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It's a cold wet weekend in the Marches and just before I go off to get my flu jab, a parcel arrives. It is Snackistan, its cover a glorious eastern geometric pattern in shades of red, blue and cream. My mood lifts immediately. I take it with me to look at while I queue at the doctor's and thereby change the course of my day. Instead of going straight home, I'm off to the supermarket to buy ingredients - and yes most of the ingredients you need to cook the recipes in this book are available in a supermarket in the wilds of the Welsh Marches - because I am going to spend this vile wet weekend cooking Middle Eastern street food.

This is, I think, Sally Butcher's third book. Certainly it's the third book of hers that I have bought, and they all share her sense of fun and enormous knowledge of Middle Eastern and especially Persian food. She has the gift of enriching your knowledge by means of a good story, so the information she gives you slips down as easily as her food.

The recipes are great. They are organised helpfully and the index is excellent. Instructions are clear and easy to follow, but she also shows you how you can use her recipes as a stepping off point for ideas of your own. Techniques are not just explained, the reasons why they are necessary are also given. The illustrations are both beautiful and helpful.

Is a book teaching you how to make snacks really what the busy cook needs? Well, that depends on how you define the word snack. If a snack to you is a biscuit or a packet of crisps, then you need this book to broaden your horizons (though there are excellent recipes for crisp-like snacks here which will make you shudder at the thought of 'salt 'n vinegar' for ever more). If the word snack immediately conjures up some unhealthy, fat-saturated death inducing dollop of cholesterol, then the recipes here will show you that snacks can be both healthy and gorgeous. It also shows you that if you add salad you can make a meal; if you group dishes together you can have a feast.

Most of these recipes are best cooked fresh, but lots can be prepared ahead of time, so that if you have a heavy work schedule during the week, you can have everything ready to cook, waiting in the fridge when you come home.

So far, I have tried Greek style fried fish with vinegar sauce, Kebab - e -Koobideh, Fancy Houmous, Turkish Courgette Fritters, Chicken Liver with Pomegranate Sauce and various roasted nut mixtures. All have worked really well. There is a chapter on sweet things that I am desperately trying to resist, full of honey and nuts and marzipan that I would find almost impossible to eat in moderation.

So, to sum up, what is the food of Snackistan? The cover tells us 'street fare' 'comfort food' 'meze' - 'informal eating in the Middle East and beyond' and sums it up exactly. This is one book you can judge by its cover.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 October 2013
The title of this book is a little misleading since it's not so much about `snacks' as about the current trend for `street food' and meze-type meals - exactly the kind of nibbly, various, informal, friendly food that I love. Sally Butcher is a warm and welcoming guide to a range of dishes that range from Greek to Middle Eastern, that are all somehow imbued with a sense of hospitality and generosity.

Healthy-ish nibbles based on nuts and seeds make delicious drinks accompaniments with a bit more imagination than a packet of crisps (lemon-roasted almonds with saffron, and dry-roasted broad beans are particular favourites here), and the Greek prawns are both easy and gorgeous. There's also a good mix of meat and vegetarian dishes, perfect for those of us who aren't vegetarian on principle but just don't like meat that much.

The levels of cooking expertise do vary - some dishes look too complicated for me, but there are plenty of things here that I would tackle with no problem at all. I particularly love the chapter on drinks: orange-blossom and mint lemonade is just gorgeous (though I did have to make a bit of effort to track down orange blossom water), and the Kashmiri Tamarind Cooler is easy-peasy yet exotically different.

Recommended if you like adventurous yet easy cooking, and perfect for delicious, informal meals shared with friends.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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on 8 December 2013
The hardback cover is textured and looks very pretty. I was disappointed that only a few of the dishes are photographed. I like to visualise what the dish should look like. It's an okay book. I will probably give it away as a present.
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on 30 January 2014
I was slightly hesitant to purchase this, however I am so glad that I did. The recipes are authentic and that's primarily the reason why I got this. There is a wide selection of delicious recipes and I can't wait to work through each one. Recommended!
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on 2 June 2014
A very chatty, personal style but I would have preferred more information on food. It was bought for recipes on snacks, light finger foods as in the East, there a very few of these most recipes are too heavy to be considered as snacks.
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on 7 March 2014
If you liked Persia in Peckham you will love this book. Delicious recipes full of middle eastern flavor. Sally Butcher writes her recipes with little stories and help in preparation and cooking. easy to follow . a must for your kitchen.
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on 20 March 2014
Having loved Sally's previous books I was really looking forward to this one. It doesn't disappoint. There is much more covered than snacks and street food, with meze and dishes that would make delicious lunches and dinners. It is beautifully photographed and the introductions and notes are full of Sally's distinct voice, informative yet funny.
The design compliments Veggiestan perfectly although I'm still not convinced by the fuzzy bits on the cover.
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on 10 January 2014
Bought for my sister but think I'll have to get one for myself now. Beautiful book, delicious recipes, a wonderful gift for all adventurous home-chefs, and a lovely book to have at home for yourself
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on 9 April 2014
Haven't tried any recipes yet but will be soon. Love the way it is written. Will be buying Vegestan next!
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on 28 February 2014
For my step mother, she is delighted with it and has been going on about it ever since xmas :o)
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