Looking for Kitchen Inspiration? Reviews of Four Middle Eastern Cookbooks

It’s no secret that I only read cookbooks.  I always go to the bookstore thinking I am going to pick up a great new novel and curl up in bed and get whisked away into a mysterious imaginary world.  Nope. Never happens.  What ends up happening is I quickly get diverted to the cookbook section of the store, of which I cannot leave without purchasing at least one new book.  Needless to say, I have quite an extensive collection of Middle Eastern cookbooks.  You name it, and I bet I have it.  And yes, I cuddle with cookbooks at night, and fall asleep with a growling stomach.

Since moving to the UAE, I have been mesmerized by the cookbook authors that I rarely saw on the shelves at the Borders or Barnes and Noble at home in Virginia.  I recently attended the Dubai Festival of Literature.  Unfortunately, the sessions I wanted to attend were sold out long before I caught wind that so many amazing cookbook authors were going to be in attendance.  This is the second year in a row that I have missed out on hearing the amazing Anissa Helou and Bobby Chin (the fabulous Chinese-Egyptian celebrity chef).

Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore that is popular in the UAE, had set up a small book shop at the Literary Festival.  I was able to snag four amazing books:




     Anissa HelouMediterranean Street Food










Ariana Bundy, Pomegranates and Roses









Sarah Al Hamad, Cardamom and Lime: Recipes from the Arabian Gulf









Sarah al Hamad, Sun bread and Sticky Toffee: Date Desserts from        Everywhere





I was enthralled by the superior quality of the photography both on the cover and within each of the books.  How could I walk away from books with such familiar ingredients yet such foreign recipes?  I have learned so much about these authors, as they are certainly not new to the cooking scene.

Anissa Helou has been a favorite of mine for years, but this book I had never seen before.  Published over 10 years ago, Helou’s includes stories and recipes from all across Mediterranean, including Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt.  Who can resist recipes for chickpea fritters from Nice and kushari from Egypt?

Sarah Al Hamad, who grew up in Kuwait, published Cardamom and Lime in 2008.  The aforementioned starts with a history of Gulf traditions and how their cuisine has adapted to the crossroad of cultures that have traversed the region.  Sun Bread and Sticky Toffee was only recently published in 2013.  The recipes for Orange, Date and Cinnamon muffins and the Date and Plum Crumble have my name written all over them.  Some of our midEATS readers know of my obsession with crumbles and making them gluten-free!

Lastly, Ariana Bundy has introduced an entirely new cuisine to my kitchen: Persian food.  I have always indulged on Persian food at restaurants but have never thought of making it at home.  I always figured some things are best left to the experts.  However, Bundy’s book presents her traditional Persian family recipes in a simple, easy to follow manner. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons Pomegranates and Roses won the 2012 Gourmand World Cookbook Award in Paris.  One recipe I flagged was taachin, which is a yogurt and garlic marinated chicken that is baked into a saffron rice cake.  She says it has a “stunning visual effect” for parties.  Also, although I have made my own Iraqi version of fasanjoon (chicken with pomegranate and walnut sauce), I can’t wait to try Bundy’s khoresht fesenjan, the true Iranian version of the recipe!

The books have given me a lot of inspiration in my own cooking.  I just counted a total of 27 recipes that I flagged in these four books.  Looks like I better get cookin!

Let’s hope we can get these lovely talented chefs to guest blog for midEATS!


    • This looks fantastic! I have never heard of this book, but I would love to know more about Chaldean cooking. I have an Iraqi cookbook, which includes some Chaldean recipes. Thanks for sharing!!

  1. Have you heard of “Olives, Lemons, & Za’atar”? I just bought it and it truly is the best mid east cookbook i have seen. I saw a bunch of reviews on it and bought it.. home cooking from a chef in NYC. super cool. Great pics.

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