Flavours of Babylon: A Family Cookbook
Mesopotamian meals: aromatic, spicy and filled with flavour
By Linda Dangoor
Waterpoint Press, £16.99
Style: Simple home-style food with an Iraqi slant.
Dangoor follows in the footsteps of Claudia Roden in documenting and preserving the recipes of her childhood, "out of a desire to teach my nephews and their generation how to cook the Iraqi dishes they loved so much". She describes the book, which has just been shortlisted for the Gourmand World Cookbook Award, as "a personal collection of my favourite family recipes handed down from one generation to the next". A smaller second section has recipes developed by Dangoor.
Recipes, like slow-cooked brown eggs (beyth al t'beet) and aromatic almond milk pudding (muhllabi) made me want to rush off to my kitchen via the nearest Middle Eastern grocer. Dangoor's commentary on the basic ingredients and dishes make the book a good read and useful kitchen stand-by.
Will I find the ingredients?:
Some may be more challenging to source, but most if not all should be available online.
An entire section is dedicated to rice dishes with Dangoor's basic guidelines for perfect rice: use a heavy-bottomed pot and a tight-fitting lid, wash and soak the rice thoroughly, use just the right amount of water over a minimal heat, and no sneaky peaking under the lid until cooking time is up. There is also a helpful guide to Middle Eastern spices.
Trying out all the new and interesting flavours. Lentil soup with preserved lemon was such a hit I've given the recipe to several friends. Lamb stuffed aubergine was packed with flavour. Simple tahina and cinnamon spread was a sweet, sticky revelation.
Who's it for?:
Those looking for something a bit different. Unless you already cook Iraqi food, Dangoor's flavours are bound to be far removed from anything you have cooked before. But experienced cooks may find one or two recipes a little basic.