Cookery Book Heaven

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Needless to say I love cookery books; it would be strange if I didn’t  as I have a large recipe section in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ ( buy your copy on this site). So I was delighted to receive for Christmas ‘Jerusalem ‘by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.I have been a great lover of Ottolenghi recipes ever since my sister introduced me to them. Ottolenghi is an Israeli and Tamimi  a Palestinian  were both born in Jerusalem and now are working partners in London. His recipes have a great deal of depth of flavour as they usually include many herbs and spices.’Jerusalem’ is one of those books I love because it tells stories as well as giving you recipes and all accompanied by a rich array of fascinating photos of periphery subjects as well as mouthwatering food. It is a book born out of a sort of longing  for the food of his early years; most of us, if we are lucky, have fond memories of our mother’s cooking as we were growing up, I certainly do.

Another favourite author of mine is Claudia Roden, a fascinating writer who has a multicultural background, born in Cairo studied in Paris and moved to London.Both write about mediterranean food; Roden covers Egypt, Greece and the Lebanon in her book ‘Mediterranean Cooking’ which accompanied a BBC series many years ago; Ottolenghi and Tamimi mostly the  Lebanon. Many years ago I went to Granada on a dance holiday and part of the memorable experience was the variety of eating places we were taken to. My favourite apart from the vegetarian restaurant; yes they do exist in Spain; was the restaurant in the Arab quarter , the Albaysin, which served delicious Lebanese food.

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I think out of all mediterranean food Lebanese is my favourite, it is of course a mixture of all the cultures that have passed through its regions over centuries much like Cyprus. With Cyprus it shares many dishes and through ‘Jerusalem’ I am learning even more similarities. Kibbeh, houmous, Mahulabieh, bourekia, these I knew  but there are so many other cross-overs it is fascinating. Just before Christmas, I was watching Rick Stein’s latest BBC series ‘Venice to Istanbul’ I was enticed into buying the book after watching Stein cook many of the recipes he picked up in Turkey, especially dishes using pearl barley which intrigued me as my only memory of pearl barley was when my mum cooked neck of lamb stew with dumplings and boy was that good. I was pleased to see in ‘Jerusalem ‘ a recipe for a pearl barley vegetarian risotto. I tried this on Sunday and it was as promised truly scrumptious. So if like me you love mediterranean food these are books I highly recommend and happy eating….I must stop buying books.

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Cups or kilos

Ten of Cups from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been a bit lax and let a few days go by without posting but it is that time of year and Santa is getting closer by the minute. But after wrapping the presents and cooking some goodies I pause for thought as I’m also in the throes of getting my manuscript copy -edited. I’m looking to produce an e.book of Cyprus on a Plate featuring Androula’s Kitchen; I’m still not sure which formation of title to use, Androula’s Kitchen- Cyprus on a Plate perhaps? Whatever I plump for I’m planning on getting it out there early next year. Anyway,  one of the questions that keeps popping up is the use of consistent measurements in the recipe section.

When I was given a lot of the recipes the method of measure mostly imparted was cups and I painstakingly converted many of these into metric measures for the readers convenience and my own when I came to cooking them at home . But to be honest I rather like the idea that there are a few measurements  left in cups as a nod to the original recipe, as long as the same cup is used all the time of course!

I have been giving the subject of measurement and method  some considerable thought as I worked through the recipes. My original thought was that I didn’t want to get too precise about it all. These recipes have been used over the years passed down through families and are very familiar to all Cypriots and visitors to Cyprus. I wanted  to give a flavour of the cooking naming the most common seasonings and ingredients used for instance and explaining where some of the more unusual ones come from.

Most cooking in Cyprus traditionally, was done over the fire in one pot or cooked in a clay oven outside so no exact temperature was possible to gauge, it was an experienced eye that measured.The very art of cooking is that, an art and therefore not measured in precise quantities. There is leeway for a bit or creative interpretation and I wanted to give a feel of that. We all have different tastes and when cooking from a recipe I might leave something out or substitute it with something else if I don’t have that particular ingredient in my store cupboard. As Rick Stein often says “this is what cooking is all about” not being to precious about it. And Cypriots are certainly not that when they cook. My Aunt uses her judgement as a measure not the scales.

There are different kinds of cookery books I feel, there are the Elizabeth David variety that give you a feel for the food without too many precise details or even illustrations. Then there is the highly illustrated step by step guide for the inexperienced who want the reassurance that every detail is covered. I wanted to fall in between the two and I will maintain my original concept even in the face of criticism.