Monday, 14 September 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #22 – Pickling

Dee - September 2015’s Tasting Jerusalem theme was a method of food preparation rather than a specific ingredient, so I was able to exercise a degree of creativity with regard to the recipe I chose.  In the end, several different recipes all met around the central theme.

Za’atar Spiced Flatbread with Labneh, Tabbouleh and Pickled Chillies
The idea for this first recipe came not from the book, but from an episode of the ‘Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast’ television series in which he travels to Israel to sample the food there.  It was only briefly mentioned and he didn’t include any recipe for it as part of the programme, but it sounded like something that I would enjoy, so I made several versions of it before arriving at the one I’ll be covering here.
Although it was mentioned as being a popular Israeli lunch time snack, none of its elements would be at all out of place in any part of Jerusalem and I am sure would be enjoyed throughout the entire city. 

The Za’atar flatbreads were one of my own ideas that I first wrote about in the article on Dinner Parties for Tasting Jerusalem #20 (click here for details).  They proved popular and I even received a couple of requests for the recipe.  They are not difficult to make, and I am happy to share it, so here it is;

This recipe makes 4 flatbreads

150g White Bread Flour
100g Wholemeal Bread Flour
5g Salt
3.5g or half a sachet Instant Yeast
1 Tablespoon Za’atar spice
150g Warm Water
Olive Oil (optional)
Mixture of white and black sesame seeds (optional, white seeds toasted if desired)

-Add the flour, yeast salt, za’atar and water to a large bowl and mix them together to make a dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic.
-Wipe the bowl clean and return the dough to it.  Cover the bowl and leave it in a warm place for about 2 hours to prove.
-After 2 hours, knock back the dough and leave it to prove for another hour
-Once the dough has finished proving, weigh it, and divide it into four equal pieces
-Lightly coat the bottom of flat frying pan with a little oil (not too much) and heat the pan
-Roll out the first piece of dough into a circle.  Use a little flour on the worktop to stop the dough sticking to it if necessary, but don’t use too much.
-When the pan is hot, put the rolled out dough onto it and cook it until bubbles start to appear.
-As soon as bubbles appear, turn the dough over and cook the other side.
-Cook the flatbread until it puffs up.  Don’t leave it too long on either side as it will burn.
-If desired, as soon as the flatbread is cooked, brush both sides with a little olive oil and sprinkle one side with a few sesame seeds.
-Put the flatbread on a cooling rack covered with a very slightly damp tea towel.
-Repeat with the other flatbreads, and leave them to cool completely before serving them.
They should be soft in texture and slightly chewy in taste with a small amount of spiciness in each bite.

It was good to make and use some labneh again, after enjoying it as part of Tasting Jerusalem #15 (click here for details).  I was pleased to have been able to make good my promise of revisiting it.  As before, I used Greek yoghurt as the basis, but I still intend to seek out some goats’ yoghurt to see how that works out.

I used the recipe for Tabbouleh on page 85, but we had to make two versions of it; one using the recipe from the book and the other with extra mint replacing the parsley, on account of Jay’s dislike of it.  I hadn’t used pomegranate seeds in a tabbouleh before but they worked well, giving a subtly sweet taste to the salad.  I think I will cut down on the allspice if I make this version again though, as it was very domineering, even with lemon juice and pomegranate.  I had half a chilli left over from another recipe, so chopped that up finely and added it to give it a little extra fire.

The final touch was the pickled chilli, which I sliced in half lengthways and removed the seeds from.  I’d had a jar of pickled chillies for a while and the one used here was one of the last ones, so I can’t remember which recipe I’d used for them.  There was a sliced garlic clove a bay leaf and a few black peppercorns in with the vinegar though.

The photograph of the finished dish shows how it is assembled.  As well as the pickled chilli being placed on top of the tabbouleh, some of the pickling vinegar can also be sprinkled over it to give it an extra hot dressing. 
It is probably best rolled up before being eaten, as this would ensure that each bite included the labneh, salad and chilli, but I ate mine off the plate with a knife and fork, which gave extra hot bites from the chilli when I got to the middle.
If everything is made in advance, this is a quick tasty and filling lunch

Pickled Vegetables
The picture above shows the early stages of two recipes for pickled vegetables. 
The first, on the left, is simply chopped up carrot and swede pickled in a mixture of vinegar from a jar of pickled beetroots and white wine vinegar.  The idea for this recipe came again from Tasting Jerusalem #15, in particular a root vegetable slaw, where I had noticed how, after being mixed with pickled beetroot, some of the vegetables had taken on a visually pleasing colour.  It remains to be seen how the carrot and swede will end up, but initial indications are promising.
The second is Pickled Mixed Vegetables with Curry, from page 307 at the end of the book.  I was intrigued by the spices and use of cider vinegar in this recipe so was keen to make up a batch.  The vegetables used are the other half of the swede that was used in the first recipe and half a cauliflower, which I’ve pickled successfully before.  It has to be one of my favourite pickled vegetables, so I am keen to try it out.

At the time of writing, the jars are sitting in the pantry while the pickling process takes place.  The vegetables should be ready in about five to six days’ time.  In terms of recipes to use them in, I still have six more ‘old’ themes to catch up with as well as the ‘new’ monthly themes, so there should be plenty of opportunities to include them, so this is certainly not their last outing.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest

(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)


  1. What an awesome post! I love joining in on your Tasting Jerusalem adventures! I can't wait to hear out the Pickled Veggies with Curry come out. That recipe is on my to-do list

    1. Thanks Sarene. Really happy that you're enjoying the bog posts. The pickles are probably ready now, so they will be making an appearance on the table soon.

  2. Oh how I wish Sarene and I could jump on a plane and have a feast with you two! Your sheer joy of cooking and sharing is so evident in your posts. How are the pickles coming along? I just bought turnips and beets yesterday in hopes of getting some pickles started in my kitchen. All the spreads I see photographed from Israel, they are always a bright and colorful accompaniment to almost every meal. Love the flatbread recipe - thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much. We both really appreciate the feedback. It would be great to enjoy a meal together. Maybe one day we could all meet up in Jerusalem itself to see how our cooking compares with the real thing.
      We've not served the pickles yet, but may do at the weekend. Looking forward to hearing how yours turn out.