Author(s): Yael Shochat with David Cohen
An Israeli mother - and restaurateur - shares her love of food from the eastern Mediterranean and beyond with a range of delicious recipes from her kitchen.
Middle Eastern food is on a roll among New Zealand readers and diners. Cookery writers such as the Israeli chef and cookery writer Yotam Ottolenghi have surged into the popular cooking consciousness. It's not hard to see why. Food from the Middle East and around the Mediterranean Sea : whether from North Africa or from Turkey, from Iran or Israel : is colourful, unpretentious, intriguing and (for the most part) relatively easy to prepare. Many of the best dishes are naturally low in fat, cholesterol, sugar and salt.
Now a celebrated Auckland personality and restaurateur is offering a galaxy of recipes with locally sourced ingredients. Ima Cuisine draws on the successful work of Haifa-born Yael Shochat, the founder and manager of Ima, a popular restaurant and deli/cafe in Fort Street, central Auckland. Written with the home cook in mind, the dishes here are straightforward, simple to follow and work every time. Recipe and chapter introductions give valuable information about how local dishes are prepared and served, while the comprehensive glossary explains unfamiliar ingredients (which are steadily more common in supermarkets today).
Yael Shochat Cooking has always been the focus of my life. I grew up in the Israeli portside city of Haifa, eating fresh local market foods at home and at the local Arabic and Jewish restaurants. My introduction to the kitchen, like a lot of other kids, was helping my mum make cakes and getting to lick the bowl. Israeli food is a vibrant and distinctive combination of Mediterranean, North African, European, and Middle Eastern, and when I came to New Zealand in late 1997 with a young family, the food I loved was very hard to find. I missed it terribly, and so I opened the Lunch Box on Shortland Street, which expanded to become Ima Cuisine on Fort Street. Ima (pronounced eema) means mother in Hebrew.
David Cohen, a Wellington-based author and intermittent restaurant critic, has written frequently about food during his quarter-century in journalism. David has visited the Middle East many times during the same period, and shares Yael's passion for the region's cuisines. He entertains friends with his own Persian dishes.