Middle Eastern cookbooks

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

Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean

Silvena Rowe, Hutchinson, £25

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Silvena Rowe is a busy lady. She writes and advises about food. She cooks it and touts it on TV. She has opened a new restaurant, Quince, at the May Fair hotel. Now she has brought out a stunning cookery book that travels south from her last two books on eastern and central European food, to champion the cuisine of the eastern Mediterranean.

These flavours of her childhood have been tweaked for modern tastes, with a few typically cheeky nods of immodesty thrown in.

Part story book and part cookery book, ‘Purple Citrus’ interweaves Ottoman cultural heritage with the culinary world it created. Chapters progress through mezze, starters, böreks, pilafs and salads to meat, fish, vegetables and sweets.

The book’s exotic name hints at the aesthetic appeal of the recipes in this book and it doesn’t disappoint. Jonathan Lovekin’s vibrant photography captures the sharp contrasts in textures and colours of Rowe’s recipes: everything is bright and beautiful. The photographs were taken on a trip to Turkey and our only niggle is that, occasionally, they don’t match the recipe instructions. But it is difficult to hold this against them when the recipes taste so good and are so easy to follow.

Basil and kaidafi (shredded filo pastry)-wrapped king prawns, were succulent and crisped by deep frying, with no hint of grease; the bright parsley-green pine nut tarator sauce complemented them well. Grilled lamb kebabs marinated overnight in pomegranate molasses, served with a fresh chutney of pomegranate seeds, orange and chilli, was a cacophony of flavours. Piquant hibiscus salt brought out the smoky sweetness  of  an aubergine and red pepper salad .

Baked künefe (more shredded pastry) – a sticky sweet concoction, filled with soft cheese and traditionally made with plain sugar syrup, was enlivened by Rowe’s addition of passion fruit and vanilla.

These are sumptuous recipes that will delight the eyes and the palate, opening up a world of Ottoman flavours to explore.

Zoe Kamen, Time Out London Issue 2087: August 19-25 2010

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