“Jerusalem” and “John Whaite Bakes at Home” – Our Verdict

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. This was one of those months for “Cookbook a Month.”

When we were choosing the books for May, I lobbied hard for “Jerusalem” as we’ve had a lot of great meals out of that cookbook. Given their past experience with the author they lovingly call “Faffolenghi”, Anna and Kirstin naturally were quite reluctant to take him on again. I tried my best to convince them that the moniker didn’t apply to this cookbook, as I found for the most part the recipes to be pretty manageable, but I don’t think I succeeded, unfortunately. In the past, I’ve been known to call him “Otto-Impossible”, but I didn’t say that once in the past month.

My family loved the food from “Jerusalem” this month. I’ve had the cookbook for more than a year now, so they were all very happy to learn that we were returning to tried-and-true recipes that they already liked. We tried some new things, too. In fact, I cooked from this book so much that I didn’t even post everything I made, which is always a sign to the three of us that it’s an excellent book.

I can understand why Anna and Kirstin call him “Faffolenghi”, because sometimes the time and effort for a typical Ottolenghi recipe can be daunting. But this book succeeds in a way that his earlier ones did not. Aside from some less-known spices like sumac and za’tar, the ingredient list was always manageable. I never found myself having to go to a far-flung supermarket to find something. Some recipes took more time than I would have liked, particularly with all the chopping, but I’m learning to do more in the food processor when I can get away with it, which probably will help.

Not only is “Jerusalem” going to the bookshelf, it’s going to the high-rotation bookshelf, where it’s already sat for the last year. I think this is a real winner.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the other book we did this month, “John Whaite Bakes at Home.” We tend to do an extra baking book in May because there are several family birthdays in the month. We approached “John Whaite Bakes at Home” full of optimism. He’s a “Great British Bake Off” winner and seems a lovely guy. The three of us all like to bake (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), so we thought this would be a good book. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out that way.

In the end, I only made two things from the book, while Kirstin and Anna weren’t able to do any. For me, the problem was that the majority of the recipes either required too much time or just didn’t sound appealing. I laughed like a drain when I saw his recipe for mini-Gingerbread Houses to make in December. Who has time in December to do that? It’s very ambitious, to be sure, but there’s no way I’d have enough time in this lifetime to ever make mini-gingerbread houses. But high credit to anyone who can.

However, the “Cookie Dough Brownies” I made were an unqualified success. The boys loved them so much that I’ve already made them again. It was a very clever idea and fairly easy to do. We’ve already polished off the second tray of these brownies and they’ve asked when they can expect to see them again. I would call that a win.

Overall Grade (A- F): A+ While the recipes in this book do require some time and effort, they are absolutely worth it.
Best recipes: Hard to pick just one, but two that we particularly loved were the fish cakes, the butternut squash, the falafel and the hummus.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A.
Any disasters? None.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation?High-rotation bookshelf.

“John Whaite Bakes at Home” 
Overall Grade (A- F): D. The very low grade reflects the fact that I wasn’t particularly inspired much, and in fact, only managed two for the whole month.
Best recipes: Cookie Dough Brownies
Grade for Photography (A-F): C. Fine, I guess.
Any disasters? No disasters as I wasn’t inspired enough to make much from this cookbook.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? After I copy the brownie recipe, it’s off to the charity shop.

“Jerusalem” and “John Whaite Bakes at Home” – Our Verdict

“Fattoush” and “Open Kibbeh” from “Jerusalem”


This night featured two more winners from “Jerusalem.”

The first, on the top, is fattoush. It’s like a Middle Eastern version of panzanella, just with radishes and sumac, and pita bread rather than Italian bread. It’s a great salad to eat on a warm summer day, but given the liveliness of the sumac and the other vegetables, it also would be good in the dead of winter. A note of caution, though: this delicious salad takes A LOT of chopping to achieve. So before embarking on this, I’d recommend that you set aside some time to get all the vegetable prep finished.

You might think that sumac is hard to find, but in fact, they had it at my local Waitrose. Again, thank you Ottolenghi! However, I assumed that I needed some and so bought another jar of it, only to discover when I got home that I already had some. But after a month of cooking from this book, we’re almost finished with the first jar, so I’m guessing we’ll use the next one within the next couple of months.

The second, on the bottom, is open kibbeh. It’s a warming combination of minced lamb, bulger wheat and a wide variety of spices, with a tahini sauce on the top. It’s not really a combination I would think would work, but work it does. I think it’s the variety of flavours, brought to the party by the spices, that really make this something special. As a bonus, it’s not too much trouble to make. There are multiple steps, but it’s all very manageable.

All in all, another good night of eating from “Jerusalem.”

To make the fattoush, click through on this sentence to go to the recipe on the Telegraph website.

To make the Open Kibbeh, click through on this sentence to go to the recipe on the Guardian website.

“Fattoush” and “Open Kibbeh” from “Jerusalem”

“Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh sauce” from “Jerusalem”

Kirstin: I used cod pieces for this recipe as I couldn’t find salmon steaks anywhere.

Tom: Well they worked well.

Kirstin: Yes, this was a perfect dish to combat all that rain outside! I served it warm, with rice. Would I make it again? Probably not, but I enjoyed it. And it wasn’t too difficult to make! The flavours were wonderful together too.


“Salmon Steaks in Chraimeh sauce” from “Jerusalem”

“Mejadra” from “Jerusalem”


Disaster! I forgot to take a picture of this! Sorry, loyal readers. Suffice it to say, it’s not that photogenic a dish anyway, but it is very tasty.

Maureen: Ottolenghi calls this the ultimate comfort food. Do you agree?

Andrew (14): What’s it called?

Maureen: To be honest, I have no earthly idea how to pronounce it. But it’s spelled m-e-j-a-d-r-a. We could just call it the lentil-rice-fried onion dish.

NIcholas (11): Hmm. Interesting.

Maureen: Good interesting or bad interesting?

Nicholas: I think it’s good interesting, but I’m not 100 percent sure.

Maureen: I think it’s delicious, and given this is the third or fourth time we’ve had it, I think we can call it a success.

Tim: Was it difficult to make?

Maureen: To be honest, Kirstin and Anna don’t call him “Faff-Olonghi” for nothing. This was definitely a bit of a faff, which you don’t really figure out until you’re halfway through making it. I had to fry the onions in batches, which took way longer than I thought it would, in addition to making the lentils and the rice.

Tim: Yes. I remember that was the case the last time I made it.

Maureen: Despite that, though, this is delicious and a good thing for Meat Free Monday. I also know from experience that it’s excellent leftover, too. Another win from Jerusalem.

To make this yourself, find the recipe on the Guardian website by clicking through this sentence.

“Mejadra” from “Jerusalem”

“Marinated sweet and sour fish” from “Jerusalem”


Kirstin: I’ve never cooked pollack before, so that was exciting!

Tom: I’m never convinced by a recipe that says to marinate it for a day or two in the fridge.

Kirstin: Yes. Ooops. I didn’t see that part, so we ate it as soon as I had prepared it.

Tom: Well I loved it.

Kirstin: The curry was a lovely addition, wasn’t it? But I’m not sure it was yummy enough to want me to make it again.

“Marinated sweet and sour fish” from “Jerusalem”

“Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas and Chilli” from “Jerusalem”


Stop the presses. In the 12+ months I’ve had “Jerusalem,” this is the first recipe that elicited the response, “Meh.”

I know! A Meh! From this book, which has been hit-after-hit-after-hit. But not today. Up until now, the dishes I’ve made had evoked universal approval (for the most part). This was not one of those days.

What was the problem? I’m not quite sure. In theory, with feta, peas and yogurt over pasta, it should have been delicious. In practice, it was just a bit bland. Other reviewers of this recipe said they thought it was great, so maybe there was some operator error involved. However, given that it was just a simple pasta dish, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case.

It was all just a bit Meh. The leftovers sat in the refrigerator for days and didn’t tempt anyone.

Will I make it again? Obviously not. Life is too short for “Meh.”

If you want to try this (though reading the above, why would you want to?), the Guardian had the recipe. Click through this paragraph to find it– it’s the second recipe featured in the Ottolenghi column that weekend.

“Conchiglie with Yogurt, Peas and Chilli” from “Jerusalem”

“Turkey & Courgette Burgers with Spring Onion & Cumin” from “Jerusalem”

CBAMTurkeyBurgersTim: Yum.

Maureen: I absolutely agree. I had forgotten about this recipe until you reminded me. This is the second time that’s happened with this cookbook. It’s perfect for a summer night. It didn’t take too long to prepare, and it’s great with all the fresh vegetables on the side.

Andrew (14): Where’s the bread? Or the rolls? If they’re turkey burgers, they should have rolls, right?

Maureen: Funny you should ask that. Your father and I had exactly the same discussion in the aisles of Waitrose, but he said we didn’t have to get rolls because there wasn’t one in the pictures. Then as I was making it, he offered to make pita bread or flat bread, but I said, no, it was too late for bread.

Andrew: It’s great, but I think it needs bread.

Maureen: I’m not sure bread is an absolute necessity, but some pita would be nice the next time we make it. What do you think Nicholas?

Nicholas (11): They’re good.

Tim: These are my favourite turkey burgers, by far.

Maureen: Kirstin is a big fan of the ones by Gwyneth Paltrow from “It’s All Good,” but I think these are aces.

Tim: We also get to use some more sumac. This is good, since we have such a surplus of it in the house.

Maureen: The soured cream and sumac sauce is also good for dipping in all the crudites we’ve got on the table. Though I don’t think the boys agree.

Andrew: I’m not as sure about the sumac sauce, but I love the burgers. I’m going to have another.

Maureen: Another hungry teenager satisfied. I call that a result.

If you’d like to make this yourself, the blog 3 Bad Mice has the recipe. Click through this paragraph to be taken to the blog.

“Turkey & Courgette Burgers with Spring Onion & Cumin” from “Jerusalem”

“Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice” from “Jerusalem”


Want to try this at home? Please do. The New York Times very helpfully “adapted” the recipe (though I couldn’t discern what they changed), so click through this paragraph to get the recipe.

This dish is a winner in so many respects: delicious, flavourful, easy, one pot (quick cleanup), and no exotic ingredients (bar one, more on that later). We’ve had this several times since I got “Jerusalem” last year and it’s been a winner every time.

The picture above doesn’t really do it justice (yet again), but it really is a great dish. It’s not very quick– it takes about an hour to cook– but the most elaborate prep needed is to slice the onions. Most of the time the dish is doing its business alone on the stovetop.

We all (boys included) love it. It’s not plain by any stretch of the imagination– cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks certainly ramp up the taste factor– but it’s not too exotic for them. In any case, you can tone it down at the end with a bit of greek yogurt.

Finally, a word on the use of barberries. They are, thankfully, optional, as barbarries seem to be difficult to source. At least they were difficult for me, as neither the local health food shop, which has all manner of spices available, or any of the three local supermarkets (Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and the Cooperative) had them. I just did a quick search on Ocado and all they have is barberry-coloured thread, not barberries themselves. You can use currents, though, which is what I did as you can find those anywhere.

Would I make this again? Definitely. I’ve already made it several times, and I plan to make it more times again.

“Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice” from “Jerusalem”

“Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce” from “Jerusalem”



If you’d like to give this recipe a try, click through this sentence to find it reproduced in The Guardian. (Incidentally, their picture is much better.)

Maureen: Tonight, for Fish Friday, we’re having fish cakes, thanks to Nicholas. Once he heard that we were doing “Jerusalem” for one our cookbooks this month, he asked me to make these again.

Nicholas (10): I thought you did this cookbook for the blog ages ago.

Maureen: I got it ages ago, but we’re just doing it now. So now we can have these fish cakes again. I’m amazed you remembered what book they were from, Nicholas.

Nicholas: I just remembered that we had these fish cakes before and how much we liked them.

Maureen: What do you think of the ones tonight?

Nicholas: They’re great.

Andrew (14): I agree. They’re good.

Tim: I would say they’re delicious, but when you make it again, double the sauce so there’s enough.

Maureen: I definitely agree with that. There’s not nearly enough tomato sauce. The other thing I’ll do the next time is whizz everything up in the food processor. It took ages to cut it all up by hand.

Tim: I’m loving the cod cheeks!

Maureen: That was a top tip from our friendly fishmonger. Cod cheeks are INCREDIBLY cheap, and since you’re just chopping them up anyway, it’s definitely the way to go if they’ve got them in. How many stars would you give it?

Andrew: Four stars.

Nicholas: Five stars.

Tim: Four and a half stars. The only thing keeping it from a five is the lack of sauce.

Maureen: We’ll definitely be doing this one again.

“Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce” from “Jerusalem”

“Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar” from “Jerusalem”


This looks delicious, right? I could just eat that whole platter of food right now, looking at the picture again. You’ve got the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash and onions, the tahini dressing and then the taste sensation that is za’atar* spices.

*For those of you who don’t know, za’atar is a Middle Eastern blend of spices that includes combination of sesame seeds, sumac, salt, oregano, cumin and dried marjoram. It’s obviously gone mainstream (Thanks Ottolenghi!) because you can find it in the spice rack at Waitrose and other sumpermarkets.

Yum. I loved it.

Unfortunately, my family didn’t agree.

Tim liked it fine but didn’t love it. His conclusion: “It was better than I would have thought.” To be fair, he isn’t a fan of butternut squash. I don’t know why that’s true, but we all have our own special food hang ups*, so I can understand.

*If you’re wondering, my food hangup/thing I won’t eat is beets, Andrew’s (14) is cavolo nero and Nicholas’s (10) is spinach.

Nicholas, who does like butternut squash, just didn’t like the whole combination of flavours. There’s a LOT going on in this dish, which I think was a bit much for his 10-year-old palate. Andrew tried it, but didn’t eat much of it. I blame the massive amount of couscous that he loaded up on his plate but maybe all the flavours were too overwhelming for him.

Would I make it again for my family? Probably not. They don’t appreciate it enough. Would I make again for myself? You bet.

If you would like to make this for yourself– and if you like butternut squash, I recommend that you do– click through this sentence to see the recipe in its original form in the Guardian, before it was published in Jerusalem.

“Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar” from “Jerusalem”