Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead Book Review

Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead Book Review

Title: Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead: Recipes and Recollections from a Syrian Pioneer
Author: Habeeb Salloum
Published: September 30, 2017, University of Regina Press
No. of Pages: 336
Cover Price: $29.95 Paperback

Generally the sole purpose of a cookbook is to instruct the reader how to cook. However, Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead: Recipes and Recollections from a Syrian Pioneer by Habeeb Salloum, is also a fascinating memoir that is great for curling up and reading. While one doesn’t usually think of pioneers, especially Arab pioneers, homesteading in Canada, this book details the author’s family, how they introduced crops from their homeland to Canada, and gives recipes for the author’s childhood favorites as well as dishes he ate during his travels in his later life.

Middle Eastern food is extremely trendy at present, and this excellent book has dozens of mouthwatering recipes to prepare and eat while reading the stories and vignettes in the book. Ingredients such as chickpeas, olives, zucchini, tahini, fresh mint, lamb, tomatoes, and yogurt are used in many of the recipes, all of which turn out picture perfect. That is, as picture perfect as an imagination can be, since there are no pictures of the dishes in the book. There are, however, a few family pictures in the memoir sections, which help, but a cookbook that has recipes as good as this one should have pictures, since pictures spark the imagination and assist cooks in deciding what to cook at any given time.

Rather than organizing the book into chapters like most cookbooks, i.e., appetizers, breads, salads, etc., this book is divided into sections featuring a single ingredient such as lentils, chickpeas, broad beans, garlic, zucchini, etc. This is nice when searching for something to make when you have an excess of something on hand. Most of the recipes sound appetizing, and the instructions and ingredient lists are succinct and easy to follow. Most importantly, every recipe I tried turned out delicious. Salloum’s version of Zucchini and Eggs is one of the best I’ve tasted, and it used up excess garden produce. The simple Tomato Mint Salad has become a go-to at my house, since it’s quick, easy, and delicious. We also love the Stuffed Potatoes and Yogurt Potato Salad. The Fish Fillet Baked in Tahini was a little more involved, but absolutely worth it; it is definitely worth making again.

The desserts in the book are also excellent; the Arab Shortbread is addicting, and very easy to make. The Fig Tarts are also delicious, and I plan to include them on my Christmas buffet table this year.

All told, Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead: Recipes and Recollections from a Syrian Pioneer is a nice cookbook for those who like to follow trends and keep themselves up-to-date on the delicious dishes from the Middle East. It is recommended for everyone who likes to cook new, innovative dishes, and anyone who doesn’t need pictures to inspire them.

Special thanks to NetGalley for supplying a review copy of this book.

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