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When, like me, you have something of a mania for collecting Middle Eastern cookbooks, each new purchase carries with it an increasing risk, especially if you are buying it 'blind', that it will offer nothing new but instead every recipe will more or less duplicate something that has come before somewhere or another in one of your volumes, and thus end up as a bit of a pointless acquisition. I pre-ordered this on the basis of rave reviews of her earlier publications which I don't own, and I've not been disappointed as Silvena Rowe has here presented us with something of a fresh approach to the region's cuisine with plenty of new recipes, innovation and ideas.

The geographical region covered is essentially restricted to Turkey and Syria rather than the wider area we would normally think of as the Eastern Mediterranean, but it also includes a certain element of 'fusion' cooking brought into some of the dishes whilst not totally losing sight of the Levantine essence, and the feel is very contemporary and up to the minute rather than merely harking back to classics.

It's a well presented and colourful volume, with a standard division into mezze, starters, boreks, pilafs & salads, meat, fish vegetables and sweets; generally it has one recipe to one page, mostly accompanied by an opposing excellent photograph, and a minimum of irrelevant location photographs which serve as padding in many other similar cookbooks.

Some sample recipes:

Mezze

Suzme (strained yoghurt, a.k.a. labneh) and goats' cheese rolled in za'atar, sumac and pistachios
Aubergine, Aleppo chilli and pomegranate jam
Red lentil kofte with pomegranate and coriander salad
Jerusalem artichoke 'hummus' with lamb and sumac
Lamb and pistachio kofte with tahini and pistachio sauce
Lamb and spinach yoghurt pastry pyramids (looking a bit like giant versions of the Turkish manti)
Fennel and feta kofte with walnut tarator

Starters

Chickpea and courgette kofte with mulberry and chive flower salad
Sumac braised nettles topped with onion seeds
Cheddar, coriander and chard gozleme (pastries)
Chilled sweet pea and watercress soup with rose petal cream (the photo on the cover)

Pilafs and salads

Kadirga pilaf with pistachios, almonds and currents, topped with Bechamel sauce
Perdeli pilaf with duck confit, raisins and pine nuts
Pink grapefruit, avocado and pomegranate salad with nasturtium flowers (a riot of colour)

Meat

Spice scented spring lamb with quince and mustard relish
Pomegranate glazed kebabs with spiced pomegranate chutney
Al Halabi style kebabs with walnuts and pine nuts served with potato moutabel
Za'atar and pistachio crusted poussin with quince and rose jam

Fish

Sea bream with currants and pistachios and a blood orange sauce
Sea bass with wild garlic en papillote poached in raki
Red mullet with pine nuts, currants and gremolata

Vegetables

Mung beans with caramelised onions and nigella seeds
Aubergine stacks with pomegranate, mint and yoghurt sauce
Wild asparagus and green herb tart with pomegranate dressing
Cumin scented broth of celeriac, summer squash and orange

Desserts

Maple glazed roasted figs with pistachio praline
Fig and cardamom ice cream
Pink peppercorn and cardamom meringues with mulberries and white chocolate
Istanbul orange and vanilla baklava

Probably the only downsides are that there a few ingredients here and there which will be a little hard to come by, and that some combinations of ingredients within recipes are not exactly in season simultaneously - not necessarily a problem with our present day all year round availability of many items, but goes a little against the modern trend towards returning to seasonal eating. Nevertheless, with its fresh and innovative recipes it's a most welcome addition to my collection.
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on 17 March 2015
Fab book!
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on 13 June 2010
This is a fabulous book
I received it yesterday and prepared three dishes today with lots more in the pipeline for later this week
I am lucky to live in London where the ingredients are readily available but today I happened to look in the fridge to see what needed using up:
Fennel,spring onions, half a block of Feta, Eggs, Tomatoes, Aubergine, lemons and long red peppers with walnuts and herbs in the garden
I already had sumac and bought some Pomegranite molasses yesterday
A feast if i do say so myself and the flavours were amazing
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on 3 August 2010
I bought this book after seeing Ms Rowe on Saturday Kitchen. Although I find her a bit over-powering to watch on TV, she writes well and the recipes in this book are brilliant! If this book doesn't increase sales of Sumac and Pomegranate Molasses then I'll be very surprised!

The recipes that I have tried all work and taste very authentic. I think that Middle-eastern Ottoman cuisine is one of the undiscovered greats!

I highly recommend this book!
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on 25 April 2017
great book
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on 30 June 2011
I fell in love with this book straight away - the look of it, the colours and photographs were fantastic. I have already made the rose petal ice cream (gorgeous), and the rose petal jam (trying to figure out how i'm going to use this, but its lovely!). And will be trying out the Baklava tomorrow. I loved it so much I got her other book Orient Express.

My only reason for not giving it a full 5 stars is that her directions for the cooking are not very clear - for instance with making the custard part of making the icecream - she does not describe clearly what to do, it is very very vague. Apart from that its great - if you are used to cooking then it won't be a problem, but if you are new to it, maybe start with a more idiot proof book first!
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on 6 February 2012
I was seduced by the pictures in this beautiful book but this was the book that reminded me why I usually get the book from the library first and try out the recipes before I invest in the book!!
Yes it looked gorgeous, but I found most of the recipes I tried nothing special or they were unneccesarily difficult, complicated or just plain didn't work. They were also rather cheffy.
Syrian za'atarbread with thyme flowers sounded amazing but was dire and the houmous recipe that needed icecubes added to the mixture was a waste of time. the icecubes added nothing to the recipe.

There were a few recipes that were really good, the yogurt cheese and the kebab with nuts but it was a rather expensive way to get four, maybe five recipes at the most.
I spend a lot of time cooking and make all my own preserves, bread and icecream so I am no novice in the kitchen. There are better Middle eastern cook books out there.
Claudia Roden is tops and all her recipes work. Her book Arabesque is brilliant.
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on 22 December 2011
I just love this food, the flavours resonate with me.

Silvena's book is full of inspiring recipes. When cooked the dishes are full of flavour and look amazing; spiced scented lamb with quince and mustard relish, sea bream with currants and pistachios and a blood orange sauce, aubergine stacks with pomegranate, mint and yoghurt sauce, chilled sweet pea and watercress soup with rose petal cream, Jerusalem artichoke hummus with lamb and sumac, pink grapefruit avocado pomegranate salad with nasturtium flower.

There are specific tastes and flavour combinations which are unique to this cuisine; sumac, pine nuts, nigella seeds, jasmine, tarmarind, pomegranate molasses, Greek yogurt, lemons, tahini and garlic to mention a few. But it's what's done with this ingredient that makes the difference.

If you are looking to be inspired and need to add a bit of vroom vroom to your cooking this is the book for you.
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on 22 October 2010
Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume, even the title is evocative that it made me want to buy this book for my collection.

The recipes in this book are absolutely awesome and the vibrant pictures that go with them do not disappoint the eye.

By cooking some of these recipes so far have made me appreciate cuisine from Eastern Mediterranean. I simply adore the following recipes so far;

Stuffed Vine Leaves with Summer Squash,
Rice and Pine Nuts,
Lamb and Pistachio Kofte with Tahini and Pistachio Sauce,
Baba Ghanoush,
Sujuk Sausage Roll,
King Prawn and Blood Orange Charmola Salad,
Lentil, Rice and Lamb Soup,
Cheddar, Coriander Chard Gozleme,
Kadaifi wrapped King Prawns

Now, aren't the above recipes what you would like to eat; cook for the family or to make when throwing a dinner party.
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on 4 July 2011
This book is both a wonderful read and a collection of very workable recipes. One of my favourite cookery books without a doubt.
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