ArchiveMarch 11, 2017


A couple of months ago I had a delicious dinner at an exciting Israeli restaurant in London’s Soho called Palomar. The amazing vibe transported me right into the Jerusalem party scene. The intriguing Yiddish, Yemini and Meknes style dishes whetted my appetite to learn more about this kind of food. Our friends, Yotam and Sami at Ottolenghi and Itamir and Sarit from Honey and Co in London have also been spreading the word about Israeli and Middle Eastern food for decades.

As ever, I decided to make a trip to the source. I arrived into Jerusalem on a Thursday evening and headed straight for the famous Mahane Yehuda Market, known as the ‘Shuk’.
A huge colourful, partially covered, bustling market with over 250 stall holders, selling an irresistible melange of seasonal vegetables, fruit, fresh herbs…there are butchers, fish mongers, innumerable bakeries piled high with challah, babka and a tantalizing range of filo and kunefe pastries. Others crammed with a wide range of zattar, tahini, sumac, fresh spices, nuts and dried fruits, dates, olives, barberries….. Some just sell many variations of halva. Of course there are also little shops selling wines, housewares, clothes, sandals and a huge variety of judaica.

In and around the edges of the market, there are street stalls and cafes offering irresistible street foods – shawarma, falafel, kebabs, kibbah, shasklik, konafe, baklava…… Juice stalls, press and squeeze the freshest juice as you wait, mango, orange, pomegranate, pink grapefruit, carrot, lime…..

The vendors vie with each other calling out their prices to passerbys. On Thursdays and Friday morning, there’s an extra frenzy of activity as the Jewish community stock up with produce for the Sabbath meal. The bugle is sounded by a couple of Haredi men on Friday afternoon, the market closes and doesn’t reopen until Saturday afternoon.

But, what I hadn’t realised was that for the past few years, at night when the stalls close and the graffiti covered shutters are secured. The market reinvents itself into the centre of Jerusalem’s hip night life scene where local foodies, hipsters and tourists hang out. Table and chairs are set up, suddenly there’s live music, dance, cocktails and great food….The energy is off the scale.

Thursday and Saturday are the liveliest nights but every night, the area is a swinging scene. How about that for an idea for the English Market in Cork City…..

It was very tempting to eat in the midst of all the excitement but we’d managed to get a 10.30pm booking at Machneyuda restaurant on the outskirts of the market. It’s the inspiration for and the mother of the Palomar restaurant in London which had inspired my trip. It’s the hottest restaurant in Jerusalem right now and has been for quite some time. Exuberant head chef, Asaf Granet and two friends chop, dice and sauté to the beat of loud zippy music while banging on pots and pans in the open kitchen. Conversation is virtually impossible but the cacophony of sounds and the lively party scene is enough to keep all the guests wildly entertained as they enjoy Asaf’s eclectic take on Jerusalem dishes. I particularly loved the silky polenta with mushrooms, crisp asparagus, slivers of parmesan and truffle oil and of course the shikshukit and hummus with lamb and many toppings.

Dessert can be homemade twix and tonka icecream, pistachio hash cake, cheese cake in a jar – old school style. Alternatively, a table of friends could opt for the raucous splashed dessert to be hurled onto their tin foil covered table top by three exuberant chefs – a delicious spectacle – not for everyone……

Where better to find the penultimate Jerusalem recipes than in Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem

Hot Tips
Onwards We March
After a short winter break, Good Things at Dillon’s Corner in Skibbereen reopens on March 15th. Carmel Somers writes a beautiful seasonal menu together with a wide range of cookery classes…
028 519 48

UCC Food Conference
Innovation in Irish Food and Drink: Past, Present and Future
10-12 March 2017.
A conference organised by food historians Regina Sexton and Chad Ludington will showcase the research work of UCC staff to local and regional food business community. The first of its kind at UCC, this conference is open to the general public. Registration is now OPEN and free to all, please see below.

Just Cook It
Join us at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday April 10th 2017 for a half day cookery course. We will start with a welcome coffee and a guided tour of the seasonal produce in the garden. Then don an apron and into the kitchen. You’ll have fun and learn how to cook several delicious dishes under the expert guidance of our supportive tutors. Afterwards, we’ll sit down together to enjoy a relaxed and informal dinner. You will leave inspired with a selection of superb recipes to cook at home for family and friends.

Jerusalem’s Basic Hummus

Serves 6

Our basic hummus is super smooth and rich in tahini, just as we like it, and can be kept in the fridge for up to three days and used simply spread over a plate, drizzled with olive oil and eaten with pita or bread.

250 g dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
270 g light tahini paste
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, crushed
100 ml ice cold water

Start a day before by washing the chickpeas well and placing them in a large bowl. Cover with cold water, at least twice their volume and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place in a medium saucepan on a high heat and add the drained chickpeas and the bicarbonate of soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1.5 litres of fresh water and bring to a boil.

Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas can cook for anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.

Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but quite mushy.

Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 600 g now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor bow. Process until you get a stiff paste; then with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and 1½ teaspoons salt.

Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix until you get a very smooth and creamy paste, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the hummus into a bowl, cover the surface with cling film and let it rest for 30 minutes. If not using straight away, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.

Taken from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash (1.1kg/2 1/2lbs), cut into 2cm x 6cm (3/4 x 2 1/2 inch) wedges
2 red onions, cut into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) wedges
50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) olive oil

3 1/2 tablespoons tahini paste
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 small garlic clove, crushed

30g (1 1/4oz) pine nuts
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
Malden sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To make the sauce place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk together until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.

Pour the remaining teaspoon of oil into a small frying pan and place on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts, along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden-brown. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl, along with the oil, to stop the cooking.

To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

Taken from Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Root Vegetable Slaw with Labneh

We make this salad in the winter or early spring before any of the summer crops are around. It is incredibly fresh, ideal for starting a hearty meal. It is also great served with grilled oily fish. The labneh can be substituted with Greek yoghurt, well-seasoned with some olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper.

Serves 6

3 medium beetroot (450 g in total)
2 medium carrots (250 g in total)
½ a celeriac (300 g in total)
1 medium kohlrabi (250 g in total)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons caster sugar
25 g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
25 g mint leaves, shredded
20 g flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
½ tablespoon lemon zest, grated
200 g labneh
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Peel all the vegetables and slice thinly, about 2 mm thick. Stack a few slices at a time on top of each other and cut them into matchstick like strips. Alternatively, use a mandolin or a food processor with the appropriate attachment. Place all the strips in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside while you make the dressing.
Place the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir until the sugar and the salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Drain the vegetable strips and transfer to a paper towel to dry well. Dry the bowl and replace the vegetables. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables, mix well and leave to cool. Place in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the herbs, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon of black pepper to the salad. Toss well, taste and add more salt if needed. Pile onto serving plates and serve with some labneh on the side.

Taken from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tami

Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichoke and Lemon

The combination of saffron and whole lemon slices does not only make for a beautiful looking dish, it goes exceptionally well with the nutty earthiness of the artichokes. This is easy to prepare – you just need to plan ahead and leave to marinate properly.

Serves 4

450 g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into six lengthways (1.5 cm thick wedges)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
8 chicken thighs, on the bone with the skin on, or a medium whole chicken divided into four
12 banana shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
12 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 medium lemon, cut in half lengthways and then into very thin slices
1 teaspoon saffron threads
50 ml olive oil
150 ml cold water
1½ tablespoons pink peppercorns, slightly crushed
10 g fresh thyme leaves
40 g tarragon leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Put the Jerusalem artichokes in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water and half the lemon juice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender but not soft. Drain and leave to cool.

Place the Jerusalem artichokes and all the remaining ingredients, excluding the remaining lemon juice and half of the tarragon in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight, or at least for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 240°C/220°F/gas mark 9. Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up in the centre of a roasting tin and spread the remaining ingredients around the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes. Cover with tin foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. At this point the chicken should be completely cooked. Remove from the oven and add the reserved tarragon and lemon juice. Stir well, taste and add more salt if needed. Serve at once.

Taken from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tami

Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Rose Water

Serves 4

400 ml full fat milk
120 ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
8 cardamom pods, crushed lightly
120 g pudding rice
30 g unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1 tablespoon acacia honey or another mild flavoured honey
3 tablespoons roasted and slivered or lightly crushed unsalted pistachios, to garnish
1 tablespoon dried, edible rose petals, to garnish

1 tablespoon acacia honey or another mild flavoured honey
½ tablespoon rose water

Put the milk, cream, vanilla (pod and seeds) and cardamom in a medium saucepan and place on a high heat. As soon as the mix is about to reach boiling point, remove from the heat, allow to cool down and leave in the fridge to infuse overnight or at least for a couple of hours.

To prepare the syrup, stir the honey, rose water and 1 teaspoon of water well until the honey dissolves and set aside.

Add the rice to the pan with the infused milk and cream, bring to the boil and simmer on a medium heat, stirring all the time, for 20 minutes. The rice should cook through but still retain a bite and the pudding should be thick. You will need to add a little bit of water, up to 50 ml, towards the end of the cooking if the pudding becomes too thick before the rice is done.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pick out the cardamom pods and vanilla pod. Stir in the butter, condensed milk, honey and a p inch of salt. You can chill the mix now or serve immediately in little flat bowls, sprinkled with pistachios and rose petals and drizzled with the syrup.


Past Letters