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Middle Eastern Cookery is considered by many as Arto der Haroutunian’s finest work and perhaps the seminal work on the subject. This must surely be one of the most eagerly awaited reprints, so highly is it regarded by culinary professionals and home cooks alike.
Arto begins with a charming preface; don’t skip this as it sets the scene. Arto talks of his family, now living in Manchester, and of their love of food and their generosity. He describes with warm emotions tables groaning with his mother’s delicious food and tells of numerous guests who shared and appreciated those tastes of “home”.
“Home”, for Arto, his family and friends was the Middle East. The Arab States, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, the Caucasian republics of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and Iran broadly represent that area, and the recipes of that region are the focus of this volume.
This is possibly the most comprehensive Middle Eastern cookery book available. OK, so it doesn’t have the padding of sumptuous photographs but Arto’s writing paints the most mouth-watering images. The recipes are, for the most part, simple, relying on the freshest and best of ingredients to give both flavour and texture to the dishes. The recipes are authentic, being popular family recipes from every corner of this fascinating but too often war-torn landscape.
There are plenty of recipes here that will bring joy to the heart of many vegetarians. Arto’s mother gave him plenty of culinary advice, (mums are like that) and one of those pearls was “Never serve boiled vegetables. Fry, stew, braise, pour sauce over, but never boil in water.” I think those wise words probably hold good for all of us.
The Ganachi (Cooked Vegetables) chapter offers an interesting selection. Kurdish Vegetable Stew is seasoned with cinnamon and has a crunch from walnuts. Nuts are also used with Shesh Havij (Carrots with Nuts) from Iran. It’s a dish garnished with both almonds and pistachios and a drizzle of pomegranate juice.
Lamb is the most popular meat in the Middle East so it’s no surprise that it features here. Lamb with Saffron and Almonds is found in North-West India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, from where it originally hailed. It’s easy and exotic with warming spices. Hamuth Helou is an Iraqi lamb stew with dates, apricots, prunes and raisins. Rich, sweet and aromatic. I would, to be honest, be happy to eat my way through every dish in this book... er, well, um, apart from perhaps Hooves, Tongue and Tripe Stew but then perhaps I am a picky eater!
Middle Eastern Cookery is rightly a prized and appreciated volume. You will be happy that you don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds to enjoy this classic book.
Middle Eastern Cookery
Author: Arto der Haroutunian
Published by: Grub Street
The author, Ina’am Atalla, introduces us to simple Lebanese cooking. She has recreated almost all the dishes by remembering the flavours of the original but has made those dishes accessible to all of us.
Ina’am starts us with the basics, with such things as white rice, croutons, garlic sauce and pickles. Turnip Pickles are a reminder of Lebanese food for me: not just the taste but the look of them - delicious and so very pretty. They are the indispensible addition to a Falafel sandwich...also in the book.
Kidrah, Rice and Lamb in a Pot is lovely. The ingredients are simple but the finished dish is real comfort. This, as with other recipes, has some background information: Kidrah was originally cooked by nomads and takes its name from the cooking pot. How romantic is that!
Orange Semolina Cake is an Ina’am invention and sounds scrumptious. Most of the flour is replaced with semolina and ground nuts. Once again it’s easy but different, and works well with Lebanese food. I’d even make this cake to finish an Indian or Thai meal.
My favourite recipe from this book has got to be Deek Roumi which is Ina’am’s version of roast turkey. It has a gorgeous stuffing of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, dried figs which are a great combination and would add real interest to the ordinary bird.
Meat Sambousek are little meat pies and there is a cheese version as well. There are plenty of recipes suitable for vegetarians that are different and flavourful. Chilli Potatoes are seasoned with, yes, chilli but also garlic and coriander.
I am not a great lover of Italian pizza but I do enjoy the Lebanese version, Sfeiha. It’s a flat bread topped with minced lamb and spices and a good dose of chilli sauce but, once again, Ina’am provides us with a vegetarian alternative.
Ina’am Atalla has an obvious passion for the food of Lebanon and she deserves to be proud of this very attractive book
Author: Ina’am Atalla
Published by: Garnet Publishing
This remains the only fully comprehensive collection of authentic Lebanese recipes in English but you will want to add this book to your library just because it is readable and absorbing with Anissa’s usual charming style of writing.
There is a Brief History of the Lebanon to start and it has had its share (probably more than its share) of invaders and occupiers as well as civil war and unrest that continues, unfortunately, till today. The Lebanese Larder follows with lists of not only herbs, spices, dried produce, but utensils, wines, fruits and drinks.
The recipe chapters start with Hors d’oeuvres (mezze) as you would expect, but there are 14 other sections that include Savoury Pastries, Stuffed Vegetables, Stews, Pickles and Desserts. Anissa has thoughtfully also included a list of shops where we can find some of the less common ingredients. You might be surprised at how few special items are needed to be able to make these dishes. Most things you will no doubt already have in your store cupboard: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg etc. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg to try these subtle and delicious dishes.
Lebanese Cuisine not only supplies us with recipes but also lots of background information that helps this book to be not only a cookbook but also a travelogue. Anissa draws us in and helps us to imagine mountain villages, we can hear the sound of meat being pounded in a marble mortar, (it's OK for you to use a food processor so don’t panic), and we can smell the enticing aroma of grilling lamb.
The recipes are easy to follow with illustrations for things like stuffing vegetables, rolling vine leaves and forming fritters. None of it is complicated but the pictures are comforting to the novice. You will find it easy to present authentic dishes without tears.
Lebanese Cuisine is already considered something of a classic and rightly so. It’s a unique volume that has been praised by the good and worthy of the industry and I find no reason to disagree.
Author: Anissa Helou
Published by: Grub Street