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tamarind and saffron: favourite recipes from the middle east (penguin cookery library)

by claudia roden

Tamarind and Saffron: Favourite Recipes from the Middle East (Penguin Cookery Library) The ravishing cover of Tamarind and Saffron, brilliant yellow quinces in a blue-glazed dish, hints at the pleasures within its covers. Claudia Roden has subtitled the book "Favourite Recipes from the Middle East", and it is no more and no less than this. Eschewing the broad historical and geographical panorama that so enriched The Book of Jewish Food, she concentrates solely on the food, putting together a collection of recipes from the Middle East that are light, fresh, delicious and immensely evocative. The enticing aromas of North Africa rise from its pages, expressed in the differing spice-dialects of the national cuisines--the coriander, cinnamon, cumin, honey, orange-blossom water, preserved lemon, mint. The dishes range from the simplest of mezze to elaborate feast dishes but there is nothing that is remotely difficult. At the minimalist end of the scale, "Squid with Garlic and Chillies" is just that--the three briefly fried together; "Artichokes, Broad Beans and Almonds" combines unexpected ingredients to exquisite effect; and the Quince Dessert simply poaches the fruit in a light syrup, allowing its magical flavour to predominate. More demanding dishes include the spectacular " Pigeons Stuffed with Cous cous", the very elegant "Turkish Lamb Stew with Aubergine Cream Sauce" and "Roast Leg of Lamb with Meat, Rice and Nut Stuffing" (standing for that grandest of Arab dishes, whole stuffed baby lamb). And then there are the sweet dishes. This is an endlessly fascinating book, its deceptive simplicity masking a profound knowledge of the region's food. Really, as critics tend to say, one could cook from it forever. --Robin Davidson

posted 28 Feb 2006 at 19:36:28

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