Discovering the flavours of Jerusalem

I was very fortunate to be given a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem by my mother and sister-in-law. As soon as I opened this aesthetically beautiful book I could not put it down. The story of rediscovering childhood flavours, the exquisite photographs of life in Jerusalem and the beautiful food images captured my attention immediately. Due to the diverse overlap of cultures and subcultures residing in Jerusalem there is an abundance of flavours and ingredients that feature in this book. Common ingredients possessing a range of nutrients include lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, dried fruits, vegetables such as butternut squash, aubergine (egg plant), artichoke, leek, cucumber, beets and string beans and grains and legumes such as bulgar, split wheat, wild rice, barley, broad beans, chickpeas and white beans. You can imagine my excitement as a dietitian who just loves to explore new cuisines.

At first glance these recipes may appear difficult, however despite some recipes requiring a few extra steps than usual, they are technically quiet easy. I would definitely recommend trialling some of these recipes to impress your family and friends without the stress in the kitchen.

So last night I set out to explore some of these new flavours and introduce our palates to the flavours of Jerusalem. My first pick was the Chermoula Aubergine with Bulgar and Yoghurt (a great choice for meatless Monday).  I decided to use Farro instead of bulgar as I had some in the pantry and I am still finding news ways to use this little grain.

  Farro is an ancient grain similar to pearl barley, however it has a chewy and nutty texture due to the way it is dried. I have found so far that it is a versatile little grain and can be eaten as a salad, mixed with roast vegetables, made into a risotto or added to soups.

Chermoula Aubergine with Farro and Yoghurt

Ingredients – serves 4

2 tsp of ground cumin

1 tsp of chilli flakes

1 tsp of sweet paprika

2 tsp of ground coriander

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp of finely chopped preserved lemon skin

140ml of olive oil, plus a little extra to finish with a drizzle

2 medium-large aubergines (eggplants)

1 cup of Farro (or you can use 150g of bulgar as the original recipe calls for)

50g of sultanas

10g of fresh coriander, chopped plus a little extra to finish

10g of fresh mint, chopped

50g of pitted green olives, halved

30g of flaked almonds, toasted in the oven for about 10-15 minutes

3 spring onions, chopped

1 ½ tbsp. of lemon juice

Greek yoghurt to finish


1. Preheat oven to 200oC or 180oC for a fan forced oven.

2. To make the chermoula (this will be a paste to spread over the eggplants) mix together the cumin, chilli, paprika, ground coriander, garlic, preserved lemon skin, 2/3 of the olive oil.

3. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways. Cut the flesh of each of the aubergines with deep, diagonal crisscross cuts (don’t go so deep that you cut the skin).

4. Place the aubergine halves cut-side up on a baking tray layered with baking paper.

5. Spread the chermoula evenly over each of the halves.

6. Put the aubergines in the oven and roast for approximately 40 minutes or until they are soft.

7. While the aubergines are roasting place the Farro in 2 ½ cups of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-30 minutes or until tender.

8. Soak the sultanas in 50ml of warm water for the last 10 minutes before the faro and aubergines are ready.

9. Once the faro is ready add the sultanas, herbs, almonds, olives, spring onions, lemon juice and the remaining olive oil.

10. Serve the aubergine warm or at room temperature, Place 1 half on each plate. Spoon the faro mixture on top. Spoon over some Greek yoghurt and finish with a drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle of coriander.

We were lucky enough to have leftovers (even my hungry husband did not eat 2 halves) so I enjoyed a half for lunch today!

My next pick was a sweet eat. Now as I dietitian I still love indulgences with my favourites being chocolate and homemade slices. I believe that when you have a treat you should make it a good one to really satisfy yourself. I don’t really try to make healthier biscuits or cakes, just have the real thing occasionally. Remember that healthy eating is all about balance and there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ food as all foods play a role in a healthy diet.

Considering I had a jar of tahini (tahini is a sesame seed paste) in my pantry that I wasn’t quiet sure what to do with I opted to make the Tahini Cookies. I knew my husband and work colleagues would love me for it.


130g Caster sugar

150g unsalted butter, at room temperature

110g tahini

½ tsp of vanilla essence

25ml of double cream

270g of plain flour

1 tsp of ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 200oC or 180oC for a fan forced oven.

Place the butter and sugar in a mixer bowl and beat for about 1 minute on medium speed until just combined.

Add the tahini, vanilla and cream and combine.

Add the flour and work for about a minute until the dough comes together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead until smooth.

Pinch off 20g of the dough and roll into a ball.

Put balls of dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper and use the back of a fork to push down lightly to it flattens a little and takes on the marks from the prongs.

The cookies should be placed on the baking tray about 3cm apart.

Sprinkle a little cinnamon on each of the cookies.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown.

Transfer to a wire cooling rack before serving or storing, they will keep for up to 10 days.

I now cannot wait to try the roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs, root vegetable slaw with labneh, basmati and wild rice with chickpeas, currants and herbs and the hot yoghurt and barley soup.

I did not intend this post to be a book review in order to promote the lovely works of Yotam and Sami, however I would definitely recommend this book as a beautiful gift or for those looking for some inspiration in the kitchen.

Bon Appetit