For many people the first proper introduction to Middle Eastern flavours in general, and Israeli-Palestinian tastes in particular, was the award-winning, ground-breaking and then quickly genre defining cookbook Jerusalem: A Cookbook (2012). The story of the chefs who co-wrote it is as compelling and delightful as the recipes themselves.

Sami and Yotam. Photo courtesy of the Telegraph

The friendship of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi took a while to form, as Sami explained to the Independent in 2013, “We were born in the same year; we grew up in the same city, Jerusalem; and as adults we moved on to Tel Aviv at about the same time, even frequenting the same restaurants. But we never met until we’d both moved to London.”

Although the restaurants [three Ottolenghi branches and the Soho restaurant Nopi] and a range of herbs and spices for the home pantry, are named after co-founder Yotam Ottolenghi, the business was started as an equal partnership with Sami Tamimi. That relationship endures, even if Yotam has received the lion’s share of attention.

Yotam is quick to remind people that Sami is an equal creative partner. “Should I have called it, say, Ottolenghi-Tamimi? I always feel guilty about it and seek to justify the name. I actually didn’t want to call it Ottolenghi at first, but [my business partner] Noam thought it sounded mysterious and exotic, and I was happy to be in the limelight.”

Naming controversies aside, it’s interesting the way London was essential to the creation of Jerusalem. Yotam said, “having this ability, living in London, to disengage from the conflict and live a normal life without being labelled a Jewish Israeli, or Sami a Palestinian Arab, was great.”

This recipe is a winner. Even if it requires far more ingredients than you think could ever be possible, which is both a criticism, and the joy, of nearly all of their recipes. But they are so worth it.

From Jerusalem:

The extravagant use of herbs in our cooking is definitely to be blamed on Jerusalem. Herbs are sold there by the bucketload. Palestinian peasant women come into the city with baskets brimming with fresh produce from the countryside to sell on the kerbside. 

This pie can happily sit at the centre of a light vegetarian meal. 

Herb Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print


  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry 
  • 160g onion, diced 
  • 500g Swiss chard, stems and leaves thinly shredded but kept separate 
  • 150g celery, thinly sliced 
  • 50g spring onion, chopped 
  • 50g rocket (arugula)
  • 30g flat-leaf parsley, chopped 
  • 30g mint, chopped 
  • 20g dill, chopped 
  • 120g anari or ricotta cheese, crumbled 
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated 
  • 60g feta, crumbled 
  • the grated zest of 1 lemon 
  • 2 medium free-range eggs 
  • 1/3 tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated 
  • 60g feta, crumbled 
  • the grated zest of 1 lemon 
  • 2 medium free-range eggs 
  • 1/3 tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper 
  • ½ tsp caster sugar 
  • 250g filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F


Pour the olive oil into a deep frying-pan. Add the onion and sauté for eight minutes over a medium heat without browning. Add the chard stems and the celery and continue cooking for four minutes, stirring. Add the chard leaves, increase the heat to medium-high and stir as you cook for four minutes, until the leaves wilt. Add the spring onion, rocket and herbs and cook for two minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander. Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper and sugar and mix well. 

Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush it with olive oil. Cover with another sheet and continue in the same manner until you have five layers all covering an area large enough to line the sides and base of a 22cm pie dish, plus extra to hang over the rim. Line the pie dish with the pastry, fill with the herb mix and fold the excess pastry over the edge of the filling, trimming the pastry as necessary to create a 2cm border. 

Make another set of five layers of filo brushed with oil and place them over the pie. Scrunch the pastry to create an uneven top and trim the edges so it just covers the pie. Brush with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes or until the filo turns golden. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

CategoriesMiddle East