New Book of Middle Eastern Food

New Book of Middle Eastern Food

by Claudia Roden


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375405068
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/2000
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 441,860
Product dimensions: 7.75(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Claudia Roden was born and raised in Cairo. She completed her formal education in Paris and then moved to London to study art. She travels extensively as a food writer. Her previous books include the James Beard Award-winning Book of Jewish Food, as well as Coffee: A Connoisseur's Companion, The Good Food of Italy—Region by Region, Everything Tastes Better Outdoors, and Mediterranean Cookery, which was published in conjunction with her BBC television series on the Mediterranean. In 1989 she won the two most prestigious food prizes in Italy, the Premio Orio Vergani and the Premio Maria Luigia, Duchessa di Parma, for her London Sunday Times Magazine series The Taste of Italy. She has won six Glenfiddich prizes, including 1992 Food Writer of the Year for articles in the Daily Telegraph and The Observer magazine, and the Glenfiddich Trophy awarded "in celebration of a unique contribution to the food that we eat in Britain today." In 1999 she won a Versailles Award in France, and Prince Claus of the Netherlands presented her with the Prince Claus Award "in recognition of exceptional initiatives and achievements in the field of culture." She lives in London.

Read an Excerpt


In every Middle Eastern household, the making of yogurt is a regular activity — at least it used to be. With a little experience one lears the rhythm of preparation and the exact warmth required to turn milk into yogurt. The actual preparation is extremely easy, but the right conditions as necessary for success. If these are fulfilled, the "magic" cannot fail.

Yogurt is an essential part of the Meiddle Eastern diet. In al-Baghdad's medieval manual it was referred to a "Persian milk." In Iran today it is known as mast, in Turkey as yogurt. Syrians and Lebanese call it laban, Egyptionas laban zabadi, whle Aremenians refer ito it as madzoon. In parts of the Middle East, as in the Balkans, yogurt is believed by some people to have medicinal and therapeutic qualities. Longevity and a strong constitution are attributed to a daily consumption.

More recently the Western world discovered the healthful qualities of yogurt, but it is too often restricted to a minor role as a dessert, usually sweetened or synthetically flavored. Yogurt has yet to be allowed the versatility it enjoys in the Middle East, where it is, in turn, a hot or cold soup, a salad, a marinade for meat, or the basic liquid element in a meat-and-vegetable dish. The West has still to discover the vast number of dishes which are refreshed, soothed, and glorified when accompanied by yogurt, and the splendid drink called ayran or abdug, which is a mixture of yogurt and water.

The best yogurt I have ever eaten was in Turkey. It was made with water buffalo's milk and was thick and deliciously rich and creamy. A good second is the thick sheep's-milk yogurt product of Greece, which has been drained of its whey.

To Make Yogurt

If yogurt is to be adopted as an important element in cookery, it is worth learning to make it at home. All sorts of equipment have been recommended as being required: cake pans lined with padding, feather cushions, thermometers, different-sized bottles, jars, corks, tops, to name but a few. Commercial firms sell sets of equipment, but you can do perfectly well without them. All that is needed is a large earthenware or glass bowl, a plate to cover it entirely or plastic wrap, and a small woolen blanket — I use two shawls.

The proportions are1 heaping tablespoon of starter or activator (culture of the bacteria bulgaris) or fresh. Live yogurt (I use ordinary, commercial plain whole-milk yogurt) to each quart of whole milk. If you increae the quantity of milk, increase that of the starter accordingly, but do not use too much of the starter, or the new batch of yogurt will be excessively sour.

Bring the milk to the boil in a large pan. When the froth rises, lower the heat and let the milk barely simmer for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and allow the milk to cool to the point where you can barely dip your fingers in and leave them there while you count to ten. Ten is the tradtitional count, but the milk must still be hot enough to sting. If you have a thermometer, the temperature should be 106-109 degress F. If the milk is much cooler or hotter than this, the yogurt is likely to fail.

Remove any skin that has formed on the surface of the milk. Beat the acticator or plain yogurt in a large glass or earthnware bowl until it is quite liquid. Add a few tablespoons of the hot milk, one at a time, beating vigorously, between all the additions. Then add the rest of the milk slowly, beating constantly, until thoroughly mixed.

Cover the bowl with a large plate or with plastic wrap. Wrap the whole bowl in a wooledn blanket or shawl and leave it undisturbed in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard, for at least 8 hous or overnight. It should then be ready, thick like a creamy custard. Do not leave the bowl in the warmth too long., or the yogurt will become too sour.

As soon as the yogurt is ready, you can cool it in the refrigerator. It will keep for a week, but it is preferable to make a new batch every 4 days, using some of the previous one as an actrivator.This will ensure a cconstant supply of sweet, fresh-tasting yogurt.


Recipes from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Saman bi Einab (Quails with Grapes)
Serves 4

A wonderful dish. Even those who think it is not worth cooking quail because the birds are too small think this is delightful. In Morocco, ground ginger is used, but with fresh ginger it is particularly delicious. I peel and cut the root into pieces and squeeze them through a garlic press to obtain the juice. But if you are used to grating ginger, do that.

8 quails
3 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
5-6 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
3 inches fresh gingerroot, or to taste, grated, or crushed in a garlic press to extract the juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound large seedless white grapes, washed and drained

Quails are often sold with some remaining feathers, which need to be pulled or burnt off.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil with the butter. Put in the quails and sauté briskly over medium heat for about 8 minutes, turning to brown them lightly all over, and adding salt, pepper, and ginger. Add the garlic, and cook moments more, until the aroma rises, then take off the heat.

Put the grapes with the remaining oil in a saucepan. Sprinkle with a little salt, and cook, with the lid on, over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the grapes soft, stirring occasionally. Add them to the quails in the frying pan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the quails are done to your liking.

Serve hot.

The Quails

The Khoja shot a large number of quails, which he dressed and put on to stew. He clapped the lid on the saucepan and went out to invite his friends to dinner, wishing to give some of them who were always questioning his skill an agreeable proof of it.

While he was out, another man came and carried off the cooked quails, putting live quails in their place.

The Khoja's friends arrived, the saucepan was brought out, and the Khoja proudly took the cover off; the quails flew out with a flutter and disappeared. The Khoja stared in amazement, and then ejaculated:

"Oh Lord! granted that Thou hast restored the quails to life and made the dear little creatures happy again, how about my butter, salt, pepper, herbs, cooking expenses, and all my hard work? Who is going to pay for them?"

Barnham, trans., Tales of the Nasr-ed-din Khoja

Djaj bel Loz (Chicken with Almonds and Honey)
Serves 8

A magnificent dish, and a stunning example of the way Moroccans mix savory and sweet. Chicken pieces are first stewed with lemon juice and saffron, then baked with a topping of almonds and honey.
2 large onions, chopped
4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound chickens, cut into quarters
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron
Juice of 1/2-1 lemon
1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon rose water
4-5 tablespoons honey

In a large pan, cook the onions in the oil over low heat with the lid on until they soften, stirring occasionally. Stir in the ginger and cinnamon and put in the chicken. Cover with water, add salt and pepper, saffron, and lemon juice, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings (the sauce should be quite salty), and move the pieces so that the top ones go to the bottom.

Lift the chicken pieces out and arrange them in a large, shallow baking dish. Remove the skin if you like, and pour the sauce over.

Mix the ground almonds with the rose water and honey. Spread this paste over the chicken pieces and bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 30-45 minutes. The flavor, with the melting honey, is divine. Serve hot.

Sabanekh bel Hummus (Spinach with Chickpeas)
Serves 6

The combination of spinach with chickpeas is common throughout the Middle East, but the flavors here are Egyptian. You may use good-quality canned chickpeas. It is good served with yogurt.

1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, or a 14-ounce can cooked chickpeas
2 pounds spinach
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (optional)

If you are using the dried and soaked chickpeas, drain and boil them in fresh water for 1 1/4 hours, or until very tender, adding salt when they begin to soften.

Wash the spinach and remove stems only if they are thick and tough, then drain well.

In a large pan, fry the garlic and coriander in the oil, stirring, until the aroma rises. Pack in the spinach without adding any water, cover with a lid, and put over low heat until the leaves crumple to a soft mass. Add the drained chickpeas -- cooked or canned -- season with a little salt and pepper, mix very well, and cook a few minutes more. If there is too much liquid, reduce a little on high heat.

Serve hot or cold, with a squeeze of lemon if you like.


Fry 1 large chopped onion in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add 2 medium peeled and chopped tomatoes and 1 teaspoon sugar and cook until reduced, then stir in the cooked spinach and the chickpeas.

White haricot or navy beans may be used instead of chickpeas.

Recipes from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. Copyright © 2000 by Claudia Roden.

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New Book of Middle Eastern Food 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
SarahDW More than 1 year ago
It took me awhile to pick this book out. I was at Barnes and Nobel with every mid-eastern cookbook open at one point or another. In each book I decided to look up Kibbi (who knew it could be spelled so many other ways). I looked at the complexity and also at ingredients. I remember having it in college and then in Lebanon with lamb, bulgar, and pine nuts, plus unknown seasonings. This cookbook had several variations from different regions. Even the beginning of the book has interesting details about the authors history and travels. I don't think I've ever actually read a cookbook until this one. I keep this book out in the sitting area off the kitchen for browsing and new ideas.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have 5 other Middle Eastern Cookbooks, as well as my husbands grandmothers handwritten recipies, and while this cannot compete with them it comes close. All the recipies that I have tried are very good. I recently had Kefta Mashwe at a local restraunt and went back to find it in this cookbook, it tasted exactly like what I had in the restraunt. Of all the Store bought cookbooks I have (Over 150) this one is one of my favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have traveled these areas, this is a wonderful way to remember where you have been and what you have experienced