best Jerusalem cookbooks for a taste of the Middle East
Jerusalem has been on my mum’s bucket list for ages. It’s a place I’ve wanted to take her for some time now (*fingers crossed this happens within the next few years*) – though my personal motives are, for the most part, food-related (*daydreams about sabich and sambusak and lepeshka while typing this*).
So this list of Jerusalem cookbooks is how I’m traveling for the time being. These Jerusalem cookbooks feature recipes by Israeli and Palestinian chefs. You’ll find foods typically eaten on Shabbat and delicious meals similar to Lebanese cuisine as well!
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Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s curation is easily one of the best known (and most loved) Jerusalem cookbooks. It’s a cross-cultural effort, a clockwork run of meals spanning Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. And whilst the recipes themselves are involved, they’re worth the effort. Jerusalem: A Cookbook is for omnivores. There’s a hearty mix of veggie and meat-based recipes. And the variety between the pages is a subtle ode to the notion “food brings us together.” It does. A good dish can be universally loved. Ottolenghi and Tamimi show us that beautifully.
Nidal Kersh, a Swedish restaurateur, taps into the bold flavors of Jerusalem in Jerusalem Food. Kersh’s father is Palestinian so naturally, the cookbook intertwines a good bit of personal family history. Here’s what you’ll want to take away: the za’atar, tahini sauce, and harissa recipes (all the basic condiments and seasonings done right). Everything is broken down simply (as a beginner chef, I found it easy to understand and follow).
After reading that Michael Solomonov’s pink lentil soup with lamb kofte felt like “Jerusalem in a bowl”, I knew I had to include Zahav on this list of Jerusalem cookbooks. Zahav is practical and useful and contains a vast repertoire of so-good-you’ll-want-more recipes. The dishes stem from modern Israel, a region defined by its ongoing blend of influences. And Solomonov himself (a multi-James Beard award-winner) owns a wildly popular Israeli-Mediterranean restaurant in Philadelphia so he knows what he’s talking about.
The Palestinian Table is all about hand-me-down recipes. The dishes in the book have been carved up to perfection. They’re intimate and heartfelt. The Palestinian Table is a curation that boasts an Anthony Bourdain’s stamp of approval. And what’s more, the cookbook seamlessly integrates authenticity and anecdotes. The recipes come from a Palestinian household so they’re exactly what you’ll find in a Palestinian household. And despite being deeply layered, the recipes are surprisingly easy to follow!
It’s no secret that The Saffron Tales is one of our favorite Persian cookbooks. And Yasmin Khan’s venture into describing Palestinian cooking is every bit as good – just in a different way. Zaitoun has more heft as a travelogue than a cookbook. So if you’re looking for something more practical and authentic, this may not be it. That being said, as a travel blogger, I love every inch of Zaitoun. When Khan took to Palestinian kitchens, she came out with deeply moving stories – the kind of stories that read quickly and linger long after.
Falastin is one of the most underrated Jerusalem cookbooks. It’s the diverse story of Palestine’s food and whilst it doesn’t just concentrate on Jerusalem (though Jerusalem is mentioned quite a bit), the recipes are packed with flavor. The photography in Falastin is also clean and bright and vibrant and understated, much like the book itself. The directions are detailed (and I love the extra tips, well manifesto, about falafel making). I’ve also bookmarked the labneh cheesecake (with roasted apricots, honey, and cardamom) because it’s an absolute crowd-pleaser.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive title than The Jewish Cookbook. Leah Koenig’s compilation contains a whopping 400 recipes. The research that went into this book is extensive and it shows, page-after-page. The book also features modern interpretations by Yotam Ottolenghi and Michael Solomonov (whose cookbooks I’ve mentioned above) so I felt compelled to include it on this list of Jerusalem cookbooks.
Palestine On A Plate hones in on home-cooking. Joudi Kalla, a chef for almost two decades now, has mastered the art of Palestinian cuisine. Palestine On A Plate is a mix of history and recipes. And both win over. You’ll want this book for the desserts alone – yum. And the za’atar buns (a Palestinian upgrade on cinnamon buns) are a must-try as well. Palestine On A Plate is creative. It’s contemporary and traditional, all at once.
Authors Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook produced Israeli Soul on the hunt for the crème de la crème of Israeli fare. Ideal for those brand new to Israeli cooking, the recipes in Israeli Soul are a little more approachable than Zahav (Solomonov’s other curation, titled after his Philly restaurant of the same name).
And like several of the Jerusalem cookbooks on this list, Israeli Soul is not strictly set in Jerusalem. But Jerusalem plays an important part in the way many of the recipes are styled and flavored. It’s a food meets travel book that gets right to the heart of Israeli cooking.
Did you enjoy this list of Jerusalem cookbooks? What are your favorite cookbooks set in Jerusalem? Let me know in the comments below! As always, I love hearing and learning from you!