Monday, 14 May 2018

Souk by Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol (book review) & Stuffed Aubergines

Arabic cuisine cook book
Souk: Image Credits - Smith Street Books

"Imagine a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon with long tables casually filled with delicious mezze - cold and hot sharing plates that together form a delicious and inviting meal in themselves. Here, family and friends enjoy the abundance of the sharing table - from carrots with arak and dishes of silky-soft hummus to fried kibbeh balls and tabouleh or fattoush".

This wonderful description brings back memories of the years, when I was newly wed and when we lived in a tiny house in Jericho, Oxford. We used to visit the local Lebanese restaurant Al-Shami. It was there that I tried mezze for the first time. I was hooked. I loved all the cold and hot appetisers and sharing plates. I haven't been in that restaurant this side of the millennium, but I believe it still exists.

Souk by Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol (Smith Street Books, released 1 April 2018; £25) is a colourful, soulful homage to the Middle Eastern way of life.
The authors say: "Throughout our time in the Middle East, it became clear to us that mezze is equal to the generosity and hospitality of the Levantine people".

Arabic cuisine book

This beautiful edition includes over 100 inspiring recipes to fill the table with Nadia and Merijn's version of a mezze feast. There are recipes to appeal to both flexitarians and vegetarians.
It is well written, with short personal stories and reminiscences about food.

Photographs by Ernie Enkler are simply stunning. As a food blogger, I always pay attention to styling - beautiful fabrics and china used in the photos.

Arabic recipes
Labne, Souk: Image Credits - Smith Street Books
Just look at those splashes of colour - don't you want to grab a flatbread and just dip into that pepper sauce?!

Arabic recipes

I also absolutely loved little embroidery samples by Anneke Koorman at the beginning of each chapter, they are deceptively simple and so charming. They make me feel like going back to embroidery again.

Such pretty little pieces, I can easily see them on napkins and tea towels. And they make a lovely quirky touch to the cook book.

Recipes include drinks and cocktails, cold and warm mezze, the grill and after dinner (desserts).
I have bookmarked several recipes, which I am going to try this summer, like this gorgeous Pistachio and semolina cake with meringue...

Souk: Image Credits - Smith Street Books
or Armenian stuffed carrots in tamarind, pomegranate and coffee sauce

I'd be happy to try a sour cherry sorbet and olive oil sorbet with rosewater, rice pudding with turmeric, tahini and pine nuts, stuffed vine leaves with pomegranate, barberries, grapes and bulghur, buttery date and sesame cookies, and many more delightful recipes.

This book will be a welcome addition to any foodie's cook book collection.

So far I have tried one of the recipes from the book. I love aubergines in all guises and disguises, as you might have seen from my blog.

I was inspired by the recipe Stuffed Eggplant with bulghur, walnuts and mint. I have adapted the recipe, first of all by halving the quantities, and then using a different way of cooking.
Quite a lot of recipes in this book do not mention prep or cooking times, so you'll have to improvise.

vegetarian meals

Aubergines stuffed with bulghur, walnuts and mint
2 aubergines
3tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion
2 small carrots, peeled and grated
50g bulghur
1tsp vegetable stock powder
a handful of walnuts
1tbsp chopped fresh mint
1tsp paprika
a dash of pomegranate molasses
sea salt

Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and place on a baking tray, drizzle about 1tbsp olive oil over them and season with salt. Place the tray in the oven preheated to 180C.
Bake for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, finely slice the sweet onion and grate the carrot. Fry them with the olive oil for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the chopped walnuts and mint, as well as paprika and molasses, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Place dried bulghur in a small pan with water and stock, bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. The times will depend on the bulghur you are using.

The original recipe in the book suggests combining bulghur with chopped onions, walnuts and mint and then putting them in aubergine boats, and cooking all together. I didn't want the topping to be burnt if you cook for too long, or the aubergines to be uncooked, so cooked the dish differently.

Take out the aubergines, and let them cool a bit before handling them. Cut out the inside, making "boats". Cube the inside flesh and add to the bulghur mix, then scoop the mix and put inside the aubergines. You will have some of the stuffing left.

vegetarian meals
Stuffed aubergines before being roasted

Place the tray with aubergines back in the oven and cook for another 20 minutes, until the aubergines are cooked through.

Arabic recipes

Serve with the yogurt on the side. I grated a small cucumber, and added it to the yogurt with a bit of salt. If you're a vegan, obviously use the dairy-free yogurt.

Arabic recipes, vegetarian dinner

It was a very tasty vegetarian dinner. I will definitely cook it again.
If you are a meat eater, this dish will make a great side dish, just serve 1/2 aubergine per person.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

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