I love to cook from books which excite and inspire. This book is beautifully written and is much more than a collection of recipes. Diana Henry transports the reader to the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa through vivid and atmospheric descriptions of sights and smells. The chapters, which are organised around groups of ingredients (eg. herbs, spices, fruits), bear titles which hint at the treasures to follow, and each contains a wonderfully evocative introduction which describes how the ingredients are used in different regions. Thus ‘liquid gold’ refers to olive oil, and ‘fruits of longing’ to quince, figs, pomegranate and dates. I’ve tried many recipes. Each seems to contain a wow ingredient – the collection is so different from a ‘same old, same old’ Med style cookbook – and they have delighted family and friends.
Particular favourites include the pomegranate couscous, the lemon basil ice cream, spiced quinces and the walnut and yogurt cake. I’ve also used the chermoula and the thyme / oregano / citrus marinades. I’ve never had a disaster with this book and I turn to it regularly. She has written another book in a similar style which tackles cold weather cooking in the north of the northern hemisphere, and it is similarly wonderful – but this one is my favourite.
Diana has a such a wonderfully rich and descriptive writing style - there are times I'm convinced I can actually smell the ingredients she is describing. The subtitle of the book is Enchanting dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean, and North Africa and it's brimming with recipes like Persian Flatbread, Lemon and Basil Ice Cream, Yogurt and Walnut Cake with Coffee Syrup, Rose and Apple Jelly, and Flower Scented Truffles.
I bought the softcover here in San Francisco a couple years back, but I think a hardcopy version of this book has been available overseas for years.
I don't have the words to say how much I adore this book. I bought it years ago to find out what to do with a jar of preserved lemons I'd been gifted with years prior, and it literally started a revolution in my kitchen!
Diana's way with words is both evocative and inspiring. When things are not going so well, snuggling up with CWPL puts everything in my world right again.
Some of the recipes here do take a bit of time to put together, but it is no hardship as you know the results are going to be fabulous. The Lamb and Orange Khoresht here is just about my favourite thing to eat in the world. It is actually better than versions in specialist Iranian cookbooks, of which I have a few. The three-tiered Meringue and Rose Cake with Summer Berries is a real stunner (I increase the size of the layers and reduce the amount cream substantially).
For when time is of an essence, I recommend Diana's Cook Simple: Effortless Cooking Every Day (non-US title), which also contains quite a few recipes with Mediterranean/Middle Eastern bent that come together quite a bit quicker than these show-stoppers.
In a cookbook library running into the hundreds, this is a favorite. It's a wonderful evocative cookbook - almost poetic - but every recipe I've tried has been delicious. I particularly love the Rhone Ferryman's Beef, the Lamb & Mint Pilaf, Chicken Marinated in Yoghurt with Plum Sauce & the Bulgar & Spinach Pilaf with Labneh.