Called Oren, Oded Oren’s debut cookbook is billed as ‘a personal collection of recipes and stories from Tel Aviv.’ The Israeli-born chef has elected to split his book into 10 chapters which largely focus on a particular ingredient - tahini, preserved lemons, tomato - although for practical purposes a few are a bit more general, for example small plates, and fish and meat.
Oren’s dishes are as strikingly simple and focused as those served at his East London restaurant Oren, which launched in 2019 and was well-received (the Dalston restaurant chalked up a rave view from The Sunday Times critic Marina O’Loughlin last year). Recipes for Israeli staples - such as hummus, labneh, pickles, falafel and the aforementioned preserved lemons - are intermixed with more creative, restaurant-style recipes such as sea bass crudo with sheep’s yoghurt and tomatoes; and a play on Caesar salad involving cured sardines and laben kishk (a hard yoghurt cheese that can be swapped out for ricotta salata in a pinch).
The book also tells the story of Oren’s upbringing in Israel’s most populous (and foodie) city. Born to an Ashkenazi Jewish family, Oren cooked in Paris before working in a number of restaurants in his home city including the renowned Turkiz, to which he was handed the reins at just 27 year’s old. He arrived in London in 2011 and eventually got into pop-up scene, impressing The Observer critic Jay Rayner while doing a residency in Camberwell.
"The food that has always spoken to me, and the food that I cook today, is simple, bold, ingredients-focused and fresh. It’s the food from my home; the food that I grew up with," Oren writes. "I’d never thought it would be ‘special’ enough to serve in a restaurant." The chef's dishes are usually very simple - ingredient lists are short and the methods are always straightforward - but as anyone that's ever sampled Oren's falafel, tahini and salad-stuffed pitas will tell you, they're certainly special.
Author: Oded Oren
Number of pages: 255
Standout dish: Grilled potatoes with coriander, lemon and garlic
Publisher and price: Hardie Grant (£26)