in a holiday baking rut, flip to the "Sweets and Desserts" chapter. You'll find a simple country-style almond cake soaked in Clementine syrup that would make a great gift in lieu of pound cake; those cinnamon tahini cookies would be right at home with gingerbread. Among the most alluring is a recipe for helbeh, a semolina-pine nut cake with fenugreek that is soaked in orange blossom water. It comes with this disclaimer from the chefs:

Not everyone likes it. In a quick survey we did among the chefs in our restaurant NOPI, only five out of seven approved. But those five absolutely loved it! Fenugreek, the ultimate curry ingredient, has a strong savory association in many people's minds and some can't shake it off.

The same might said of any recipe, be it from a pedigreed chef or home cook. And so we end with a recipe for baharat, a spice mix that Ottolenghi and Tamimi warn has as many variations as there are home cooks in Jerusalem "according to spice availability, local tastes, and different uses." A universal connection that we all share the kitchen, religious and political differences aside.


From: Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Serving suggestions: Use with "meats, fish, stews, and various beans and grain dishes." In other words, just about everything.

Note: Ottolenghi and Tamimi recommend using a spice grinder for this recipe "and for plenty of other occasions." But "if you are using a mortar and pestle, you may want to get ground cardamom, as the pods will be hard to grind by hand."

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 small cinnamon stick, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon whole cloves

½ teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

½ whole nutmeg, grated

1. Place all the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and grind until a fine powder is formed. Store in an airtight container, where it will keep for 8 weeks.

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