Arabian food seems to be shrouded often in a haze of mystery unless you happen to hail from that region. Ask most people to name some Arabian food and they will invariably struggle past throwing out "dates" as a suggestion.
This book will change that and it may make you realise how widespread Arabian food and ingredients are, whether through fusion or just through culinary export.
Straight away the reader begins to be enchanted and hypnotised by the book's great design and photography and this feels a good, important thing for the relative Arabian food virgin. The reader is put at ease and made ready to learn a lot about traditional Arabian food and, of course, its modern-day equivalents by the author who expertly combines her own memories of Arabian food with later times.
Looking through the recipes, split into chapters for breakfast, mezzo, lunch, dinner and dessert, you get a brilliant range of dishes to try that would not look out of place in a high-class restaurant. They are suitable for home production too. Even though some of the dishes might look familiar and possibly not Arabian in nature, you might be surprised when you read a little closer and realise just how widespread food fusion has become over recent years. Kofta Burgers and Yoghurt, Cheese and Mint Sauce... yum! ... and that is just one example.
No doubt the ultra-orthodox purist will find something to complain about, even when classics such as hummus, tabbouleh, shawarna and labneh are also present. The average reader, who is open to a bit of something possibly new, will not be disappointed. Despite the book featuring a good introduction and little information blocks appearing throughout, it would have been nice to have been able to read a little more about Arabian food and its culture. Naturally, there are other books and there is this thing called "the Internet" but nonetheless, even 10-20 more pages would not have been too unruly and just added even more cream to an otherwise tasty dish.
A few niggles spoiled this book for this particular reader with less-than-perfect vision. The text that introduces each recipe is a sort of very light, brown colour with an italicised font. Too hard to read. Overall the fonts could have done with being a little larger and a little less arty. A recipe book is designed to be used and the last thing you want to be doing is having to pick up and down a lovely book with dirty hands. Now, it is not a deal-breaker by any means but it just made the book more difficult, less accessible. That is a shame. Other than that everything was as it should be. OK, the "usual" missing average time to prepare and cook information notwithstanding - for the uninitiated this is a personal bugbear of YUM as there is no excuse not to say that a dish should take about 10 minutes to prepare and about an hour to cook, or about five hours to prepare and 20 minutes to cook. At a glance, for an unfamiliar dish, you then can see do you have the time to try it... and if it feels like it is taking an age to make you can be reassured that it isn't through your own incompetence. An average is exactly that. A guide. Anyway rant over.
Notwithstanding the few niggles this is a great book, particularly when you consider the relative scarcity of such books in English, its great price and its overall "eat me" design. This is likely to be awarded a place on YUM's reference shelf to boot, even if it might cause the odd grumble from a certain grumpy old reviewer in the process!