The cuisine that’s the dominating trend in London is Middle Eastern. They’re packing them in at The Palomar, Arabica, Honey & Co and Alan Yau (of Wagamama fame) is opening a Turkish flatbread joint. But you can savour the delights of this most generous and delicious of themes with three new books from authors who were (arguably) spearheading the trend.
Honey & Co: Food from the Middle East, by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (£25, Salt Yard Books) is the first book by the husband-and-wife duo who run a tiny restaurant in Fitzrovia, central London. It’s always packed – one flick through this book and you’ll see why. The friendly yet knowledgeable vibe of the restaurant glows from the pages too. It’s packed with mouthwatering recipes: pickles, salads, slow-cooked stews and show-stopping puds. This is a book to treasure.
Meanwhile Sabrina Ghayour shows her pedigree at events all over the place. The arrival of her first book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & Beyond (£25, Mitchell Beazley), is a boon to those who long to serve their guests bountiful dishes of exotic, glamorous, unfamiliar food with a casual “I-just-threw-this-together”. Seared beef with pomegranate and balsamic dressing, spiced root vegetable cakes with tamarind and date sauce .… They’ll be clamouring for more. And this book, unlike some others, has photographs that show the food clearly.
Still bobbing around the same region, Levantine Kitchen (£14.99, Pavilion) is a neat little book by the Hummus Brothers, who run four cafés in London specialising in – well, I don’t need to tell you, do I? Their book, though, goes beyond mashed up chickpeas. There’s nothing outlandish but if you know a newbie who loves the mantra “fingers were made before forks”, they’ll enjoy making their own falafels, wraps, salads and the many different takes on hummus.
Summer, and many people’s minds turn to eating healthily (swimwear = panic). There’s no point in ruing the jacket spuds with cheese and beans you lived on for the winter months. Just get one of these books, sharpen your chopping knife and find a decent greengrocer. First up, The Art of Eating Well, by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley ( £25, Ebury). The sisters’ ambition is to “leave you energised, empowered, slimmer and stronger”. I found the pictures a little unappetising but there’s no arguing with their flavour-packed dishes that eschew gluten, sugar, and bad fats. I’m already eating their summer lime coleslaw all the time, while beetroot and goats’ cheese terrine is amazing.
Diana Henry is someone whose recipes I would trust all day long. Her eighth book, A Change of Appetite: Where Delicious Meets Healthy (£25, Octopus), is a change of direction. It’s focused not on what you can’t eat, but on what you can. Arranged by season and with inspirations from all over the world, Henry’s epiphany is a joy to read. At random, I tried radicchio and red onions on white bean purée and fell in love.
I met Tom Hunt at a food event and he quickly sent me his book, The Natural Cook: Eating the Seasons from Root to Fruit (£20, Quadrille). I’m so pleased he did, or I might have missed this inventive book on how to use every scrap of the fruit and vegetables you buy. He’s an anti-waste activist who happens to create lovely dishes too (tarte tatin with toffee apple peel? Yes please!)
Because I’m an idiot, it took me some time to realise that chilli is not just a blunt instrument. But it’s an ingredient that requires a deft touch. One person who knows a lot is Thomasina Miers (of MasterChef and Wahaca fame), whose new book Chilli Notes (£25, Hodder & Stoughton) has the subtitle “Recipes to warm the heart (not burn the tongue)”, and her take on the humble fruit is terrific – everything from Malaysian-style chicken to roasted pineapple with chilli syrup, via sauces, snacks and soups.
Finally, Social Suppers, by Jason Atherton (£25, Absolute Books). Atherton is opening what feels like a restaurant a week, but he found time to jot down his favourite entertaining recipes inspired by his places around the world, imagining while he was on a plane or in a coffee shop what he’d like to serve his friends and family. It’s a lovely idea. There are some delightful, simple dishes (not every recipe has a picture, but Atherton’s instructions are pretty solid). Here’s to long, sunny days at the dining table.