I love all my Ottolenghi cookbooks, but Jerusalem is hands down my favourite one. I think every recipe I ever made from that cookbook is wonderful. I always tell people it’s thé best cookbook ever written. I’ve made quite a few of Ottolenghi recipes over the last couple of years and what continues to amaze me is how each one offers a slightly new amazing flavour experience.

One of my first recipe from ‘Jerusalem’ was Mejadra, a fragrant Middle Eastern rice dish with lots of spices that is so amazing you can eat it on its own! I served mine with homemade lamb sausages. Did I already mentioned that it’s served under a mountain of fried onions? What’s not to love, right? It’s so good that you don’t want to serve it to company, you will want to keep it all to yourself. Mejadra is not only cheap (using mostly pantry staples), but also delicious and nutritious. Everyone knows lentils are packed with plant-based protein and loads of fibre. I can see myself living of this dish for a few weeks if I have to and not getting tired of it. Mejadra is a dish that is very popular throughout the whole Arab world. It simply is comfort food at it’s very best.

You start the rice with toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds which will provide you with a subtle crunch in the finished rice dish. If you don’t like to use whole spices (and I know quite a few people who don’t) just tip the seeds after toasting into a pestle and mortar and ground them up before adding all the other ingredients. It will not affect the taste and the end result will be as delicious.

The best part of this dish are the fried onions, so don’t skip this part unless you are allergic to onions or you despise them in which case I think you are nuts (just kidding Tima). Onions are, next to garlic, only the best way to flavour your food. For this recipe you need a staggering 700gr of onions which need to be cut into rings. A lot of people cry when they are cutting onions, the trick is to not form an emotional bond. When that doesn’t work, you can always try one of the other tear-free tricks for cutting onions like wearing goggles or cutting the onion under a vent. Don’t try the trick of cutting it under running water or freeze it before cutting. Just think of what will happen when you throw wet onions in screaming hot oil. Not a good combination…………

Anyway if you don’t have time or don’t want to deep fry, substitute the fried onions with fried shallots/onions from the supermarket (Asian section). It will still be good, but please also try this with homemade fried onions when you are not pressed for time. Can you already tell I like, no love onions? I just couldn’t go without…………………
My biggest fear is that 12 years into our marriage my hubby will say ‘let’s cut onions out of our diet’ and I’ll have to leave in the middle of the night with the kids.

Mejadra from ‘Jerusalem’







I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Source: 'Jerusalem' - Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Servings: 4 people
  • 250 g green or brown lentils
  • 4 large red onions (700gr before peeling)
  • 3 tbs plain flour
  • enough sunflower oil to fry the onion rings
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs coriander seeds
  • 200 g basmati rice
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 350 ml water
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain and set aside.

  2. Peel the onions and slice thinly. Place on a large flat plate, sprinkle with the flour and 1 teaspoon salt, and mix well with your hands. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously. Reduce the heat to medium-high and carefully (it may spit!) add one-third of the sliced onion. Fry for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice golden brown color and turns crispy (adjust the temperature when necessary so the onions don’t fry too quickly and burn). Use the slotted spoon to transfer the onion to a colander lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other two batches of onion; add a little extra oil if needed.

  3. Place a saucepan over medium heat and toast the cumin and coriander seeds for a minute or two. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes. My rice was done in 15 minutes, but rice varies greatly, and different types of basmati can need more time or maybe more water. Follow the directions on the package if you want to be sure it’s cooked well.

  4. When your rice is cooked you remove it from the heat. Take off the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean dishtowel. Seal tightly with the lid leave the pot to steam for 10 minutes. The towel absorbs all the condensation so the rice does not get soggy.

  5. Finally, add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile the mixture in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

Aubergine with black garlic

The mighty aubergine is not a vegetable that everyone can appreciate. I know lots and lots of people who don’t like this vegetable and refuse to give it (another) try. Aubergines come in many varieties. They can be white, yellow or purple, or even striped. It’s spongy texture and subtle taste make it very versatile in cooking. That is if you know what to do with them. When they are white and small they look exactly like eggs, which is why they are also called ‘eggplant’ in some countries.

Good to know about aubergines: whatever you do, don’t use the aubergine emoji to send a text to your parents to let them know that you are having aubergine for dinner  🙂 

Most aubergines don’t need peeling, just a quick rinse. Raw, aubergine is flavourless and bland, but upon cooking, it’s spongy texture absorbs all the flavours of its accompanying ingredients and has a melty, meaty texture which is to die for. That’s why aubergines are often used by vegetarians as a substitute for meat. Aubergines can be roasted, grilled, braised, stuffed, fried, boiled, steamed or sautéed, but my go to method is definitely roasting.

Confession…………. up until about 2012 I was one of those people who didn’t like aubergine. The thought of biting into their spongy texture and bland taste………..blehhh. But over the years, I have come to appreciate them more thanks to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. They have so many great recipes where they roasts them in the oven and then cover them in all kind of yummy ingredients. This is one of those recipes with roasted aubergine which is covered with crunchy fried (regular) garlic, red pepper, fresh herbs and black garlic yoghurt.

I can hear you think ‘black garlic’??? What is that?
Ok, let’s talk black garlic….………you probably are not the only one who never heard of it. Black garlic is made when heads of regular garlic are aged under specialized conditions until the cloves turn a dark black and develop a sticky date-like texture so it’s ideal for spreading. And the taste? Oh my gosh……..the taste is out of this world. Sweet, earthy, minus the invasive smell of regular garlic. Think of it as a umami version of regular garlic. Some people even like to eat the cloves straight from the bulb and say it’s a perfect “sweet meets savoury” mix of molasses-like richness with slight tangy garlic undertones and a melt-in-your mouth consistency similar to soft, dried fruit. It’s said that it’s an acquired taste, but I absolutely love it.

I didn’t have any trouble finding black garlic, it was readily available at my farmers market in my town, and I noticed it’s becoming more and more available everywhere. I even see it in the big supermarkets nowadays. It’s worth sourcing out! If your local stores don’t carry black garlic you can always order it online.

One warning: don’t substitute the black garlic with regular garlic or smoked garlic or any other garlic in this recipe, because they are completely different ingredients. Look for the actual black garlic and try this gorgeous recipe. It’s also the perfect salad for the summertime when the BBQ is smoking and it’s screaming hot outside.

‘It’s getting hot in here so take off all you cloves’.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Aubergine with black garlic
Source: 'Plenty More' - Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Servings: 4
  • 3 medium aubergines (900g)
  • olive oil
  • 8 large black garlic cloves (35g)
  • 150 g Greek yogurt
  • tsp lemon juice
  • 7 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced (30g)
  • 3 red chillies, sliced on the diagonal into 3mm rounds
  • 5 g dill leaves
  • 5 g basil leaves
  • 5 g tarragon leaves
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 230C.

  2. Cover 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

  3. Cut the aubergine in 1,5 cm rounds and brush them with olive oil (you will need approx. 4 tbs) and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place on the prepared sheets and put it in the oven.

  4. Roast in the oven until golden-brown – about 30 minutes. You might need to turn the baking sheet half way so they brown evenly. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

  5. Place the black garlic cloves in the small bowl of a food processor with a quarter of a teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of yogurt and the lemon juice. Blitz for a minute, to form a rough paste, and then transfer to a medium bowl. Mix through the rest of the yogurt and keep in the fridge until needed.

  6. Heat up about 3 tbs of oil in a small saucepan on a high heat. Add the slices of regular garlic and chilli slices, reduce the heat to medium and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the garlic is golden-brown and the chilli is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic and chilli on to a kitchen paper-lined plate. Be careful not to fry the garlic to long as it will get a bitter taste. The roasted garlic and chilli slices give this dish a little “kick”. You can adjust the quantities of either or both of these ingredients to suit your taste.

  7. Arrange the aubergine slices, overlapping, on a platter. Spoon the yoghurt sauce on top, sprinkle over the chilli and garlic and finish with the herbs.

Very Full Roasted Vegetable Tart

I just love a good quiche: it is a good way of eating your veggies or using up whatever leftover veggies you have in the fridge. This recipe is very forgiving and easily adaptable to any budget or preferences in veggies (mushrooms, leeks, broccoli, carrots). The only thing I would not change are the caramelized onions, they are a must in my opinion, but feel free to challenge me and try without. I would love to hear what you think about omitting the onions. I reduced the amount of feta from the original recipe because I think my version is salty enough. I also added an egg to the custard because on some occasions the middle did not set enough to my taste.


Although there is no meat in this quiche I have served it to hard-core carnivores and they loved it.  I have to be honest with you, making this tart will take some time and effort but I promise you it’s absolutely worth it. You can prepare a lot of the components in advance and assemble it just before you want to bake it. Use store bought shortcrust pastry if you can’t be bothered to make your own. I always make my own, but I don’t have that recipe on my blog yet. I will add a link to it when I do.

It’s the perfect dish to take to a potluck, because it’s portable and everyone will love it. I made this to take to friends house for dinner. Everyone brought a dish and we enjoyed everything together while discussing the kids, work and many other things in life. They all loved it so much I did not only share the recipe with them. I had to promise them so teach them how to make it.

I know what you’re thinking……..with the cheeses, cream and eggs it’s not a low calorie recipe, but believe me when I tell you it’s totally worth it. By the way we all know calories don’t count on holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends, after midnight, road trips and dealing with breakups.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Very Full Roasted Vegetable Tart
Source: “Plenty" -  Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Servings: 8 people
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 small courgette
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 120 g ricotta
  • 100 g feta
  • shortcrust pastry to cover a 20-24 cm pastry case (about 300gr)
  • 7 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 medium free-range eggs
  • 150 ml double cream
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 230˚C.

    Cover 2 large baking sheets with foil.

  2. Cut the sweet potatoes and the courgette in 1cm slices. Put them on one of  the prepared baking sheets. Put the baking sheet in the oven.

  3. Cut peppers in half and discard seeds and stem. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and place on the other prepared sheet pan skin side up.

  4. Cut the aubergine in 2cm slices and brush it with olive oil (you will need approx. 4 tbs) and season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place on the prepared sheet pan next to the bell peppers. Put the baking sheet on the top shelf of the oven.

  5. Take out the sweet potato and courgette after 25 minutes and let it cool.

  6. Roast the aubergine and bell peppers for an extra 15 minutes. By then the bell peppers should be charred. Remove from oven and immediately cover the bell peppers with cling foil. Once the bell peppers are cool, the skin will easily come off. Remove the skins and cut into 1cm strips. The aubergine should be golden brown and it might be necessary to turn the baking sheet half way so they brown evenly. Leave the aubergine to cool.

  7. While the veggies are roasting, slice the onions in rings and heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions with the bay leaves and a half teaspoon of salt for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, soft and caramelized. Discard the bay leaves and set aside.

  8. Reduce oven temperature to 160˚C. Line a 24 shallow tart pan (or a 20cm  deep tart pan) with pastry crust. Blind-bake* the crust by lining it with parchment paper, then fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes, lift out the paper and baking beans, and bake for another 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  9. Spread the onions over the bottom of baked tart crust, then top with roasted vegetables. You can cut the vegetables in small cubes or just layer the slices on top of each other. Scatter with half the thyme and dot with small chunks of both cheeses, then the tomato halves, cut-side up.

  10. Whisk the eggs and cream with a half teaspoon salt and a few grinds of  pepper, and pour into the tart; the tomatoes and cheese should remain exposed. Scatter the remaining thyme on top. Bake for 35–45 minutes, until the filling sets and turns golden. Rest for at least 10 minutes, then remove the tart from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Optional: garnish with a little bit of fresh thyme.

  11. * ~ Blind baking prevents a soggy crust in the finished tart.