I love cookbooks. I love reading them, using them, and writing about them. So it only seems natural that cookbook reviews are starting to become a portion of what this blog does. In many cases I purchase the book out of my own interest, in some cases the publisher contacts me–but in a select few cases, I abandon good etiquette and beg to review the book. This is one of those times.
I forget why I stumbled on Silk Road Gourmet one night surfing the web, but at any rate I did and was instantly intrigued. I quickly realized that as cool as Laura Kelley’s website is, what I really wanted was a chance to peruse was her book, The Silk Road Gourmet: Volume One: Western and Southern Asia. Then I stumbled on a comment left by someone else in the media requesting a review copy. I thought well, why can’t I? So I did.
Score! I love this book! Now in the interest of a fair review, it may not be for everyone. It’s main drawback is that although the book is really and truly full of yummy recipes, I doubt it would be seen as accessible by everyone. There are few pictures (all black and white), and many of the recipes are devoted in their use of unusual, authentic ingredients–there are a few I even may have to mail order and I have a pretty extensive pantry (sour grape powder, for example). One final, rather nit picky complaint, is that I almost think she should have devoted an entire volume to India. Trying to cover India in one chapter out of many chapters in a book just seems somehow wrong to me. Granted, Kelley addresses this fact (their huge and varied regions leading to huge and varied cuisines), but given the strength of Kelley’s scholarship, I for one would have been interested to see her tackle India in more depth.
Which leads me to the positives. The first is the scholarship of the book–which is an odd word to apply to a cookbook I grant you, but for anyone truly interested in the food of these regions, this book is absolutely fascinating in its explorations of the patterns and trends that various cultures exposed to or involved in the Silk Road trade had and have in common. This is one of those cookbooks I am actively reading, not just browsing-reading.
The second and most important positive? The food rocks. If you like Middle Eastern food or Indian food then you will find recipes to enjoy in this book. And as long as you can find the ingredients, the recipes are not particularly complex or labor intensive. I made 2 dishes for one meal–and as you guys may have noticed I frequently prefer one pot meals for their ease of preparation–and juggling the 2 dishes was not difficult or overwhelming at all. And the result? It was one of those nights where all you heard at my table was “Mmmmm” “Oh man, mmmm…” and “Wow this is so good…..”
And if you’re wondering–yes I want volume 2, as soon as it comes out!
For those wondering about my current dairy status, well, I made this dish before the dairy got booted and let’s just say I am trying not to think about it as I type the recipe up…. Some notes about my changes: I used pork tenderloin–probably heretical I realize, but it is what I had in my freezer and it makes a great chicken sub. I used Greek yogurt instead of chaka, because as far as I could tell from my researching Greek yogurt is pretty much the same thing, a drained yogurt. I also marinated my meat in the fridge, as I could just not bring myself to leave the meat at room temperature, especially since I like my pork juicy and pinkish in the center.
- 2 pork tenderloins, silver skin removed (or you can use 2-3 chicken breasts, as the original recipe calls for)
- 1 T grated ginger
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (she calls for chaka, which is drained yogurt)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 t salt
- ½ t black peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 1 t black cumin seeds
- ½ t cinnamon
- 1 large pinch saffron
- 2 T lime juice
- to taste, for garnish thinly sliced onion rings
- to taste, for garnish chopped mint
- to taste, for garnish lemon or lime wedges
- Roast the black cumin seeds in a tiny amount of oil, maybe ½ teaspoon. As they become fragrant, remove them from the heat and dump them in a spice grinder, but leave them to cool. When they are cool, add the black peppercorns and cloves and grind them all together. Set aside.
- Pierce the pork tenderloin in several places with a fork or knife. Place in a ziploc bag.
- Whisk together the ginger, garlic, yogurt, egg, salt, cinnamon, saffron, lime juice and the ground spice mixture. Pour this into the bag with the pork tenderloin. Leave in the fridge (actually Kelley says room temperature but I just couldn't do it) to marinate for at least 3 hours, all day is even better. Occasionally turn and massage the bag to really get the marinade into the meat.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the pork with its marinade into an oven-proof baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pork registers 145 F. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with onion slices, mint leaves and lemon or lime wedges.
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 3 T unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 3 T chopped fresh mint
- 2 medium lemons, zested and juiced
- ½ t ground coriander
- 1 t salt
- 2 cups water
- Heat the butter in a saucepan and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until it softened and begins to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and red bell pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Mix in the mint. Then add the zest and juice of the lemon, as well as the coriander, and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the rice and the salt and cook the rice, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the rice is starting to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Let it cook like this for 15-20 minutes, or until done. I had some extra liquid in my pan which I attributed to using a nonstick pot, so I boiled it off at the very end.
Almost forgot the fine print: I received no compensation for this review although I did receive the book. These thoughts are my own, etc. Affiliate links were used to link to items being discussed.