Med: A Cookbook | Claudia Roden #cookbook

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!

Epigraph:

Cooking is the landscape in a saucepan.

Joseph Pla

Facts:

  • 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).

Favourite Quote:

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

34 thoughts on “Med: A Cookbook | Claudia Roden #cookbook

  1. For those of us who were keen cooks in the 1970s and 80s, Claudia Roden was one of our main go-tos, because she was great and Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food were such popular and generally healthy cuisines. I have A book of Mediterranean food (1968) but bought mine in 1981. A Penguin Handbook it is called, but looks just like a Penguin paperback. I have a few Penguin cookbooks like this, like Elizabeth David’s too. They are dense books with no pics! I also have the book of the BBC Mediterranean cookery series too. Bought that in 1990. It has a few photographs, but is a trade paperback style so easier to read and use. It’s the one I’ve used most and has recipes in it that are among favourites I still do. I just got it down from my shelves and it has multiple bookmarks (if you can call torn bits of paper and post-its bookmarks.) There are 4 or 5 chicken and lamb dishes in particular that I will still cook, some of them being tasty-but-quick after work dishes.

    I rarely use my cookbooks these days – often just going to the net – but the BBC Roden is one that I do still go to. I weeded out quite a few cookbooks a year or so ago, and next move will need to get rid of more. I haven’t book a cookbook in years, whereas once I’d buy them regularly.

    I have a great recipe app that I save favourite recipes into, mostly from the net, but you’ve reminded me that I must enter these ones in, manually if I can’t find them on the web.

    I love soups – not tomato as they are one of my intolerances, but chicken and vegetable, and pumpkin, in particular are winter go-tos.

    I love sashimi, ceviches, tartares and most raw/raw-ish seafood dishes.

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    1. Ahhh you’ve highlighted beautifully the feeling my customers were expressing about a new Claudia Roden. There was a lot of fondness and a lot of happy memories, which I’m sure she would be delighted to hear, since she likes to include the personal stories that go with many of her recipes.

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        1. Whereas my mum did have a Margaret Fulton. Her Apricot Chicken was our birthday dinner favourite as kids all through the 70’s and 80’s! That and a spaghetti bolognese was as fancy as we got 🙂

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  2. I’ve been wanting to think about the way I document from cookbooks too – I just bought myself a recipe notebook to make it easier to keep a record, as a while ago I used to have an app, but it changed its model very suddenly and I lost all my saved recipes! I’m hopeful that writing it all out longhand will act as a prompt.

    I’ve seen this cookbook reviewed positively in a few places, and the recipes you lost are very appealing, so I think I will be looking this up.

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    1. I used to have a overflowing journal with recipes cut from papers and magazines, but I so rarely used it that I got rid of it. Now I just have a very small spiral bound one where I’ve written in a few family favourites and a few recipes given to me by friends. I actually use it now.

      I’m hoping by listing the recipes I really WANT to cook here, that I might actually remember. And if I want to cook up something lurking in the fridge, the plan is I can type in ‘courgettes’ in the search box and it will bring up the post/s that include that word.

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    1. It’s funny listening to B24 and B21 now reminisce about some of our food habits from their younger days. They have very fond memories of the after dinner fruit platter, in particular, that we used to linger over each night.

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  3. Roden is a name from the past – I have one of her Middle Eastern cookbooks.
    Like Sue, I rarely seem to use any of my cookbooks now, mostly finding recipes on line, so have been gradually weaning out the ones where there are just one or two recipes of interest. My go to book is by Delia Smith which is brilliant because it explains all the techniques as well as having foolproof recipes. It has got me through large Christmas lunches so many times

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    1. Your Delia Smith sounds like our Stephanie Alexander. Everything is listed by ingredient with cooking and storage tips plus good, simple recipes to try with them. It is a brick of a book though!

      I started using online recipes but still prefer to have a book open in front of me on the bench when cooking something new. I find the apps good for shopping lists or to browse whilst having my morning coffee.

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  4. This was fun to read!
    When I review cookbooks which is not very often, I use a similar approach i.e. discuss the cuisine a bit especially if it’s unusual, check the recipes and the illustrations, and share a list of what I think I might try. My preference is for more copious illustrations that show me what something is supposed to look like, than infrequent photos that are more like artworks.
    But I also look at the instructions. I expect cookbook instructions to be easy to follow. I want a clear list of ingredients and then I want a clear step-by-step sequence of instructions. I also want the print to be big enough for me not to need my reading glasses. Surprisingly, they don’t all do this so this is something that I comment on. I usually cook one recipe to ‘road test’ the book for this purpose.
    Plus, if it’s a less well-known cuisine such as the Peruvian book I received from a publisher, I want some guidance about how to serve it i,e, help yourself from bowls in the middle or served up on plates, and advice about condiments as well.

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  5. I have often thought about if I should, and how I would. review cookbooks! I love many of mine, and in my favourites, I’ve probably made 25+ recipes. Somehow I feel boxed in my being a “book” blog and not a “cooking” blog. But some cookbooks *are* better written than others! And I do read all the blurbs and introductions and what not. I like Lisa’s suggestions in her comment. I’m going to think on this. Stay tuned for perhaps some reviews of Canadian (and American) cookbooks 🙂

    I’ve never heard of this author but the recipes do sound good. I had to google “courgette” – that’s a zucchini here!

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    1. Yes, a zucchini in Australia too, as I’m sure Brona knows! There are a few foodstuff name differences, in English speaking language cuisines. Others are arugula and rocket, cilantro and coriander. They can trick you when you get recipes from different places!

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        1. It’s fascinating those terms the English use, those the Americans use, and those we use. Americans don’t use capsicum either. And then, the English use mangetout I think for snow peas? And then there’s swede and rutabaga!

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          1. Oh yes, forgot about mangetout! Never heard of rutabaga… it sounds so unappetising! Shall I mention the Scottish “neeps and tatties” (compulsory eating whenever we visited my paternal grandparents who were Glaswegian)

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    2. I see that Sue has already covered the various name differences we juggle when we buy cookbooks from English or American chefs.

      I used to run another blog that I kept for photography and recipes, but over the years it has fallen by the wayside. But after reading two very different styles of cookbooks in the past month or so, I was trying to find a way to document them best. It has been fabulous hearing from so many people about what they look for in a cookbook – lots of good ideas for future posts.

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  6. I used to be an obsessive cookbook collector but funnily enough they always get culled in the end because I only ever cook one or two recipes from each one. I tend to use the internet now or just make things up myself, but I do love going through cook books (and magazines) and poring over the pics and choosing which recipes I reckon I could make.

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    1. I had a rather large cull of cookbooks when we bought our house in the mountains. It wasn’t so much a cull as simply moving half my cookbooks to the kitchen up there for our guests to use! It’s great when we stay there ourselves as I know exactly which book to turn to for the recipe I want.

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  7. Posts about cookbooks always seem to spark interesting conversations; I only keep the ones that I use frequently enough that I no longer have to look up the recipes in the index though…I figure someone else can use the rest. They’re always snapped up very quickly in the Little Free Libraries too, it seems. Whenever I drop one off, it’s gone the next day!

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    1. I confess to being pleasantly surprised by the interest in this post. I thought this would be one of my more self-indulgent posts only of interest to me. Now I feel encouraged to play with this formula for future cookbook posts.

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