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on 6 March 2008
There's no greater way to inspire the wanton traveller than books about the places he wishes to visit. I came across this book at the exact time I began planning an upcoming trip around the med.

I've been engrossing myself in Mediterranean cooking for some years now, and wanted to expand my culinary knowledge of the area. While I don't watch much TV, I am well aware of Rick Stein's reputation and capabilities, but am simply in awe of the attitude he takes to food.

Every recipe is introduced by the story of its origin or how he discovered it, introducing the local people who create them, and even the history of the dish. The Med is a very diverse area covering parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle-east, so the diversity of flavours is astonishing.

A read through the pages is in itself like a short journey. The pages are filled with colour photos of the food and locations where they can be found, all fresh looking feasts filled with mouth-watering ingredients interspersed with sun-drenched vistas with blue skies and amazing architectures, scenes of local culture and natural wonders.

The recipes themselves are wondrous and arrange themselves into colourful and nutritious dishes to suit every pallet. Mediteranean cooking is among the healthiest and most vibrant in the world and caters literally to every taste sensation, from mild to spicy, meaty, fishy and veggie...

This book covers everything from the familiars like pastas, salads and cheeses to the more exotic flavours like souvlaki, stifado and Moroccan chicken.

In fact this has given me quite an appetite so I'll leave you with my recommendation to try this book.
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on 22 September 2007
I'm a passionate cook, but also hugely critical of lots of the TV celebrity cooks, the manners and posturing of many. However, this is an extraordinary cookbook with lots of absolutely delicious Moroccan food, easy to make focaccia,stunning vegetables. It is impossible to cook a failed meal from this book. Every dish cooked at home lives up to the promise of the magnificent photographs in this book. Even my usually useless-in-the-kitchen daughter and partner managed to produce astoundingly delicious food from these easy to follow recipes. I have more than 300 cookbooks, but this is the one I will use most in the months to come. It is so good that for this addictive cook, I'm now nervous about seeking out or buying new cookbooks in case they disappoint. I cannot recommend this cookbook to highly for either the novice or passionate cook.
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on 20 August 2007
...this is a Mediterranean JOURNEY.......with over 100 NEW recipes inspired by the flavours of this region.

'A fascinating journey into a rich and varied culinary heritage. Approach the Mediterranean Sea from any direction and you know you've entered a different world. Rick Stein's newest culinary odyssey takes in both the islands and coast of this remarkable region.

Published to accompany Rick's new five-part television series for BBC2, this new book starts where 'French Odyssey' left off - at the mouth of the Rhone in the port of Marseilles......'

Durable hardboard covers open to 216 high quality, shiny pages, split over main chapters:

1. Mezze, Kemia, Tapas and Antipasta
2. Herbs, Salad Leaves, Weeds and Other Greens
3. Aubergines, Artichokes, and the Mediterranean Garden
4. Pecorino, Feta, Ricotta and Mozzarella
5. Sardines, Red Mullet, Swordfish, Calamari and Tuna
6. Free-Range Chicken and Eggs
7. Lamb, Veal, Beef and the Whole Pig
8. Rabbit, Partridge, Quail and Wild Boar
9. Dried Beans, Grains, Rice and Pasta
10. Sweet Things, Fruits, Ices, Cakes and Sticky Pastries
11. The Mediterranean Larder:- Ingredients, Sauces, Relishes and Basics

plus sections entitled:

* Escape Routes
* Where to get Ingredients
* Notes on the Recipes

and conversion charts, plus a full recipe index, indicating illustrated dishes.

Written in the typical Rick Stein style, this book is arguably his best to date combining great cooking, culinary knowledge and breath-taking photography:

food shots, from Earl Carter
landscape shots, from Craig Easton.

Each chapter opens with an apt paragraph, e.g.:

'What we love most about Mediterranean Cooking are those small, informal dishes that seem to be served everywhere in generous quantities to accompany a glass of something in the early evening.'

Each recipe has a general opening paragraph, title/s (both foreign and English, where applicable), region, full list of ingredients and a clear method, followed by suggested variations if applicable.
One of Rick's main qualities is acknowledging other cooks and their recipes/publications, and these interesting paragraphs have numerous such references.
Followers of the TV series will hear Rick's voice as he describes one of his encounters ahead of a marvellous recipe for 'Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds':

'This recipe was given to me by Lahcen Bequi who runs a cookery school in Fes. He started cooking when he was just 10, when his parents sent him away to school in a town a fair distance away from the Berber village in the High Atlas mountains in which he grew up. It was amazing for me to talk to this intelligent and gifted cook, knowing that he'd spent his childhood out in the high pastures shepherding sheep and goats.
A tagine is historically a Berber dish and it seemed to me, tasting this one with lamb and prunes, that I was eating the real thing.
The meat was meltingly soft, and this, above all dishes, convinced me of the sophistication of the Moroccan use of fruit and nuts with meat. It had a beguiling smokiness about it. He took an immense time to cook it, and explained in detail that the importance of the shape of the tagine is that the steam inside rises to the top of the still cold conical lid, where it condenses and drips back down, bathing the meat in fragrant juices.......'

Other recipes in this delightful book include:

* Tabbouleh
* Focaccia
* Spiced Octopus Salad
* Baked Greek Omelette
* Caponata
* Imam Bayildi
* Braised Artichokes
* Easter Lamb
* Seared Swordfish Steaks
* Chicken and Prawn Paella
* Moroccan Chicken
* Kleftiko
* Stifado
* Seafood Couscous
* Spaghettini
* Bulgar Wheat Pilaf
* Crema Catalana
* Baklava
* Moroccan Orange Salad
* Almond Cake with Almond Ice Cream
* Zabaglione
* Sicilian Orange Cake

'Key Mediterranean Ingredients:

Among the most exciting things I found travelling the Mediterranean over the last couple of years have been the local ingredients that give the food its characteristic flavour. The lardy, pimento-flavoured sobrasada in Majorca, strattu, the sun-dried tomato paste of Sicily; aci biber salcasi, the hot red-pepper paste from the markets of Gaziantep and Adana in eastern Turkey; figatellu, the smoked pig's liver and clove sausage from Corsica; ras el hanout, the Moroccan spice mix - all these and more are a source of delight to the travelling cook.'

A different language, perhaps, but...typically...made simple by Mr Rick Stein.
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on 3 September 2007
I bought this book because I saw the series on TV and greatly enjoyed seeing the beautiful landscapes and learning about local ingredients and dishes. For anyone who loves Mediterranean food with its varied influences and would like to be able to recreate typical dishes at home, this book is a very accessible resource.

The photography is bright and clear and linked to the recipes which are divided into sections according to the type of dish and main ingredients used so there are sections on cheeses, antipasti, pasta and rice, rabbit and game, fish, fruits, herbs and salads. The text is informative and gives details about the provenance of the dishes and the cultural influences on Mediterranean food.

The instructions are clear and concise and the majority of recipes are well within the capabilities of most home cooks. More experienced cooks will enjoy trying out the more adventurous dishes such as wild boar stew. I was delighted to find a recipe for pastitsio, a dish I have enjoyed many times in Greece. Some of the ingredients are hard to find in the UK, but the appendix gives details of suppliers as well as suggesting suitable substitute ingredients. Many of the recipes are suitable for vegetarians or can be easily adapted for vegetarians.

On television Rick Stein can come across as a bit full of himself, but his book is visually attractive and informative. It would make a great gift for anyone interested in food and cookery.
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on 6 September 2007
I love this book! I am not a good cook, usually, but this book has me inspired. I've tried several recipes & all have come out looking & tasting great. This is the first cookbook I've bought where I'm genuinely excited about preparing & making dishes that I can share with my family & friends. Tonight I tried the `Parmigiana di Melenzana', which turned out to be delicious, the taleggeo cheese really made for a much stronger flavour. I absolutely love Mediterranean style food, they keep it simple & there's nearly always so much fish involved.

Easy to use great recipes interspersed with gorgeous photographs make for a beautifully presented essential kitchen aid. I honestly can't wait to try out more dishes, especially that `Catalan Crème Brulee' & the `Wild Boar Stew'.
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on 3 November 2007
Scheduling of the show was a bit weird so I missed half of the tv series but bought the book on the few episodes I saw alone and I have not been disappointed. I have to say I have never cooked so many receipes in such a short space of time from one book.

Alot of the dishes are one pot wonders. The photography of the food and the way Stein enthuses just has you planning a week of dinners in 5 minutes flat while the photography of the regions has me planning my next holiday!

I can't recommend it highly enough.
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on 12 September 2007
I don't usually bother with chefs marketing their latest wares on tv, but thought I'd give the new Rick Stein series a go as I love Med food. The test of any food programme is whether it makes you think "I want to cook that", rather than just "I'd like to eat that". Judging from the well-worn pages + some smudges & stains, this book is spending a lot of time in the kitchen! RS' approach is very much hands-on & "lets get on with it": I like the fact that he isn't snooty abt using tinned/frozen things if you can't get fresh & doesn't burden you with obscure ingredients & nothing more exotic than a tagine equipment-wise.

So far we've had great times cooking & consuming the following: Spag carbonara, tumbet, chicken & prawn paella, chicken sobrasada, kefta mkaouara, kleftiko, fennel sausages & lemony potatoes (to die for!!), canalons a la barcelonesa, gnocchetti sardi ... pastitzio next

The book's attractively laid out, with lots of brightly coloured pix of food & places, so its ideal to give as a present. Generally the publisher manages to keep recipes to one page, so not too much frantic page-turning in the heat of the kitchen. The index cd be better, but that's a minor quibble. Some of the recipes are very simple, & there are plenty that are more involved for when you want a good long kitchen session. Unfortunately a couple of recipes from the tv shows aren't included, but I'm sure we'll survive...

I'm grateful to RS & this book for giving us a lot of really good evenings lately, & you can't praise a cook book more than that.By contrast, I flicked the tv on the other night as I sat down with my Greek salad & caught Queen Nigella's latest tv offering - showing how to "make curry & rice in 20 mins" - oh yeah, right ...
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on 2 October 2007
This is a beautifully produced book and, I think, a terrific tool for cooks and travellers alike. I've lived in different mediterranean countries and some of the recipes brought back lovely memories of my time abroad. It complements the tv programmes perfectly and if you enjoyed those programmes you will not be disappointed in the book. This is a great time to buy it as it brings warmth and sunshine into our autumnal and soon to be winter days!!
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I'll admit that I've never been a great fan of Rick Stein; I don't like seafood and I'm not particularly keen on French cuisine either, so that cuts out most of his stuff for me. However I am into wider Mediterranean cooking, and with Rick going a bit 'off-piste' for once I decided to have a shufti at this one, and it was definitely good enough to get.

It's well presented, with excellent photographs of recipes themselves which certainly induce you to want to make them, and the obligatory location photographs are not excessive like in some books - just enough to make it a visually beautiful book and make you feel the warmth of the Mediterrean as you flick through, without distracting from the food. It's also a practical book for use in the kitchen, a test which a significant proportion of cookbooks fail on.

The recipes are generally simple and easy, as much Mediterranean food is, but hearty and satisfying. Highlights include:

- Kefta mkaouara (Egg, meatball and tomato tagine) - this has become a firm favourite of mine. I recommend preparing the tomato sauce separately beforehand, cooking up with chopped up tomato vine (to be removed before use - a tip gained from Heston Blumenthal's Further Adventures in Search of Perfection) - it makes a massive difference to the flavour; and serving with rosemary flatbreads rather than the plain ones suggested.
- Parmagiana di melanzana (Baked slices aubergines with tomato, taleggio and parmesan)
- Souvlaki (lamb kebabs with flatbreads, tzatziki, tomatoes and pickles)
- Kleftiko (slow cooked lamb with garlic, oregano, lemon and potatoes)
- Fennel sausages braised with lemony potatoes and bay leaves
- Pastitsio (beef and macaroni pie with cinnamon, red wine and kefalotiri cheese)
- Strawberries in primitivo with vanilla
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on 15 October 2007
Anyone who has holidayed in the Mediterannean and wants to relive good memories of the good food they ate out there will enjoy this book. Rick Stein's dishes are a feast to look at - the book is very well presented with a good selection of dishes that bring out the many flavours of the Mediterannean - our only complaint is that it should have been a bigger book. However, we have no complaints about the dishes already prepared using this book. Enjoy.
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