06/26/2014 07:00 am ET | Updated Jun 27, 2014

Decoding Yotam Ottolenghi's Exotic Ingredients In 'Jerusalem'

Flickr: Mohanad Alsous

It's been about a year since Yotam Ottolenghi's latest cookbook, Jerusalem, was the talk of the town. Every food media outlet touted its high graces for a long while after its release -- and with good reason. This cookbook is a masterpiece. It appeals to everyone -- meat lovers, vegetarians and those looking to explore new flavors in their home cooking -- and it promises excellent meals every time. Jerusalem is one of those cookbooks that will surely stand the test of time.

Here we are over a year later, and we're still in love with this cookbook. As good as Plenty was -- Ottolenghi's first big splash -- Jerusalem is that much better. But as we found ourselves leafing through the tome yet another time, we realized that there were (not surprisingly) a lot of exotic ingredients that many of us don't keep stocked in our pantry. And, quite possibly, a good amount of those which many home cooks have likely never even heard of.

To ensure that all of you out there who own and love Jerusalem are getting the most of your treasured cookbook, we've put together a quick glossary defining some of the lesser-known, yet incredibly important ingredients that make a frequent appearance in the book. We wouldn't want you to miss out on the shakshuka just because you have no idea what labneh is. Let's get to it.

  • 1 Za'atar
    Casey Broadwater
    Za'atar is a popular spice blend in the Middle East. It's a mixture of sumac, sesame seeds and dried herbs. This is one spice mix you'll definitely want in your house -- just a pinch on top of a salad, pita or meat goes a long way. Plus, it's in a ton of Ottolenghi recipes. You can make it yourself, too.
  • 2 Pomegranate Molasses
    Flickr: Jessica and Lon Binder
    Pomegranate molasses is not molasses at all, but a syrup made from pomegranate juice. It's super tart, and pretty pungent, so a little goes a long way -- a bottle will last you a good long while.
  • 3 Dried Barberries
    Flickr: Fatemah Alhusayni
    Barberries are incredibly sour and tart, but just like cranberries they sweeten well with a little sugar. The fruit originated in Persia, but is now grown across the globe.
  • 4 Ras el hanout
    Flickr: Dennis
    Ras el hanout is a spice mix that's common in Northern Africa. There is no one definitive recipe, and the spice combination will change from shop to shop. Commonly used ingredients include, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, peppercorn, paprika, fenugreek, and turmeric. You can easily make your own, just be sure to start with fresh spices.
  • 5 Mograbieh
    Flickr: Hisham Assaad
    Mograbieh is similar to couscous only larger. It's referred to as Lebanese couscous -- and it's also the name of a famous Lebanese dish that uses this ingredient.
  • 6 Sumac
    Yamini Chao via Getty Images
    Sumac is a reddish-purple spice that boasts a lemony flavor. It's made from ground flowers, so you know it's got to be pretty great.
  • 7 Tamarind Paste
    Flickr: See Reeves
    Tamarind is a fruit that can often be found as a paste or frozen pulp. It comes from warm-weather destinations and is used in sweet and savory dishes alike. In Mexico, it's often used to make aguas frescas.
  • 8 Freekeh
    Flickr: Hayden Flour Mills
    Freekeh is a cereal food made from green wheat. It's an ancient Middle Eastern food. If you can't find it, you can substitute pearl barley. It's not quite the same, but it'll work.
  • 9 Passata
    Flickr: Terre Italiane
    Passata is a tomato puree. "Passata" literally translates to "passed," which in cooking language translates to "passed through a food mill." Its thickness lands somewhere between tomato paste and tomato sauce -- and it is never seasoned.
  • 10 Labneh
    Flickr: Mohanad Alsous
    Labneh is a rich and tangy Lebanese yogurt cheese. You can find it at specialty markets or make it yourself.

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