The evenings are drawing in and all of a sudden it is chilly enough to start wearing jackets and scarves again. Autumn is a particularly beautiful season so I don’t mind – the only thing that gets me down is when the rain goes on for days on end and my shoes never have time to dry out properly. However, instead of focusing on rustling piles of russet leaves, street vendors selling paper cones of hot roasted chestnuts, and the first pumpkins and butternut squashes appearing on market stalls, I find my thoughts turning irresistibly in another direction, towards the heat and vibrant colours of the Eastern Mediterranean.
I have never discussed a cookery book on this blog before, despite my very French love of food and cooking, because I find that reviews of cookery books all tend to sound the same. But rules are meant to be broken from time to time, and this book is different.
Silvena Rowe is an award-winning British chef and food writer who was born to a Bulgarian mother and a Turkish father. After her father died, a desire to reconnect with her Ottoman heritage led her on a journey of discovery through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume is the fruit of that journey.
Part memoir, part travelogue, illustrated with beautiful photographs and interspersed with stories and descriptions by such illustrious forerunners as Mark Twain, Alphonse de Lamartine, or Suleiman the Magnificent, this is a recipe book that takes the reader on a sensual voyage of discovery. Each recipe, whether garnered from a reputed chef, a local street café, or a convent kitchen high up in the mountains, is more exotic and more exciting than the last. Mediterranean tends to be synonymous in our minds with the olive oil and tomato-based cooking of Italy and the south of France. This book shows us that there is much, much more than that. I would never, for example, have had the idea for a spicy pomegranate and blood orange chutney had it not been for this book. Almonds, roses, spices… the recipes are full of magical ingredients that seem to come straight from the realm of fairytales. And indeed, Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume would be the perfect bedside companion to the Arabian Nights.
© Florence Berlioz 2013