Jerusalem cookbook is a fabulously written book filled with beautiful pictures and delicious recipes. I enjoyed travelling to Jerusalem through this book. The authors Sami Tamimi is from the muslim east and Yotam Ottolenghi is from the Jewish west. They both have lived in Jerusalem in the 70s and 80s as children and left in 1990 to Tel Aviv, then to London. They both met each other in London and became good friends and business partners. Both the authors feel that Jerusalem is "home" because it defines them. I think many of us call "home" a place that defines us and not necessarily where we live, it is where our hearts find comfort, excitement and joy.
Jerusalem has a diverse group of people living there from a variety of background, which influences its cuisines. The authors say when we look at the greater pictures there are lots of similarities in the food that is made and enjoyed in Jerusalem i.e. cucumber and tomato salad, stuffed vegetables, pickles etc...
Throughout Jerusalem they have a common middle eastern hospitality that goes back to the days of prophet Abraham or Ibrahim (Peace Be Upon Him).
The food is what break down the boundaries of conflict that people in Jerusalem have set. The authors say, "It takes a giant leap of faith... to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will."
We have been forewarned by the authors that the recipes are modified to suit the western modern lifestyle as the ingredients are adjusted to availability, less oil and ease of making. Therefore the recipes may not represent the realities of how the food is really made in Jerusalem.
I liked reading the religious history of Jerusalem that was in the beginning of the book. The authors say that if people acknowledge the city as part of the "world heritage" and share, accept and coexist then it would be peaceful. I found the dishes in the book full of flavour and comfort and would really encourage and recommend this book, which is available at bookstores and online.
Here is a comforting rice and lentil meal, known as Mejadra that we enjoyed. This recipe is adapted from the book as I changed it a little bit because I can easily find ready-made fried onions at the Indian/Middle Eastern section of the grocery store.
1 1/4 cups green or brown lentil
1 1/2 cup crispy fried onions*
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp allspice ground
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon ground
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp or more to taste pepper freshly ground
*In the book they thinly slice 4 medium onions. Then coat the onions with 3 tbsp flour and a tsp of salt before frying it in a cup of hot oil over medium high heat, for about 5 to 7 minutes until the onions are golden brown and crispy.
Next time, I will reduce the lentil by 1/4 cup and lightly crush the cumin and coriander seeds before toasting.
Place the cleaned, washed lentils in a small pan and cover with plenty of water then bring to a boil and cook for 12 to 15 minutes until the lentil are soft but still have a little bite.
In a saucepan over medium heat toast the cumin and coriander seeds for about a minute or two. Then add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the oil then add the cooked lentil with the water. I made sure there was a 1" of water after putting the rice into the pan. When it comes to a boil, cover with a lid then simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, lift off the lid and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel and seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. Add half the fried onions to the rice and stir gently with a fork. Pile the mixture of rice and lentil on to the serving platter and top with the rest of the fried onion. Serve warm with yogurt or raita.
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