on 14 November 2002
There are several reasons I love this cookbook. First of all, every single recipe I've cooked so far (five, after owning it for 2 weeks) has been absolutely delicious. They really make you want to cook and eat. Secondly, Diana Henry's evocative essays and useful cooking tips have already expanded the range of flavours in my kitchen. If you've ever been intrigued by orange blossom water or pickled lemons, say, but didn't know how to use them, this book will inspire you to explore their possibilities, as it has for me. Thirdly, the wonderful photographs mean this is a beautiful cookbook, without being untouchably 'posh'. The food is 'home cooking' (ie approachable) but also adventurous. One of the best cookbooks of the year so far.
on 15 December 2012
This is one of my most treasured books - not just my favourite recipe book.
I bought my copy as a student, and took it with me from place to place over the years. It was always the book I went to when I wanted to cook something truly wonderful for my friends. The recipes are accessible, adventurous in the best way while still reliably producing great results.
It was a guide and an inspiration in exploring and understanding new and exciting ingredients when I moved to London, but never once have I found myself frustrated because I could not get my hands on a vital ingredient.
It was also a comforting book to read, as it is well written and evocative, and over the years grew even richer in good memories. The day when after two months I got to open the most beautiful jar of pickles I ever ate - home made! - Standing at the cooker with a friend, boiling lavender in honey, marvelling at it together and worrying that we were making scented soap, then being rewarded with an incredible fragant lavender duck roast instead...
This book has made my life better - and it taught me how joyful, exciting and miraculous cooking can be.
on 30 January 2012
I am a huge fan of Diana Henry and I have several of her books; however, this was one book that I didn't already have in my cookbook library, so when Octopus Publishing Group sent me a copy to review I was delighted. Diana Henry writes with such passion and authority, and never more so in Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. The book covers dishes and recipes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa and the whole cookbook is a veritable magic carpet of enchanting and magical dishes that titillate the taste-buds and are a feast of exotic colours and fragrant aromas. The Levant and the Maghreb are home to some of my favourite cuisines and these regions are covered extensively in this cookbook. Expect to see exciting and exotic ingredients such as saffron, pomegranates, quinces, dates, figs, rose petals, flower waters, lavender and cardamom to list just a few. The recipes are accompanied by lavish photos and excerpts of poetry ~ this is a truly magical book and offers some simple and achievable meals to create at home whilst retaining an element of mystery and uniqueness not often found in modern cookbooks.
The book is divided into twelve aromatic chapters; the chapters themselves are almost like tales from A Thousand and One Nights, so much so that one almost expects Scheherazade to come drifting by in a cloud of rose petals and sandalwood........they comprise:
The Spice Trail - cardamom, chilli, cumin, ginger, coriander, pimenton and saffron
Fragrance if the Earth - lavender, rosemary, thyme and oregano
A Bowl of Fresh Herbs - parsley, coriander, dill, basil and mint
Sweet Cloves and Liquid Gold - garlic, olives and olive oil
The Sweet and the Sour - honey and vinegar
Of Sea and Salt - anchovies, bottarga and salt cod
Plundering the Stores - almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and dried fruits
Fruits of Longing - figs, quinces, pomegranates and dates
Curds and Whey - yoghurt, feta and ricotta
Food from the Hearth - flatbreads
Pith and Skin - oranges and lemons
Heaven Scent - flowers and flower waters
There is also an interesting introduction by Diana Henry and a comprehensive index at the back of the book.
Each chapter has an extensive and informative introduction where the ingredients are discussed as well as some of the dishes that are featured in the ensuing chapter - an encyclopaedic essay of what's to come. Diana's writing is exciting and descriptive......the individual introductions for each chapter set you up for the recipes ahead and tempt you through her historical notes and observations; her words and descriptions are pure culinary poetry. The recipes dance and pirouette throughout the book - who can resist the idea of making and serving Chocolate, Hazelnut and Sherry Cake with Sherry-Raisin Cream, or maybe a dish of Cardamom-Baked Figs with Plums and Burnt Honey and Yoghurt Cream. Then there's the savoury Aubergines with Mint as well as the delicious sounding Chermoula-Marinated Tuna with Pomegranate Couscous......or maybe you'd be tempted with Roast Duck with Honey, Lavender and Thyme........my personal favourite is the Ladies' Navels with Cardamom and Rose Syrup and Berries - which are little Turkish doughnuts, served with several exotic embellishments.
The recipes cover most meats such as lamb, beef and pork as well as poultry and numerous vegetarian dishes and flat breads; desserts, cakes and sweets are well represented and, in line with all of the recipes, they are studded and perfumed with herbs, spices and flowers......the range of dishes in the book is imaginative and extremely diverse......and yet, the ingredients are all easily available from most supermarkets, as well as small independent shops that specialise in Middle Eastern produce. There are ice creams, beverages, sauces and rubs.......I was very taken with the idea of Flower-scented Truffles, and I plan to make them this Valentines' Day with some fresh violets from the garden.
The book lived up to my expectations and if I have any criticism at all, it is directed at the quality of the print; the book was published in China, and I didn't think that the quality matched the high standard of writing and photography - I felt that the images were poorly reproduced and the finish of the cover was a little disappointing......I have a copy of Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Food to Warm the Soul that was published in 2005 and the quality of print is far superior. That said, the hardback book is a very modest £15:99 from Octopus Publishing and an unbelievably low £10:23 from Amazon co uk. The book itself is an enchanting collection of aromatic and stunningly visual recipes which have all been well written and are exquisitely showcased......Diana Henry's writing is lyrical and yet honest and authoritative; the book really does whisk you away on a magic carpet of exotic flavours, aromas and with more than just a hint of Eastern culinary promise and mystery; an exquisite cook book that offers recipes to suit all levels of cooks, from simple family meals that can be made in under an hour to more accomplished and intricate feasts.
Karen S Burns-Booth
on 10 September 2002
What a wonderful book! This is a must-have for anyone who enjoys the food of the Mediterranean and is looking either for a different take on familiar ingedients or to be introduced to a whole host of new ones.
Diana Henry's fantastic recipes are interspersed with pages of tantalising and mouthwatering prose as well as carefully chosen literary quotations. This is a book that easily makes great bedside reading and should not just be confined to the kitchen.
Individual chapters deal with ingredients such as herbs, spices, fruit, nuts and even flower waters. Exciting recipes with exotic names beckon - how does "Rhone Ferryman's Beef with Camargue Red Rice" sound? Or even "Ice Heaven"? I can't wait to try dishes like "Lemon and Basil Ice Cream" or "Arab Andalusian Monkfish with Saffron, Honey and Vinegar" to name but two. In fact so infectious is Diana Henry's enthusiasm that I defy anyone who buys this book not to want to cook from it at the first opportunity.
I hope that there are many more publications to come!
I had heard of Diana Henry's reputation for Middle Eastern cookery but I never felt the need for another book after buying Claudia Roden's in the 1970s. However, I was really pleased to find that there are so many different recipes in Henry's book and also, there were others from southern Europe and North Africa that had been adapted over the years in a style and taste of their own.
I really like Henry's style of writing. When describing the meaning of Crazy Water, she explains, ''Anyway, you were probably expecting something much more complicated....trust me, you'll love this dish..." There is also, " Fancy a cold glass of almond milk?...." It felt like she was actually talking to just me .
The book is packed with surprising facts told in an easy, relaxed manner - for example, too much saffron makes a dish taste bitter. There are many dessert recipes in the book which are often lacking in books on Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African cooking - who could not be tempted by Ladies' navels with cardamom and rose syrup and berries?
So far I have cooked Pearl Diver's Rice and Spiced Chicken on Melting Onions with Preserved Lemon and can recommend both, they were superb.
I have only one criticism - I would have liked a few more photographs of the finished dish - I didn't see the point of a close-up of some basil in a bowl with lemon.
It sounds like a cliche`but this is a book to curl up with and enjoy - there's history, culture and anecdotes in every chapter. The recipes are fabulous and the instructions so clear and simple that I feel sure that a total beginner could produce something wonderful from this book.
on 30 January 2012
I was absolutely delighted to receive a review copy of Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry from Octopus Publishing. My Levantine genes will out, so it's no surprise that Mediterranean cuisine is a favourite of mine. Much as I love Middle Eastern food, however, this book has a wider reach than a classic Claudia Roden for example. Subtitled enchanting dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa, it is a gentle blend of cuisines, flavours and techniques, adapted by Diana to form her own take on this culinary heartland.
Before receiving this book, I'd never heard of Diana Henry - shame on me! Now an award winning food writer for the Sunday Telegraph, Diana didn't come to food writing until relatively late in life. She has, however, always been an avid cook and food adventurer and her enthusiasm shines through the book and leaps out at surprising moments. First published in 2002, Crazy Water Pickled Lemons was the first of six books that Diana has written (so far). This is a revised edition published this year.
For me this book is evocative of the Arabian Nights, avidly read as a child. Later as a teenager, I was somewhat bemused by the unexpurgated version I'd got hold of. Anyway, the book itself is hypnotic in its sensual, magical, exotic and haunting qualities. The very chapter headings are compelling in their otherworldliness. Take for example, Fruits of Longing highlighting figs, quinces, pomegranates and dates, Plundering the Stores where almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and dried fruits come to the fore, The Spice Trail with its mouth watering use of cardamom, chilli, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, coriander, pimenton and saffron and Heaven Scent with recipes using flowers and flower waters. And the drowsy photography fits right along, with half glimpses of foods remembered from some nostalgic dream-time. This is not usually my favourite form of food photography; I like to see the finished article in all its clarity which gives me an idea of what I am aiming for or aspiring to. But here, this form of photography fits well. Yet, despite this whimsy, the content is very much grounded in reality. This is a book of recipes that would be familiar to thousand of home cooks around the Med.
As a vegetarian, I was slightly disappointed to see so many meat and fish dishes, but there are some nuggets to be pulled from the predominantly carnivorous pages. Kushary was one I was particularly excited by. A meal of rice, lentils and macaroni, this is one of Egypt's national dishes and is particularly prevalent in Cairo. Despite having eaten it a number of times whilst living there, I have never yet made it. There are also plenty of ideas for mezze including flat breads and pickles. And of course, with the Med's notoriously sweet tooth, there are a number of treats to keep the sugar lovers amongst us satisfied. Diana's writing more than makes up for any lack of flesh free dishes, indeed this book is a joy to read. Each chapter begins with a three page contextual narrative which tantalises so you can hardly wait to plunge into the recipes that proceed it.
Pickled lemons I'm assuming all are familar with, but what is this crazy water referred to in the title? Fellow vegetarians, read no further, it's all about sea bass. In Diana's own words "Ah, the title dish. And I must say I initially fell in love with it for its name. It's from the Amalfi coast and nobody really knows why the dish is called "Crazy Water". Some have suggested it alluded to the sea-water used by fisherman to cook their catch at sea, others that the "crazy" refers to the heat imparted by the chilli".
No review is complete without at least one recipe being tested. I don't really associate the Med with chocolate, so I was somewhat anxious that I wouldn't have any chocolate recipes to try. But I needn't have worried, there are four to choose from and all of them sound enticing and exotic: chocolate and rosemary sorbet, herb-scented truffles and stuffed figs dipped in chocolate. The one I chose to try first was a chocolate, hazelnut and sherry cake with sherry-raisin cream. This will be featuring on my blog at some future date, but for now I can report that the recipe was surprisingly simple, easy to follow and every bit as good as Diana promised.
on 9 May 2006
....'enchanting dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa'.....it captures the cultures, too!
From inside the front jacket flap:
'Crazy Waters, Pickled Lemons is an exploration of the ingredients and dishes of the Mediterranean, The Middle East and North Africa......presenting recipes that combine flavours in ways long forgotten - or never even discovered - in many western kitchens.
Special ingredients - the colourful, the aromatic, and the perfumed - which are all too often overlooked in the modern kitchen, are also featured.'
This book stands out from the average cookery book due to the passion which really flows from Diana Henry's descriptive writing - the reader can almost see and taste those flavours, which is far better described than me by the cover quote from Claudia Roden -'A glorious and magical feast for the senses'!
'Places, as well as tastes, are locked up in food. The clear perfumed stillness of a bottle of flower water, the sexy, velvety skin of a fig, the sunburnt blood colour of a jar of cayenne. Our love of foods has as much to do with what they represent as with what they taste like.'
Attractive paperback covers open to 192 high quality pages, split over chapters:
* The Spice Trail
* Fragrance of the Earth
* A Bowl of Fresh Herbs
* Sweet Cloves and Liquid Gold
* The Sweet and the Sour
* Of Sea and Salt
* Plundering the Stores
* Fruits of Longing
* Curds and Whey
* Food from the Hearth
* Pith and Skin
* Heaven Scent
sandwiched between an introduction and a concise index, the latter listed by ingredient.
Each chapter opens with informative pieces relative to the title, followed by the recipes, which vary in the level of complexity but the majority are far simpler than their titles may suggest.
Each recipe is clearly laid out with a capitalised title, an opening note relating to the recipe, the number of servings, list of ingredients and a clearly laid out and numbered method.
The book is interspersed with useful notes, quotes and sayings....along with the usual stunning full-colour photography, from Jason Lowe:-
some of the ingredients
some of the dishes....... but these may prove to be a little on the light side for those of us who like to see what we are aiming for on the plate.
However, the easy flow of the passionate writing throughout makes this very easy to forgive.
A small taste of the recipes contained within:
* Moroccan Chicken with Tomatoes and Saffron-Honey Jam
* Spanish Sausages and Migas
* Jewelled Persian Rice
* Simple Greek Lamb
* Lavender, Orange and Almond Cake
* Chilled Avocado and Coriander Soup
* Lemon and Basil Ice Cream
* Salt-Baked Potatoes with Crème Fraîche and New Season's Garlic
* Aubergines with Mint
* Pasta with Two Anchovy Sauces
* Breast of Duck with Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce
* Moroccan Lamb and Quince Tajine
* Stuffed Figs dipped in Chocolate
* Yoghurt Mezze
* Lamb Pizza with Preserved Lemons
* Middle Eastern Orange Confit
* Violet Liqueur Truffles
......not forgetting, of course, the title dish -'Crazy Water'- a simple, but delicious recipe originating from the Amalfi coast, and 'Pickled Lemons', from page 165, packing a real punch as we near the end of this passionate work which is far, far more than just another cook-book destined to linger on a kitchen bookshelf!
This is a delicious book written with love and humour! Although the herbs and spices are known about and freely available on supermarket shelves, the way they are used in these recipes is unusual and very enticing. How could you resist making "Ladies' Navels with Cardamom, Rose Syrup and Berries"? The book is much more than the recipes it contains: there are as many suggestions for the different use of herbs and spices in the chapter introductions as there are actual recipes and the author's descriptions are as enticing as her food: "Lavender actually tastes like a mild version of rosemary with a breath of the floral wreathed around it. I love a lavender, honey and balsamic marinade for duck or chicken . . . and a plum and lavender sauce or a savoury apple and lavender jelly is great with pork." Opening the book at random, the pages fall open at "Lemon and Basil Ice-cream". Basil has to be my favourite herb but I've never seen it used as an ice-cream flavouring. Surely its delicate flavour would be deadened by freezing? In the company of lemons, however, basil will weave its magic in a subtle and perfumed way which is miles away from its role in tomato sauces and pasta dishes. None of these recipes appear particularly difficult to make and a quick skim through the ingredient lists tells me that all the ingredients are now at least reasonably easy to buy in the supermarket. Don't be put off by instructions to make your own labneh - it's just strained and drained yoghurt flavoured with garlic and seasoning, but put it together with bulgar and spinach pilaf and chilli roast tomatoes and it's food for the gods! I have many cookery books on cooking with herbs and spices and also many on Middle Eastern cookery, but this one is a bit special and I heartily recommend it to everyone who wants to give their taste buds a whirl :-)
Having recently read and reviewed Diana Henry's book 'Roast Figs, Sugar Snow' and thoroughly enjoyed it, I was delighted to see that her previous book 'Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons' had also appeared in a new edition. Having not previously been aware of her work, it is a real delight to have two such excellent books full of glorious recipes from all over the world!
This particular book covers some unusual dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa, including, of course, the titular Crazy Water and Pickled Lemons. The book is divided into a range of chapters covering a variety of different herbs, spices, nuts, fruits and, much to my delight, flower waters. Illustrated throughout with mouth watering photographs, Ms Henry writes in an engaging style that really encourages me to get back in the kitchen and have a go at at least some of the recipes metioned. Rose flavoured Ice in Heaven, anyone? I was pleased to see that most of the ingredients in many of the recipes are quite easily obtained over here in Britan, and not expensively either, making these recipes well within the reach of those on a slightly more restricted income or who do not have access to the various shops that sell the more esoteric cooking ingredients!
All in all - exciting recipes, excellent photographs and an engaging writing style make this a wonderful treat for yourself or a gift for a loved one who particularly enjoys trying out weird and wonderful recipes from all over the globe.
Definitely one I will be recommending, along with 'Roast Figs, Sugar Snow'.
Fingers crossed for more delightful treats from the author in the future!
I have several of Diana Henry's books, all of them well-used. Her recipes are always reliable. I was delighted when this one came up on the Vine programme following its re-issue as I had previously borrowed it from the library as I couldn't find a new hardback copy at a reasonable price. It concentrates on the food of the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean.
The book is divided into chapters according to groups of ingredients. There is an interesting introduction to each chapter, providing a bit of background and history, together with a few tips and suggestions for using the ingredients covered in that chapter.
Here are a few favourite recipes - jewelled Persian rice (very clear instructions on how to get the necessary crust on the rice); monkfish with saffron, honey & vinegar; lemon & basil ice-cream; bulgar & spinach pilaff with labneh & chilli roast tomatoes; a middle eastern orange cake with an orange flower cream; a chocolate, hazelnut & sherry cake; Amalfitan lemon & honey jam; ricotta fritters; meringue and rose cake with summer berries; lavender, orange & almond cake; Sicilian almond granita; raisin & sherry ice-cream; a fantastic yoghurt, honey and pistachio cheesecake served with oranges in cardamom syrup; mangoes with orange blossom syrup (using orange blossom honey and orange flower water). I like also that there are instructions for making your own harissa, preserved lemons, flatbreads, etc..
All in all, a good selection of recipes, with clear instructions, and although they are a little more exotic than the mainstream, you'll find most ingredients at the supermarket with perhaps the occasional trip to a speciality food shop.