I’m a firm believer that one of the most effective ways to experience the culture of a country is through its food. I love discovering different cultures, and I especially love discovering them through food. Hence when the invitation to review Pomegranates & Artichokes: Recipes and memories of a journey from Iran to Italy came my way, I jumped at the chance. And I am so glad I did as this is a beautiful recipe book that has really taught me about Iranian and Italian culture and the cuisine of these fascinating countries.
This is a book that has even encouraged me to bake a cake! And believe me, as I am definitely not a baker, I never bake. And I mean never! Well that is until recently…
Pomegranates & Artichokes has been written by Saghar Setareh, an Iranian food writer and photographer who was captivated by the Italian food culture when she moved to Italy in her early 20s. This ignited a fascination in the food culture of her homeland and its surrounding countries. Hence this recipe book is the rich story of Saghar’s own culinary journey from her homeland of Iran to her adopted country of Italy. Illustrated with her own stunning photography, it is an enchanting book that includes more than 80 recipes, beautifully detailing the parallels that connect Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food cultures.
It is rich in culinary detail. For example, until reading this book I never knew that saffron is probably the most iconic, defining flavour associated with Iranian cuisine. Nor did I know that Iranians pride themselves on producing the best saffron in the world, although they are rarely recognised for doing so. As I decided to make saffron roast chicken stuffed with dried fruit, which is one of the recipes in the book, I went in search of some saffron that had most likely been cultivated in Iran. It turns out that I found some in a shop not far from my house. And so I began by making the saffron infusion for the chicken stuffing and saffron butter following the very simple recipe included. As I was grinding the saffron threads and sugar together I could smell the delicate aroma being emitted from the saffron. It was gorgeous, as was the chicken when it was cooked. This is a dish that I’ll be cooking again.
Then last weekend for a family gathering I decided to try baking the easy Italian ring cake following the recipe in the book. When I say I never bake, I really mean I never bake! As I didn’t even own a mixing bowl I improvised and mixed the ingredients together in a tagine dish. Then I realised too late that I required a hand whisk for this recipe, another kitchen utensil I didn’t possess. So again I improvised and used my hand blender. In hindsight a hand blender was maybe not the best tool to use as my cake didn’t quite rise as it should and came out the oven slightly lopsided. But hey, I still consider my finished cake a success as it was delicious (even if I do say so myself) and was scoffed up by my family. And you know what, the easy Italian ring cake is very easy to bake. So I have now invested in a mixing bowl and hand blender and will be baking this gorgeous cake again! 🙂
This weekend I’m off to a Eurovision party where we’ve all been asked to bring a small dish (tapas style) from Europe. As Pomegranates & Artichokes also has an ‘In between’ section with recipes from countries in between Iran and Italy, I am going to make a dish following one of these delicious looking recipes. Currently I am torn between making two Greek dishes, the filo triangles stuffed with feta or the courgette patties with feta and dill. Hey, what the heck, I might make both!
Like many people I have my favourite ‘go to’ recipe books, and Pomegranates & Artichokes is fast becoming one of those books for me. I have really enjoyed trying out the recipes highlighted above, but there are so many more I am excited to try. These include sweet-sour meatballs from Aleppo and baklava beyond borders.
As I usually just blog about fiction books, reviewing and blogging about a recipe book is a bit of a departure for me. However when I received the email inviting my to the blog tour of Pomegranates & Artichokes I was desperate to be involved as the book looked so beautiful and enticing. Full of warmth and personal memories as well as delicious recipes, I am so pleased I got the chance to be involved as this is a book I’ll be going back to time and time again.
Thank you Anne Cater for my blog tour invitation. To follow the rest of the blog tour, please see below.