Silk Road Vegetarian is my second Cookbook review. I chanced upon this gem of a cookbook while in a local bookstore desperately looking for a book for our next Book Club discussion. We couldn't agree on anything specific then and while browsing, the cashier said that there was a 20% discount storewide and I got quite excited when she told me that. I quickly moved to the Cooking section and after browsing for 20 minutes through various other titles including those from renowned chef Nigella Lawson, only this book - Silk Road Vegetarian - got my attention.
I can imagine you asking or wondering why in the world would anyone be buying cookbooks when the Internet is filled with throes of online recipes? Its always nice to hold a book and review the recipes and salivate over the gorgeous pictures. Physical books have thousands of years of history and I still believe in them.
This Cookbook traces the culinary journey of Dahlia Abraham -Klein whose ancestors headed east from ancient Israel to central Asia, joining countless other travellers in the Silk Route, where both commodities and cultures mingled. The Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes connecting the East and the West and stretching from the Korean Peninsula and Japan to the Mediteranean Sea. As you can see in the map above it stretches from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, and passed through India and China.
Dahlia has now settled in New York but has captured her family recipes very beautifully in this book. The food she grew up with was an intermarriage of exotic tastes from Asian, African, European, Indian and even some latin dishes. The book opens with her culinary pilgrimage.
The Contents Page
It will be quite a useful book for all beginner cooks - The Spice Pantry covers the different spices which were a vital commodity in the Silk Road and without which our food will be so so bland. Needless to say. She explains with pictures what is a cardamom, fennel seeds and the different types of grains specifically for the novice cook. The basic preparation also covers freezing vegetables which I thought was something useful to know.
Diving into the recipes proper, Dahlia has divided her recipes into 8 section and starts off with the very Basics :
Basics - e.g Hummus Dip, North African Chilli Paste
Appetizers - e.g. Persian Cucumber Yoghurt Dip
Soup - e.g. Lentil & Carrot Soup
Salads - e.g Middle Eastern Lemon Potato Salad
Main dishes - e.g Sweet-Savoury Chickpea Curry
Rice Dishes - e.g - Swiss Chard Pilaf
Side Dishes e.g - Sesame Noodles
Desserts - e.g. Halvah Parfait
All in all, 122 recipes have been shared in Silk Road Vegetarian and Dahlia has categorised then under Vegan, Gluten Free or Dairy Free for the health conscious. Each recipe is wholesome and delicious. A real keeper.
My 14 year old daughter Ranya told me to read this book. She said it is a moving book and that she couldn't stop crying when she reached the ending. It wasn't a thick book so I agreed (I actually agreed more to avoid her 'How come you can read Riya's book? (having read Riya's literature book Wonder) But not mine?'
Stolen is Lucy Christopher's (See author's picture below) debut 2009 novel and published in UK. The book is set in the Great Sandy Desert of Australia. It tells the story of 16 year old British Gemma who is waiting for her flight in Bangkok on her way to Vietnam with her parents. 24 year old Ty kidnaps her and takes her to Australia and holds her captive in a shack in the middle of dry sandy hot desert. Gemma finds out that he has been stalking her for the last 6 years and that his motive for kidnapping her was to make her fall in with him! ( Dude - there are so many other ways to make a girl fall in love with you. Kidnapping her is definitely not an option!)
Gemma tries to escape but fails. Ty finds her and brings her back to the shack and nurses her with tender loving care. Gemma starts falling in love with him... will she eventually stay back with him isolated from the world with no other person in sight and with only camels, chickens, snakes and lizards for company? Or will she somehow escape and get back with her parents? You have to read the novel to find out.
Stolen is written from Gemma's perpective as a letter to her captor Ty. It has been classified under young adult fiction . But I thought the novel was written very well. Not once did I feel that I was reading from a 16 year old's view. There are basically only 2 main characters Gemma and Ty and little here and there is written about her friends back home, Anna, Ben, Josh and a female camel they catch in the dessert. When Ty asks Gemma what name to give her, Gemma replies Stolen because she has been stolen away from her herd. Very nicely said, Gemma.
Stolen has won a couple of awards Branford Boase Award, Printz Honor Award and shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award. It has also been translated into French, Greek, German and Dutch.
I would recommend this book definitely to any teenagers or young adults. It comprises 304 pages. Available online in Amazon or check out any of your local bookstores.
The Constant Princess is Philippa Gregory's 2005 historical fiction novel set in Tudor England in the 1400s- 1500s. It is essentially the story of Queen Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife and her rise to power in England.
The novel begins with scenes in the borders of Spain where Princess Catalina, as a 3 year old, sees her mother's astounding tenacity and willpower. Queen Isabella leads her army against the Moors and eventually captures Spain. Catalina is betrothed to the ill-fated crown Prince of England, Arthur. As a child bride, Princess Catalina of Spain becomes Princess of Wales at the age of 16. Prince Arthur dies after just 5 months of marriage and in his deathbed, he extracts a promise from Catalina that she will marry his brother Harry (Henry VIII ) so as to ensure she becomes Queen of England.
Henry VII, her father-in-law lusts after her and proposes marriage instead. She initially accepts but gives up the idea when she realises that she will not have any power over England. Bitterly rejected, Henry VII betroths Harry to Catalina but refuses to give her her allowance forcing her and her Spanish entourage into poverty. After 7 long years of waiting where her father-in-law dies suddenly of an illness, Harry (Henry VIII) finally marries Catalina and becomes Queen of England. She then has complications in her pregnancy, miscarriage and then subsequently her firstborn a boy, declared Duke Of Cornwall, dies tragically 2 months later. The Scots declare war on England and the novel ends where Queen Katherine leads her English army to a glorious victory.
It was my first historical fiction and I found it quite intense. I took 2 weeks to read 528 pages paperback but I could have easily finished it in a week, if not for my usual distractions. It is a lively read, no doubt. There were narrative hooks, motifs, character contrasts and comparisons that kept the story connected. If you like history, you would like this novel. Even though her resolve to become Queen of England at any cost was admirable, I did feel sorry for Queen Katherine as I felt she had a hard life, facing one unfortunate event in her life after another. Even in the end, she fights for her marriage and fights to remain the Queen of England till she dies. Her immense patience and perseverance through all her misfortune and to wait 7 long years in poverty and misery - hats off to Queen Katherine!
We had our book club discussion about The Constant Princess on Monday and we had a lively chat about the internal strength of Queen Katherine. We discussed about how our own mothers have had such a tremendous deep influence on us and on our values that sees us through this day.
During our discussions, we try to have food that somehow follows the the theme of the book we are discussing. (See Picture below). As The Constant Princess was set in Spain, England and involved France, I had prepared Spanish Omelette and Spanish Balsamic Chickpea Salad. Angie brought scones and we also had fruit cakes (from Aparna), nuts (from Sherin) and mini French Baguettes. We washed it down with cold ice lemon tea and hot coffee afterwards. All in all, we had a wonderful Book Club brunch at my place. We have grown from 3 to 7 in 6 months! (Two other ladies couldn't join us yesterday.)
We are always on the lookout for new members. If you live in the East of Singapore and you're a devoted reader, we welcome you to join us. Do feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Constant Princess is available in Amazon for US$7. There are other books in the series too... The Other Boleyn Girl, The Virgin's Lover, The Queen's Fool etc. We have laid off historical fiction for a while to give ourselves a break from an intense read. Look out for my next book review soon on Stolen by Lucy Christopher.