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4.7 out of 5 stars49
4.7 out of 5 stars
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I have been a fan of Lebanese food for many years - once even factoring a 24 hour stopover in Beirut to a flight schedule just to have an authentic Lebanese lunch.

I am prepared to take the authenticity of the recipes in The Lebanese Kitchen at face value, but I wonder whether the flavours are quite authentic. Perhaps it is just chance that the first recipes I have chosen were so heavy on seven-spice mixture and cinnamon, but it tends to make the food taste rather samey and flat. The flavours I associate with Lebanon - especially cardamom and lemon juice - just don't seem to be there. Having said that, my family have enjoyed the end products.

The recipes I have followed (baba ganoush; spaghetti; lamb and aubergine stew; spinach and rice salad; lemon, lime and ginger drink) were straightforward and the inclusion of two ribbon placemarkers is useful, but the dense text, lack of paragraphing and the use of the dreaded "meanwhile" make it necessary to read the entire recipe quite carefully before starting out.

A further issue is that a good Lebanese meal focuses on many small mezze dishes, supplemented with dips, pickles, salads and the like. If you eat Lebanese food every day, you would presumably make these mezze in batches and stuff your fridge or freezer full of them. But if you are in a western kitchen and only occasionally want to eat Lebanese food, you'll either end up working many hours to create small quantities of many things, or you'll end up going down a western route of starter, main course and pudding. That's not the fault of the book, but may limit how effectively people are able to recreate their favourite Levantine restaurant in their own homes.

As a recipe book goes, this does what it sets out to do in a comprehensive and functional way. It is not over-cluttered with photos - most dishes are not illustrated. It does not have lots of photos of countryside or the author in front of endless exotic backdrops. This is a book for the kitchen, not the coffee table. That, alone, is a major selling point when so many cookbooks have been designed purely for decoration.

* Update.

Did a houmus and broad bean dip that worked very well indeed. Waaaay nicer than bought houmus.

But then the book let me down with the rice with lamb and spinach. The recipe said preparation time of 20 minutes and cooking time of 30 minutes. Then, two thirds of the way through the cooking process (i.e. after 20 minutes), the recipe said cover and cook for 1 hour. Oops. The end result, an hour later than expected, was nice but like so many of these recipes it seemed very heavy on the cinnamon. And having now rad tested about 7 or 8 recipes, still not had to take the lid off the cardamom jar.
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on 30 July 2013
As an ex ex pat I developed a love of arabic food while working in the middle east. I have a number of middle eastern cookery books and this definately is one of the best that I have. As well as the book being beautiful to look at, the recipes are comprehensive and the results accurate.

before purchasing this I was in a large bookstore browsing the cookery books and I sat and looked through a number of books in detail to ensure that I was getting something that met my needs rather than hoping for the best with an online purchase. Out of all of the books that I looked at this one ticked all of the boxed. The recipes are concise, clear and while some of the herbs and spices are certainly middle eastern, with the abundance of "ethnic" shops and the online availability there is really no need to be unable to get the correct ingredients.

Since purchasing the book last week I have already made 15 recipes and each and every one of them has turned out exactly as expected. Please note that there isn't an illustration for every recipe but you really don't need it.. An expensive book but worth it
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This is the best offering I have seen so far in the Phaidon cookbook series in terms of presentation - The Silver Spoon,Vefa's Kitchen and India: The Cookbook have all left something to be desired on that front.

There are many traditional recipes given along with those which evidence more recent external influence from other parts, to give a thoroughly broad range. I was particularly pleased in this respect with the desserts section as there is more variety here than you usually find in Middle Eastern cookbooks with their seven kinds of baklava.

One minor annoyance is that the book is aimed at the American market; so ingredients are named fava beans, zucchini, scallions, cilantro, eggplants etc., but slightly more irritating is that quantities are given in cups, although they are also parenthesised with ounce and gram measurements. More importantly, it would also have been an improvement if the recipe instructions were broken down into numbered steps or at least paragraphs rather than a single uninterrupted block of text.
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on 8 October 2012
I can't recommend this beautiful cookbook highly enough, it's both well written and very lovely to look at.
Having received it only a couple of days ago I've not been able to put it down and have already read the recipes cover-to-cover. I'm looking forward to trying them all.

Salma Hage is obviously a very talented home-cook and you can feel her love of Lebanon, her family and home cooking in every recipe. My favourites: Garlic Almond and Pomegranate Soup, Kadafi Pastry Pie with Zucchini and Za'tar, Zucchini and Cumin Falafel, and Hummus with Beet.

There are so many lovely recipes in here that make Lebanese cooking seem very accessible. The dishes I've managed to make so far (Moussaka, Halloumi with Mint, Garlic and Pomegranate, and the Baba Ganoush) have all been amazing, full of flavour and very easy.

There's a wonderful Mezze section at the beginning, which includes some really simple but great dishes such as the potato salad with tahini, Shanklish cheese with Za'tar and eight different types of hummus. This will be a great book to use at Christmas.

'Salma's story' at the start of the book gives a wonderful background that's worth reading and it really puts the book into context. As well as the many practical recipes, the book also has lots of interesting snippets of background information, history, culture, and info on ingredients of all kinds, which makes it wonderful to browse through for inspiration on what to cook.

This is one of the best cookery book I've read for a long time, and is by far the best on Lebanese cuisine. Thoroughly enjoyable and insightful with beautiful photographs too.
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I had no intention of buying this book until I saw it in a bookstore: it's just such a beautiful book I couldn't resist it! From the saw-edge pages to the illustrations, it really is a joy to hold and read. And the recipes are beautifully straightforward - none call for ingredients that most supermarkets in the UK don't stock nowadays. There may be the odd one or two which are easily obtainable online. A sense of years of love of cooking distilled into the pages of this book, and for anyone who is a fan of Middle Eastern food, this book will be a much loved addition to a cook-book library.
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on 17 November 2013
I believe this book can be ranked alongside - perhaps higher than? - Robert Carrier's "Great Dishes of the World", my bible from some 50 years back.

Carrier opened English eyes to the wonderful cuisines beyond English shores.

Salma Hage, who has similar professional and personal cooking experience, is doing the same in reverse; she brings the Lebanese cuisine to the world, in a classically easy-to-follow way. This is significant because Lebanese food - as per these recipes - is much healthier than Western food. In particular, it uses far less cooking fat, and far less animal protein. The recipes are delicious.

The book itself is beautiful, including the photographs.

For the above reasons, I give it five stars.

As other reviewers have noted - K Ofiesh Aug 29 2013, E L Wisty Nov 9 2012 -, there do seem to be shortcomings in the editing and proof-reading, but one can deal with this, as I do, by reading the recipe carefully beforehand and adjusting actions as needed. Phaidon needs to improve its act for the next edition.
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on 3 November 2012
Wow! Just fantastic! What a discovery.

I have been looking for original, tasty recipes that I can cook for a dinner party, for the kids and just for my husband and I. I am tired of the same old things that one sees in everyone's kitchen - Jamie, Nigella, Delia. All good staples, don't get me wrong, but I wanted a different dimension. Well, I have found it.

The Lebanese Kitchen is a revelation. I have now tried many of the starters and main dishes and every one has been a huge success. For instance, for a dinner party recently I made the hummus, baba-ganoush, the lamb dish with prunes and apricots and also the chicken with pomegranate. I followed the recipes carefully and each dish came out perfectly and was just mouth-watering!

This is really delicious food made from interesting and healthy ingredients. The book itself is beautifully written and made. The photos give a very good idea of what the dishes should look like and how to present them.

Having cooked similar type food, for instance Otollenghi, it has been hugely refreshing to find something new and exciting, and the range of recipes means that I will be cooking new dishes and trying dishes in different combinations for a long time to come. I could not recommend this cookery book more highly and am looking forward to making my way through all of its wonderful pages!

All in all a triumph.

Caroline, North West London
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on 11 April 2014
This book is full of lamb. Shoulder of lamb, ground lamb, leg of lamb, lamb kebab, lamb upwards, lamb downwards, lamb sideways!

When I first received this book that put me off a little and it went on the shelf for a little while. I'm not such a big lamb eater myself, not hating it, mind, just - ALL the time?! But then summer came, and it was HOT, so what better place to look for recipe ideas than a mediterranean cookbook? So I did and I'm glad of it, too, as I discovered many very good recipes, especially for lamb! No, I'm kidding, for veg, actually. My favourite recipe in this book is a dish where tomato halves are baked in pepper halves and then filled with a lime-spked rice. I stuck faithfully to the recipe (not knowing what it was meant to taste like I didn't do my usual "Let's take this as a suggestion") and ended up with a really tasty dish that I have taken into my regular summer cuisine.

I also tried other recipes and always ended up with good food on the table. So.... what more could you ask for?
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on 8 October 2012
"The Jewel in the Middle Eastern culinary crown" a Guardian review advertises on the front cover on the copy of the book I just received. High expectations. Well, I certainly wasn't disappointed. I''ve been a long-time fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, but this is my first real personal attempt at cooking it.

This food Bible (more than 500 pages) gives an easy overview of all types of dishes: mezzes, soups, fish & meat dishes, breads, and delicious sweets... (Ma'Mool cookies are amazing). So you find all the recipes you'd expect, but Salma Hage, who has been working as a cook for more than three decades, adds her own little secrets to the traditional family recipes (Hummus with pumpkin and cilantro anyone?). That little extra touch is brilliant.

Speaking of extra touches: the book has a very appealing design (all in the detail, the saw-toothed side of the pages) and some beautiful, vibrant photography from daily life in Lebanon. All in all, a great cook book, which will be the go-to-guide to Lebanese cuisine.
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on 7 January 2016
I received this book as a Christmas present and absolutely love it. The photographs are enticing and the recipes mouth-watering. It's one of those cook books that you can just sit and read and become inspired.
So far I have only made a couple of the dishes - lamb shank and olive casserole, and fig tart with almonds - but they were both delicious and the recipes were easy to follow. There are some ingredients in the book that I haven't come across before, for example Za'tar, which I've still got to source, but I'm planning on adding more Lebanese-inspired food to our diet - it'll make a change from spaghetti bolognese and curries and the meals are no more difficult to make. A great book.
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