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World Chefs Couple celebrates homey joys of Middle Eastern cuisine

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Traditional Middle Eastern home cooking is the shared passion of Israeli-born chefs Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, the husband and wife team behind "Honey & Co.: The Cookbook."

All 107 recipes stem from the couple's restaurant Honey & Co in London, which was named Best New Restaurant of 2013 by the Guardian newspaper.

Srulovich, 36, and Packer, 38, spoke to Reuters about their training, their culinary courtship and making the exotic accessible to customers.

Q: Why did you name your restaurant Honey & Co.?

Srulovich: We wanted something that made people think of sweet things. We're a couple and we called each other honey so that's how it came to be.

Q: You met over cooking?

Srulovich: We met in a restaurant kitchen. All of the beginning of our relationship was taking each other to our favorite restaurants and cooking each other our favorite dishes.

Q: What is Middle Eastern cuisine?

Packer: (It is) the use of herbs and spices in abundance and fresh vegetables. The cuisine is based a lot less on protein and a lot more on the vegetables that go with it. Then there's a lot of color and different textures. It's a lot about sharing. Big platters of food are traditional.

Q: How do you tweak it?

Srulovich: In Israel you get a lot of traditional cuisines from Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, all over the Middle East. We try to keep it as traditional as possible but we also slightly adapt it to the way we like to eat now. So the food is lighter, not as oily, not as rich.

Q: What is your training?

Srulovich: We were both home cooking at a very early age. My wife had more official training at chef's college. I started working in kitchens when I was 19.

Q: Any advice for the home cook?

Packer: When people come over, be sitting and talking to them and not in the kitchen. A lot is about preparing yourself in advance. Also getting in really good produce, fresh vegetables, fresh herbs and using what's in season, not trying to adapt things that are not at their best.

Q: What's always in your pantry?

Srulovich: At home we always have yogurt, tahini, cumin, garlic, chili, lemon, cracked wheat and rice. The rest would be just going to the market and getting what's nice. (Editing by Patricia Reaney and David Gregorio)

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