Blustery storms, damp weather, dark nights getting earlier and earlier – this time of year always has me rushing towards warm comfort food.
Loving Middle Eastern food (as I find the spices used are more earthy rather than chilli hot ones which suits me more), I’ve always known there is more to it than just tagines and flatbreads.
Receiving the book Lebanese Home Cooking by Kamal Mouzawak to review, (published by Quarry Books), this mostly vegetarian book conjures up images of souks with sacks of vivid spice powders seeping out on each alleyway corner, with food stalls begging you try their wares and it really sets the scene of what cooking means to Lebanese communities with a touch of social history commentary along the way.
The introduction to the book does just that and describes how dishes are cooked by tapping into experience and instinct and goes into rituals of (religious) fasting and even touches upon other religions like the Greek Catholic/Orthodox faiths which is my heritage background so I found myself relating to what I was reading.
The author, Kamal Mouzawak himself has always been around food (harvesting and making it) since he was a child and in adult years has worked as a macrobiotic cooking teacher and as a TV chef as well as being the founder of Souk el Tayeb, Beirut’s first farmers market. Promoting unity within communities, sustainable farming and small scale farmers, he is continues this mantra via his other projects which includes a farmers kitchen.
Looking at the Acknowledgements at the back of the book, I love the dedication he makes to the women in his life who have passed on their recipes and know-how to him and who also support the farmer's market.
Split into sections (such as Salads, Souk Food, Good Friday Food <for those who fast>), there is an introduction to each main ingredient used – eg: bulgar, and its purpose and how it fits into the whole cooking repertoire.
Recipes are aplenty with interesting versions of Stuffed Artichokes, Spinach & Sumac Pies and Turmeric Cake. There are lots of images to support the recipes and all the ingredients and instructions seem easy to follow.
One suggestion for the book would be meal planning ideas, of what dishes complement each other so you can build your own dinner party menu for instance.
All in all a really interesting, informative cookery book that offers an insight into Lebanese culture as well as a good provision of mostly hearty vegetarian recipes, ideal for when winter nights call for something warm, spicy and comforting.