A taste of the Mediterranean came to the Manor earlier this month, in the form of Ottolenghi’s (and Sammi Tamimi’s) Jerusalem book, which has just won best cookbook at the IACP cookbook awards. We ran events on both the Friday and Saturday nights, welcoming in 26 guests, some old, some new to our supperclub, keen to try some Israeli treats.
I think there is a perception that Ottolenghi’s cuisine is complicated, but I think what really puts people off is some of the hard to obtain ingredients – such as preserved lemons, sumac, z’ataar and pomegranate molasses. We got some ingredients online but we did find that supermarkets are getting much better at having diverse ranges for sale. Plus, I always think that cooking is all about making something with what’s locally available, so don’t feel afraid to substitute an ingredients if you need to. For example, maple syrup was used instead of date syrup in one of the recipes, simply because I knew that I probably wouldn’t use date syrup again. Just use what is accessible to you, you never know you might create a new taste sensation!
The Jerusalem book is a good introduction to Israeli food – from the melting pot of Jewish influenced cuisine to more traditional Palestinian fare. This is interspersed with accounts from Ottolenghi about his experiences of growing up in such a beautiful place, but one that is so plagued with political unsettle. It certainly makes it an intriguing place to visit one day.
We tried to pick a good range of morsels that people would expect to find on a middle eastern menu, but also those that may surprise and intrigue. The welcome drink was a vodka spiked pomegranate fizz with rose syrup. This was paired with canapés that included homemade falafel. These were filled with tons of lovely spices and, believe it or not, raw chickpeas. This ensured the texture was moist and light rather than dry and heavy. I love falafel and loved cooking these so may invest in a proper press. Also on offer were crostini with a vividly pink beetroot and zataar dip. This was full of complex flavours – sweetness from the beetroot and maple syrup; saltiness and intense savouriness from the z’ataar. The final canapé was a little lamb and pine nut koftas, seasoned with allspice and cinnamon (amongst other spices) and served it a smooth tahini and garlic sauce.