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Friday, 19 July 2013

The Jewelled Kitchen - Book Review

It's really refreshing to see a different kind of cookbook, with exciting and interesting ingredients. Thumbing through The Jewelled Kitchen, it's not easy to decide where to start- so many of the dishes jump right off the page and you can almost smell the spices and warmth wafting from the book. The cuisines - Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian - use gorgeous key ingredients, including pomegranates, figs, pine nuts, saffron and sumac.

The author of the book is Bethany Kehdy. She is a notable food blogger, recipe developer,  food and travel writer, photographer, leader of culinary tours across Lebanon and the organizer of Food Blogger Connect, a conference for food bloggers. Phew! That is one talented lady.

Whipped Hummus IMG_8770 R
Whipped hummus - did you know that 'hummus' means chickpea in Arabic?

The Jewelled Kitchen is divided into seven chapters - culinary reflections, mezze, poultry, meat, seafood, vegetarian and desserts. There is also a brilliant section at the back detailing the Middle Eastern and North African pantry, along with basic recipes and methods, including how to deal with a pomegranate and the recipes for different spice mixes used in this cuisine.

The book is well laid out and clearly written, with beautiful, full page colourful photography by Šárka Babická. Some of the recipes that caught my eye were jewelled rice (elaborate layers of berries, nuts and dried fruits and rice), smokey aubergine dip, spiced lamb flatbread pizzas, chargrilled sweet pepper & walnut dip, Lebanese clotted cream with dulche de leche & caramelized bananas, and date & tahini truffles.

inside the Jewelled Kitchen book IMG_8821
Inside view of the book, showing shaved beetroot, radish & grapefruit salad

My only criticism with the book (for an unfamiliar cuisine) would be that there are just a very few recipes that don't have accompanying photographs. I would loved to have seen a picture of the unusual pomegranate & rose quark summer cake, which falls into Bethany's "top five favourite cakes" category, I bet it would have been a stunner!

Falafel wrap IMG_8782 R

I chose to make the falafel & tarator wraps from the vegetarian section of the book. Even though I have bought falafels and eaten them in restaurants, I've never made them. Why, oh why did I wait so long? They are so easy, delicious and nutritious! I would never have known, but the secret to making them is to use dried chickpeas that have been soaked overnight, not the tinned variety, as the latter will fall apart. I followed the recipe to the letter and the falafels were light and crisp. Tarator, the dressing to accompany the falafels is a fabulous mix of tahini, garlic, lemon juice and parsley. For the wraps, I used Bethany's Arabic bread recipe, which is virtually the same as my go-to pizza dough recipe, making delicious edible holders for the falafels.

I also made the whipped hummus with the leftover chickpeas that I had soaked. After cooking the chickpeas, I put them immediately into iced water to 'shock' them, this made it easy to remove the skins of the chickpeas making a wonderfully smooth hummus.

uncooked falafels IMG_8767 R  Falafels IMG_8785 R
Falafels, before and after cooking

If you are looking for some different recipes to spice up your family meals, I would recommend you have a look at this book. Most of the ingredients can be found in your supermarket and substitutions are included for those that aren't. You certainly won't need to buy the ready-made spice mixes used in this cuisine again, included in the book are the recipes for harissa, advieh, Lebanese seven spices and chermoula.

front cover Jewelled Kitchen IMG_8805 R

The book can be bought directly from Duncan Baird Publishers or from Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Jewelled Kitchen: A Stunning Collection of Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian Recipes
by Bethany Kehdy
£20.00 / Hardback, 224 pages
Publisher: Duncan Baird Publishers
July 2013
ISBN: 9781848990623

Please note that in the US this book is titled 'Pomegranates & Pine Nuts'.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the cookbook from Duncan Baird Publishers, but all views expressed above are my own.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2013 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.


grace said...

yum--i love middle eastern food. i also appreciate pictures accompanying every recipe, but it still sounds like a terrific cookbook!

Bethany said...

Wow Nic, they all look absolutely wonderful! I'm glad you enjoyed the recipes and the book and thanks for the lovely review.