Middle Eastern cookbooks
Time Out reviews the best new recipe books offering culinary inspiration from the Middle East
Persia in Peckham: Recipes from Persepolis
Sally Butcher, Prospect Books, £17.99
This is a Londoner’s cookbook if ever there was one. The ‘Persepolis’ in the subtitle is a Peckham-based purveyor of Iranian foodstuffs and handicrafts. The owner, Sally Butcher – beat that for an east London surname – is the owner of the shop. She’s a one-time chef who married into an Iranian family and learned ‘by osmosis’ the language, culture and recipes of ancient Persia and modern-day Iran.
Butcher says that the book aims to be a ‘kitchen-table book, rather than a coffee-table book’, and it is. There are no lusty food-porn images (though there are some nice line drawings) and the author has a writing style that’s witty and charmingly irreverent.
So too with the recipes. From kebabs and khoreshes (stews) and kuftehs (stuffed rissoles or meatballs) to pulaos (rice dishes), classic Persian recipes make up the bulk of the book. Yet the recipes aren’t precious or overinvolved, and are written in a way that’s likely to encourage neophytes.
The book also delves into the wider culture of Iran, covering topics such as the Persian music scene, Iranians and their relationship with Islam and Iranian wedding rituals.
One chapter is dedicated to ‘The Peckham Influence’, with recipes that reflect the multi-ethnic mix of this particular slice of south-east London, such as suya chelow with jerk chicken, or Persian pizzas. It’s a book that – like the best kitchens – is marked by tolerance, generosity and great food.