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on 14 February 2012
Within the blurb on the back of Nigella Lawson's 'How to Eat', there is a sentence saying that you will need two copies, one for the kitchen and one for the bedside table. I think that this sentence could equally describe 'Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons', and indeed, this book has been by my bed for the past month, easily grabbable at night to read one of the evocative and informative essays that begin each chapter, and there in the morning to inspire me for that evening's dinner.

Truth be told, it has been a hectic and rather cash-strapped month, so I was searching for something meat-free that would still be bolstering enough to cope with the dreadful weather outside. There are a lot of meat dishes in this book, and part of me wonders whether it might have been a good idea to highlight the vegetarian dishes in the index, for easier navigation. Still, I found an ideal contender with 'Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marinated Feta and Black Olives'. I was initially drawn to the more exotic and poetically named dishes, but I can confirm that this more prosaic title yielded one of the most flavoursome dishes I have ever made at home.

With its clear, uncluttered layout and fantastic photography, the book does not overwhelm you with choice but guides you, not only through this perhaps unfamiliar territory, but also through your own tastebuds. By dividing the book into chapters based on flavours and food groups rather than courses, you can choose something that you want to eat according to your mood, the season, or just what you have in the fridge. My only criticism would be that I found the font a trifle too small, and it can be a little annoying taking your glasses on and off when cooking!

This book would be an excellent companion to Henry's other titles and also an ideal introduction to the food of the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. I certainly feel inspired to actively find Middle Eastern shops near my house just to be able to try these recipes!
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VINE VOICEon 6 April 2016
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've always loved Moroccan food and used to regularly dig out my Habitat Tagine to make some pretty delicious meals. However, these days,although I'm not a complete vegetarian I tend to avoid red meat like lamb-a Middle East staple- in particular so a lot of recipes within are not going to be made by yours truly.
However, that being said, as cookery books go, this is particularly easy on the eye and well written.Interspersed with rich cultural detail drawn from experience.

Of course there are plenty of vegetable recipes and desserts to go at and most dishes can be made inb your everyday kitchen cookware. However, if you don't live near a town with good food stores then some of the ingredients might be difficult to obtain. After saying that, you can get almost anything online now anyway.

A nice book to have around the kitchen or as a gift for a foody friend or relative
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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2016
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I do like a good cookery book and that's how I'd describe this latest Diana Henry. It feels entirely competent. The recipes are interesting and not too problematic in terms of ingredients. Yes, you may need to order in a few extra bits and pieces but the same applies whenever you start to experiment with new regional food. There is really nothing in here that isn't recommended for the average home cook!

I have some disquiet over the quality of paper I have to say. It is quite thin and while glossy does have a mediocre quality about it. The photo's are generally very good but do suffer a little in my view from the paper quality. They lack the punch and excitement that better reproduction would give. They're all a little flat and that lets things down.

I really like the look of the dessert section, which is so often a bit of an afterthought with regionally focused books.
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VINE VOICEon 20 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This has been one of my favourite cookbooks for a long time; unfortunately it had also been out of print for a long time. Until now I have had to borrow the book from my local library, as the new and used prices on Amazon have reflected its popularity and stayed far too high. So I am understandably excited by the reissue of this classic. This is a perfect cookbook for people who read cookbooks, rather than just cook from the recipes. Diana Henry is a great writer, and she vividly evokes flavours, scents and places. Her enthusiasm is infectious. The recipes are simple, as cooked by real people in their homes. Henry's writing style is chatty, she takes you through the recipe very informally, with bits of advice thrown in here and there, and don't worry if... pep talks, giving you the confidence to try any of the recipes. This is earthy life affirming cooking full of calories and flavour.
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Why oh why didn't I buy this before? It's brilliant. The recipes are to die for. Buy it - and experience page after page of deliciousness!
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on 15 July 2016
I love Diana Henry's writing and I love her books. The only reason this gets Four Stars instead of Five is that I found an error. I wonder if anyone can clarify this for me? On page 182, she lists two different amounts of flour for the Nicois Carnival fritters. Which do I use- or do both go in?!
This is the first time I found an error. This is the fourth book of hers that I have.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2016
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love cookbooks and have plenty of them. This one has great recipes and I like the writting. However, it lacks something design wise as the photos are not that enticing, a lot of the pictures are not photos of the dish but just random arty photos of food that seem to be just a waste of the pages. Still, it is a cookbook worth having because the recipes are lovely.
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on 19 February 2012
Rich spices of cumin and cinnamon, sharp notes of lemons, muted aromas of cardamom and rose, these are some of the smells that should come from your store cupboard after reading the reprint of Diana Henry's book "Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons" (2011, Octopus Books); a mosaic of wonderful recipes that take you from Marrakesh to Istanbul and Catalonia to Sicily in the space of a chapter, only to get the mental jet lag all over again in the following ones.

Although I thought I was going to have difficulty with the style and layout of the book, I barely realised how far into it I had gone before putting pen to paper, how much I really was enjoying it; nor, having put it down mid read to go shopping, had I consciously realised that I had ingredients for Moroccan style chicken in my basket. And that is what makes this book so good. It grows on you, envelopes the senses, and makes you see your larder in a different light.

Each of its chapters have wonderfully beguiling names, like "Fruits of Longing" and "Fragrances of the Earth" that immediately draw the reader in; each of the chapters dedicated to a set of flavours rather than the usual meat, eggs, poultry etc. Although that in itself could be a bit discomforting to the reader (see my earlier comment about the worry of getting into the flow) the joy is that given the cuisines that are written about, it is a sensible if not original way of doing it.

Familiar to me were the chutney recipe from Adam's Cafe (which I ate on a visit there recently) and the Persian restaurant in a Portakabin in a car park in Kensington (a real blast from the past. I wonder what happened to that?) Unfamiliar were the exotic names: Ladies' Navels; Pearl Diver's Rice; Ottoman Lamb with Sultan's Pleasure; Muhamara, and Crazy Water of the title, which intrigue as well as amuse.

Whilst Diana Henry provides a lot of Persian, Turkish and North African recipes these are balanced well with a collection of Spanish, Italian and French ones that remind the reader that the exotic, the delightful and mouth-wateringly flavoursome isn't that far from our own shores: Lemon and Basil Ice Cream; Catalan Chicken with Picada; Provencal Lamb stuffed with Figs, Goat's Cheese and Walnuts; Socca and Sardine, Roasted Tomatoes, Olive and Parsley Salad, and Ruby Grapefruit and Campari Granita (a particular eye catcher for me!) All the more inspiring because they bring something new to familiar cuisine.

Scattered liberally amongst all these mouth watering recipes and mood lifting descriptions, like the herbs and spices in the book, are various quotes. These are delicious snippets to add more metaphoric flavour to the reader's imaginings, Biblical writers and classic authors to writers of note and others in between.

The only real downside for me was the index at the back, which doesn't reflect the names of the recipes, nor necessarily some of the ingredients. Although it is a pleasure to flick through the book to find something and revisit some brilliant photographs (by Jason Lowe), it is a bit frustrating to look for, as an example, the Socca and Sardine recipe and see neither under `S' but under `F' for fish (that sort of helpfulness reminds me of a sign outside a restaurant in Cephalonia, which invited the guest to ask the owners what the fish of the day was, only to hear every time "very fine fish").

Part of me feels it a shame that it is merely a cookbook rather than something more for the coffee table. Each introduction evokes memories of the past and imaginings of things that never happened but are just as palpable. Diana Henry's descriptions of childhood trips to the South of France for example had me subconsciously wafting my hand over imaginary lavender whilst sitting in bed. The descriptions inspire you to want to eat what comes later before you have even read the recipes.

The final word should go to Claudia Roden, who says: "[It is] A glorious and magical feast for the senses", I would have to agree (and wish I said that myself!) I am so happy I have this book as part of my collection; Diana Henry has written something worth hunting down if you haven't already got it.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2016
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A reasonable book with loads of ideas, though some ingredients may be a problem. The illustrations are ok, but not the best I have seen so far this year. Overall I was underwhelmed by the total package, mostly because of another book I reviewed at the same time, called The Cardamom Trail. The latter sets a new standard.
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VINE VOICEon 4 May 2016
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love Diana Henry's recipe books, her recipes are clear and (usually) come out pretty much as intended. However I didn't really take to this book, mainly because so many recipes depend on ingredients just not easily obtainable outside of London. A basic staple - tomatoes - have a relatively short season and are virtually tasteless outside this, which lets down simple cooking where they are a main ingredient. Figs, although available in supermarkets are rarely of the ripeness and sweetness obtainable abroad and I've never seen quinces and barberries in our local shops.

So, I enjoyed reading this book and the pictures are great, but I'm not enthused by it. I may pick out a few recipes but it won't have a place on the kitchen shelf.
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