Arabesque - Modern Middle Eastern Food
By Greg and Lucy Malouf


This isn't the easiest cookbook to work with. For a start, the definition of "Middle Eastern" is flexible. But also, rather than grouping recipes by appetiser, main course and dessert, or basing chapters on the primary protein (dairy, chicken, beef or fish), the Maloufs (Greg and his now ex-wife Lucy) have divided the book according to ingredients - and not necessarily the main one in any given dish. The recipe for the fantastic (and complicated) Moroccan pigeon pie, bisteeya, for instance, isn't featured in the "pigeon" or "poultry" chapters. Instead, it's listed under "cinnamon", as is ras el hanout, even though the spice mix could have been included in the cardamom or coriander chapters.

Structure aside, it is a tempting book. The "Modern" in the title is an important word to note, though: the recipes aren't the rigidly traditional ones a Lebanese grandmother who's been cooking exactly the same way for 60 years might make. Many incorporate ingredients from other countries, such as Spanish sausage (in the rabbit hotpot with white beans) and Italian taleggio cheese (in the whipped bean purée).

Recipes I've earmarked for future cooking projects include oysters in chickpea batter; salmon kibbeh nayeh with soft herb salad; marinated quail; chicken in parchment with Moroccan aromatics and lentils; and, of course, bisteeya.