The cookbook club - third meeting
Imagine, dear reader, a table with a myriad of plates of all sizes and shapes, with foods of various colors that emanate succulent aromas of exotic spices. Add to that scene voices that interrupt one another; the sound of a tambur; hands that cross over; dishes that rise, travel and land at the other end of the table; and you may get an idea of how people celebrate their meals in Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, in the Middle East, from where the recipes of Sabrina Ghayour's book –Persiana– come from. Here lies one of the delights of these lands, where eating is not confined to an individual plate with the protein, carbohydrates and salad placed in certain way and having a predetermined weight; nor to an art composition made up of micro-portions of imaginative forms and the result of the molecular transformations of its components; it is rather based on the idea of sharing.
Although mezzes (small bites), breads, soups, stews, vegetables, rice, meat, desserts, can exist individually, they are best appreciated when geared as a series of pieces that make up a coherent and sufficient whole. They must be consumed calmly and without haste, so that diners can savor, comment, converse, take breaks and have second helpings.
Our oriental feast was a true reflection of all of the above. Yogurt with cucumbers, garlic and dill (Cacik); Spiced lamb kefta meatballs; Kefta meatballs in tomato sauce; Rice with lentils and crispy onions (Mojardara); Chargrilled aubergines with saffron yoghurt, parsley and pickled chillies; Chicken, walnut and pomegranate stew (Khoresh-e-Fesenjan) and a Spiced carrot, pistachio and almond cake with rosewater cream; they were all elements that deliciously complemented each other. To chose a favorite one was a hard task.
Persiana is a good amuse bouche that plays with our imagination and our palates. It gives a hint as to what awaits us when entering this culinary world. Some recipes are basic, easy, seemingly unremarkable; other complex, laborious and impressive, however the book persuades and convinces us that whatever recipe we decide to choose, we will not be disappointed. Sabrina, moreover, seems to subtly whisper into our ears that the best food is indeed that which is prepared at home, as the product of a combination of grandma's secrets, the dedication and patience required for certain processes, a special touch, an unexpected twist, the quality of ingredients and the generosity of the portions.
If a cookbook´s success was to be measured based on the wear of the cover, the loosening binding, the amount of folded pages, grease stains, sauce spatters, and the place it occupies in a bookcase full of other cookbooks, I can say that my copy of Persiana is on the right track to meeting the requirements.
Praised by all club members, we couldn´t but rate the book with a 10/10.