Friday, 15 November 2013

The Jewelled Kitchen - Cookbook Review

The dishes featured in The Jewelled Kitchen are a combination of traditional meals and slightly more novel takes on the flavours of the Middle Eastern region, which comes together into a very compelling collection. I love the cuisine of this region, so when I saw this book on NetGalley I knew I had to request a copy. I'd also encountered Bethany Kehdy's work before via Kitchen Nomad, as their Lebanese box featured a small number of her recipes, and was eager to see more.

The first thing that struck me on flicking through the pages was just how beautiful all the dishes were - it's a very pretty book with amazing photography.

Broad bean & artichoke cuisine

From a vegetarian perspective, there were three chapters that I could just skip over (although I might look to some of the spices and flavour combinations for inspiration), but most of the mezzes were vegetarian, and there was a sizeable chapter on vegetable dishes, so by the time I'd noted down everything I wanted to try I had quite a long list! Plus, of course, the desserts were also veggie.

I tried the recipes in earnest when I had some friends over. Here's what we ate:
  • Smokey aubergine dip, with flatbread triangles
  • Courgette & sumac fritters
  • Jewelled rice with roasted mediterranean vegetables and grilled halloumi
  • Walnut & pistachio baklava
I found I had to be a bit flexible with the quantities of ingredients when following these recipes. When I followed the instructions for the aubergine dip (baba ghanouj) it came out too solid to dip anything in, so I ended up adding a lot of extra lemon juice - and the resulting flavour was amazing, so I didn't feel this unbalanced the dish. On the other hand, my initial batter for the fritters was so wet as to be unmanageable, so in that case I needed extra flour, and the result wasn't my favourite.

The jewelled rice was definitely the most stunning dish, with its bright berries, nuts, and orange zest. The method of deliberately crisping the bottom of the rice in butter was a new technique for me, and one that I felt skeptical about until I tried it, though the instructions were clear and it did work perfectly as described. I stuck to simple roasted vegetables and grilled halloumi to accompany the rice, as I didn't want to overshadow the flavours.

Jewelled rice

My first attempt at making baklava also went well, although I had to improvise a little as I didn't have quite the right quantities of nuts. I'll be refining my technique and developing my own recipes in future, but this was a great introduction to the technique.

I'm fortunate to live not far from a Turkish grocery store where it's possible to buy things like barberries and baklava pastry, so I'm never short of authentic ingredients - but the book also suggests easy-to-find alternatives to the more exotic foods.

Overall, this is a beautiful book that makes my mouth water. I think I'll end up using it as a source of ideas, rather than always relying on the quantities given in the recipes, but that's pretty typical of the way I use many cookery books - and it does have clear instructions for the more unusual techniques. It will certainly be a while before I manage to work through all the interesting-looking ideas.

Orchid ice cream

Photographs taken from The Jewelled Kitchen are copyright and used with permission.


A Cuban In London said...

I love, love, love the front cover. It's so creative and beautiful. And what to say of the recipes! This was such a yummy post. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

rosaria williams said...

Fantastic! You actually tried these recipes, and for that alone you get my great admiration. What a beautiful book.

Midnight Cowgirl said...

Looks like a delicious book!

Rachel said...

I always feel that a cookbook that makes you want to experiment is a greater success than one you feel you have to follow to the letter!

Angie Schneider said...

wow I want that Jewelled rice!! The book sounds like a keeper.

Louise@FitRadiance said...

What a lovely looking book! The jewelled rice looks really tasty :)

Lavender and Lime ( said...

great review - and lucky you to live near a grocer that stocks the ingredients you need!

Suko said...

Stunning post! Jewelled rice? Orchid ice cream? Yes, please!

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