Ella Walker meets the Honeys, aka husband and wife chefs Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, on the release of their third cookbook

MIDDLE Eastern food has entered the mainstream - who isn't addicted to dredging pitta through craggy mounds of hummus? Who doesn't scatter pomegranate seeds on everything? But there's more to the cuisine than chickpeas and jewel-like fruits, as you'll know if you've picked up Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer's first two cookbooks.

The husband and wife duo, who hail from Israel, run three London stores and restaurants under the banner Honey & Co., but their new cookbook, Honey & Co. At Home, lets loose recipes from their private lives. Writing it was a process of rediscovery, because, after 15 years in professional kitchens (including a stint with Yotam Ottolenghi) and then launching Honey & Co., there hadn't been much time for home cooking and entertaining.

They'd never even had weekends, and "it takes skill to do a weekend properly," says Srulovich. "We're getting quite good at them now," adds Packer. "Our life is starting to get back to normal, and we're spending more time at home and with each other again."

Sharing that, in recipe form, just made sense. "Spread the joy," says Packer. "It's just food, it's not patented, it's not magic, it's not rocket science. If we enjoy it, and then someone else makes it and enjoys it - perfect."

There are the potato and feta fritters drizzled in thyme honey that Srulovich calls his "secret weapon" and the tinned tuna cakes they are forever dipping into their store cupboard to make after a long day. The book is woven through with stories and memories too. Srulovich tells of eating grilled anchovies in Greece, of picking figs in the Balearic Islands, and most charmingly, of their two weddings - an elopement to Cyprus, where they got hitched in a town hall above a KFC, and a party back home in Israel. "It was such a disaster," he recalls happily.

"It was so funny, because the Cyprus one was amazing, very romantic and sweet above the KFC, and then we had to come back and we decided to cook for ourselves for our own party," says Packer

The Honeys will be spending the summer demoing recipes from the book and appearing at festivals, and then it's back to work with their kids (that's what they call their restaurants) and their Honey & Co. team.

"It is not always clear why you would get up so early in the morning to start smelling like fish or like smoke or lamb. The only people who smell nice at the end of a shift are on pastry - they smell like cakes and sugar and vanilla," says Packer with a grin. "It has to be fun as well, or no one would do it."

Honey & Co. At Home: Middle-Eastern Recipes From Our Kitchen by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (Pavilion Books, £26; Photography: Patricia Niven)


"No hedgehogs will be harmed during the preparation of these meatballs - we are not sending you to the backyard or the side of the road for ingredients," promises Itamar. "These get their name from their spiky appearance, and everything you need to make this delicious Persian dish can be found in a local supermarket."


(Makes 12-14 meatballs)

For the meatballs

400g minced beef

200g basmati rice, uncooked

2 onions, peeled (240g)

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 small bunch of parsley, top leafy part only (about 20g)

1 small bunch of mint, top leafy part only (about 20g)

1 small bunch of coriander, top leafy part only (about 20g)

1tsp ground coriander

1tsp ground turmeric, or grate 2cm fresh turmeric root

1tbsp salt

A sprinkling of white pepper

For the sauce

3tbsp olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely diced (120g)

1 leek, thinly sliced and washed

1 garlic, peeled and crushed

1 green chilli, thinly sliced

4 celery sticks, thinly sliced

1tsp ground turmeric, or grate 2cm fresh turmeric root

2 dried Persian limes (or 3 wide strips of peel from 1 lemon)

2 bay leaves

Juice of 1 lemon


1. Place the minced beef and uncooked rice together in a large bowl. Use a food processor to blitz the onions, garlic and fresh herbs together to a paste (or you can chop everything by hand very finely) and add to the meat and rice along with the ground coriander, turmeric, salt and pepper. Mix together until fully combined and then divide into 12-14 balls, each about 80-90g. Cover and store in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

2. To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a shallow casserole that is large enough to contain all the meatballs in one layer. Add the onion, leek and garlic and cook on a medium heat until they soften, then add the chilli, celery, turmeric, Persian limes and bay leaves. Mix well and fry for five minutes, stirring occasionally, then add one litre of boiling water.

3. Bring the mixture to the boil and carefully add the meatballs to the liquid. Bring back to the boil and cook uncovered for five minutes. Turn the meatballs over in the liquid, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Keep covered and cook for 30 minutes. Open the lid carefully, add the lemon juice, re-cover and cook for the final 10 minutes before serving.



(Makes 24-28 shortbreads)

240g butter, at room temperature

120g icing sugar

360g plain flour

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

½tsp flaky sea salt

For the coating

2tbsp sumac

2tbsp granulated sugar


1. Use a food processor or an electric mixer with a paddle attachment to work the butter, icing sugar, flour, vanilla seeds and salt until the mixture just forms a ball of dough. It takes a while to come together, so don't lose faith. Once it has formed, turn the dough out onto the work surface. Divide into two pieces and shape each one into a log - I prefer to make it rectangular but it is tasty in any shape.

2. For the coating, mix the sumac and sugar on the work surface. Roll the log in the sumac-sugar to coat all over, then place in the fridge to set for at least one hour (or freeze it until you want to bake them).

3. Heat your oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark 5. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Use a sharp knife to cut each log into 12-14 slices and place them flat on the trays.

4. Bake for 10-12 minutes until light golden, then remove from the oven. Leave to cool on the tray before eating.