Israeli cooking has been a passion of mine for my entire life, and while I love exploring those flavours, finding the right recipes isn't always easy. However, I can confidently say that this problem has been solved. Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli chef based in London, has been popularizing Israeli cooking across the world and has had great success as both a restaurateur and cookbook author. His latest cookbook, Simple, is truly groundbreaking.

This cookbook is full of easy yet sophisticated recipes that highlight the wonders of Israeli cuisine. It's perfect for the everyday cook looking to explore new Israeli flavours.

Who Is Yotam Ottolenghi?

This is Yotam Ottolenghi. He was born in Israel into an academic family. He started his career as a student in a highly competitive combined Bachelors and Graduate degree program on track for a doctorate in comparative literature at Yale. Not really the average path for a world-renowned chef, right? After completing his thesis, Ottolenghi set aside his academic life, moved to London, and took up a career in the culinary world.

My first introduction to Ottolenghi was by reading his cookbook called Jerusalem. In this book, he highlighted his experiences growing up in a Jewish family in Israel, the flavours he was exposed to, and the foods he grew up eating.

Ottolenghi's previous cookbook was enriched by a co-author, Sami Tamimi. Tamimi grew up in a traditional Muslim home in the east end of Jerusalem, a predominantly Arabic community.

Apart from the masterfully-composed recipes and photographs, this book overcomes an inherent and massive hurdle—blending two strongly divided nations. The book sets aside geopolitical divisions and finds a common ground through food.

Though the recipes in Jerusalem are unbelievably delicious, many are complicated and include ingredients most people don’t have. That is why I’m here to tell you about Simple.  

So What Is Simple?

The aim of this cookbook, as the name suggests, is to highlight simple recipes and make delicious Israeli cooking accessible to a wide array of home cooks. Like Jerusalem, the recipes in this book are extraordinary. Ottolenghi highlights the beauty of Israeli flavours and ingredients with a strong emphasis on vegetables and plant-based dishes.

The raw and cooked veg sections of this book include numerous delicious recipes that exemplify this concept. They include recipes like a raw chopped salad with tahini and za’atar, curried lentil, tomato and coconut soup, and hot charred cherry tomatoes with cold yogurt. These dishes focus on the commonly found vegetables and spices in Israel while adding a few extra ingredients for more flavour and depth.

Aside from the vegetables, there are amazing pasta, meat, and fish recipes, my favourite being a chicken dish with miso, ginger, and lime. All of these recipes in the book stem from Ottolenghi's childhood influences and Israeli culture.

Regardless of who you are or where you come from, Ottolenghi's recipes, stories, and wisdom have the power to inspire a love for food. His words continually drive my passion for cooking and I hope he can do the same for you.

If I haven’t yet convinced you that this book is an absolute must-buy, here is my favourite recipe from Simple that I’m sure will do the trick. ­­This pan-fried salmon has an amazing pine nut salsa on the side—it's simple and super quick. It will become a staple in your dinner rotation. 

Interested in learning more? Click here to read another article about Israeli cooking!