Middle Eastern cookbooks

Time Out reviews the best new recipe books offering culinary inspiration from the Middle East

The Iraqi Cookbook

Lamees Ibrahim, Stacey International, £24.95

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The very word ‘Iraq’ is so politically charged that even when it appears in the title of a cookery book it’s an attention-grabber. This is not the first book on the subject to be published in English, but previous works are rare.The author is a Baghdad-trained medical doctor who now lives in London. The book started out as a project to collect cherished recipes for her children, but ended up being collated on a grander scale. Ibrahim says that the book was written for Iraq’s diaspora population, but the recipes are wide-ranging enough to interest food-lovers of all stripes.

There are classic Iraqi dishes such as hareesah, a spiced wheat and lamb dish traditionally eaten by Shi’ite Muslims on the tenth day of the sacred month of Muharram, and qoozi, whole roast lamb stuffed with saffron and rosewater-scented rice, which is served at important family celebrations.

Recipes for stuffed vegetables recall the cooking of the western Mediterranean, while rice dishes (‘pilaou’), similar to those found throughout the Middle East and beyond, abound, highlighting Iraq’s importance as a long-standing cultural crossroads. As well as collecting recipes, the author subtly outlines the social changes that have taken place in Iraq in recent decades, particularly the changing role of women in society and the political turmoil of the recent past – and how these changes have affected the cooking. It’s a fascinating look at a country through its food.

Susan Low, Time Out London Issue 2029: July 9-15 2009

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