Feasts: Delicious recipes for family and friends with a Middle -Eastern twist.
Sabrina Ghayour was brought up in a Persian Household where there were endless parties for friends and family. Platter after platter of food would be brought to the table to make a wonderful colourful spread. These happy childhood memories inspired her to write Feasts.
But Feasts is not a recipe book full of traditional Persian recipes like khoresh (slow-cooked stews created with both vegetables and fruit giving both sweet and savoury flavours). Nor will you find the elaborate rice dishes which were an essential part of the Persian kitchen in there.
Feasts is a cookbook full of Middle Eastern recipes for family and friends with a modern twist. Sabrina does make abundant use of the spices from her homeland to create dishes which are aromatic but not too hot.
But in1979, at the time of the Islamic revolution, her family fled from Iran to England. Here she was influenced by all the different kinds of flavours and produce found in London Supermarkets. She also prefers a quicker and more relaxed style of cooking.
Persiana and Sirocco, the first two recipe books by this brilliant young self-taught chef, quickly became best sellers. The Observer called her “The Golden Girl of Persian Cookery”. Nigella Lawson wrote “Sabrina Ghayour’s Middle- Eastern-plus food is all flavour, no fuss-and makes me very happy.”
That made me want to get cooking right away!
There are Feasts for every occasion: breakfast, brunch, weekend, quick fix, vegetarian, summer, lighter, special occasions and comfort food. But Sabrina who calls herself the biggest rule breaker of them all would choose a recipe from every chapter and throw them together to make her own Feast. She encourages us to do the same and to feel free not to follow her recipes slavishly.
”There’s always room to swap and change ingredients and use what you have to hand or can get hold of. No ingredient is truly essential (unless you are baking when sometimes science takes precedence over creativity. I realize how many people are afraid to deviate from a recipe for fear of failure, but I can assure you that I myself am not the type of cook who sticks to a recipe 100 percent of the time, and generally it works, so don’t be afraid to go off-piste.” she says
I spent a week happily cooking out of Feasts. Here are some of our favourites:
Sausage, Potato, Pepper and Onion Bake
This was one of those super easy and hearty family meals that once you have tried it you know you will want to come back to again and again.
The only ingredient I lacked was pul biber chilli flakes (also known as Aleppo pepper) so I substituted some chilli flakes from my pantry. I liked it hot but there was a request from my partner to tone it down a little next time.
It wasn’t until I did some research afterwards that I discovered that Aleppo pepper is fruity and aromatic but not very hot. Paprika would probably have been a better substitute.
The dollops of yoghurt, a dribble of chilli sauce and some of the remaining spice mix sprinkled over the dish after cooking added another layer of flavour and made, what was quite a simple dish, look decorative and inviting.
Roasted Portobello Mushrooms stuffed with halloumi, coriander, pine nuts, garlic and coriander.
With a vegetarian son and one vegetarian granddaughter, I am always after some new plant-based recipes and this one was both delicious and versatile. You could use it as finger food at a party, have it as a side or as a light vegetarian meal. The stuffing, to which you add a drizzle of olive oil, was easily put together before piling it into the mushroom caps. Then these were roasted for half an hour until they were nicely browned.
Orzo and Tomato Salad
This filled my largest platter and made a celebratory salad for our extended family.
The main ingredient is the orzo pasta to which green beans, semi- sundried tomatoes, capers, feta, olives and pine nuts were added. No need for a dressing as the salad was simply moistened with a little of the oil drained from the semi-dried tomatoes. It will be a good one for summer barbecues!
Spice: Marinated beef kebabs
What a brilliant idea to fry the marinated cubes of meat and then push them onto skewers to serve. So much easier than fiddling around trying to fit bamboo skewers into your frying pan. The spices used in the marinade: smoked paprika, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon worked beautifully together and gave the steak a crisp brown crust.
The kebabs were served with yoghurt, red onion, coriander and pitta bread.
I have loved trying out these flavoursome uncomplicated recipes from Feasts!
Title: Feasts. Author: Sabrina Ghayour. Publisher: Hachette New Zealand RRP: $44.99
Reviews by Lyn Potter
Parent and grandparent, Avid traveller, writer & passionate home cook