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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Classic Vegetarian Cookery

Middle Eastern Cookery

North African Cookery

Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East

The Yogurt Cookbook


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Cookbook Collection:
Arto der Haroutunian

On this page:

Classic Vegetarian Cookery

Middle Eastern Cookery

North African Cookery

Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East

The Yogurt Cookbook


Classic Vegetarian Cookery

Arto der Haroutunian died too young. He has left a cult following and a series of books to remind us of the very reasons that he still inspires cookbook collectors and home chefs alike. He had a particular all-encompassing view of the world that enabled him to graze the globe and archive his findings in a most palatable fashion.

cookbok review “Classic” in culinary terms is often fussy, dusty and boring. We think of a battery of sauces, egg dishes and poached white fish. Combine that “classic” with “vegetarian” and the future reading opportunity is looking gloomy. There is bound to be a cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes and a slew of other dishes that we probably trot out week after week.

OK, that’s the assumption, but it’s wrong. Arto der Haroutunian has collected recipes that truly are classic but they are not from the usual culinary traditions. There are vegetable dishes from Nigeria, Finland, South America, Bulgaria and many other countries, each with their own “classic” but unique recipes.

It’s true that there are a few familiar favourites such as stuffed vine leaves but even that standard is offered with a couple of filling options. French onion soup is listed along with an Iranian alternative. Yes, the cauliflower is here but sans cheese sauce – South American Midnight Cauliflower takes advantage of garlic, black olives and a little chilli powder to elevate this unloved veggie into dinner-party fare.

Although these dishes are striking they are also simple, and use, for the most part, few ingredients. We know we should eat more fresh vegetables and that prospect is becoming more attractive now that meat has become so very expensive. Vegetables are not as cheap as they once were so we need to present them in a fashion that befits their elevated status. Arto has suggestions for our most common produce, but he also introduces his readers to some of the more exotic veggies that are now available in larger supermarkets as well as in ethnic food shops.

There is plenty here that will help those of us who are strapped for cash. Baked Beans. No, not those tinned teatime treats of childhood memories (or my more recent recollections of dinner when husband is away). These are robust and thoroughly adult, a winter warmer for a crowd served with some crusty bread. This is a simple recipe but the simmering takes an hour or so. This process can be speeded up if one has a pressure cooker.

Plantain Curry is well worth trying. A plantain looks like a large green banana and is a staple of West Indian cooking, and this is indeed a Caribbean recipe. It has few ingredients and the spices are from the Indian palette so you’ll have no trouble finding those. It’s thought that this dish was brought to the West Indies by Indian immigrants.

If you are not a full-time vegetarian then you can peruse some of the versatile sauces included. Harissa is a vibrant North African preparation that enhances lamb and chicken as well as vegetables. Yoghurt and Garlic Sauce might not sound riveting but it’s made in moments and is a delicious garnish to roast chicken.

Classic Vegetarian Cookery is an indispensible addition to the cookbook library of Arto der Haroutunian fans, but it’s a practical and beautifully-written volume that deserves a place on the bookshelf of any lover of good food. Another great-value “classic” from Grub Street.
 
Cookbook review: Classic Vegetarian Cookery
Author: Arto der Haroutunian
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-1-908117-01-4


food and travel reviews Arto der Haroutunian

Middle Eastern Cookery

middle eastern cookery Original copies of this book have changed hands for hundreds of pounds. It’s that combination of scarcity and popularity that encourages that monetary phenomenon. The author, Arto der Haroutunian, died in 1987 so his books are valued as a resource that will never be replaced. Arto was only 47 years old when he died.

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
Price: £18.99
ISBN 978-1-904010-81-4

food and travel reviews Arto der Haroutunian

North African Cookery

Grub Street should be applauded for introducing a new generation of food lovers to Arto Der Haroutunian. It might be a name unfamiliar to any but the most enthusiastic of cookbook collectors, but he is considered as worthy as, say, Elizabeth David in his own sphere. He died suddenly in 1987 at the age of 47 and one wonders what other masterworks he would have penned had time allowed.

cookbook review  Arto was born in Aleppo, Syria, to Armenian parents. His family moved to England in 1952, where his father took up the post of head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. After studying at Manchester University Arto qualified as an architect and began a career designing restaurants and hotels. He opened an Armenian restaurant in 1970 in Manchester with his brother Koko.

It was no surprise that he began to write about the food of the Middle East, producing a dozen books in all, and North African Cookery is among their number. It has its focus on the countries that make up the Maghreb. It’s a word more often used in France, which has a sizable North African population, but it encompasses Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.  They are a group of people composed mostly of Berbers and Arabs.

It’s a delightful cuisine that has evolved down the centuries and incorporates influences from Spain and Turkey and the Jews, who settled all over North Africa after fleeing the Spanish Catholic Inquisition. The cuisine shares much of its culinary heritage with other Arab countries where, as in this region, couscous is a staple food.

No self-respecting North African cookbook would be worth a mention if it didn’t include that ubiquitous small pasta; it’s not a grain as some people assume. Arto offers several preparation methods, along with recipes for ten meat or vegetarian dishes having couscous at their centre, and there is even a fish couscous that can be made with any chunky white fish.

Tagine is another dish that is common to every North African restaurant and cookbook. A tagine is the celebrated stew of the region but it’s also the name for the vessel in which that stew is cooked. Yes, those iconic conical casseroles are beautiful and they cook food very nicely, but they take up a lot of room in small kitchens and, let’s be honest, you will only use it when the boss is over for dinner. Your usual lidded dish for slow cooking will work just fine and you can always transfer the food to a decorative, perhaps Moroccan, plate to bring to the table.

There are more than 30 traditional tagine recipes here that will cater for every taste, but my favourite is a version from Rabat in Morocco and it’s a tagine of the ever popular lamb; this one has green beans used not as garnish to the meat but as part of the main event. It has aromatic flavour from paprika, cumin, ginger and turmeric. Note that ginger in North African cooking is invariably the powdered variety rather than the fresh – don’t think you’re being posh by substituting fresh, the powder gives its own distinct and traditional flavour.

If you have a sweet tooth then you will be well served by North African Cookery. Arto has recipes for a large selection of traditional cookies and small stuffed pastries, but I have been taken with the Farka which could not be easier. It’s that couscous again, but liberally laced with dates and nuts. It’s moulded into a cake shape and decorated with additional fruit and nuts.

North African Cookery is a book to read rather than skim through. No, it isn’t a colourful coffee-table book but you will want to actually make these dishes, and that’s the reason you bought it in the first place. A book of history, culinary anecdote and charm.

North African Cookery
Author: Arto Der Haroutunian
Published by: Grub Street
Paperback: ISBN 978-1-908117-30-4, price: £12.99
Hardback: ISBN 978-1-906502-34-8, price: £18.99



food and travel reviews Arto der Haroutunian

Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East

First published in 1983, Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East is a classic and I am so pleased to see its re-introduction. It’s a book that any serious enthusiast of Middle Eastern food would want to own.

Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East The author Arto der Haroutunian was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1940 but came to England as a child. He opened the first Armenian restaurant in Manchester with his brother Koko, in 1970. This was so successful that it eventually became a string of six restaurants and two hotels. He was an immensely talented man, being not only the author of cookbooks but an architect, musician, a painter with an international reputation, and a translator from Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Armenian authors.

Writing cookbooks enabled Arto to combine his love of food and the history of the Middle East. Arto contended that the cooking of that region had a great influence on the cooking of the western world. His books are popular and sought-after, but they have been out of print for many years, with second-hand copies selling for hundreds of pounds above the original list price. Arto der Haroutunian died in 1987 at the age of 47 so that makes his books even more precious.

There are lots of recipes that you will be familiar with but many more that will be new. The book includes lots of Iranian dishes including Kookoo Sibzamini, a potato omelette to be served with other vegetarian dishes. How about Cherry-filled Baklava? It’s not difficult using filo pastry and would be a striking end to a Middle Eastern meal.

Tzavarov-Shomini Borek are small patties filled with spinach and burghul. These would be great as either nibbles with drinks or as a starter. I would even consider serving these with a spicy tomato sauce like Dukkous al-Tomata, also from this book.

There are dishes here that would suit any occasion and would be ideal to present as either light meals or combined to produce a gorgeous buffet for a larger crowd. The recipes are well described and easy to follow and the book would be a delight not only for vegetarians but for any of us that have an interest in food of the Middle East. A lovely book to own and use.

There will soon be an official Arto der Haroutunian web site. I’ll let you know more about that in a few months’ time.

Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East
Author: Arto der Haroutunian
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-1-902304-81-6


food and travel reviews Arto der Haroutunian

The Yogurt Cookbook

Arto der Haroutunian died too young. His books have become collector’s items but thanks to Grub Street we can all have access to his collections of eclectic and fascinating recipes. He had a focus on Middle Eastern food but this particular volume is ingredient-based and offers an insight into the uses of yogurt in many culinary traditions.

cookbook review The yogurt cookbook Yogurt is a mystical food, being live in the same way as yeast. It’s healthy and versatile, and can constitute a light snack in its natural form or be an essential ingredient for both sweet and savoury dishes. Popular now in the UK, it was once a rarity. 50 years ago it was unheard of and 10 years after that it was found only in the fridges of those middle classes who might have travelled to Greece for a holiday. It then became synonymous with hard-core vegetarianism and all things bland. Those days have gone and now we all have access to good quality yogurt and we can even make it at home.

We are now more aware of the healthful properties of yogurt. The author starts with a memorable quote from one of its supporters: “I owe my family and age to yoghurt, nothing else – not even God!” Those words from M. Husseynov at the age of 147.

Yogurt is easy to make at home. Just milk and a spoonful of live yogurt left tucked up in an airing cupboard will render tubs of natural yogurt for just a little money and hardly any effort. Add your own fresh fruit or honey and you have a quick breakfast or economic dessert which will be a preferable alternative to cake or ice cream for the kids. Let them design their own toppings and they will be sure to ask for more.

A rather different use for yogurt is as a base for soft cheese. Add herbs and a little salt to strained yogurt and you have a flavourful and delicious starter or sandwich spread. Panir (paneer) is the celebrated Indian cheese which uses lemon juice to encourage separation of curds from whey. Once strained, this will set into blocks for easy cutting. The resulting cubes can be used in the same fashion as the commercial product.

Yogurt is the key ingredient to many Indian dishes including Murgi Dahi – chicken in yoghurt-curry sauce. Many korma recipes also call for yogurt and it’s the ubiquitous garnish for chaat and for Middle Eastern kebabs, as well as those from the tandoor. My favourite recipe in the savoury section is probably that for Roghan Josh. A simple version of this common dish but it has all the flavour characteristics of much lengthier alternatives.

The chapter on sweets and cakes offers many international delights and showcases the naughtier side of this mostly healthy food. Awamaat - Arab doughnuts - definitely fall into that category. These are somewhat different from the Western doughnuts as they have self-raising flour as the raising agent instead of yeast. The fried golden puffs are dipped into rosewater-flavoured sugar syrup before being served sprinkled with walnuts and pistachios.

Arto der Haroutunian penned a book which is filled with delicious recipes for all manner of dishes. They are all good and all just happen to include yogurt. It draws on many culinary traditions and will appeal to anyone who enjoys real home-made food. If you can’t spare the five minutes to make your own yogurt then buy some, but do try some of these recipes. A winner.

Cookbook view: The Yogurt Cookbook
Author: Arto der Haroutunian
Published by: Grub Street
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-1-906502-61-4

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