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April Cookbook Guru “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food”

Cooking with Claudia

My stained and battered copy of Claudia Roden’s “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food” has been in constant use in my kitchen for at least 20 years. It’s outlasted many fads, fashions and celebrity chefs because it has substance. I consider this a truly worthy choice for exploration by the Cookbook Guru hosted by Leah. Why not come and join in?

Roden, who is still considered an authority on the cuisine of this region, writes about family food and life in the countries along the Southern and Western margins of the Mediterranean, from Algeria to Greece. Her book has been my go-to reference, my guidance and tutor for hummus and baba ghanouj, for felafel and filo pastry, baklava and flourless cakes, rich lamb braises and simple vegetable salads. No section has been left unexplored. So incensed by our government’s treatment of asylum seekers in 2001, I even used Claudia Roden’s book to plan and cook my family a Middle Eastern Christmas dinner as a statement of compassion.

Last night I quickly put together three vegetable dishes to serve with lemon chicken kebabs spiced with cinnamon. I have altered the recipes only slightly.

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1. Grated Carrot Salad
500g fresh carrots, grated
1/2 cup currants or sultanas
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander
1 teaspoon grated root ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon
Mix all the ingredients together.
Serves 4

2. Cucumber salad with mint
1 large telegraph cucumber
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Good grinding of black pepper
1 teaspoon dried mint
Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthways. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds.
Slice the cucumber finely then sprinkle with the salt and allow to drain for 30 minutes.
Dress the cucumber with the remaining ingredients.
Toss well.
Serves 4

3. Hot Spicy Potatoes
500g new potatoes, scrubbed
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 hot chilli, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
Sea salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan.
Cut the potatoes into 2cm dice, then pat them dry them in a clean tea towel.
Add the potatoes to the pan.
Cook over a medium heat turning occasionally until crisp and cooked through.
Drain off any excess oil, then add the chilli, garlic and salt, toss to mix through.
Add the coriander and leave the pan over the heat only until the herbs wilt.
Serves 4

4. Spiced Lemon Chicken Kebabs (inspired by Claudia Roden)
1kg diced chicken thigh meat
Marinade
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh root ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilli
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 segment of preserved lemon, skin only, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
Mix all the marinade ingredients together then massage into the chicken.
Allow to rest for up to 1 hour
Thread the chicken on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water.
Barbeque, bake or grill until cooked
Makes 12

About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

23 comments on “April Cookbook Guru “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food”

  1. Pingback: The Claudia Roden Round Up | The Cookbook Guru

  2. nancy@jamjnr
    April 16, 2014

    I’d take your 2001 Christmas Day meal over anything traditional. And you’re right – it’s not just this government, it’s every government who has jumped on the bandwagon as a means to grab votes late in the pre-election day. Eugh it makes me so angry. But anyway moving on…..
    I’m realising from reading every one else’s posts that this book is all about good food cooked well with no messing with the ingredients. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook recipes because they seem too ‘simple’.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 17, 2014

      You’re so right, a recipe with just few quality ingredients, wisely chosen and carefully cooked has longevity. This book is still in print and still relevant after 45 years. It will be interesting to see which new books can last that distance.

      Like

  3. ChgoJohn
    April 7, 2014

    Although I frequent a few local Middle Eastern restaurants, I’m only now beginning to try my hand cooking a few dishes. This sounds like it would be a great cookbook to get, especially if I can use it to prepare a meal like the one you shared here. I’m currently suffering through a cookbook buying moratorium but I’ve added this book to the top of the list of those to buy when I’m back in the market. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 7, 2014

      Hi John, checkout the Cookbook Guru. There will be recipe posts from this book appearing all month, it may help you decide about buying the book. I would give up most cookbooks I own, but not this one!

      Like

  4. tinywhitecottage
    April 6, 2014

    I really must buy this cookbook. I want to prepare this whole feast Sandra and it’s great you posted the recipes for the whole dinner. Although Middle Eastern food is not new to me, cooking it is. And I have been so inspired using new spices and food combining. It’s like learning to cook all over again, yet having kitchen skills to keep it organized and together. And love how you cooked a Middle Eastern Christmas dinner in 2001 as a statement of compassion for asylum seekers. 🙂

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 6, 2014

      I consider Claudia Roden’s book the Bible of Middle Eastern Cooking. It’s all about basic family food, nothing too tricky to attempt, plus it’s an absolutely marvellous read

      Like

      • tinywhitecottage
        April 6, 2014

        I’ll order one..now. Just saw a copy on Amazon. Thank you for the recommendation. I just saw Leah’s The Cookbook Guru site, love it! 😉

        Like

      • ladyredspecs
        April 6, 2014

        I have written a guest post book review for the Cookbook Guru about this book. You’ll be very happy to have it on your bookshelf

        Like

  5. Glenda
    April 5, 2014

    Sandra, This book is one of the very first cookbooks I ever owned. It certainly is a gem.

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 6, 2014

      I have never tired of Claudia Roden’s book, any of her books for that matter, they are certainly worthy of space on the bookshelf

      Like

  6. My Kitchen Witch
    April 4, 2014

    What a lovely meal!

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 6, 2014

      Thank you, we love the carrot salad particularly, it’s a great mix

      Like

  7. Leah
    April 4, 2014

    Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:

    Lady Red Specs has gotten us started this month with a gorgeous feast to tempt your tastebuds. Such a beautiful range of fragrances and spices I can’t wait to recreate some of these myself.

    Leah

    Like

  8. Leah
    April 4, 2014

    Yum, these sound delicious and I’m super happy that you picked this book for the cookbook guru even if we are finding it challenging to find recipes online. I’ve bitten the bullet and bought a copy based on your recommendations so I can’t wait for it to arrive. 🙂

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 4, 2014

      Just wrote another post about it. I seriously think It’s the quintessential guide to Middle Eastern Food xx

      Like

      • Leah
        April 4, 2014

        awesome! Would you like to write an article specifically about the book for the cookbook guru blog? I think you would be the best person to introduce the book for us properly. I can invite you into the blog so that you have access to blog it directly 🙂

        Like

      • ladyredspecs
        April 4, 2014

        Happy to, in fact the post I just wrote will probably do it, it’s more a book review than a recipe review.

        Like

  9. saucygander
    April 3, 2014

    I agree, don’t apologise for soapbox, our government’s stance on asylum seekers is awful.
    But, coming back to food, what gorgeous recipes! We are having lots of people over on the weekend, in thinking of making the carrot and cucumber salads, to go with a Sicilian pie. The flavours may just work together, given the Arab influence in Sicilian cuisine…

    Like

  10. Francesca
    April 3, 2014

    Don’t apologise for any soapbox stance. I enjoy reading a bit of political communing over food and it is a topic very dear to my heart. True, the present government is not the only one at fault here, although it’s attempt to keep people in the dark is appalling. I usually spare my blog life from my disgust at our treatment of asylum seekers too. Must get hold of that book, thanks for the recommendation.

    Like

  11. Francesca
    April 3, 2014

    What a wonderful middle eastern meal. Not just one recipe but a whole banquet. I plan to do a post on Roden when the library comes good with a copy, as this is one book I haven’t been able to replace cheaply ( ie second hand.) More importantly, I might dedicate my post to all the middle eastern refugees languishing in detention centres and the heartless three lined mantra of the present government’s approach to asylum seekers. F

    Like

    • ladyredspecs
      April 3, 2014

      My book club had a very meaty discussion Tues night about not just this gov’t but the two prior as well and their inhumane treatment and immoral stance. A Country Too Far is a must read! Sorry, soapbox!! I look forward to seeing what you post. IMO Roden’s book get’s the the heart of the everyday cuisine of this incredibly interesting region.

      Like

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