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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too Cold For Motorcycling ? Don't Trust Pre-Prepared Dishes ? Fed Up With Overpriced Trendy Restaurants ? This Could Be For You.
Being male and over 40 it seemed to me rather unlikely that I would ever find myself deeply engrossed in kitchen activities, yet since purchasing this book last Christmas I have prepared some 25 dishes, all of which have been eminently edible. Last Sunday I was busy for nearly four hours making two seperate meals with four seperate dishes, well it is winter-time right now...
Published 6 months ago by Grey Ant

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386 of 398 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be careful with your ingredients!
I bought this book with high hopes (on flicking through, all the recipes sound staggeringly good), but with a few reservations. The one review I'd read (in a magazine) had tested a recipe and found a mistake in the ingredients, so I was a little wary. The first thing I made was hummus - absolutely delicious (although a VAST quantity for the suggested six servings) until I...
Published 12 months ago by Kate Preston


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386 of 398 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be careful with your ingredients!, 31 July 2014
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This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
I bought this book with high hopes (on flicking through, all the recipes sound staggeringly good), but with a few reservations. The one review I'd read (in a magazine) had tested a recipe and found a mistake in the ingredients, so I was a little wary. The first thing I made was hummus - absolutely delicious (although a VAST quantity for the suggested six servings) until I added the recommended 2tbsp of sea salt, which made it completely inedible. It went into the bin.

Next I made the Pistachio, Honey and Orange Flower Water Ice Cream. Very doubtfully I added the 200ml of orange flower water (three bottles of the stuff, costing £12 alone), since I'd only ever used it in teaspoon quantities in recipes before. I know ice cream always tastes completely different once it is frozen, so I trusted the recipe. It left a disgusting bitter taste that overshadowed the entire recipe, as though I'd added a pint of Mr Muscle to it!

Please read on, as not all is lost!

I was pretty annoyed about ruining these recipes, when I knew I'd followed them to the letter. I found Sabrina Ghayour's email address online and sent her my complaints. Amazingly, this lovely lady wrote back to me within a couple of hours with answers to my concerns. If you use these recipes, please bear the following in mind, and I'm sure your food will taste utterly divine:

1. Check the ingredients of orange flower water before you buy it (this is used in many of the book's recipes). I unfortunately used the Nielsen Massey orange flower water from Waitrose. This contains alcohol, and is nowhere near authentic (let's not even think about how they can manufacture an ingredient that's 40% alcohol for recipes that are mainly from Muslim countries). Sabrina recommends using genuine Middle Eastern orange flower water which contains no alcohol and can be used in large quantities. She says that all of the ingredients she uses are available from www.souschef.co.uk (and their orange flower water costs around £2 for 500ml, unlike Waitrose's £3.85 for 60ml).

2. Although the recipes don't actually state this, Sabrina says she uses Maldon sea salt flakes, which, because they are large flakes, are much less concentrated per tablespoon. If you use ground sea salt, as I did (the recipes just state 'crushed sea salt'), the recipes will be way too salty.

Since writing my first review (this is the revision), I have made several other recipes from the book, and they are dazzling. Sabrina assures me that she re-tested the recipe that the magazine found incorrect, and stands by her recipe.

I give the book three stars as this vital information was missing from the book, and I wasted a lot of time, money and effort finding out information that should have been crystal clear on the page. However, now I am a little wiser, this will be a firm favourite in future.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too Cold For Motorcycling ? Don't Trust Pre-Prepared Dishes ? Fed Up With Overpriced Trendy Restaurants ? This Could Be For You., 26 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
Being male and over 40 it seemed to me rather unlikely that I would ever find myself deeply engrossed in kitchen activities, yet since purchasing this book last Christmas I have prepared some 25 dishes, all of which have been eminently edible. Last Sunday I was busy for nearly four hours making two seperate meals with four seperate dishes, well it is winter-time right now so the motorbike has remained motionless in the garage and instead I spent my time in the warmest room of the house, which I figured to be a fair exchange...

I'm guessing this book is really a general introduction to Levantine cooking, judging by the glossy photos, but for a beginner such as I these are of real practical assistance - firstly as I lack the understanding and experience to have any clue what the end result might actually look like and secondly to experience the sensation of slight incredularity that has occured when I noticed that my finished product looked just like the real thing (well actually sometimes mine looks a little better, but I can't help pretending to be nonchalently modest here). So these are a useful motivation and confidence booster.

There are a variety of regionally seperate styles included, Persian/Morrocan/Turkish/Lebanse etc. and the author clearly states that some of the dishes are of her own composition, thus the overall feel is relaxed and encourages flexibility. Some of the ingredients quite naturally are a little more time consuming to get hold of - I'm still struggling to find Fenugreek leaves and edible Rose Petals for example, however if one spends a little time contemplating the receipes that initially appeal including taking a careful note of the required ingredients this should not present much of a hindrance. Neither does one require much in the way of a kitchen - I merely use a standard electric hob and a 20 year old combined microwave/oven yet you really wouldn't be able to discerne this judging by the finished articles...

The only caveat that I would mention has been specifically addressed by reviewer Kate Preston (below) - using notably less salt than stated is a wise move, but then I have already noted there seems to be a general tendancy to use rather too much salt in recipes than is (to my mind) really required. After two weeks I progressed to thinking of alternative ingredients and checking the validity of these on the Web - for instance Salt Cod is hard to find therefore I checked out how to substitute fresh Cod in it's place - the research took me all of 5 minutes and afterwards I returned to the recipe once again, the end result was entirely satisfactory.

Last night I prepared a particular dish for the second time, only this time round I had acquired a missing ingredient that I lacked at the first attempt (Saffron) believing naively that such a small quantity wouldn't make much of a noticeable difference... After the first mouthful my wife and I both fell immediately silent, because neither of use dared to voice the opinion that this was quite possibly one of the best dishes we had ever eaten, that's quite a humbling sensation I can tell you.

The only downside is that I have gradually become serious about continuing this 'lifestyle' ad infinitum - meaning that I really ought to get a couple of decent kitchen knives - cue many hours reading on WebBlogs from professional chefs discussing knife availabilty and quality, plus the use of complementary chopping boards and knife sharpening skills. Nothing in this world exists in splendid isolation and there's a whole new world out there just waiting for an idiot such as myself to discover ! I have also very recently purchased a book dedicated to Hummus plus Claudia Roden's 'The Book Of Jewish Food' , which is a little scary as it lacks photos of the dishes (must be serious then) yet has a glorious mixture of history and cuisine mingled together.

Oh I just remembered that there is a second downside - there's little point in going to the time and trouble of doing something properly only to compromise it with inferior ingredients. Thus I have come to believe that wherever possible fresh items should be used, neccesitating frequent trips to stores. However the flip side to this is that I now also visit smaller stores that exist to cater for 'ethnic groups' in addition to the hated supermarkets. Well I suppose that it gets me out of the house and away from spending all my time behind a TV/PC screen. Real cooks already know this of course, but I had not stopped to consider this point.

End result ? Perhaps a growing realisation that eating 'properly' has more to it than merely what the body needs as fuel - there is an emotional price to pay in the form of sacrificing my otherwise intensely valuable spare time (!) in poring over a recipe, gathering the ingredients together, preparation and cooking, presentation and the singularly odd experience of sharing one's efforts with others. I was dimly cogniscent that meals were often a focal point of the (non nuclear) family structure and featured in Asian spiritual gatherings, now I begin to realise why this is so, for food can be and should have the possibility to be sacred. Mind you, having said this I see no reason to discontinue my occasional foraging visits to KFC...

I hope that I have explained why I rate this book with 5 stars - I myself find that 5 star eulogies are often a little over-simplistic and generally worth avoiding.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The recipes of the book, each is interesting and ..., 7 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
The recipes of the book, each is interesting and has its own merit to try BUT they are not Persian recipes. What a shame! the ingredients are widely used in Persian or Middle East dishes. Having read each recipe a few times, I dare to say they are created by Ms Ghayour, herself using her experience of having the Persian & Middle East meals and her gown initiative and vast experience of cooking. Well done Ms Ghayour. For those readers who have never tried a proper persian dish or cuisine, this book is still OK. But myself who has had Persian dishes for life, would return the book.
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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and honest -- with a wink and a tease on every page!, 21 May 2014
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This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
This is a fabulous cook book: dishes are thoughtfully chosen, explanations are clear, pictures are terrific, and results impressive. It makes you rush to the kitchen and cook. As an Iranian I find Sabrina's take on many traditional dishes very refreshing -- the wink and tease I mentioned have to do with the unexpected little touches Sabrina adds that wake up traditional taste buds and make them do a little flip. I love it!

BTW the reviewer who said the recipes are stolen from others is just not informed about Middle Eastern cooking. Of course Sabrina's recipes resemble others'; most of them are takes on well-known dishes carrying ID cards with traditional names. That's the whole point. She has turned sometimes fussy and sometimes too grandmotherly dishes into snappy little modern numbers without sacrificing authenticity. As an Iranian citizen of the world I feel this cook book represents me. I've already given two as presents!
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVED PERSIANA BY SABRINA GHAYOUR, 22 Aug. 2014
By 
L. M. Peck "sprockster" (Kent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
I have had 'Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond' by Sabrina Ghayour since January and since then I have done about 15 recipes. It is truly an amazing book. I am now using ingredients that I had never heard of before and creating dishes that I would have been too scared to try before. My favourite is the lamb tagine and I have made that about four times so far. Becoming an old hand! I would recommend this book highly. Get it now and buy it in bulk as a Christmas present for all your friends and family. I am also a social media friend of Sabrina's (we have never actually met in real life!) - and she is totally lovely to chat to on Twitter and seems a thoroughly decent person too!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars congratulations on such a good book. The recipes work also when I've been ..., 19 Aug. 2014
By 
S. Williams (wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
This is a cracking cookery book. The broad bean,garlic and dill dish is worth the price of the book alone. Really, congratulations on such a good book. The recipes work also when I've been substituting vegetables grown in the garden (I am avoiding the shops as much as possible, and using stuff from the freezer) with the recipes, so for instance the lamb tagine with turnips and onions, I used some local beef , courgettes, potatoes and onions from the garden, but the spicing is spot on and the meal delicious. The recipes are not too complex and therefore approachable on a weekday night.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book, just watch the salt!, 12 April 2015
This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
Wonderful and surpsrising flavour combinations in every recipe I've tried. Definitely recommend this book.

A note of caution. As others have said the salt content of some of the recipes is disturbingly high. I understand from scouting around the web that Sabrina ghayour uses sea salt flakes, and has given that as the reason that the salt content seems high. It's true that a tbsp of flaked salt weighs less than a tbsp of table salt but even so some quantities are huge. Eg the lamb and pistachio patties (which are utterly delicious) are said to need 3tbsp of sea salt flakes. Using my tablespoon measurer and flaked maldon salt that's 30g of salt. The recipe makes 10 patties so if you have two patties, which I think is a reasonable but not huge portion, that's your recommended salt for the day in one sitting without eating anything else. I use less than a third of that amount of salt and the patties still taste on the salty side to me.

Don't let the above put you off. I really love this book. Just bear it in mind and have the confidence to follow your instincts re the salt.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is my first middle eastern cookbook and feel that it's a good introduction to persian flavours and ingredients, 14 Jan. 2015
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autumnlight (Manchester, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
Received this as a Christmas gift. This is my first middle eastern cookbook and feel that it's a good introduction to persian flavours and ingredients.

A few of the recipes have been adapted/created for british tastes, which isn't really what I was looking for as I prefer to cook as authentically as possible.

However, the recipes I have tried were delicious and well received, especially the baklava. I look forward to trying more recipes from the book.

I echo the sentiments of other reviewers who have complained about the recipes not being well written.

I followed a spiced roasted lamb recipe, which tells you to make the rub and put the lamb in the oven - but not put the rub on the lamb at any point. It is obvious stuff, but people are going to struggle if they follow recipes to the letter.

I also got slightly confused following the baklava recipe regarding how the ends of the pastry should be folded in, so ended up doing it my own way, which turned out fine. Pictures would have helped to outline more the detailed instructions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This cookbook never leaves my kitchen!, 26 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
I own about 60-70 cookbooks and most of them are used sporadically, at best. On the other hand, Persiana has never left my kitchen. My biggest bug-bear about cookbooks is bafflingly long and complex ingredients lists but what makes Persiana such a success is the fact the recipes are made using ingredients which can be sourced from most well-stocked supermarkets. I really wish other chefs and writers would follow suit!

I'm still working my way through the cookbook but the aubergine chermoula and the ras-al-hanout wraps are part of my regular repertoire these days. Haven't ventured into the cakes and desserts but I am keen to do some in due course. :)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylishly designed and passionately written collection of selective Persian and Middle Eastern recipes with a bold twist, 27 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (Hardcover)
In a Nutshell:

Stylishly designed and passionately written collection of selective Persian and Middle Eastern recipes with a bold twist. Great gift for the adventurous food aficionado or even as coffee table appetizer.

The Facts:
• Recipes I have cooked from book: 35+ over past 6 months
• Types of recipes: mostly from scratch with multiple fresh ingredients to impress friends at a dinner party rather than everyday (but then that is exactly how this book was created).
• Skill level required: low to intermediate. Mainly dips, salads, stews and some roasts with some leeway for error. Good chopping skills essential.
• Sourcing of ingredients: a well-stocked Middle Eastern spice rack is strongly recommended. Many dishes require some more exotic ingredients, which should however be available at larger supermarkets. Some highly specialised ingredients (e.g. kashk, edible rose petals, rose water, sumac, barberry, dried sour orange peel, dried whole limes, fenugreek leaves, pomegranate molasses) will require local or online Persian speciality shops.
• Photography: mouth-watering food photography with one image for most dishes
• Metric/imperial: both
• Cost of dishes: low to medium, assuming you can purchase from local Mediterranean style shops and internet specialists rather than speciality selections of supermarkets.
• Specialist utensils required: None, but a set of good knives really helps.
• Time required: Some quick salads and dips, but many dishes require advance preparation and some longer cooking times. Also remember, Persian food is not about eating a single dish but about sampling different dishes, so you are likely to be spending some hours in the kitchen for a dinner party.
• Portion size: tends to be on the large side. Be careful if you are cooking several dishes to create variety, as each dish is almost an main dish.

My Opinion:
This has probably been my favourite cook book this year. It appeals to my penchant for fresh and bold tastes and my love of all foods Middle Eastern. Sabrina Ghayour has done a great job in selecting a mixture of Middle Eastern favourites (hummous, cacik, börek, lahmacun, lamb biryani, chelo rice, bastilla, etc.) and some less well-known Persian dishes and has pimped their visual appearance and taste to create stunning dinner party food. For the avoidance of any misunderstanding, it is not an overview of traditional Middle Eastern and Persian dishes nor is it a story of Persian culinary history. It was written by the London gastro set for the London gastro set.

The photography is so appealing, that it is easy to get carried away with trying to do too many dishes for one meal. With many dishes using bold sweet and sour flavours (lemon, pomegranate, sumac, etc.), be careful of how you compose your menu, preferably using different tastes, textures, colours and temperatures (which is what Middle Eastern food is all about). This reminds me of a weekly restaurant review in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung by a journalist who highly values balance and composition and who would probably abhor at some of Sabrina’s OTT interpretations. My recommendation is to go with Sabrina’s original recipe, even if you occasionally think she has got teaspoons and tablespoons mixed up, test the result and adjust according to your taste the next time. Chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised.

This is Sabrina’s first cook book and as a consequence, there are a few things that could be improved on.

I would have expected better advice from her publisher, who has some experience with successful cook books from Leon and Itsu, but has never done a heavy weight. With so many ingredients that will be unfamiliar to most of her readers, a separate review of some of the ingredients would be helpful review. This would also dealt with some of the confusion around amounts (her unusual decision to use Maldon salt flakes instead of normal salt – I strongly recommend the reading of Chapter 2 “The Salt of the Earth” from Robert L. Wolke’s “What Einstein Told His Cook”) and types of ingredients (rose water) spotted by previous reviewers (which I also had).

My personal challenge was the use of kashk (whey) without any indication that there is a difference between dried and liquid kashk, without instructions on how to reconstitute dried kashk (the type I had) or how much dried kashk makes up the liquid equivalent. Adding insult to injury, the aubergine and kashk recipe was the only dish I have not liked so far, as kashk appears to be somewhat of an acquired taste. That said, my wife and parents in law both liked it.

Also, as remarked by a previous reviewer, the use multi-coloured ribbon bookmarks (as used by the excellent Moleskin pocket books) would significantly enhance the usability of the book, especially when cooking several recipes at the same time.

Furthermore, an indication of preparation and cooking times would come in useful in menu planning, especially when planning a somewhat more ornate affair.

My final pet hate is Sabrina or her editor’s mixture of using pseudo-scientific supermarket package sizes (e.g. “2 x 20g packet of flat leaf parsley”) and Jamiesque “large handful of dates” amounts. Please, if you are going for accurate weight, use it where it is necessary (not herbs) and in amounts that are necessary rather than assuming that your reader is a first time cook and shopper.

None of my little gripes though are sufficient to affect my overall verdict, that this is an excellent book and I certainly look forward to Sabrina’s next book on Middle Eastern cooking.

About Me:
Late 40’s male enthusiastic and regular gourmand/gourmet, cookbook collector (250+), weekend cook and baker of intermediate skill and ambition for adventurous family of 5 with broad interest in international cuisines, based in Germany. I believe cook book reviews should help you to decide whether a book is for you, not whether it is objectively good or bad.
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Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond
Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour (Hardcover - 6 May 2014)
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