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 - 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 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!
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.
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.
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
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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