Grate cookbooks giving you a pizza their mind!
Normally at Christmas we get stuck into the turkey (or the Quorn roast, if, like me you are a vegetarian), the mince pies and the puddings, but this year I wasn’t just as keen to go all traditional. Just before Christmas I Sky Plus-ed a programme called Jerusalem On A Plate which was a journey by chef Yotam Ottolenghi back to his native city, a place of strong food traditions. I love to sample dishes from other cultures and while watching the programme, my mouth watered as I saw the vast array of spices being added to vibrant dishes which are so much part of Arabic and Jewish culture. I suddenly forgot about the mediocre brussel sprouts, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips and creamy mash that I’d consumed and began reading more about these wonderful ingredients used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Chick peas, z’hatar, turmeric, olive oil, coriander, bulgar wheat, pomegranate and tahini. I wanted to explore more of the food of the Middle East and of course the politics that come with it so I did some reading.
As my appetite is now back in action following the hyperemesis episode, I’ve decided to amass a collection of Middle Eastern cookbooks. Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book Jerusalem is out this year, so I’m already looking forward to trying to recreate some of the recipes. I say ‘trying’ because I collect cookbooks merely to look at the pictures and dream about what I’d love to cook. Heck, Nigella Lawson is still sitting on my dining room sofa brandishing her whisk. Unfortunately I don’t have the ‘skillet takes’ (ha ha), the time, nor the patience to cook these often complex dishes, then clear up the mess. The mess is definitely the worst because no matter how hard I try, there are trails of breadcrumbs and dribbles of sauce everywhere. I did try making tabbouleh a few years ago but it ended up swimming in olive oil as I put in double what I should have.
One of the reasons why I love Israeli, Lebanese and Palestinian cuisine is the vast array of vegetarian dishes which would be just as appetising to carnivores. I’ve always loved the flavours but never had the opportunity to explore it in depth. And chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi actually care about non-meat eaters, celebrating the wonders of exotic vegetables and spices. As I write this, I’m trying to cobble together another tabbouleh. I highly recommend watching Jerusalem On A Plate and also urge you to read up on this delectable cuisine which is bursting with flavour –
What’s your favourite cookbook and why? Can you recommend any to add to my collection as I may have missed some?
Pic: my attempt at tabbouleh