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.
Eggs on Top - Recipes elevated by an Egg is my first cookbook review..
I guess when there are so many recipes online, you would probably think there isn't a real need to get a cookbook. Those who have read my earlier posts would know I am an old soul when it comes to books - it is a different feeling holding a cookbook in your hands and turning the pages while inhaling the wonderful smell of a new book...so many different sensations are involved, sight, smell, feel...if only cookbooks could talk and if we could taste the food as we devour them with our eyes!!
There are 3 distinct sections in the book :
An Egg Primer
Plenty of extra information is provided on the anatomy of an agg, storing eggs, nutrition, safety issues of having raw eggs, grades and types of eggs (quail duck, goose, chicken and more). Ms Slonecker has assisted us in deciphering the different labels on egg cartons - Cage free, Free Range, Hormone Free, Gluten Free, Vegetarian etc..
What I learnt from this section - Apparently, we are not supposed to store the eggs in the doors of our refrigerator. This could cause it to lose its freshness because of agitation (opening and closing the doors could result in the disturbance of the eggs). Cartons where they are stored when purchased are the best places to store them in the refrigerator.
Part 1 - Let's Get Cracking
This section covers the classic techniques for preparing the humble egg. From perfectly poached to softly scrambled , each method is clearly written to ensure egg-cellent results.
Andrea Slonecker, using her skills as a cooking teacher, suggests simple variations such as basting an egg with bacon drippings to add flavor or poaching eggs in wine..
What I learnt from this section -Did you know that to get perfectly boiled eggs, you should slowly sink the eggs after the water is boiling and not in cold water and then letting the water boil? I 'm guilty of that! Apparently even 1 minute makes a difference in the doneness of an agg. A fully illustrated page on the different characteristics of eggs boiled at different timings is also provided.
After mastering the techniques, one can turn to recipes that features the egg in wonderful ways.
Part 2 - Things to Put Eggs On
This part provides recipes for dishes that are enhanced by eggs, from reimagined classics to new ones.
Chapter 1 covers eggs on bread, sandwiches and such
Chapter 4 covers eggs on vegetables.
Eggs on Top is a quintessential guide to cooking and enjoying one of the world's simplest but perfect ingredient.
Available online and in bookstores - costs US$24.95. I purchased it here in Singapore for $19.90 at a local bookstore called Du Yi Bookshop Pte Ltd. When I got it last week, it was half off!!
So get the book and Get Cracking!