- Food & Drink
Australian chef Greg Malouf’s new cookbook Malouf, written with his ex-wife and food writer Lucy, was delivered to my office by a courier who must’ve cursed the day that the Maloufs decided to put together a really comprehensive collection of their favourite Middle Eastern inspired recipes. Weighing in at over 2kgs, it’s a back breaker of a book. Carting it home would’ve been a chore had I not been so utterly delighted by it.
And it’s hard not to be enchanted by a book that has been so lavishly produced. For a start, it has not one, but two thick ribbon bookmarks tied into it (which was actually quite useful when I was cooking from it, and needed to flip back and forth between recipes), and the photography is beautiful. Malouf is full of simple shots with barely any props, but they glow on the page.
The meat of the book, however, is the recipes. Malouf is an Australian chef of Lebanese descent and his previous cookbooks have wandered through Persia, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and North Africa. Malouf, by contrast, is a stroll through the flavours of the Middle East.
Notions of tradition, regionality and dreaded authenticity are ditched in favour of picking up the herbs, spices and cooking methods of the Middle East and shaking them together with the rest of the world. So there are recipes for fattouche, kibbeh and tzatziki, as well as cock-a-leekie soup with dates and croques monsieurs (which is introduced with the line: “Let’s be honest, there’s nothing remotely Middle Eastern about Scotland’s favourite soup!” Good to have that cleared up).
In the spirit of fusion cuisine, I decided to Malouf up a Sunday lunch. Roast leg of lamb with spiced pumpkin (page 193) involved smearing the lamb in a spice paste made from garlic, chilli, shallot, cardamom, caraway, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. The spiced pumpkin that should’ve been roasted in the dish with the lamb I added to a pan of spiced roasted root vegetables (page 247), which had an almost identical spice mix tossed through it before baking.
Both were easy to knock together and had a gentle, warming fragrance from the spices (and a bit of extra pow from the chillies in the veg). The leftover roasted roots (naturally, I made too much food) also made a brilliant soup blitzed up afterwards with vegetable stock and an onion sweated in olive oil. A dish of parsnip skordalia (page 248) was Gulf State sheikh rich and much improved the quality of my breakfast bubble ‘n’squeak the next day.
Dessert was saffron rice pudding with caramel oranges (page 353; should’ve been blood oranges, but wrong time of year and all that), which is made on the hob, then chilled and finished with a stir through of whipped cream to loosen the sticky grains. A tank of a dessert, the suggested serving size (6) must be based on the assumption that you eat a thin soup for dinner before tackling the pud. It was therefore perfect for Sunday lunch, and we ended the meal flopped on the sofa, all our energies focussed on digesting the staggering quantities of cream, carb and sugar we’d consumed.
Another fabulously decadent dessert is the Turkish coffee ice cream (page 335), which uses a litre of cream and 12 egg yolks. I served it with a few tiny slabs of Persian baklava with rose-lime syrup (page 309) after a dinner of Sultan’s Delight with cheesy eggplant purée (page 210). It’s impossible not to make a stew with that name, and the sugar and caffeine heavy pudding perked everyone up out of their lamb and casein comas.
The only downside to this book is that it is enormous. Finding somewhere to prop it up while I cooked was next to impossible and I ended up leaving it open on one worktop and chopping and peeling on another, nipping between the two when I needed my next instruction. This impracticality combined with the book’s beauty suggests that it has been designed to decorate your coffee table, but it’d be a shame not to cook from it when the recipes produce such consistently fantastic results.