Tagged With: cookbook
As Angelina mentioned in her ode to Yotam Ottolenghi, there are several cookbook authors whose new works always have a reserved place on our shelves. Naomi Duguid is one of those authors. Her books are always gorgeous, her prose is eloquent without being too dense or wordy, and her topics are always fascinating. Duguid’s works are one part travel guide, one part traditional cookbook. We have explored the Indian subcontinent with her in Mangoes & Curry Leaves, probed the lesser known provinces of China in Beyond the Great Wall, and delved into Southeast Asia in Hot Sour Salty Sweet.
Her newest work, Burma: Rivers of Flavor, continues where Hot Sour Salty Sweet leaves off, pulling back the curtain on an isolated country with a rich culinary tradition. Burmese cuisine has been described as a blend of Indian, Chinese, and Thai, but it has a distinctive style all to itself. Shallots, shrimp (fresh and dried), and small salads are all common. There is a heavy focus on fresh ingredients, but many of the recipes are perfumed with warm, sweet spices like cassia, cloves, nutmeg, and star anise. Burma is also a cuisine that favors a heavy dose of heat, and gets this from India red chile flakes, Japones, Indian cayenne, Tellicherry black pepper, and Szechuan peppercorns.
I had the opportunity to see Naomi Duguid speak last year at the Book Larder in Fremont. We all learned about the foods of Burma, from mohinga (a fish stew with rice noodles that is often eaten at breakfast) to laphet thoke (a fermented tea-leaf salad that’s considered Burma’s national dish), as the staff prepared several recipes from the book. However delicious the food was though, the most impactful moments came when Duguid discussed the changes she had seen in Burma through the years. She was repeatedly moved to tears as she spoke about Burma’s transition away from the rigid military dictatorship that has been in power since 1962 and the recent thawing of relations between Burma and the U.S. Naomi’s care shines through in Burma’s beautiful photographs and warm paragraphs.
The book section of the shop is ever-evolving. Some books we keep ordering and selling for years, and we count on their presence in the shop like trusted friends. For others our love affair is brief, but we never carry a book that we aren’t excited about. With a shop full of cooks, all with varying palates and preferences, we end up with a pretty impressive spread of titles that span the globe in origin, and run the whole spectrum of cooking difficulty.
Every now and again, we come upon an author whose every work we just have to have. You know the kind- every photo mouth-wateringly composed, every recipe introduction rich in back story and promise of sweet reward, and every combination of ingredients tantalizing and inspiring. Yotam Ottolenghi is just such an author. His cookbook “Plenty” is a work of art in the arena of vegetable cookery, so when his latest book about the flavors of his homeland, written in combination with Sami Tamimi, was published, we were first in line for a copy.
“Jerusalem” begins with a nod to the diverse population of the city, with its Greek, Russian, Tunisian, and Eastern European immigrants, and reveals the ways that they infuse their culinary histories in to the local, making for a varied and rich local cuisine. The book then eases in to the first chapter, “Salads”. The dish we find most exciting? Kohlrabi salad with mint and sumac… crisp kohlrabi in a creamy, tangy yoghurt dressing? Yes please! These first recipes are interspersed with the history of za’atar and information on some ingredients Westerners are likely to be unfamiliar with.
The recipes only get more impressive from there. Wade through the various spreads and dips in to the meat section, and be dazzled by the likes of Braised Quail with Apricots, Currants, and Tamarind, accented with crushed fennel seeds, Saffron Chicken & Herb Salad, and the dish so phenomenal looking, they used it for the cover: Braised Eggs with Lamb, Tahini, & Sumac. Every page is more delightful than the last, and every recipe the spice test kitchen has attempted has turned out phenomenally.
Whether you have yet to experiment with the flavors of this diverse region, or even if you’re a seasoned veteran of Middle Eastern cuisine, this book has something for you. If eating more vegetables was near the top of your New Years resolution list, you’d be wise to arm yourself with a copy, as so many of these recipes feature creative and simple ways to enjoy the most basic market staples (all expertly spiced, of course). We can’t say enough good things about this book, and are sure it’s soon to become one of your favorites, as it has ours.