When Itamar Srulovich was growing up in Jerusalem, meals at his grandmother Esther’s home in Tel Aviv leaned towards Yemen, where part of the family had emigrated from around the 1930s. She prepared hilbe, Yemenite soup, slow braised beef called shawiya, and kubaneh, a rich and complex Yemenite bread.
But, when the Egyptian side of the family would come over, Itamar explains, Esther’s menu would change. She would make dishes from Alexandria, where she grew up: small okra cooked in tomato sauce, mulukhiyah, a bitter green, and a traditional breakfast of cooked fava beans called fool. “We wouldn’t have it very often, but when we did it was… such a ceremony,” Itamar explained. It felt both special and fun. Everyone at the table would customize their bowl as they liked with onions and or tahini. Esther wasn’t the only family member to make the beloved breakfast dish. Itamar’s aunt Sima is a master of fool.
“We wouldn’t have it very often, but when we did it was… such a ceremony”
Itamar cannot remember the first time he made the dish — it’s long been part of his repertoire — but it was years before he and Sarit would become the owners of London’s celebrated Middle Eastern spots Honey & Co., Honey & Spice, and Honey & Smoke.
He brought the memory of the recipe with him when they moved to England, as they say, by “mistake.” They set out to travel and work in various kitchens around Europe, but fell in love with London and built a new home there. They found their way into kitchens captained by acclaimed chef Yotam Ottolenghi and ultimately set out to open their own restaurant.
“And when we did,” Sarit explains. “It was completely different than what we were looking for.” The duo had planned to open a grill house and to serve barbecue, but they opened in a small space and couldn’t afford to change much, so they started to cook what they call “home food.” “We had a home kitchen basically,” Itamar said. “It’s still a home kitchen,” Sarit prodded. There’s a four burner stove and seating for 25 people.
The division between their home and restaurant became porous, with dishes slipping back and forth between the two. At home, Sarit and Itamar made fool with lentils, which lightens the traditionally heavy dish. With a glut of lentils one day at the restaurant, they decided to try the recipe in the tiny kitchen. It quickly caught on not only with customers but with their staff some of whom have brought recipe into their own home. They shared the recipe with us from their latest book, fittingly titled: Honey & Co. at Home.