I get a lot of joy from pouring over the cookbook section in a bookshop and although I buy most of the 'stuff' in my life online, cookbooks are the exception to the rule. I have to see them in the flesh. I like to flick through them, looking for recipes that pique my interest and weighing up the likelihood I'll actually make anything before parting with my cold, hard cash. Having said all this, I haven't splashed out on a new one in ages, until last week that is when I stumbled into Waterstones for a casual browse, as you do, and was immediately struck by 'Persiana'. I'll admit it was strategically placed to grab my eye and I fell for it hook, line and sinker! From the moment I picked it up and started riffling through it, I was very quickly sucked in by the awesome photography and the apparent simplicity of the recipes - no off-putting list of a gazillion ingredients you're unlikely to own and will need to invest in before even getting started! Also, the quote on the front cover from Observer Food Monthly calling it 'An instant classic' didn't hurt none either! The recipes were similar to dishes I've tried and loved in numerous restaurants and always wanted to recreate at home so that was me sold. Once mine, I made my way home with excited determination that by hook or by crook I'd make at least one dish from it the same week.
All's been a little hectic of late and my time in the kitchen has been limited so I plumbed for two simple veggie dishes for a light, mezze style Sunday night supper: the pistachio & feta dip and the smoked aubergine salad. Firstly, I was struck by the straightforward stages of each recipe, the steps are laid out in a no-nonsense way which is how I love to cook! Agreed I did pick simple dishes but they weren't then made overly complex nor overdressed.
The feta dip was super quick to whizz up and the results were absolutely delicious! You may note there's a lack of 'red bits' (that's an official cooking term) in mine compared to the shot in the book, that's because I left out the chilli so junior could get involved. This is seriously tasty with a delicate mix of flavours and the finished product is very pleasing on the eye (even without the 'red bits'). The recipe says it serves 8 so obviously it did produce a lot of dip for 2 but the upshot has been some great packed lunches and the lil man has devoured his fair share too!
I love smokey aubergine dips and just prospect of this salad turning out as well as the ones I've eaten out filled me with palpable excitement - what can I say I'm easily excited. The only time-consuming step to this is charring the aubergines on an open flame until they're soft, smokey and collapsing under their own weight but, personally, I find this really satisfying. Even that isn't really time-consuming, it took about ten minutes of them bubbling and blistering on my gas rings, a couple of turns and they were ready! The rest is a case of chopping and making a simple dressing. The result was a wonderful dish that perfectly balanced deliciously smoky notes of the aubergines with a zingy kick of the lemon laced dressing. We devoured this within minutes and I can honestly say it's wonderful and will be a regular feature on our table this summer.
Sadly mine don't look anywhere near as sexy as the shots in the book but I was having to hold the veggie back so could snap them before they were devoured.
I love this book. Sabrina takes middle-eastern cuisine, which to my mind is often shrouded in mystery and feels complex before you've even begun and made it blissfully simple for all, without compromising taste, opening it up to a whole new audience.
I can't wait to make a couple of the meat dishes, I'll just have to invite a fellow carnivore over to enjoy them with me. I mean just look at this rack of lamb!
This already feels like a classic that will keep giving and giving. I'll leave you with a shot of the back cover because, quite frankly, it's one of my favourite colours.
Persiana is available here and in all good bookshops!
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