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Lebanese Cuisine [Paperback]

Anissa Helou
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 July 2008
The revised and updated edition of this fascinating book, which was short listed for the prestigious Andre Simon Award when it was first published, remains the only fully comprehensive collection of truly authentic Lebanese recipes available in the English language. As such, "Lebanese Cuisine" is a valuable contribution to our culinary knowledge. There are over 250 classical recipes which represent an important part of the rich and turbulent history of this beautiful and bountiful country. The delicious arrays of world-famous mezze, offering light and refined servings, a delight to both eye and palate, provide a style of eating perfectly suited to today's health-conscious cook.There are wonderful vegetarian dishes as well as aromatic stews, many of which can be left to cook slowly, allowing flavours to develop and often tasting even better when eaten the following day. It is Mediterranean food of elegance and infinite variety, using in delectable combinations, simple, healthy ingredients. Vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains and cold-pressed oils, rich in vitamins are features of every dish.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grub Street (31 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906502188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906502188
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 223,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I take delight in the books of Anissa Helou ... a fine introduction to the cooking of that country. --Matthew Fort, the Guardian

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Cookbook 15 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a good basic introduction to Lebanese cooking. I don't understand some of the adverse comments. All the recipes I have tried have worked well. I would agree that it is not the definitive book on the subject but it does not deserve to be condemned so harshly. The main problem that could arise is the sourcing of ingredients (I live in the country, far from any Middle Eastern delis) but I have been able to source everything I have needed on the Internet.
It has excited my curiosity made me want to research Middle Eastern cookery more thoroughly. What more could you ask of a book?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good working cook book 21 Jan 2009
I have had this book a while and used it a fair bit

I really don't understand the poor reviews - I find the recipes very easy to follow with helpful tips on using UK food shops to find the ingredients - I made my first really successful stuffed cabbage leaves following her instructions

THe food seems to me very similar to food I have eaten in Syria and Lebanon
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very useful introduction to Lebanese Food 6 May 2011
By toniot
I purchased this book having read all the other reviews including the negative ones. I feel some other reviewers have been unduly dismissive of this book.

Contained within the pages is much useful information on Lebanese ingredients and guidance to their preparation. I have so far made quite a few of the recipes and have been more than satisfied with the results. I am convinced the recipes are authentic and workable in any modern kitchen. The Tabouleh in particular was a heatlhy and tasty treat. The pomegranate dressing took the fried aubergenes to a different level altogether! I have also learned about many unfamiliar ingredients including Sumac and Mograbieh.

I feel much better informed about Lebanese cooking as a result of having this book and would recommend it to anybody seeking an introduction to this intriguing cuisine.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
73 of 88 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't do justice to a great cuisine 27 Jun 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This book fell short of my expectations. I have tried many of the recipes and doubt that I would make any of them again. Some recipes don't work at all. Both the Pomegranate Syrup Sauce and Candied Apricot Ice Cream sounded interesting but yielded results that were virtually inedible. Also, there are no recipes for basic items such as pita and marqouq bread or for many favorite preparations like artichokes in olive oil, grilled or fried trout, maqloubi, roast lamb, stuffed turkey (a Christmas tradition in Lebanon), pine nut sauce, khoushaf, and barazik.
Readers cannot gain an overview of Lebanese cuisine from this book. There is no information on daily meals and no menus. In her discussion of appetizers, Ms. Helou doesn't explain the philosophy behind the partaking of mezze or that it is customarily accompanied with araq in Christian communities. Although the author includes recipes for fried and scrambled eggs as well as a recipe for an Arab omelet, she says nothing about hard-cooked or poached eggs or the local version of the French omelet, all of which are prepared in delicious and unusual ways. She also neglects to explain how the Arab omelet differs from the French one. In her chapter on fish, Ms. Helou fails to mention the varieties of saltwater fish favored by the Lebanese, for example Sultan Ibrahim (red mullet). Nor is there any mention of the much-prized flat lobsters. There is also nothing said about the country's freshwater fish (such as trout) or about frogs' legs, snails, or batarekh (boutargue). In her discussion of desserts, the author neglects to mention that Tripoli has long been celebrated for its sweets, that nammoura is a specialty of Zahleh, and that Sidon is famous for sanyoura and barazik.
There is little or no information on such ingredients as pomegranates and pomegranate molasses or syrup, grape molasses, fresh nuts in season (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios), fresh green chickpeas, fava (broad) beans, skinless whole-grain wheat, phyllo pastry, soapwort, and sumac juice. Furthermore, some of the ingredient information is incorrect. For instance, habbat al-barakeh (nigella) is wrongly identified as black cumin (a common error), shirsh el-halaweh (soapwort) as bois de Panama, and very fine bulgur (sreyseerah) is more than once referred to as f'reyfeerah.
There are other inconsistencies. For example, Ms. Helou writes that stuffed vegetables are always served with a bowl of yogurt. Actually, those that contain a vegetarian stuffing based on rice and olive oil are not customarily accompanied with it. A recipe for potato pie, which contains no bulgur and has nothing to do with potato kibbeh, is wrongly identified as Kibbet Batatah!
Don't be misled by the jacket reviews of this book. Regrettably, it is neither "fully comprehensive" nor a "major work."
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Source for Authentic Recipes. Weak on cooking technique 11 Feb 2005
By B. Marold - Published on Amazon.com
`Lebanese Cuisine' By Lebanese / British culinary author Annisa Helau, author of the more recent and more widely popular `Mediterranean Street Food' is a good, if somewhat flawed presentation of an important cuisine of , in the author's emphasis, the `true' middle east.

For starters, this book is much better than some works on local cuisines of, say, Poland, Hungary, the Philippines, and Latvia which were written twenty to fifty years ago and may still be lurking on the shelves of your library in rebound, dusty editions with nothing more than one skimpily described recipe after another. One of the benefits of the renewed interest in traditional food is that the bar has been raised for writing about all ethnic cuisines, primarily by the very important works on Italian regional cuisine and works on African and Middle Eastern cooking by Paula Wolfert and Claudia Roden. And, while Ms. Helou obviously has an enormous amount of respect for Ms. Roden's important `The New Book of Middle Eastern Food', Ms. Helou takes issue with Ms. Roden on including Egypt, properly part of Africa rather than being in western Asia, the `true' middle east.

Ms. Annisa Helou begins her book with a brief but nice outline of Lebanese history. The land began as the home of the Biblical Canaanites, who became the great merchants and alphabet inventors, the Phoenicians. Since then, they have been the proverbial welcome mat over which walked the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, and French. With all these landlords, the conclusion is that the Lebanese cuisine is one of the most interesting in the region. The cover, in fact, proclaims this as `250 recipes from the most elegant Middle Eastern cuisine'. I confess that it may be one of the most varied, but the degree to which hands are required as cooking and eating utensils tends to keep me from enlisting in this idea. And, while the author claims that the recent 25 year French protectorate of Lebanon laid the typically immense imprint of French cuisine on Lebanese cooking, I cannot easily see if from the recipes in this book. It seems to have much more in common with its Arab neighbors, including Egypt, than with the land of Escoffier.

On reading the first three chapters on `hors d'oeuvres', salads, and soups, I began to think there was simply nothing special going on here. So many things seemed like variations on Italian and Greek dishes such as the bread and tomato salads so reminiscent of panzanella. Things started picking up in the chapter on savory pastries. While any pop food commentator worth his salt will point out that stuffed dough dumplings are found the world around, the fact that we find them in an important niche of Lebanese cuisine is very interesting and a good source of recipes worthy of an earnest foodie conversation. In Lebanon, the roles of Ricotta and pork of Italy are taken by yogurt and lamb. While the author points out that until recently, the majority of the population of Lebanon has been Christian and not Arab or Jewish, there are very few recipes in this book, which include pork. In the index, I count only two, while I count 29 references to lamb, some with occurrences on many different pages.

Then, I got to the chapter on eggs, and I began finding a few genuinely distinctive dishes. Here, I found a style of omelet which is genuinely different from French or Italian models. It is a sautéed egg mixture done in such a fashion that you can easily make several servings in a single pan, in very much the same way as you may make pancakes or English muffins on a griddle. The novelty of this dish is doubly interesting as it makes use of a really unusual ingredient, the liquid squeezed from the pulp in the middle of a zucchini. Most of the other egg dishes are pretty standard combinations of European style scrambled eggs with Middle Eastern ingredients. Be prepared to bone up on your egg technique before trying these recipes, as there is no good instruction on how to achieve light, uncolored cooked eggs.

The real star of Lebanese cuisine appears to be `kibbe' Anglicized from `Kibbeh', which may easily be to Lebanon what pasta is to Italy and cous cous is to Morocco. Like both of these dishes, it is characterized by an extreme simplicity of ingredients, using only bulgar, chopped onion, and lamb, combined in a great variety of ways, with a great variety of sauces and accouterments. An entire chapter is devoted to the subject, but Kibbe dishes pop up in other chapters, just as pasta shows up in soup, salad, and appetizer recipes. Kibbe is baked, sautéed, and braised in balls, cylinders, and circles the size of piecrusts.

After Kibbe, we are back in familiar territory with a chapter on Kafta, the proper Lebanese name for shish kebabs. Next are stuffed vegetables, which seems to be at least as important to Lebanese cuisine as it is to both Italy and my central European ancestors from the banks of the Danube.

The book also covers the classic breads of Lebanon such as pita, although advance knowledge of bread baking and yeast may be needed to work through the recipes.

Other than a family interest in Lebanese tradition, the primary reason to check out this book would be for the rich source of healthy recipes including bulgar wheat, yogurt, nuts, lean meat, and fruits and vegetables. The writing and editing is not that of a scholar. There are many word usages which are simply the result of the author's less than perfect grasp of English and there is disorganization's in parts of the book which detract from a careful study of the volume.

But, this is still a very worthwhile coverage of a truly interesting and rewarding cuisine.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best but there are better cookbooks 20 July 2010
By Kay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have been living in the Middle East for the past 10 years,I am married to a Lebanese and have an extensive collection of Middle Eastern cookbooks so I think I have some understanding about the cuisine. In my opinion, this cookbook does not measure up to many of the other cookbooks in my collection. I agree with the other reviewer who posted that this cookbook has some problems with some of it's recipes. If you are looking to understand the history behind the food and some uncommon recipes purchase "Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen: A Culinary Journey through Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan," by Sonia Uvezian. This is a great resource. If you want easy straight forward recipes purchase "Classic Lebanese Cuisine" by Kamal Al-Faqih. (If you order the book directly from his site you get a free DVD showing how to prepare many popular Lebanese dishes). I also recommend "From the Land of Figs and Olives" for a general Middle Eastern and North African cookbook.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Offers practical information and traditional recipes 25 Jan 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
With its emphasis on grains, dried legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, and olive oil, the Lebanese diet is a nutritious one that provides the health-conscious cook with many appealing choices. This book presents recipes for wholesome and satisfying traditional dishes adapted for the modern kitchen. They cover all courses of the meal and range from rustic to elegant. Some of the dishes, as to be expected, are complicated and labor intensive, but the majority are simple to prepare and demand no special culinary skills. Most of the ingredients are available in supermarkets, and the food is not expensive.
Also recommended: "Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen: A Culinary Journey through Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan," by Sonia Uvezian. This landmark volume is an indispensable addition to the library of anyone interested in Middle Eastern cooking.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most authentic recipes 27 Aug 2005
By Sam H. - Published on Amazon.com
Having lived in Lebanon and gotten cooking tips from many great "home cooks" I was delighted to find this book. The recipes and their introductions are so true to the character of real cuisine that I recommend this book to whomever asks me about Middle East cooking. Anyone who can make a M'lookhiyeh taste good enough to want seconds is tops! It is helpful to known something about the cuisine to fully appreciate the wisdom in Ms. Helou's advice.
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