Tasting Jerusalem: April Showers Bring May Flours

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Couscous in the Air …

April snuck in like early spring blossoms, nearly tip-toed back out unnoticed, and then burst out of hibernation. The couscous contest entries and burnt eggplant soup appeared all at once during the last week of the month. All the while, Jerusalem: A Cookbook won more accolades at the International Association of Culinary Professionals Awards – garnering both best International book and Cookbook of the Year. And the trend continued at the James Beard Awards on May 3 – where it walked away with Best International Cookbook.

So in the spirit of giving out accolades – thanks so much to Hannah from Blue Kale Road, Michelle from Daily Waffle, Lana from A Hungry Pen, and Amanda from What’s Cooking – Fine Dining My Way for entering Tasting Jerusalem’s first-ever recipe contest. The contest invited readers to send an original or adapted couscous recipe. All four entries were wonderful, which made picking the winner very tough. Ultimately, we chose Hannah for her break-from-tradition recipe, using the usually savory pearl in a dessert pudding. In case you missed any of the recipes, here is a photo of each dish and a link to their post and blog. Hannah won this jar of couscous from Sur La Table  and the other entrants will be getting a thank you gift of Sadaf Baharat spice mix which will come in handy in future months of cooking.

The Winner – Blue Kale Road’s Orange-scented Couscous Pudding, made use of that orange blossom water you might have from February:

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo from Hannah of the blog Blue Kale Road

Lana of the blog A Hungry Pen created this lovely riff on traditional tabbouleh using the couscous instead of bulgur, teaching us all how to make the most of our pantry:

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo from Lana of the blog Bibberche

Michelle from the Daily Waffle, wrote this lovely story about her grandma and created this unique dish using roasted tomatoes for the vinaigrette – YUM!

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo from Michelle of the blog Daily Waffle

And Amanda from the blog What’s Cooking who just joined our group subbed in couscous in the luscious hot yogurt soup from the cookbook:

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo from Amanda of the blog What’s Cooking – Fine Dining My Way

And here are a couple of posts about the Burnt eggplant and mograbieh soup, pg 141 which was part of our April recipes:

Susan, from the blog Couscous and Consciousness, who joins us from New Zealand!:

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo by Susan from the blog Couscous and Consciousness

Hannah from the blog Blue Kale Road, in the same post as her winning pudding:

Tasting Jerusalem

A few of us also made the Couscous with Tomato and Onion – a simple homey dish that would do beautifully with the addition of some green herbs or other spices. We found the instructions in the recipe calling for the browning of the crust at the end on LOW to need adjusting – the crisp crust required a jolt of heat at the end. But it is a comforting dish, especially with the tomato taste that permeates the couscous. Worth a try for sure.

Tasting Jerusalem

And one last shout out to Orly from the blog Yumivore – she made her own couscous at home – wow! Hope we see a blog post about that kitchen accomplishment!

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo from Orly of the blog Yumivore

One last thing: June’s Tasting Jerusalem topic is preserved lemons. They take a month to cure, so we advise you to start now.

If you cooked or wrote about a dish and we missed it in this round-up, please drop us a note in the comments below, the Facebook Page, or via email and we’ll add it in!

May Flours and Recipes

Unlike April, May is here with a bit of a roar as many of us start to plan for upcoming celebrations – Mother’s Day, graduations, Father’s Day. So it seemed like the right time to bake! Pick any recipe from the baked items in the book, starting on page 258 – whatever tickles your fancy or fits your celebration best. And like last month, one of the recipes is available with a photo and recipe verbiage – the Spice Cookies! So if you know anyone who wants to cook with us but doesn’t have the book yet, send them this post and tell them to get started!

Tasting Jerusalem

Photo credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2012


See the end of the post for the recipe and you can grab the photo here or send me an email beth (at) omgyummy (dot) com.

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.”

Spice Cookies

Please include the following credit if you use the recipe and photo:

“Reprinted with permission from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.”

Photo credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2012

Tasting Jerusalem
5 from 1 vote

Spice Cookies

These are very loosely inspired by duvshanyot, or Pfeffernusse. They are actually more closely related to an Italian spice cookie and are hugely popular on the sweet counter at Ottolenghi over Easter and Christmas. The recipe was adapted from the excellent "The International Cookie Cookbook" by Nancy Baggett."
Course Dessert
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword Middle Eastern spice cookie, spice cookie recipe
Prep Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 24 cookies
Calories 218 kcal


  • ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp currants 125 g
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • scant 2 cups all-purpose flour 240 g
  • tsp best-quality cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp each ground cinnamon allspice, ginger, and nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 5 oz good-quality dark chocolate (150 g) coarsely grated
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (125 g) at room temperature
  • cup superfine sugar 125 g
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp grated lemon zest
  • ½ tsp grated orange zest
  • ½ large free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp diced candied citrus peel


  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 11/3 cups confectioners’ sugar 160 g


  1. Soak the currants in the brandy for 10 minutes. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and dark chocolate. Mix well with a whisk.
  2. Put the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon and orange zest in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment and beat to combine but not aerate much, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg and mix for about1 minute. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the currants and brandy. Mix until everything comes together.
  3. Gently knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it comes together and is uniform. Divide the dough into 1¾-oz / 50g chunks and shape each chunk into a perfectly round ball. Place the balls on 1 or 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about ¾ inch / 2 cm apart, and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top firms up but the center is still slightly soft. Remove from the oven. Once the cookies are out of the oven, allow to cool for only 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, whisk together the glaze ingredients until a thin and smooth icing forms. Pour 1 tablespoon of the glaze over each biscuit, leaving it to drip and coat the biscuit with a very thin, almost transparent film. Finish each with 3 pieces of candied peel placed at the center. Leave to set and serve, or store in an airtight container for a day or two.

Recipe Notes

“Reprinted with permission from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.” Photo credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2012


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12 Responses to Tasting Jerusalem: April Showers Bring May Flours

  1. Couscous & Consciousness May 30, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    You did a great round-up of all those delicious couscous recipes, Beth – I’m really looking forward to seeing all the May baking recipes.

    I had thought about making other things, but ended up making the Spice cookies – gorgeous. Here’s the link:

  2. Amanda @ Marocmama May 26, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    I found out about this cooking group from West of the Loop. Is it open for anyone to participate in monthly? I would really love to be a part of the group – Jerusalem is one of my very favorite cookbooks!

    • Beth Lee May 26, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Come on down Amanda! Everyone is welcome. We communicate on this blog, on our FB page (Tasting Jerusalem), the hashtag #TastingJrslm, and now on a google group also called Tasting Jerusalem. Jump in anytime, join the conversation and the cooking!

  3. Kimberly at Hungry Goddess May 15, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE what you are doing and the Hungry Goddess is jumping into the yummy fray! Plenty is my favorite cookbook but I am loving Jerusalem and looking forward to baking this month!

    • Beth Lee May 26, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      So glad to have you Kim! You’re blog’s content and energy are fantastic and can’t wait to see how that adds to the cooking and conversation on Tasting Jerusalem. Plenty is an amazing book and the layering of flavors in Jerusalem, as you said, is just nothing short of magical. Welcome, welcome, welcome!

  4. another jennifer May 11, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Wow. Those couscous inspired recipes all look so good! I want to taste test them all!

    • Beth Lee May 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by Jennifer! Glad they are making you hungry!

  5. Hannah May 8, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Wow, I love all the cooking that went on in April! First of all, I’m so impressed that Orly made her own couscous. It must be heavenly! And thank you again to you and Sarene for hosting the contest. I’m honored to have won, especially given the other lovely, inspired couscous recipes – I can’t wait to try them all!

    I’m looking forward to May’s theme and I’m eyeing the tahini cookies. 🙂

    • Beth Lee May 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      It was an interesting but fascinating month – so much happened right at the end but it was so inspired – the roasted tomato vinaigrette, your dessert, the homemade couscous and all that eggplant!! And I’m excited about this month too – I really want to make the krantz cake/babka – just hoping for a slow enough day to get it done!

  6. Beth Lee May 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Thanks Orly! Let us know when the post is up – we will promote it and add it to this post. Such a great way to end the month with someone making couscous from scratch! Can’t wait to read about it.

  7. @yumivore May 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    What an incredible round-up of couscous inspired recipes for Tasting Jerusalem that all look so appetizing. The yogurt soup (in the book) is such an interesting dish, tangy with incredible bite, creative use of couscous for this exercise! I haven’t tried the tomato and onion, but your notes inspired me to bump it up on the list. Many thanks for the shout-out Beth! A post on making couscous by hand is in the works. Meanwhile, savoring this one. And to a sweet May!

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