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Book review: Saraban by Greg & Lucy Malouf

Book review: Saraban by Greg & Lucy Malouf
Greg & Lucy Malouf
Hardie Grant
RRP £30
For their newest book, the authors have turned their attention to Persia- a country whose food culture is hewn with abundance and diversity.
With photography rendered rich with texture, colour and the intricate patterns so inherent to Persian textiles and architecture, 'Saraban' presents a luxurious yet modern picture of the featured dishes. Travel tales are supplemented by shots of people, buildings and landscapes, providing a visual reference for the characters the Maloufs describe with vivid prose.  
Persian food is hearty yet healthy, loaded with flavour and aroma. Herbs feature heavily, used every bit as abundantly as in Vietnamese cuisine. By contrast, though, they're often added to long-cooked stews and egg dishes, resulting in deep, rich, elusive flavours that linger in the mind. Chapters are divided into topics such as 'Staples', 'Sweets' and 'Small Dishes', reflecting the generosity with which Persian food is presented.
Greg's recipes are consistently compelling, displaying a slight avant-garde spin toward traditional Persian recipes. From Barberi breads at breakfast to a Fresh herb stew with lamb and dried lime at dinner, opportunities for use are limitless. Tempting Cardamom-pistachio butter fudge jostles for attention alongside the 'Longest night grazing mix' or the clever Olive, pomegranate and grated walnut salad.  
The Maloufs weave the tale of a relatively unknown cuisine with verve, revealing elements of the country's complex history. The book's design includes gold cut-outs dividing chapters and a dust jacket which unfolds to reveal beautifully patterned paper in warm earth tones.
When a book delivers such wealth, it's difficult to categorise. 'Saraban' could equally take pride of place on the coffee table, the kitchen shelf or bedside.
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12 February 2011
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