Reviewer says
Malouf, Greg Malouf | 2011 | AU

reviewed by Lucy

Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food
by Greg Malouf, Lucy Malouf
Publisher: Hardie Grant, Country: AU
ISBN: 9781742701455, Year: 2011
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

In Malouf: New Middle Eastern Food, well-loved chef Greg Malouf has kicked off his travelling shoes and returned to his home kitchen to offer fans a breathtakingly beautiful, glossy and very, very generous tome of recipes that are rooted in the traditions of his beloved Middle East, but presented in a fresh, modern way. The food is seductive and truly inspired, but despite being a stunning piece of design, the book is not without its flaws.

Full review

A brief introduction is followed by a discussion about how to eat and present Greg’s food, then it’s straight into the recipes, of which there are plenty. Chapters cover Soups, Small Dishes, Large Dishes, Bakery, Sweet, and Larder. A glossary explains some of the harder to find ingredients well and the index is accurate, detailed and easily navigated. What’s missing is, I feel, what has made more recent publications by the Maloufs shine, i.e. Lucy Malouf’s beautiful prose passages, but then this is not a book about travel and writing, rather it is a book about cooking, so that’s just this reviewer wanting the tiniest extra morsel.

Melbourne chef Greg (of, most recently, MoMo) and his ex-wife Lucy Malouf are a prolific cookbook writing team, specializing in the food of the Middle East. Many of their previous books have been about their travels through that part of the globe, feasting along the way and coming home to bring inventive, fascinating recipes into readers’ kitchens. They have certainly been given extensive publishing opportunities in Australia – Arabesque, Moorish, Saha, Turquoise, Saraban, all large, intricately devised and beautifully illustrated books, all published in a relatively short space of time. In truth, I’m not sure how much more they can cover without repeating themselves – there are a few recipes in this book that feel very familiar (e.g. Fairy Chimneys), but hard-core fans, of which there are many, will no doubt forgive them.

Recipes are an interesting mix of traditional and radical, some dead simple (but with a modern, Malouf-style twist), some demanding, and cover every stage in between. It’s an approach that will appeal to a broad range of cooks and skill levels, a highly desirable trait in any cookbook. Personally I’m not quite sure which parts of the Middle East would be using as much pork as Malouf is using from afar, but that’s perhaps his radical side showing through!

Sumptuous, clean, sharply-focused photography by Mark Roper and slick, perfect styling by Leesa O’Reilly make for what feels, when combined with the huge amount of recipes, like a big, generous book. The end papers draw you in immediately – stained-glass windows of dried orange slices scattered against a stark, gorgeous dark grey background. A great deal of care and attention to detail has been put into making these images work and they are absolutely stunning. For its RP$69.95, the book is good value, bound sturdily and replete with not one, but two bookmark ribbons made of proper grosgrain fabric. That it also opens out flat and wide on a countertop for the cook who cooks (rather than looks) is another bonus.

Yet for all of these great physical features, and they are great, the choice of fonts has me completely baffled. Recipe introductions are printed in capitals, making it difficult to tell where each sentence begins and ends, the full-stops and commas in this particular font being practically identical. I found myself wanting to skip over the introductions because of this, but pressed on. More off-putting yet is the pale, tiny font chosen for the recipe methods, one nigh impossible to read in less than stark fluorescent lighting conditions and made worse still when paired with the (thankfully few) grey backgrounds. I found myself squinting to read each recipe, having to stick my nose right in close, and had to take long breaks between reading sessions (not so with other books, in case you’re wondering about my eyesight). A case of design trumping practicality, perhaps? This is a serious oversight in any book, but truly disappointing in a cookbook, as instructions must, surely, be able to be easily read if they are to be useful. This should be considered if you are intending the book as a gift.

Will appeal strongly to those who love the glossy and glamourous, and to fans of this popular writing duo.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 3. Recommended – some flaws
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Quite nice
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Rating: 4.5/5 (2 votes cast)
Malouf, Greg Malouf | 2011 | AU, 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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