Tasting Jerusalem: Goodbye Roses, Hello Barberries!

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Goodbye February …

It was a fragrant and fascinating month here at Tasting Jerusalem and I, for one, am still enjoying the lingering perfume of our rose-infused savory and sweet creations. We offered up three recipes to explore:

  • Pan-fried Fish with Harissa and Rose
  • Ghraybeh (a butter cookie)
  • Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Rose Water

A few astute Tasting Jerusalem participants noted that the Watercress and Chickpea Soup also used rose water and gave the recipe a hearty recommendation. We’ll have to add this to the list when we learn about ras el hanout – another spice mixture originating in the Middle East.

Tasting Jerusalem

cookies w pistachios and rose waterMy personal favorite moment of the month was this note I received from a friend after giving him a plate of ghraybeh, clearly marked with a bright pink stickie identifying the PLATEFUL of cookies as being for him AND his wife. The email said:

Dear Beth,

I regret to tell you that Olga did not have a chance to taste your delicious cookies…  they were all gone before I could take them home.

Thanks for making those for us.

Not surprisingly, he didn’t cc: his wife on that email.

Hello March …

This month we move on to another fascinating ingredient: barberries or in Persian: zereshk. They are tart and tangy, resembling miniature cranberries in form and texture.

Tasting JerusalemYotam Ottolenghi sells barberries on his online store.  (In case you want to be authentic and use the same barberries he does at his London restaurant.) He describes them as “Small dried sweet and sour Iranian berries. Their sharp flavour and vibrant colour accentuate many dishes, the result being a wonderful rubied appearance.”

They offer little bursts of tartness to dishes, popularly featuring rice and chicken, including the well-known dish zereshk polow that you’ll see featured in Persian restaurants. Persian wedding rice has barberries, almonds, pistachios, raisins, orange peel, saffron, butter and sugar for a sweet-tart effect.

Iran is the largest producer of barberries, so you’ll find them readily available at Middle Eastern grocers. Or purchase them online through Amazon.com. You can also substitute chopped dried sour cherries (like the ones from Trader Joe’s) or currants soaked in a bit of lemon juice, write Ottolenghi and Tamimi in Jerusalem: A Cookbook.

There are four dishes in the book that feature barberries – two are main dishes and and two are sides.

  • Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice, pg 184 – 5
  • Yogurt and Herbs, with Lamb Meatballs, pg 198-9
  • Fava Bean Kuku, pg 38 – 9 (Sarene is preparing it this weekend and will give us a primer next week on how to work with the favas)
  • Pistachio and Mixed Herbs, with Saffron Rice, pg 104 – 5

I, for one, am tingling with anticipation to taste these tart berries in a dish. Good luck hunting down your source and let’s start cooking! This month we will be starting a group Pinterest board so look for a notice on Twitter and Facebook asking for your Pinterest information so we can send you an invitation!

If you’re new to the group, welcome! Here are our “rules” (there really aren’t any except to cook and share your experiences.)


Group Guidelines:

  1. How often will we cook: We’ll pick a new set of recipes monthly to allow us all to fit in the cooking when we can and to find any ingredients that might not be available at your typical grocery store stop.
  2. Do I need to cook all the recipes?: We offer up several recipes to fit your taste buds, menus, schedules – cook as many or as few as you desire. But once you start cooking from this book, you probably won’t stop!
  3. What do I need to participateThe cookbook! Plus an interest in cooking, willingness to try new flavors, and an electronic device that communicates via the Internet. We will always post the month’s information in a blog post via omgyummy.com so you can subscribe to Beth’s blog to be guaranteed to receive it or just check in frequently via the Facebook page or Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm
  4. How to share what you cook: Tasting Jerusalem is open to anyone. You do not have to be a blogger or food professional of any sort. But if you have a camera, we encourage you to share photos of your dishes on Twitter or the Facebook page or Instagram, using the hashtag #TastingJrslm – we all love to see the results of your kitchen adventures. New to these types of social media? Just drop me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com – I’ll be glad to help you get started.
  5. What recipes can be published and how to publish: We expect to cook through most, if not all, of the recipes in the cookbook over time. As such, for those of us blogging or writing about our experiences in any way, it’s important that we don’t include the recipe in our blog posts, unless Ten Speed Press has approved its use. The goal of the group is to learn together and enrich our experience using this cookbook, not create an online version of it. We are in touch with Ten Speed Press to find out which recipes we can post. For an example of another group that writes about their cooking but doesn’t post each recipe, please visit French Fridays with Dorie. If you legitimately change a recipe, rewrite the headnote and instructions, and choose to share it, please say you’ve adapted it, giving credit to the source including a link to purchase the cookbook.
  6. What if I have questions? Sarene and I will be monitoring the Facebook page and Twitter hashtag #TastingJrslm almost continuously so just leave us a note there. If you see a question and know the answer, jump on in before us. Part of the fun of the group will be each of us sharing our own knowledge, perspectives and ideas.
  7. What to include if you write a blog post: If you do post about what you cook, please let us know – we will link to it. And feel free to post it on the Facebook page and Twitter with the #TastingJrslm hashtag. We’d also appreciate it if you would include this verbiage in the context of your post:

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to omgyummy.com, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, and liking our Facebook page.”

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14 Responses to Tasting Jerusalem: Goodbye Roses, Hello Barberries!

  1. Jackie August 5, 2019 at 4:30 am #

    Hi Beth,
    I chanced upon this blog when I googled for barberries. This cooking club of yours sounds fun and interesting.
    I just bought a packet of barberries and not too sure what to do with them. I ll give your recipe a go.
    Thank you

    Perth, Western Australia

    • Beth Lee August 5, 2019 at 7:12 am #

      Hi Jackie! So think of barberries a bit like dried cranberries but smaller and probably a bit more tart and tangy. Also, they never come with added sugar as cranberries often do, at least here in the states. So any place that a raisin or cranberry might work, a barberry might work. Though rarely in sweet applications – almost always savory. What do you like to cook? Besides the suggested recipes, I can recommend some other ways to use them. And please join our Facebook Groups – we are still cooking and chatting – but informally – we started a Tasting Jerusalem Cooking Community to support our page so everyone can post and share their cooking questions, ideas, creations etc. It’s all about learning and sharing.https://www.facebook.com/groups/TastingJerusalem/. So glad you found me and took the time to write!

  2. Carla February 28, 2018 at 12:34 pm #

    Very excited to use the Barberries I purchased in Nova Scotia at the wonderful farm market in Halifax.

    • Beth Lee February 28, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

      What do you plan to cook with them first? I really love them in rice and in chicken dishes but a friend recently used them in some muffins and was raving about them!

  3. orly @yumivore March 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    I hope to get a taste of the Ghraybeh, but it sounds like they’re long gone! I’m working on being persuaded to try the fish (I’m so used to having rose petals in sweet dishes). Onto barberries!

    • Beth Lee March 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

      Oh try the fish – it’s wonderful and easy to make. But oh those barberries – fabulous!

  4. Carli March 3, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    I’ve never heard of barberries before. I’m not sure if they’ll have something like that out in the country. I’ll have to take a look.

    • Beth Lee March 4, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      Try online ordering as an alternative – Amazon, Sadaf, Ottolenghi’s store. I just used them last night for the first time – such a great flavor in such a small berry. I hope you can get them! Let me know.

  5. Melissa | Dash of East March 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Oh, how fun! Barberries totally caught my eye because there’s a Persian restaurant about 10 minutes from our house that makes the most delicious barberry rice.

    Paul and I have been obsessing over Persian food lately. I would love to join in the cooking group! Luckily there’s a Middle Eastern grocery store near us, I will go searching for barberries next week!

    • Beth Lee March 3, 2013 at 8:22 am #

      I am so glad you are going to join us! The hashtag on Twitter and Instagram is #TastingJrslm and when you get a chance, pop over and like our Facebook page – Tasting Jerusalem. I’m also working on a group Pinterest board and Google plus but am also trying not to over-extend. The idea is to learn about the new ingredients and combinations and share what we’re doing – whether it’s through a blog post or just photos and conversation. And if you have any questions – just leave them on Twitter or FB – we check really frequently.

      Zereshk Polow is such a wonderful dish in a Persian restaurant – oh that rice is so fluffy and yet each grain is visible and then tart and tangy barberries – yum! I’m hungry just thinking about it!

  6. Hannah March 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

    I have my barberries and can’t wait to dive in! I’ll be sharing about my February rose cooking in my next post…this week got away from me. Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

    • Beth Lee March 3, 2013 at 8:18 am #

      Oh I can’t wait to see your rose post! Hope you are having a great weekend Hannah.

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