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Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A veritable Feast of Enchanting Recipes, 30 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa (Hardcover)
I am a huge fan of Diana Henry and I have several of her books; however, this was one book that I didn't already have in my cookbook library, so when Octopus Publishing Group sent me a copy to review I was delighted. Diana Henry writes with such passion and authority, and never more so in Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. The book covers dishes and recipes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa and the whole cookbook is a veritable magic carpet of enchanting and magical dishes that titillate the taste-buds and are a feast of exotic colours and fragrant aromas. The Levant and the Maghreb are home to some of my favourite cuisines and these regions are covered extensively in this cookbook. Expect to see exciting and exotic ingredients such as saffron, pomegranates, quinces, dates, figs, rose petals, flower waters, lavender and cardamom to list just a few. The recipes are accompanied by lavish photos and excerpts of poetry ~ this is a truly magical book and offers some simple and achievable meals to create at home whilst retaining an element of mystery and uniqueness not often found in modern cookbooks.

The book is divided into twelve aromatic chapters; the chapters themselves are almost like tales from A Thousand and One Nights, so much so that one almost expects Scheherazade to come drifting by in a cloud of rose petals and sandalwood........they comprise:

The Spice Trail - cardamom, chilli, cumin, ginger, coriander, pimenton and saffron

Fragrance if the Earth - lavender, rosemary, thyme and oregano

A Bowl of Fresh Herbs - parsley, coriander, dill, basil and mint

Sweet Cloves and Liquid Gold - garlic, olives and olive oil

The Sweet and the Sour - honey and vinegar

Of Sea and Salt - anchovies, bottarga and salt cod

Plundering the Stores - almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and dried fruits

Fruits of Longing - figs, quinces, pomegranates and dates

Curds and Whey - yoghurt, feta and ricotta

Food from the Hearth - flatbreads

Pith and Skin - oranges and lemons

Heaven Scent - flowers and flower waters

There is also an interesting introduction by Diana Henry and a comprehensive index at the back of the book.

Each chapter has an extensive and informative introduction where the ingredients are discussed as well as some of the dishes that are featured in the ensuing chapter - an encyclopaedic essay of what's to come. Diana's writing is exciting and descriptive......the individual introductions for each chapter set you up for the recipes ahead and tempt you through her historical notes and observations; her words and descriptions are pure culinary poetry. The recipes dance and pirouette throughout the book - who can resist the idea of making and serving Chocolate, Hazelnut and Sherry Cake with Sherry-Raisin Cream, or maybe a dish of Cardamom-Baked Figs with Plums and Burnt Honey and Yoghurt Cream. Then there's the savoury Aubergines with Mint as well as the delicious sounding Chermoula-Marinated Tuna with Pomegranate Couscous......or maybe you'd be tempted with Roast Duck with Honey, Lavender and Thyme........my personal favourite is the Ladies' Navels with Cardamom and Rose Syrup and Berries - which are little Turkish doughnuts, served with several exotic embellishments.

The recipes cover most meats such as lamb, beef and pork as well as poultry and numerous vegetarian dishes and flat breads; desserts, cakes and sweets are well represented and, in line with all of the recipes, they are studded and perfumed with herbs, spices and flowers......the range of dishes in the book is imaginative and extremely diverse......and yet, the ingredients are all easily available from most supermarkets, as well as small independent shops that specialise in Middle Eastern produce. There are ice creams, beverages, sauces and rubs.......I was very taken with the idea of Flower-scented Truffles, and I plan to make them this Valentines' Day with some fresh violets from the garden.

The book lived up to my expectations and if I have any criticism at all, it is directed at the quality of the print; the book was published in China, and I didn't think that the quality matched the high standard of writing and photography - I felt that the images were poorly reproduced and the finish of the cover was a little disappointing......I have a copy of Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Food to Warm the Soul that was published in 2005 and the quality of print is far superior. That said, the hardback book is a very modest £15:99 from Octopus Publishing and an unbelievably low £10:23 from Amazon co uk. The book itself is an enchanting collection of aromatic and stunningly visual recipes which have all been well written and are exquisitely showcased......Diana Henry's writing is lyrical and yet honest and authoritative; the book really does whisk you away on a magic carpet of exotic flavours, aromas and with more than just a hint of Eastern culinary promise and mystery; an exquisite cook book that offers recipes to suit all levels of cooks, from simple family meals that can be made in under an hour to more accomplished and intricate feasts.

Karen S Burns-Booth
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