What’s the USP? I can’t do better than quote the introduction: ‘This is a book about Palestine – its food, its produce, its history, its future, its people and their voices’. There are also recipes, more than 100 of them.
Who are the authors? You’ll know Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley from such books as Jerusalem and Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. Tamimi co-founded the Ottolenghi restaurant empire. Wigely worked in publishing before joining the Ottenleghi test kitchen a decade ago.
Is it good bedtime reading? In addition to the short foreword by Ottolenghi and seven-page introduction, there are page-long introductions to each of the nine chapters that cover everything from breakfast to sweets as well as articles covering subjects including ‘The yoghurt making ladies of Bethlehem’, ‘Vivien Sansour and the Palestinian Seed Library’ and ‘The Walled Off Hotel, the seperation wall, and the Balfour balls up’.
Will I have trouble finding the ingredients? As has been noted before on this site, thanks in part to Ottolenghi, ingredients such as za’atar, Aleppo pepper, date syrup, rose harissa, sumac and labneh now seem quite commonplace, at least to the enthusiastic home cook. If you do have trouble tracking them down in your local shop, you can source them online from ottolenghi.co.uk.
What’s the faff factor? This is not restaurant cooking but on the other hand, these are not quick’n’easy one pot wonders either. You’ll be chopping, finely slicing, picking leaves, chargrilling, roasting, whipping, braising, frying, baking, blitzing, caramelising and making dumplings, dressings, and dips; soups, salsas, and sauces. Nothing however is excessively complex or beyond the abilities of your average keen cook.
Must cook recipes: spiced chicken arayes (pan fried pitta bread sandwiches); chilled cucumber and tahini soup with spicy pumpkin seeds; spiced salmon skewers with parsley oil; upside-down spiced rice with lamb and broad beans; sumac onion and herb oil buns; knafeh nabulseyeh (a sweet mozzarella, ricotta and feta kataifi pastry dessert drenched in orange blossom water syrup.
What will I love? Tamimi and Wigley have already proved beyond doubt that they are a class act and Falastin does nothing to alter that. The recipes are uniformly enticing and well written, the articles are informative and fascinating, the book is beautifully designed and the location and food photography by Jenny Zarins is gorgeous. As is usual with the Ottolenghi family of books, there’s a code to access a fully illustrated and searchable database of all the recipes online (you can even print off a shopping list for each recipe) which is a very useful and fun bonus.
What won’t I love? I can’t believe you’re even asking this question, go to the back of the class.
Should I buy it? If you’re already a fan of Tamimi and Wigley (and Ottolenghi of course) there is just no way you won’t want to add this terrific book to your collection. If you are just getting into Middle Eastern cooking then is a great place to start.
Cuisine: Palestinian/Middle Eastern
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: Five Stars
Buy the book
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27