Chasing Smoke: Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant is written by the husband and wife duo behind the well-known London restaurant, Honey & Smoke.
Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich both grew up in Israel, surrounded by the rich food culture. They’re both trained chefs, met each other in the kitchen and eventually married and moved to London to open Honey & Smoke.
Chasing Smoke is their fourth cookbook and is themed around Middle Eastern foods cooked completely on the grill. It follows their journeys around the Middle East from childhood memories in Israel to the countryside of Jordan. From backstreets of Cairo to the idyllic beaches of Greece and many places in between. Along the way they’ve picked up ideas for cooking and meals and this is what they share in the mouth-watering pages of Chasing Smoke.
It’s a cookbook that brilliantly combines delicious recipes with food and travel writing. It’s written with such vivid detail it brings out a wanderlust in you and a yearning to explore the Levant by the food of its people and cultures. It’s a cookbook you sit down with and read cover to cover, not one you browse just to mark off recipes to make.
As all dishes are made over fire, the book opens with a detailed explanation of making the perfect BBQ (or braai as we would call it here). And while it’s recommended to cook over fire (the taste, the taste!), they’ve kindly included instructions for each recipe to cook without a BBQ. The recipes are split into food categories; fruit & vegetables, fish & seafood, birds, lamb & other meats, and breads.
It’s one of my favorite cookbooks (I love Middle Eastern flavours) and a cookbook I’ll be turning to over summer to zhouzh up summer braais and inspire more outdoor cooking and dining.
I’m sharing their recipe for whole burnt aubergine with charred egg yolk, tahini and chili sauce. Really good vegetable “braai” recipes are few and far between and they’ve provided a chapter dedicated to produce, amongst which is this delicious and unique recipe. A recipe you can add to a braai as a veggie option or turn into a meal in itself by serving with some fresh flatbreads (I made these). The aubergine takes on a delicious smoky flavor from the fire and perfectly combines with smooth tahini, spicy chili sauce and a rich egg yolk which is charred with a hot piece of coal, giving you a dish that has an unmistakable Middle Eastern flavour.
Whole Burnt Aubergine with Charred Egg Yolk, Tahini & Chili Sauce
- 2 aubergines
- 50 grams tahini paste
- 50 ml cold water
- 2 egg yolks
Lemon, Chilli & Garlic Dressing
- 1 red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 green chilli deseeded and finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
- juice of 1-2 lemons, enough to make about 80ml
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon castor sugar (I left this out)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh parsley chopped
- Place the whole aubergines on a very hot grill, or directly on the embers if you prefer. Let them scortch all over, turning occasionally, until the skin is charred and the flesh is so soft that it seems they are going to collapse.
- While the aubergines are cooking, combine all the dressing ingredients apart from the chopped parsely. Seperately mix the tahini paste with the water to form a thick whipped cream consistency.
- Once the aubergines are fully blackened, remove from the grill onto serving plates and split open to reveal the flesh.
- Add the parsley to the dressing and mix well. Use half the dressing to douse the flesh of the slit aubergines, then top with the whipped tahini and place a raw egg yolk in the centre of each one. Using tongs, carefully remove a hot charcoal from the fire and lightly char the top of each yolk. Return the coal to the fire and drizzle the remaining dressing over the aubergines before serving.
To Cook without a BBQ
- Cook the aubergines on your highest grill setting or in a super hot oven at 240°C, remembering to pierce them with a fork beforehand, as they have a tendacy to explode.
- Scorch one side, then rotate and char the next section until the flesh of the aubergine is completely soft. Use a blow torch to scorch the surface of the egg yolk, or simply heat the back of a spoon over a flame and use that instead.
Recipe is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Images are by Nutreats Food Photography Studio.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.