Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe

Through her inspiring writing and her cooking at the Baltic Group restaurants, she popularised Eastern European cuisine in the UK. Now, Silvena Rowe’s new cookbook turns us on to the food of the Eastern Med.

Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume by Silvena Rowe

Bulgarian-born chef and food writer Silvena Rowe’s new book is a collection of sumptuous recipes from the Eastern Mediterranean. Rowe, whose half-Turkish father fired her passion for cooking, writes eloquently about the region and its food: the combinations of sweet and sour; fresh and dried ingredients that give flavour; and the rose and orange flower waters that add a whiff of the exotic.

Some recipes show the influence of the Ottoman Empire, while others are from contemporary Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. And along with recipes from her childhood, Rowe weaves in timeless folk stories, excerpts detailing the region’s history, personal travel tales and even some poetry.

Tried and tested Turkish favourites are transformed into chic dishes, such as lamb and pistachio kebabs with cloves and cinnamon. A section on mezze dishes is a warming take on this social, tapas-style meal. And Silvena has a markedly different method of making houmous – she uses ice cubes and bicarbonate of soda to achieve a light, silky texture.

All the recipes (including a substantial chapter on the sweet things for which the region is famed) are vibrant, modern and easy to read, with clued-up introductions. Colourful ingredients such as pomegranate dominate, and flowers are used in abundance in tempting recipes from rose-petal ice cream to poached asparagus with nasturtium sauce. This enticingly photographed book is a great read and a fascinating exploration of Eastern Mediterranean food and culture.

Published by Random House, priced £25.

You can buy this book from Waterstone’s

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