13. Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley. I bought ‘Jerusalem’ (London, 2012) at the Avenue Bookshop in Albert Park with a book voucher I was presented for giving a lecture. You’d have to say it’s this book that established Ottolenghi’s name, and with good reason. Through the foreground medium of food, he and Tamimi present one of the best available introductions to the life of modern Jerusalem. I learn more about the City here than any amount of political commentary. Jewish and Arab cuisines are rich and earthy; ‘Jerusalem’ shows just how symbiotic the relationships really are. It’s a joint nostalgia trip, but both men are living in the present tense. There is a surprise article (pages 112-113) where they face up to the only thing all residents of Jerusalem agree upon: hummus. We learn the word ‘hummusia’, eateries specialising almost entirely in hummus. Even though everyone agrees yes hummus, this is then the cause for arguments of every kind. Egyptian Arabs invented hummus, but then scholars say hummus is in the Bible. (This could go on all night!) The authors admit it’s a fetish and that there will never be universal harmony over the right chunkiness, spiciness, fluffiness, brownness, the correct temperature of hummus. In ‘Jerusalem’ we meet the market-sellers, chefs, and diners (that’s everyone) via words and photographs. I have trialled many of the meals in this book on a captive audience, which is probably why I was given ‘Falastin’ (London, 2020) by Carol and Bridie; they bought it for me at Great Escape Books in Airey’s Inlet. Arabic has no P, but plainly this book is the partner of ‘Jerusalem’ with all attention this time on Palestinian cuisine. So far, I haven’t tested any recipes in the new book, just slowly turned the pages, gawked at the tempting pictures, and started listening to the enthusiastic voices of Tamimi and Wigley. We are going to start this weekend with batata bil filfil, i.e. spicy roasted new potatoes with lemon and herbs (page 136-137).
Recipe. Rinse 200 grams of PEARL BARLEY. Melt some BUTTER in OLIVE OIL and cook 2 diced CELERY STALKS, 2 diced SHALLOTS, 4 diced GARLIC CLOVES on gentle heat until nice. Then add the barley, some THYME, PAPRIKA, a BAY LEAF, some grated LEMON RIND, a 400 gram tin of chopped TOMATOES, 700 ml VEGETABLE STOCK, 300 ml PASSATA and some SALT. Actually, they say salt but I never use salt because salt is already in the food. Stir, bring to the boil then simmer while stirring. You can toast a tablespoon of CARAWAY SEEDS, though I often just toss them in as is, mixing these with as much diced FETA as you like; they say 300 grams. The barley risotto is spooned into bowls, topped with the feta mixture and sprinkled with OREGANO LEAVES.