Book Review: Levant – New Middle Eastern Flavours

A gem of a book, written by the impossibly glamorous Rawia Bishara who is famed for Tanoreen, a middle eastern restaurant in Brooklyn, NY.

The book is absolutely beautifully photographed – it’s one of those where every single page you find yourself thinking “oh, that looks delicious”, “oh, I could make that for x, y, z occasion”, “oh, we should have that for dinner next week”. You get the idea. And then you see a photo of Rawia cooking, perfectly made up, bejewelled and wearing glittery clothing and you think … “yeah, but not like that!”

We made two recipes from the book and both were delicious and, in the case of the beans, her suggested ‘cheat’ worked perfectly well.

First up we made the “autumn fattoush” – although as we weren’t making it in autumn, we found radicchio tricky to come by (or was that just my lack of commitment) and substituted witlof instead, figuring it would have the same leafy texture and bitter flavour profile. Of course, it did mean that our finished dish wasn’t quite as colourful as that in the book but it was still delicious. And, of course, with this kind of salad, the bulk of the effort is in making the pita chips. She suggests cooking them in the oven but the Ottolenghi option of pan frying them will also work well.

Later in the piece, we tried the coriander green beans with toasted almonds. Another very simple dish although the recipe does suggest deep frying the green beans, with the option for roasting them. We went the roasting route and Andy felt we took the beans a bit far (I thought they were fine). As we now have an air fryer, it would be interesting to cook the beans in that and see how they turn out. It would be essential to use fresh green beans for this – yes, I know that topping & tailing them is more work than grabbing a bag of frozen, but you really want the crunch that you only properly get with a fresh bean.

Some recipes in the book do have a very hefty list of ingredients (although, quite often, if you have a well-stocked spice drawer you’ll be fine) but there is something for everyone in this book – from quick, simple side-dishes to more elaborate, heavily spiced mains. Not every recipe is illustrated, so you will have to use your imagination now and then, but you should definitely not let that put you off.

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