Middle Eastern cookbooks
Time Out reviews the best new recipe books offering culinary inspiration from the Middle East
Veggiestan: A Vegetable Lover's Tour of the Middle East
Sally Butcher, Pavilion, £25
Sally Butcher, proprietor of the Persian food shop/deli Persepolis in Peckham, is British by birth, but married into a Persian family. From this perspective, Butcher writes with wit about the ingredients and food customs of the Middle East. This cookery book is not only a joy to read and an excellent source of information – it's also packed with amazing recipes.
If you think that being limited to vegetarian ingredients (vegetables and eggs only) could make for a dull, worthy book full of lentil recipes, you’d be very wrong. This being inspired by Middle Eastern cookery there are lentils aplenty but the recipes sing with fragrant herbs; you can almost smell the fragrant steam from the many rice-based pilafs and pullaos as you turn the pages.
The geographical span from Turkey to Pakistan (plus a few recipes from Greece and Cyprus) is a fertile crescent for cooks, and this book makes enthusiastic use of the wide range of pulses, grains, spices and herbs commonly used in this region. There are recipes for bread and pastry, herbs and salads, dairy and eggs, soups, pickles – and a chapter on cooking with fruit, which this region excels in.
We were inspired by the baked stuffed quinces, and the barberry and almond casserole. Instructions for recipes are clear, and the headnotes are peppered with surprising facts – for example, buckwheat isn’t wheat at all, but a distant cousin of rhubarb. If you're looking for meat-free cooking with a sense of adventure, this book will help keep lentil boredom at bay.
Read our review of Sally's first book, Persia in Peckham, here.
Susan Low, Time Out London issue 2154: Dec 1-7 2011