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First of all, the title: You might possibly think that you're getting a book of traditional middle eastern (Arab) cookery. Well, only half right. Geographically it covers a much larger area for its inspiration, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Iran etc. In addition, much of the stuff here is the Maloufs' 'take' on middle eastern/mediterranean etc. cookery, with a certain level of arty-farty messing around (sorry, "reinterpreted with a modern twist"), rather than being traditional. There's even 'garlic Yorkshire pudding' to be found here, which is, er, Yorkshire pudding (that well known middle eastern delicacy) with garlic in it.

Secondly, the layout: I second the previous reviewer's comments here. I can understand food writers wanting to get away from the tired and unoriginal cookbook formula of successive chapters called "appetisers", "fish", "poultry", "meat", "desserts" etc., but if you're going to try to break the mould then you perhaps really need to arrange your chapters by groups of ingredients rather than a single ingredient. (The only successful examples I have seen of doing this that I can recall off the top of my head are in Diana Henry's books, for example Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting Dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. Her books do actually work quite well with this kind of arrangement.) Sorry Greg & Lucy, but having chapters with names like "Cardamom" and "Cumin" really just does not work. How many people will think "Right, I want to cook something with cumin in tonight - flip to the cumin chapter"? It makes it a bit more of a coffee table type book which you would flick through in moments of idleness, perhaps sticking impromptu bookmarks in at particular pages as you go when you find something that you might want to get round to making at some indeterminate point in the future.

You'll also come across an Australian/English language barrier on occasions, with no glossary to help. Know what kaiser fleisch is? No, I didn't either, and even using Google it took me a while to even vaguely find out what it is. (It's some kind of sliced belly pork apparently, so not exactly an authentic middle eastern ingredient.) This is a UK edition, and it's unforgiveable to not tack on such information.

Now don't get me wrong, there are some good recipes to be found here, there's useful additional information on the ingredients themselves as well as the recipes, and there's some good photography (albeit that the photos are grouped together in clusters rather than positioned next to the appropriate recipes - for me good photography next to the recipe is a crucial element for a truly good cookbook). But I think that the book is to some extent trying to be something it isn't, and the arrangement issue is a bit of a problem for useability.
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on 6 May 2008
I love cooking middle eastern inspired food and thought this might be a better bet than the other Arabesque book (by Claudia Roden) because a reviewer said her book didn't have enough pictures. Well, there aren't many in this book either, which is disappointing - especially as they are all grouped together rather than appearing next to their recipe.

There are some quite appetising recipes here, written by an intelligent and knowledgeable chef. But if you are like me and like to plan meals for friends by flicking through several cookbooks for inspiration, it's almost impossible to do that with this book because it is arranged as an A-Z list. It's an idea that might have made sense to the writers, who wanted to give a comprehensive overview of what you can create with classic middle eastern ingredients, but who plans meal or dinner party thinking they want to tempt their friends with dishes based on A for Artichokes or C for Cardamom? Happen upon the Cardamom page and you'll find recipes from Cardamon orange wafers to Cardamom-crumbed lamb cutlets (although, to be honest, they don't sound particularly tempting or innovative to me). But if those same recipes had been grouped in conventional chapters, this book might have stood a much better chance of being used rather than sitting unused, gathering dust on the shelf. If you want mouthwatering modern middle eastern inspiration, try the Ottolenghi book instead!
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on 9 November 2014
This Kindle book contains some interesting recipes, but there isn't a picture in sight. It's also a little misleading I feel as there are some recipes that have nothing to do with the Middle East. I'm debating whether to return it or not.
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on 19 December 2014
Well there are no shortage of cookery books out there.
what presumption and arrogance to not only steal the name of one of the
best middle eastern cookbooks out there, by claudia roden

But do it badly! BYPASS and head straight to the genuine arabesque by Claudia Roden

This book is like a cheep chinese fraud of something so so much better!

and you might want to stop on route and pick up plenty and casa moro along the way
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