What’s the USP? An accessible introduction to Lebanese cuisine with an element of travelogue thrown in for good measure.
Who is the author? John Gregory-Smith is a chef, presenter and author specialising in Middle Eastern and North African food. He has written four other cookbooks: Orange Blossom and Honey, Turkish Delights, Mighty Spice Express and Mighty Spice Cookbook.
His food and travel journalism has appeared in numerous publications including Condé Nast Traveller and the Evening Standard.
What does it look like? The book is full of vibrant, colourful dishes and peppered with some gorgeous images of the coasts, mountains and valleys that make up the Lebanese landscape.
Is it good bedtime reading? There’s a four page introduction and well written and interesting recipe introductions, but this is however primarily a recipe book, and none the worse for it.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? You may not be able to get the odd thing like Aleppo pepper, Arabic cucumber, brined vine leaves or moghrabieh (Lebanese couscous) from the supermarket, but a swift google will sort you out.
What’s the faff factor? Some of the recipes require forward planning to prepare marinades and there are a few with long ingredients lists, but mostly the dishes are straightforward and relatively simple to cook.
How often will I cook from the book? Once you’re stocked up on baharat, za’atar, sumac and pomegranate molasses, the recipes are straightforward, varied and delicious enough that Saffron in the Souks could easily become a go-to book for when you want a mid-week meal with a bit of zing or when you’ve got a crowd to feed.
How annoyingly vague are the recipes? ‘Handfuls’ and ‘bunches’ of herbs abound, but that’s partly down to the style of the cuisine. Aside from that, you should have no worries.
Killer recipes? Garlic chicken wings with coriander and pistachio pesto; sticky pomegranate sujuk; crispy za’atar calamari; roasted carrots with tahini and black sesame seeds; mighty medina falafel sandwich; kebab king chicken shawarma.
What will I love? The recipe introductions are much more than just serving suggestions and offer insights into Lebanese cuisine and anecdotes from Gregory-Smith’s travels.
What won’t I like? The okra recipes. No one likes okra do they? (You’re quite safe, there’s only two of them).
Should I buy it? Gregory-Smith has got some strong competition in the Middle Eastern recipe book market, going head to head with Ottolenghi, but if you are a fan of the cuisine and looking for new ideas or a novice in need of a guiding hand, then this is worth purchasing.
Suitable for: Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 stars
Buy this book
Saffron in the Souks: Vibrant recipes from the heart of Lebanon
£25, Kyle Books