Monday, 23 March 2009
Arabesque by Greg & Lucy Malouf
I always think middle eastern food has something magical and precious about it. Scattered pomegranate seeds, the bold contrasts of savoury and sweet and the warm fragrance of spices such as cumin and cardamom evoke an intriguing sense of enchantment that no other cuisine can. In many ways, I find this book has similar properties. The beautiful photography, high quality paper, and rich content makes it one of those occasional books which you’ll treasure, but rarer still, one you will both treasure and regularly use. Divided into ingredient-specific chapters, authors Greg and Lucy Malouf take a heartfelt approach in guiding readers through modern middle-eastern food. As well as covering basics such as ingredients’ flavours and uses, they address the mythologies which surround them and the feelings and memories they evoke for them. This isn’t limited to the ingredients, either. Recipes are given life by introductions which explain their origins and the reasons for their inclusion in the book and their repportoirs. These descriptions are so vivid that they almost make up for the distinct lack of photographs of many of the recipes – though this could still be seen as the book’s one real downside. The recipes take a clever approach to middle-eastern cooking. Although classics such as hummus, tabbouleh and falafel are all present, it is the modern adaptations which are of the most interest. Preserved lemon guacamole, goat’s cheese dolmades, saffron scrambled eggs and rose water infused berry fool all show how the cuisine’s staple ingredients can be played around with and used to bring new life to classics from completely separate cuisines. A genuinely inspiring book which, despite the array of exciting recipes, encourages experimentation and the creation of your own recipes from the list of ingredients provided. I can’t tell you the number of banquets this book has been responsible for in my house….