I’ve resisted this book ever since it came out about a year ago despite my step mothers partisanship for it (she’s a professional chef and we share enthusiasms for quite a lot of cook books). I assumed that I already had enough books covering Middle Eastern food, and that really Claudia Roden should be enough for anyone, and so she is for the classic and strictly authentic sense, but when it comes to Silvena Rowe I’ve come to admit the error of my ways.
It seems I really am late to the party on this one, even the blonde who professes to hate cooking knows of and admires Silvena (this is because she has a sensible sort of job that gives her whole weekends off and lets her watch Saturday Kitchen whilst I’m flogging wine to people who can’t remember what was recommended on it but won’t take anything else...) The damascene moment came courtesy of Mary (book binder, maker of fair isle goodies, producer of exquisite embroideries, and damn fine cook). Mary loves this book too but more than that she invited us for dinner and produced what felt like it had to be the whole book. I wish I’d taken pictures.
We had Suzme rolled in Za’atar sumac and pistachios, fennel and feta kofte with walnut tarator, avocado and sumac whip, tomato pomegranate and sumac salad, Lamb kebabs, pistachio revani with passion fruit syrup, pink peppercorn and pistachio meringues (there was also an amazing artichoke and bean salad, and a very good lamb stew, fruit, and ice-cream but they had a different provenance). I think I’ve remembered everything – it was really incredible food and there was an awe inspiring amount of it – it’s become legend between my sister and I. Mind you since I picked my copy up from the post office this afternoon I’ve made seared monkfish with rose petal salt (except it was vanilla which I already had, and not rose which likes to sit quietly for 24 hours before it’s ready) pilaf with pistachio almond and currents, and the really amazing tomato and pomegranate salad.
I also made some pomegranate molasses (litre of pomegranate juice, 115grams of sugar and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, heat gently until the sugar dissolves and simmer for about an hour until only about a quarter of the liquid is left and you have a thick syrupy mixture.) and revani (semolina cake which I didn’t know before so I’m sharing now) with almonds and strawberry syrup - because to be honest they’re a lot cheaper than passion fruit at the moment.
It’s a book that doesn’t seem to want to let you cook just one thing but I like that about it. Everything I tried tonight was commendably quick and easy, some dishes need a bit of preparation in advance but it’s all marinating which isn’t terribly demanding. Everything looks amazing which makes the bits which do demand effort far more appealing and overall it’s a darn exciting book. Which is good because I’ve also got the next one – ‘Orient Express’, report to follow soon.