Monday, February 13, 2006

Whirled Peas, circa 1968

Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food has been dominating my kitchen and my palate lately. It's the kind of cookbook I like: it's a "classic" from the 1960s, so not too much fancy-dancy recipes with too many ingrediants for their own good; it has easy recipes for me now, and things like Duck with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce that I can look forward to cooking in my old age; it has a lot of beans.

Here it is on Amazon. I've made:

Chermoula Sauce for Fish: cilantro, garlic, cumin, paprika, chili pepper, olive oil and red wine vinegar in the food processor. Very easy and delicious on fish and everything else on the plate, potatoes, salad, pita. I've made similar things using the blender or the coffee grinder. Or a bottle you can shake vigorously.

Yogurtlu Basti: Chicken and onions with yogurt spiced with cardamom, ginger and toasted almonds. A few easy steps and hot, soothing type dish. I think I added flat parsley to make it pretty.

Eggplant Sauce for Meatballs: Roasted Eggplant, cooked again with Tomato and Onion. Maybe seems like more steps than its worth for a simple savory sauce, but this adheres to my thoughts on eggplant. It's delicious if you COOK THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Moroccan Kefta: Ground meat with onion, cilantro, parsley and tiny amounts of cumin, coriander, ginger and cinnamon. Rolled into little oblong balls. Our were too wet, elsewhere she advises you to drain the onion after pureeing it. Here she didn't but I should have known. Messy and fun, if you like making meatballs, which I do.

Spinach with Chickpeas: Sauteed spinach with coriander and chickpeas. Fast food for eating in front of the TV. If you want to be distracted from what you are watching by the brilliant simplicity of the flavors of the hot little dish you have in your hands.

I think it will entirely replace my use of Joan Roland's "Good Food from the Near East - Five Hundred Recipes from Twelve Countries" (1950) prefaced, "For those who love to cook the world over in the belief that through the sharing of their culinary arts may come a better understanding of each other." Hmmm . . . Still, Roden and Rowland seem to have a lot in common, food as an easy road to "understanding" culture being a shared theme, and one that is subject to a good deal of skepticism nowadays.

Also (related?) they both seem to have moved in diplomatic circles and to have known a lot of people with servants . . . Leading to statements like this, from Roden, "The recipes were from a time when women did not go out to work . . . and most had cooks or servants who cooked all day." (7) When was this time and who were these cooks and servants? Where did they come from? Did they have cooks and servants to? Or were they not women? It seems statistically impossible that most women could have cooks or servants . . . Probably she means most women who ate Duck with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce, but she should have said so.

Most of the recipes have garlic, lemon and things like that that are of course there but I didn't mention . . . Unfortunately, this isn't a search inside Amazon book, so you can't go steal the complete recipes. This is also unfortunate because the index isn't great . . .




Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful cookbook, one of the few that lives in my kitchen, rather than the bookcases in other rooms.

11:52 AM  
Blogger the chocolate doctor מרת שאקאלאד said...

I share your enthusiasm for this and all of Roden's books. Love that spinch and chickpea combination!

About the women, "most" of whom have cooks, there's some wild stuff out there--watch this space.

12:54 PM  
Blogger zoe p. said...

What does that mean, watch this space?

11:23 AM  

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