I love a cookbook that tells you not to worry too much about every measurement of every ingredient. While some types of cooking, like baking, does require precision to achieved the desired result, a lot of dishes taste delicious even if you don’t hang religiously onto every molecule and ingredient in the cookbook.
I didn’t know much about Sabrina Ghayour before a British friend told me she owned a copy of both of her first two books, Persiana, and Sirocco – and both were in a terrible state due to the amount she used them. ‘They are just so – doable,’ she told me of the recipes.
‘Doable’ is not the word that commonly comes to mind when making food from other countries. Often the first stumbling block is ingredients: there’s nothing like discovering you don’t where to find the right flavour combinations to ensure that cookbook gets relegated to the back of the bookcase. So when I opened up Feasts, Sabrina’s third book of Middle Eastern dishes, I was very happy to see that not only did I have pretty much every ingredient in the recipes in my kitchen drawers, but the intro states very clearly that most recipes won’t suffer from having flavours changed or substituted. So before I even looked at the first recipe I was hooked!
Feasts is a treat for the eyes first: beautiful full-page photographs illustrate delicious and simple-looking recipes, many of which are put in menu order in the book (not something I’d ever follow that religiously, but Sabrina says it’s only a suggestion anyway). Some of the snack foods are unusual but really interesting-looking: I’ll definitely be making the little Pea Pastizzi – a kind of pea sausage roll – and the Whipped Ricotta and Fig Toasts with Candied Chilli Bacon will definitely get a whirl once figs are in season.
Aubergine, or eggplant, is integral to Middle Eastern cuisine, and there are loads of recipes which use this deliciously versatile vegetable. Aubergine Rolls with Goats Cheese, Herbs & Walnuts; and Sticky, Spicy Aubergines with Toasted Sesame Seeds and Spring Onion are both gorgeous without being difficult.
The point of this book is to create feasts with many of the dishes in the book, and with plenty of salads and meat dishes, as well as plenty of vegetarian options, it’s easy to make a table with something for everyone. Probably the most intriguing recipe in the book is the Savoury Pork & Fennel Baklava – not normally a savoury dish at all, but how impressed would your friends be to see that on the table?
Overall, I do have a lot of cookbooks (and I mean a LOT), but this book got its first outing the day I got it – and it’s getting plenty more. It’s definitely a book I’d get out to look at when I need inspiration, which is in itself a good reason to buy it – but I have a feeling I’ll be following a fair few of the recipes too.
Feasts by Sabrina Ghayour, Hachette New Zealand, RRP $44.99 hardback.