When my three children left home all at the same time thirty-five years ago. I decided to leave too and travel around the Mediterranean. I went alone, a l’aventure – without plans or arrangements.
I’m never quite sure how to review a cookbook.
Obviously I’m not going to read every single word or cook every single recipe. A cookbook is more of a dip in and out experience. Sometimes you’re searching for inspiration. Sometimes it’s the beautiful photography the pulls you in. Sometimes you’re looking for a recipe that will turn that not-quite-dead vegetable sitting in the crisper, into a tasty morsel.
It was my recent experience with Risbridger’s The Midnight Chicken that got me thinking about how I want to document my cookbooks. That and the fact, that Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat has been hanging around my kitchen for two years now as I dip in and out of it sporadically, adding coloured post-it tags to the recipes I would like to try. There has to be a better way.
Bringing a new cookbook into your life can be a lifetime commitment. Or at least a commitment that lasts until the next time you move and you feel the need to declutter! Cookbooks can come into your life as gifts, or thanks to a great cover design. Perhaps a celebrity chef has a TV show that captured your imagination. They can arrive via a recommendation from a friend or a great meal cooked by someone else that you wish to emulate. Cookbooks can be bought thanks to changing dietary requirements or because you are bored with cooking the same old recipes.
When Claudia Roden’s Med: A Cookbook turned up at work last month, we had a lot of very excited customers. I confess that I had never heard of her. I was curious. The lovely cover invited me in and the quote from Ottolenghi.
I then started dog-earing pages and popping in post-it notes every time I spotted a recipe I found tempting.
I once read somewhere that most people only regularly cook 2-3 recipes out of every cookbook they own. Happily, I have several books (Ottolenghi Simple, Australian Women’s Weekly Basics, Jamie Does…[especially the Spanish tapas meals] and Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion for instance) that I cook different recipes from regularly, far beyond the 2-3 norm. I’m hoping Med: A Cookbook will become one of these keepers that I turn to often.
As with much of my blog, my posts and reviews are about MY journey with a book – the reasons why certain books move me and others do not. Why it is that some books stay with me, their stories living long in my memory, taking on a life of their own, and some do not.
I’m hoping that by listing all the recipes from each cookbook that I’d really like to try one day, that it might act as a memory prompt on those nights when I’m searching for something different to cook. I’m curious to see which cookbooks will survive the next move!
- A fabulous Appetisers section with all my favourites in one spot, plus a new one to try:
- Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Salad (pg 51)
- I skipped the Soup section as generally speaking, I avoid cooking soup at all costs. I really only like tomato soups or potato and leek, so anything else is wasted on me.
- Salads & Cold Vegetables – this is the main reason why the cookbook made it’s way into my home. Every single salad looked tasty, simple to prepare and slightly different from other recipes I have:
- Citrus Salad with Green Leaves (pg 76)
- Rocket with Pancetta & Grapes (pg 79)
- Fennel with Peaches and Fresh Goats’ Cheese (pg 82)
- Red Pepper and Tomato Salad (pg 88)
- Sweet and Sour Grilled Courgettes (pg 93)
- Potato Salad with Green Olive Tapenade (pg 98)
- Spicy Roasted Carrot Salad (pg 102)
- Aubergines with Pomegranate Dressing and Yoghurt Sauce (pg 104)
- Vegetable Sides – this section had a number of easy recipes that made me think ‘why have I never tried that before?’
- Frittata with Cheese and Herbs (pg 130)
- Potatoes, Asparagus Tips and Eggs (pg 136)
- Grains –
- Turmeric Rice with Spinach and Yoghurt Sauce (pg 154)
- Tagliolini with Lemon (pg 162)
- Spaghetti with Garlic, Oil & Chilli (pg 165)
- Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic and Basil (pg 168)
- Fish and Seafood – curiously as I get older, I don’t seem to enjoy eating seafood as much as I used to. But I have grown into sashimi.
- Fish Tartare with Tomato Vinaigrette (pg 181)
- Meat – most of the meat dishes did not appeal at all. This book really is all about the salads & vegetables.
- Spicy Fried Minced Meat on a Bed of Aubergine & Yoghurt Puree (pg 248)
- Desserts – I try not to eat a lot of desserts these days and I have never really been a cake eater (turns out I inherited this curious tic from my Nan). But book club tradition has it that cake must be served with tea at the end. I always buy something nice from the local bakery patisserie. However I may be tempted to try…
- Yoghurt Cake with Macerated Strawberries (pg 305)
Tonight I tried the Sweet and Sour Grilled Courgettes (pg 93).
I added some asparagus for variety and used honey rather than sugar for the ‘sweet’.
Mr Books cooked the meat on the BBQ.
It was the perfect summery dinner. Quick, easy and tasty.
I love this time of year!
Cooking is the landscape in a saucepan.Joseph Pla
- Claudia Douek was born 1936 in Cairo, Egypt.
- Her parents were Syrian-Jews.
- Claudia was Egypt’s national backstroke swimming champion at the age of 15.
- She went to Paris in 1953 to boarding school.
- Afterwards she moved to London to study painting at St Martin’s School of Art.
- In 1959 she married Paul Roden. They had three children together before separating.
- Her first cookbook was published in 1968 – A Book of Middle Eastern Food.
- Her aim is place each recipe in it’s cultural context and to personalise them with family stories.
- She hosted the BBC series Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean Cookery.
- In 1997 she was awarded the National Jewish Book Award for The Book of Jewish Food (1996).
Memories of life in old rural worlds live on in the cooking, like ghosts hovering in saucepans.
Title: Med: A Cookbook Author: Claudia Roden ISBN: 9781529108583 Imprint: Ebury Press Published: 14 September 2021 Format: Hardcover