Is­raeli food — the next big thing

Anthea Ger­rie dis­cov­ers that UK su­per­mar­kets are look­ing to breads and dips from Is­rael for in­spi­ra­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life/food -

SAINS­BURY’S IS selli ng f al af el by t he dozen. Tahini is fly­ing off the shelves in Waitrose. Even Burger King is touti n g a b r a n d - n e w f l a t b r e a d f i l l e d with kofta-style lamb — a long-time favourite snack for late-night nosh­ers in Is­rael.

So it is no sur­prise food de­vel­op­ers from M&S have vis­ited Is­rael to try and get one up on their com­peti­tors in the bread and dip cat­e­gories — foods around­which I s r aeli l i f e re­volves.

“T h e r e is an enor­mous in­ter­est i n food f r o m t h e east­ern Mediter­ranean, and bread is at the heart of it,” says Mar­i­anne Lumb, who re­searches bread for M&S and is pas­sion­ate about the Is­raeli bak­eries where her work has taken her.

“Is­rael, with its in­flu­ences from North Africa and Ge­or­gia as well the Mid­dle East and the Mediter­ranean, is at the heart of where food is at now. We feel it is the next big thing af­ter Ital­ian — and with our cus­tomers get­ting more dif­fi­cult to please, we de­cided to go straight to the melt­ing pot to make sure we had all bases cov­ered. It was a first for us at M&S.”

Lumb vis­ited Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with col­league Ju­lia Bradley, who was look­ing for more au­then­tic hum­mus and other dips. The pair were daz­zled by the sheer di­ver­sity of the of­fer­ings. “We found Ye­menite, Iraqi and Georgian bak­eries in a land where bread is cen­tral to ev­ery­thing. These de­li­cious flat loaves might be stuffed with ev­ery­thing from chard to cheese to mal­low, but the bread it­self was al­ways the star of the show,” says Lumb.

The re­sult of a trip, which took the duo to the well-known known Lechamin and Bar Lechem eat-in n bak­eries in Tel Aviv, and nu­mer­ous bake-houses in the back streets of Jerusalem, rusalem, will be launched on May y 6. There will be two kinds of oval flat­bread en­riched with ex­tra vir­gin olive oil — one plain, the other r topped with a seed eed mix of poppy, y, nigella, pump­kin, sun­flower and lin­seed. seed. And the happy ac­ci­dent of stum­bling across a Ge­org i a n - J e wi s h b a k e r y i n Jerusalem has also brought the first massp r o d u c e d khacha­puri to the UK. This na­tional favouri t e , s e r v e d i n ev­ery cafe and res­tau­rant in Tbil­isi, is Ge­or­gia’s an­swer to pizza — served boat­shape to ac­com­mo­date a pool of cheese in the mid­dle. Its name has been an­gli­cised for M&S cus­tom- ers, who will have to look for “cheese flat­bread” — and the cheese in this bread has been Mediter­raneanised with basil, thyme and rose rose­mary. Vis­its to Jerusalem’s Ma Ma­hane Ye­huda mar­ket and the countl less ess shops p pro­duc­ing humm hum­mus — Abu Sh Shukri is the fam fa­mous one in th the Old City — prompted a r a d i c a l r re­think. e t h M&S a l r e a d y h a s a smooth hum­mus en­riched with olive oil, but i is s now also mak­ing on one topped with whole chick­peas, as favoured by the Arab pur­vey­ors o of I s r a e l ’ s favourite snack. If Lumb and Bradley missed mi a trick, it was in the tahini depart­ment; Is­raelis thin and flavour this na­tive sesame seed paste (a key in­gre­di­ent of hum­mus) to make fan­tas­tic dips and dress­ings.

Vis­i­tors to Is­rael must have caused a surge in tahini sales at Waitrose, where buyer Ly­dia Ger­ratt says: “We have seen a real trend in shop­pers look­ing for a taste of the Mid­dle East in their home-cooked dishes, and tahini is our strong­est seller.”

Waitrose sell a ready-made tahini dress­ing, but it is easy to make one at home by di­lut­ing tahini with yogurt or olive oil and lemon.

PHOTO: ANTHEA GER­RIE

Flat bread, hum­mus and falafel: Is­raeli sta­ples set to take off here

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