Mejadra from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi

Jerusalem & Being Ottolenghi Obsessed!

Recently something has taken hold of me, I seem powerless to fight it, I find myself preoccupied with it, I am talking to everyone about it all the time, I have even dreamed about it at night! Oh yes, I am smitten, I am…..Yotam Ottolenghi obsessed!

I have not felt this way about a chef or a cookbook for sometime. I was given ‘Jerusalem‘  by Yotam Ottelnghi & Sami Tamimi for Christmas by my Sister-in-law and it has captivated me ever since. Upon receiving it, I thumbed through it as I usually would, making a note of all the recipes that I wanted to try but I soon realised it was a rather silly exercise as I was bookmarking pretty much the entire book!

There is something very grown up about this food. The use of spice in such an exciting way whilst many ingredients are humble and conventional is inspiring and surprising to my palate. The recipes come from the writers childhood memories of Jerusalem, which seems to be a melting pot for Jewish and Middle Eastern cuisine. I had no idea that their food could be so wondrous, I have been blown away.

And then to my delight, there appeared on my television a new cookery show ‘Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast! Well this just cemented my love affair with him and his food. A stunning journey showcasing such fantastic cuisines and recipes, it is compulsory viewing. He also appears to be such a laid back character, gentle and amicable…*note so self: stop gushing!*

Anyway, back to the remarkable food! My aim with this post is to try to convey some of my passion about Jerusalem and to open peoples eyes to this wonderful cuisine and to Yotam Ottolenghi if he is unknown to you before now.

Although I am an avid cookery book collector, I do not often cook more than a handful of recipes from any one book and even then, not in a short space of time. But things have been very different with this book. I have cooked 10 recipes and counting (all the more remarkable as this is week 12 of this year which means that I am almost cooking one a week!).

Highlights include Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta; Basmati & Wild Rice with Chickpeas, Currants & Herbs; Roasted Chicken with Clementines & Arak; Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice to name but a few. I can tell you that each and every one of them was delicious and provoked much discussion in my house as to how the spicing elicits such extraordinary flavour. I cannot wait to make them all again and my mouth is literally watering at the thought…

I foolishly didn’t take photos of the majority of dishes but last weekend I did when I made Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce. Unlike any other fishcakes I have ever had, they were amazing. The fish was chopped into little chunks which gave them a really meaty texture. Unusually spiced with lots of cumin and coriander, then simmered in a spicy tomato sauce. They were unforgettable and I look forward to making them for all my friends! Just stunning.

Yotam Ottolenghi Fish Cakes

But on to the recipe that I have chosen to share – Mejadra. I have chosen this particular dish as it’s a revelation. I mentioned before that the recipes are ‘grown up’ in this book and it strikes me that this one is particularly so. I would have overlooked this recipe in my youth but nowadays, I get excited by the idea of vegetarian food consisting of mainly lentils and rice!

Mejadra is apparently a popular Arab dish and considered to be comfort food by both Yotam and Sami who both remember it from their youth. Who knew that lentils and rice, simply spiced with cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and all spice, punctuated with crispy deep fried onions, could taste this complex and flavoursome? It amazed me so much that I just had to write about it!

So, if you fancy making a dish that is remarkable, striking, delectable and thrifty, then be bold and try this! It will not disappoint and you may find yourself enlightened as a result.

Mejadra  (recipe taken from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi

Serves 6

250g green lentils

4 medium onions, sliced

3 tbsp plain flour

250ml sunflower oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds

200g basmati rice

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 1/2 tsp ground allspice

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

350ml water

salt & pepper

Dollops of yoghurt to serve

  • Start by boiling your lentils in plenty of water for 12-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a bowl, sprinkle your sliced onions with the plain flour and season with a teaspoon of salt. Mix them up to make sure they are all lightly coated.
  • In a wide pan, heat up your sunflower oil ready to deep fry the onions. Once sizzling hot, fry a generous handful of the onions for 7 minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon into a colander lined with kitchen towel. Season them lightly. Then fry another handful of onions and continue the process in batches until all the onions are nice and crunchy.
Mejadra - deep fried onions
  • Pour off any excess oil left in your pan once you have finished frying your onions and wipe the pan clean. Then gently heat your cumin & coriander seeds for a couple of minutes until they release their aroma. Be careful not to burn them. Then add the rice, olive oil, ground spices, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Stir to coat the rice and then add the lentils and water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
Mejadra - Lentils & Rice cooking
  • Take it off the heat and take the lid off and cover with a clean towel and replace the lid to seal. Leave alone for 10 more minutes.
  • Lastly, add half the onions to the rice and lentils and mix in. Serve in bowls topped with a dollop of yoghurt. Be prepared to be amazed!
Mejadra from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi

I am entering this recipe into  few blogging chllenges. Firstly, Javelin Warriors Made with Love Mondays as it is made from scratch, no shortcuts at all!

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior
Secondly, I am offering it into Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes
Bookmarked Recipes Logo
 I am also entering it into Credit Crunch Munch as a dish made up of lentils and rice is pretty thrifty in my opinion! Co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.
Credit Crunch Munch logo
And last but not least I am entering it into Karen from Lavender & Lovage‘s Herbs on Saturday, this month hosted by London Busy Body as this dish is just full of lovely spices!
Herbs on Saturday

32 thoughts on “Jerusalem & Being Ottolenghi Obsessed!”

  1. When I saw Jerusalem, I really wanted to buy the book but never did. But now I’m wishing I had after your review here and how passionate you are about the book! The fish cakes look amazing and the mejadra sounds tasty as well… Thanks so much for sharing, Anneli!

  2. Ha! Well done for declaring your love of Yotam publicly! This recipe looks so simple and yet so complex – what a great variety of textures and spices. I can’t wait to try it! P.S. I know what I’d like for Christmas 2014… Jerusalem…. please?!!

    1. Well I have chewed your ear off enough about him! You will love this recipe, it’;s right up your street. Let me know if you make it and what you think. I shall speak to Father Christmas and see if we can arrange it for you but you have to be a good girl :)

  3. Mollie Brotherton

    Hi Annelli, Isn’t he brilliant, Try “Plenty”, I got it for Christmas and think it’s fabulous. Keep up the good work x

  4. Julia – I love the fact you already have your Christmas 2013 present wish list booked out and only have space for 2014. You are hilarious! Love, your brother…xxx

  5. lol, you’re not alone – my mother is obsessed with the guy. Whenever I call it’s Ottolenghi this, Ottolenghi that. I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of the guy for various reasons. I saw him on a show once and his personality just seemed to grate on me a bit. By all accounts though his food is apparently delicious. I think my mother has an Ottolenghi dish in store for me when I go to England in a couple of days, so I guess I can finally try it out :)

    1. Charles, prepare to be amazed by your Mothers dish. I have no doubt it will please you greatly! Indeed everyone does seem to be talking about him….there must be something to it eh! x

    1. Simple but so complex…thats it’s beauty. I must get my hands on ‘Plenty’ as well. It sounds as though it is equally brilliant. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. How fantastic, I love Ottolenghi so much myself and have this book but haven’t as yet cooked from it. I have already bookmarked the gorgeous cod cakes and now I must also try out this mejadra too. It really is an inspiring book and he is one of my all time favourite chefs x

  7. Well, my mind is also on this book, Jerusalem. So far I have only heard positive comments about it and all I heard makes me more and more wanting it to be added to my cookbook collection. I’m still working on it.

  8. So glad to find another Ottolenghi fanatic! I, too am obsessed and probably have cooked more recipes already from ‘Jerusalem’ than I have from any of my great collection of cookbooks. The photos make you want to eat off the page – and as for the TV program – I wanted to jump into the screen and taste the food with him! I have cooked the cod cakes for the second time, last night, with barramundi (a prized fish in Australia) to serve for a dinner party tonight, as it was, as noted, even more delicious the second day.
    I have “Plenty’ and ‘Ottolenghi’ on the way to satisfy my Ottolenghi passion, so looking forward to getting into them as well. If only my husband wasn’t a steak, pie and tomato sauce person! (but he has enjoyed Ottolenghi so far!)

    1. So nice to meet you fellow Ottolenghi Obsessed lady :) My friend just leant me Ottolenghi – Ottolenghi which is equally inspiring and she may not be getting it back! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Ooh this recipe is right up my street and I will definitely be trying this, pulses are so cheap and make such a great base for a meal! Thank you for sharing it with Credit Crunch Munch which is fast becoming my personal cook book:-)

    1. Thanks Camilla. I am sure you will love this dish. The spices are just so wonderfully exciting. (I also love the recipes from Credit Crunch Munch and find many I want to try each week – it’s a great challenge!)

    1. Thank you very much Anna. You have some really lovely recipes on your blog by the way. Thanks for stopping by here to I get the chance to discover you back!

  10. I just ordered ”Jerusalem” after reading this, thank you! I love his book ”Plenty”. As you say – SO many great recipes.

    1. Erm…hell yeah! I made some Yotam Ricotta meatballs the other night…they were awesome…almost as good as my Swedish ones! The cod cakes are also so good…you have reminded me that I want to make them again very soon :) (I am still suffering from uber jealousy from your Ottolenghi dinner) x

  11. Hi Anneli,
    I am from Cyprus and love Otalenghi,s cooking.
    I grew up eating Mejadra, in Cyprus we eat it with olives and raw onions or yogurt . Try it with black olives it goes really well. I got both of the books and love the way in which he uses Nigela seeds with savoury dishes.we only use them for Cypriot pastry.I grow my own Nigela seeds in England. I am sure they grow better in France,common name for them is ‘love in a mist’ .” Try growing them they are lovely as an ornamental plants.

    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by – I love the idea of adding olives and I will try that soon. I had no idea that another name for Nigella Seeds is Love in the Mist – how lovely! I may well try growing them, thanks for the tip. Happy New Year :)

  12. I made this last night, and mine looked more like yours… which is to say nothing like the picture in the book. Flavors were amazing but his description of how to fry the onion was seriously lacking. It took forever and they weren’t crispy. Also no measurement on the water for the lentils led to problems.

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