I think I was just about the only food writer in England who did not own a copy of the Honey & Co cookbook until their wonderful publishers, Salt Yard Book Co. sent me a copy to review. I knew all about it though; I'd read all the press coverage of their publishing story, and marvelled at the massive advance they managed to get on it over dinner and drinks with my literary agent friends. But honestly, I did not think owning a copy would bring me anything new to my collection; I've got a much loved copy of Claudia Roden's The Book Of Jewish Food and all the Ottolenghi books up until Plenty More came out (I'll probably get my hands on it in my Christmas haul), for starters. I've got a lot of options to turn to when it comes to Middle Eastern food.
I sat down to read the book in England and had a little play around with it, then took it to the French house and did the same. And do you know what? Yes I did need this as yet another Middle Eastern cookbook. The writing is funny and engaging, and really paints the picture of both their restaurant and Sarit and Itamar's distant origins. The book builds their restaurant and community from the ground up, and I love how there is a story interlaced with the recipes. What I also loved about the book is there are actually a lot of basics for Middle Eastern cooking in here which a lot of other books take for granted; I can see a lot of canned peppers and preserved lemons in my immediate future. And a lot of crammed store cupboards!
I made the Pomegranate Molasses Chicken with Bulgar Wheat Salad, but I instead served the chicken over a bed of rice, sprinkled with pomegranates and chopped, toasted pistachios. It was delicious, but I tried baking it instead of frying it as the book suggested, and I did not get a nice sticky sauce; lesson learnt, follow the instructions the first time you make something, then fiddle with the recipe only once you've perfected it! The Bulgar Wheat Salad from the recipe formed the basis for my Giant (Israeli) Couscous with Pomegranate & Pistachios that you've all been enjoying so much - thanks for the fantastic feedback, everyone! Also from the drinks section at the back of the book I made up the Hot Cinnamon & Rose Infusion, which made a lovely and imaginative change to my morning tea bag. You know how I like my homemade infusions!
I'm really excited to make more from this book, especially as things are really Autumnal now, and one can't live on soups, stews and pasta bakes every day! Some of the things on my to cook list include: Mackerel Cured in Oil, Courgette Dip with Yogurt & Mint, Mint and Lemon Chicken with Apricots & Potatoes, their Chocolate, Cardamom & Bitter Orange and their Plum & Vanilla Iced Tea. And basically all of their flavoured breads.
One of the recipes from the book I was making in France which is technically Summery, but I think is too good not to enjoy right now when the prawns are good anyway is the Prawns in Orange, Tomato and Cardamom. Perfect served with crusty bread, and a glass of rose wine, if you are still instant to drag Summer on a little longer. Though, to be more seasonal a nice, fruity and light red would go well. The recipe is so quick and easy, even more so with the slight changes I've made to use pre-cooked prawns instead of raw ones in the recipe. Also, I was making this as a serves 4 rather than the books suggested 2, so as it all would not fit into my largest saucepan I used a Wok. It worked perfectly, so keep that in mind. The recipe below serves 2.
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Orange, thinly sliced
- 2 Large Tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 Large Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 1/2 Red Chilli, de-seeded and thinly sliced
- 3 Green Cardamom Pods (I swear by the ones from Spice Mountain at Borough Market and online)
- 20 Large Cooked Shell On Prawns
- 3 tbsp Water
- Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Prepare all the ingredients and crush the cardamom pods lightly with the flat of a knife to release the black seeds, and set aside. Heat the oil over a very high heat until smoking in a very large saucepan or Wok. Carefully add the orange slices. I say carefully, as there will be an awful lot of spitting when you add the first one! The moment they're all in start turning them over, and once they're all turned add the tomatoes, garlic, chilli, cardamom and thyme. Stir and cook down for a few minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and started to form a sauce. Add the water and prawns, and stir so the prawns are well coated in sauce. Keep on tossing while the prawns heat through, and serve in warmed bowls instantly.
I'd love to hear what the rest of you have been cooking from the Honey & Co. book if you have it, and other recommendations for Middle Eastern cookbooks I think I don't need, but probably do would be much appreciated too! Also, if you have purchased your prawns in a big bag rather than counted out for the recipe from the fishmongers and you're looking for something else to cook with them, may I point you in the direction of my Hot King Prawns in Garlic Butter?