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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
92
Orchards in the Oasis: Recipes, Travels & Memories
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on 19 September 2017
Beautifully illustrated, part travelogue, part cook book, Joceline Dimbleby never fails to come up trumps. Her recipes invariably work and are easy to make. The book looks sumptuous and it is a good stand-alone read. Dimbleby's life has taken her to so many far-flung places that there is much more variety here than in many of the current cookbooks on offer which concentrate on a single cuisine. Highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 22 January 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is such a lovely book - part cookbook, part travelogue, part auto-biography. It follows a largely culinary tour of the author's life, from her childhood as part of a diplomatic family in Syria & Peru, and later life & travels in Lanzarote (before the days of mass tourism), Turkey, Burma, India, Persia, Vietnam, Morocco and the US where the author lived for a while. There are memories too of time spent (and spent cooking) with her grandmother whilst at school away from her family in England and of holidays spent in Devon. The book contains many photographs taken by the author or taken from the family archive. I loved reading about her travels, particularly to places that have now become part of the tourist mainstream but which were different & exotic as recently as the 1970's. I was reminded that Vietnam was only opened up to tourism in the early 1990's.

Although the book is as much travelogue as cook book, there are plenty enough recipes. I have hundreds of cookbooks but normally find maybe five or six recipes from each book that stick in my memory enough for me to use them on a regular basis. This book is crammed full of lovely recipes that I know are going to be firm favourites. I am looking forward to the summer where I can use the recipes for rose petal tart and apricot & pomegranate jelly, the latter a beautiful, jewel-coloured concoction, both drawn from the first chapter covering Syria in the 1950's.

To give you a flavour of the recipes, there are cheesy fishcakes (no potato), lemon pudding, savoury three cheese custards perfect for a quick lunch, and blackberry tart. From Peru there is beef in chilli & chocolate sauce and passion fruit snow, from the Canary Islands come chilled almond & garlic soup and canary cake (an almond cake with bananas & orange syrup topping). There is another almond-based cake too, this time with lemon. A recipe for fish stew mentions that as recently as the 1960's olive oil was something you bought at the pharmacy, not in a food shop. A holiday in Turkey introduces Pera Palas pie (a sort of shepherd's pie using aubergine & pine kernels), lamb meatballs with egg & lemon sauce and muhalebi (a milk pudding) with orange blossom syrup. The US provides recipes for pumpkin & sweet potato soup; a very more-ish potato, tomato & mascarpone bake; and a baked cheesecake with a ginger crust. From Morocco there is a lovely, simple spiced carrot salad with mint (the list of ingredients looks long but is mainly spices & herbs) and an interesting meatball dish in tomato sauce topped with eggs. Persia offers up, amongst others, some gorgeous honey cakes, again very simple to make. There is a fabulous cauliflower curry from India and potatoes with ginger & spices - tried, very successfully, for a curry night just a couple of days after I got the book. There is another lovely spiced cauliflower dish, this time from Burma. There are several Vietnamese dishes including chicken noodle hotpot with coconut milk & fresh leaves.

Highly recommended and a perfect present for a foodie friend.
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VINE VOICEon 22 March 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What a beautiful, delightful book.

Firstly, I have to say the feel of this book is lovely. The quality of the paper used is fantastic - thick and super smooth which makes the book a tactile pleasure before you've even read the first sentence. I loved the layout of the pages too; almost like a scrapbook of old and new photos, recipes and text.

It's a mix of autobiography, cookery book and travel guide, but written in such an engaging way you really feel you've been there with her. Her descriptions bring to life her slightly nomadic childhood, and you can almost feel the sun beating down on you in Syria, feel the wind from the Andes in Peru and hear the sea in Lanzarote.

Some of the recipes have been passed down through her family from generation to generation, some are traditional, some are favourites and some are simply recreated from the memory of a good meal, but all are mouth watering, easy to follow and good to eat. I always think that cookery books are so much more effective when the food is set in a context like this and it really made me much keener to try the recipes; having just read her descriptions of eating a certain dish in a certain country made me want to share that. Fantastic.
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VINE VOICEon 26 March 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an unusual book part travel memoir, part cookbook. From the introduction:

After a childhood spent mostly abroad because my stepfather was in the diplomatic service, I became a compulsive traveller, letter and diary writer, photographer - and eater.... I searched for the best stories from parts of the world especially important to me, and places where the food I ate had made the deepest impression.

And that's what the book is about. It is a very personal book written by a very well travelled and well connected woman. For example after her split from her husband she goes to spend some time in Hong Kong and stays with the Pattens. That story and the fact that some of the recipes come from her servants will alienate some readers but it means she has a lot more experience to draw upon than most travellers. And like many travellers of her ilk Joceline Dimbleby does seem to be much better at getting off the beaten track and in amongst the locals than the average dreadlocked gap year traveller. There is a particularly intriguing photo of her with a naked Sadhu

The stories are very evocative without reams of dense description - they really take you to the places the author is talking about. They are also livened up by some beautiful photography of gorgeous food, amazing scenery and bustling markets. What I really enjoyed were the recipes. They come from around the world and are the ones which she obviously loves (and presumably cooks at home). They are all good, all interesting, often a touch unusual and none of them are hugely difficult to prepare (though you may find the odd ingredient difficult to get hold of). There are plenty of recipes which could be a straightforward yet interesting lunch and plenty of others which could grace a quite sophisticated dinner party - for not much effort.

Not everyone is going to love this book but if you like good travel writing and good food or just want some interesting but not overly demanding recipes then I would definitely recommend this.
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VINE VOICEon 25 March 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Cooking and travel are both passions of mine; to have both fulfilled in print format is rare. Often either the travel writer does not take my immagination with him/her on the travels but more frequently the recipes, whilst visually attractive, do not inspire me to use the book as anything other than bed-time reading. Orchards in the Oasis has been a pleasure to read; the text is evocative and the recipes both cater for eager as well as every-day cooks. As a fan of spicy food, Joceline's recipe for potatoes with ginger and spices has become a must with roasts on Sundays and I am looking forward to making a Primrose Salad (yes with real Primroses!)and can't wait for my garlic to be ready in the allotment so that I can make the chilled garlic and almond soup. The book starts with Joceline as a 7-year old, newly arrived in Damascus and ends with holidays in 2005 and is illustrated throughout with photographs from the family album. I have really enjoyed reading the book and am sure that my family are going to enjoy the fruits of my reading it for some time to come!
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VINE VOICEon 27 January 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I like this style of cookery book, i like the fact that you get to know a little about the area the food comes from and understand a little more about the people. The book made good reading adn the couple of recipies have been really nice. I enjoyed this book but I would have liked a few more recipies in there, just a personal point of view. But a really enjoyable read.
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VINE VOICEon 17 March 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the first book that I have read by Josceline Dimbleby and I was not dissapointed. I decided to read through the book first and just glance at the pictures of the recipes and go back to them after I had finished the book. But I bet no one will be able to resist getting side tracked and read through the recipes, think if you have all the ingredients and imagine making them. Then re-read the last page of the story to catch up and then off again until you get to the next treasure mmm. All in all a really enjoyable book , it would also make a lovely present .
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VINE VOICEon 17 March 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Food has such a strong role to play in memories that the use of particular recipes as an aide memoire to events past is as familiar as the proverbial French Madeleine. Josceline Dimbleby combines journal entries with photos with recipes to tell her story. In roughly chronological order, the story ranges from her early childhood in Damascus via her basement flat to India and the USA. There are about 70 recipes from cuisines as varied as American cheesecake to Burmese fish curry. It's actually better read as a quasi travelog than a recipe book; you may or may not make any of the recipes but the photographs give a wonderful insight into a well-travelled and very talented cook. I may never get to go to all the places she does, but I feel like I have at least experienced them vicariously which, in these days of carbon fasting, may be as far as I get.
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VINE VOICEon 17 March 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Reading this book is almost like spending time with a particularly good, interesting friend reminiscing about their travels - whilst cooking you a fabulous meal! Most of the photographs are personal, taken by the author giving the book somewhat of a `scrap book' feel, and as such an absolute pleasure to look at. The recipes are highly do-able and the flavoursome, colourful nature of the food is very welcome, particularly to my rather jaded winter palette. Vegetarians are well catered for - as are those with a sweet tooth who will drool over the Yazd honey cakes, Blackberry Cottage tart, Calcutta kheer etc.

A gorgeous book that would make a superb gift for anyone interested in food and/or travel. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 22 November 2010
The author of 'Orchards in the Oasis', Josceline Dimbleby, enjoyed a very privileged childhood, travelling the world with her mother and stepfather (the latter a diplomat) visiting such diverse locations as Syria, Peru, and the Canaries. Later, as an adult, she also went on to visit Turkey, the US, Iran, Vietnam, Hong Kong and India under her own steam.

The book (part travel memoir, part recipe collection) is littered with fascinating anecdotes about trips in her stepfathers ex-nazi car(!), catching frogs for a rather grim-sounding amphibian cook-out, surviving the Orient Express when the restaurant car was closed for the whole trip, and nearly being shot by a witch doctor in South America. There are also dozens of wonderful photographs from the author's own albums (a palm-fringed oasis on the edge of Damascus, the New York skyline dominated by brownstone buildings long before the advent of the twin towers, and bustling markets in Saigon). Among the recipes included:- Burmese rice noodles and chicken, Iranian honey cakes, slow-cooked pork with pumpkin, beef with chilli and chcolate sauce, Syrian rose petal tart, and moonlight bananas.

I absolutely loved this book, which was a truly fascinating read about the age of exploration and daring, and a colonial era, long past.
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