Vegetarian Dishes from The Middle East
by Arto Der Haroutunian
Publisher: Grub Street, Country: UK
ISBN: 9781902304816, Edition: second (orig in 1983), Year: 2008
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Arriving at the (mostly) vegetarian party a little late, to my taste, the best vegetarian books, the ones I treasure, are written by those who are not; cooks with a passion for placing vegetables at the centre of the plate, but with a deeper knowledge and understanding of flavour. Even the most dedicated of omnivores can be coaxed into devouring platefuls of vegetables if they are well-seasoned and richly, properly flavoured.

The recipes contained within this unassuming, un-illustrated reissue glow. They openly embrace the full spectrum of ethical eating. The vast majority, in fact, are vegan. None of the ingredients (bitter almonds excepted) are difficult for a home cook to locate but, most importantly, this is a book of delicious, exquisite food; simple to make, exotic enough to tempt jaded palates and written in an elegant, spare style. Instruction is straightforward and, where appropriate, Haroutunian’s introductions, themselves short and sweet, are peppered with wisdom from classic Arabian literature. I only wish the word Vegetarian could be replaced with the word Vegetable in the title. It deserves a wider audience.

Soup, bread and pickle chapters are imaginative and authentic; the pilavs and stuffed vegetables, synonymous with the region are, despite the use of ingredients that turn up time and again, incredibly varied. ‘Theirs is a simple, honest type of food without pretensions or ornamentation. Simplicity however, does not imply monotony’. It most certainly does not. A Turkish soup of almonds, both sweet and bitter, egg yolks and cream is delicately spiced with coriander seeds and basil; a beautiful sweet and sour pickle from Iran uses huge quantities of sumac and tamarind to balance the sweetness of fresh dates. The cherry baklava – simply writing those two words makes me salivate – is bookmarked for next season already. Highly recommended.

Main rating: Highly recommended
Visual appeal: Okay
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
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Vegetarian Dishes from The Middle East, Arto Der Haroutunian | 2008 | UK, 3.0 out of 5 based on 10 ratings

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