I didn’t grow up with cookbooks; the women I watched cooking growing up did not use cookbooks or written-down recipes, they cooked from memory, having watched other women cook.
Most were wonderful and accomplished cooks, who could whip up tasty and intricate meals from the basic and makeshift ingredients they had at hand.
I wasn’t fortunate, I never learned to cook the ‘traditional’ way – I remember trying to make ‘light soup’ for my friend L’s mom, she took one look at my detailed carefully typed out recipe and asked, “Didn’t your mother ever teach you how to cook?”
I’ve never considered myself a ‘good cook’ for this reason; I learned to cook through cookbooks and food blogs –I basically turned this into a food blog just because I wanted to prove to myself that I too, could cook.
This great thing about cooking from instruction is that, once you learn some basic and proper cooking techniques, you naturally start to cook instinctively and improvise more, and that, I think, makes you a better cook.
I’ve collected quite a few cookbooks over the years, but it’s not often that I find one that I can actually cook from over and over again, and confirms that cookbooks are important.
Jerusalem is one of those cookbooks, I got my copy last fall and I reach for it quite often; the recipes are inspiring and creative, using tasty wholesome ingredients and the freshest herbs.
It’s not surprising really that there was a lot of buzz around this award winning cookbook; It’s an unintentional voice of peace for the region, and inclusively celebrates culinary traditions inspired by Jerusalem.
It’s the intriguing nourishing recipes that really make this cookbook standout; the food is pictured beautifully and the instructions are easy to follow. The ingredients are hearty and vibrant, and make you feel like you’re eating healthy. The use of extensive and exotic spices adds a certain depth to the dishes that is quite spectacular.
My copy sits displayed on my bookshelf, with sticky notes bookmarking some of my favourite recipes, the cover bright and softly padded.
Admittedly, this isn’t the first Ottolenghi cookbook I’ve fallen in love with; I’m pretty much enamoured with Plenty too and I’ve cooked exhaustively from it.
A few recipes I’ve tried and loved from Jerusalem are:
Roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs (pg. 26)
Spiced chickpeas & fresh vegetable salad (pg. 56)
Charred okra with tomato, garlic & preserved lemon (pg. 74)
Basmati rice & orzo (pg. 102)
Basmati & wild rice with chickpeas (pg. 106)
Mejadra (pg. 120)