Monday, June 20, 2011

Orient Express Silvena Rowe

I have an exam coming up (I think, it’s one of several things that isn’t very clear about a course I’m going on next week concerning spirits and distillation) and to aid revision I went to the Scottish ones this weekend where there are less distractions (allegedly, though it’s possible I went there because he cooks for me and brings me cups of tea at regular intervals). I was so dedicated to the cause that I left my laptop behind and also left home without a work of fiction about me – for the first time in years.

Fortunately the wine and spirit education trust provides a reasonably entertaining as well as informative text book so reading it wasn’t the chore it might have been, but being without a computer felt weird. Far stranger than it should have really because the laptop I’ve become so attached to has only been a feature for the last 2 years (internet in the home – not even that long). What all of this has to do with Silvena Rowe is that after using a couple of recipes (all excellent) and reading through some more it’s clicked that she rarely uses salt.

Salt – can you imagine cooking without it? Again, it shouldn’t be a stretch for me, I spent a year cooking in a nursery where salt was a forbidden addition. I was under the impression that I wasn’t a heavy user but as I cooked tonight I kept checking the instructions in a slightly disbelieving way to make sure it wasn’t needed.

The recipe in question was chilli – scented king prawn and feta guvech. Guvech is apparently a sort of Bulgarian pot which gives its name to the stews you make in them (and this is why I missed the internet). I’m not sure how traditional Rowe’s version is (probably not very, there is a definite fusion feeling here) but it’s incredibly quick taking only 20 minutes, simple, and presumably quite healthy. The end result is impressive and destined to become a regular feature (we meant to take a picture before finding we’d eaten the whole dish) which keeps happening with Rowe’s recipes. ‘Orient Express’ is every bit as good as ‘Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume’, it’s pretty much more of the same with more emphasis on throwing together and cooking quickly (although some things need to be marinated or similar ahead of time).

I know there is no shortage of ‘express’ cookbooks around but I like the personality of this one. The flavour profiles (the chapters are romantically titles Emerald Spice and Gold Dust, Fire and Noble Velvet, Purple Citrus and Summer Breeze, Sweet Eucalyptus and Liquid Gold, and Exotic Perfume and Delicate Fragrance) suit me Emerald Spice and Gold Dust translates as Za’atar and Saffron, Fire and Noble Velvet is Chilli and Cumin. A few key spices in the cupboard and you’re ready to go, and as long as you have the key components in place the details take care of themselves (I don’t much like improvising because in practice when I do everything ends up tasting the same, but I do like it when you can tinker with a recipe a bit to make it suit you).

I have no end of good intentions regarding this book and eating properly after late finishes at work – we’ll see how that goes but either way this is a brilliant book.


  1. Nice review - I will remember this one for gifts or maybe a cheeky purchase for myself. Good luck with your exam!

  2. Good luck for your exam Hayley x

  3. Thanks for the exam wishes, I'm reasonably confident about the exam now, but am aiming for a 100% so more work needed.

    Novel Insights - it's a really tempting book, the sort you buy for someone else and keep. I'm a little bit in love with it.

  4. i just received it from Amazon UK What a wonderful book