When Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons came out, there was a lot of talk about Diana Henry being the new Claudia Roden. After all, there was an author that was passionate about the new trend for Middle Eastern dishes. Well, having read Roast Figs Sugar Snow, Diana Henry has her own unique style, independent of any other author's shadow. The book is not a cheap imitator, but is, instead, a personal journey that reveals the vast range of favours and dishes from countries that have been influenced by middle eastern cookery techniques.
When I first read the book, my initial thoughts turned to my wife, Sarah, for I see similarities with Sarah's discovery of South East Asian ingredients just after we were married and Diana's discovery of Middle Eastern ingredients when she first moved to London. The descriptions that Diana gives about the way ingredients are used in such a different way captures the way we discover new dishes in such an elegant way. To Europeans and their descendants, the use of parsley or mint with such abandon is initial strange, but once you have tasted it, you wonder why such recipes are not more common place. It is as if Diana Henry has stated the obvious.
The book is presented in twelve chapters, starting with The Spice Trail, about cardamom, chilli, cinnamon,cumin, ginger, coriander, pimentón and saffron. Next we have Fragrance Of The Earth with lavender, rosemary, thyme and oregano as the main ingredients. Then on to A Bowl Of Fresh Herbs, parsley, coriander, dill, basil and mint. The other chapters are Sweet Cloves and Liquid Gold, garlic, olives and olive oil; The Sweet And The Sour, honey and vinegar; Of Sea And Salt anchovies, bottarga and salt cod; Plundering The Store, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and dried fruits; Fruits Of Longing, figs, quinces, pomegranates and dates; Curds And Whay, yoghurt, feta and ricotta; Food From The Heart, Flatbreads; Pith And Skin, oranges and lemons; and finally Heaven Scent, flowers and flower waters.
The thing I love about Crazy Water, Pickled Lemon is the way Diana introduces each chapter. It is a delight to read the two or three pages that she has devoted to each chapter. They set the stage, introduce the ingredients in their own right and fill the reader with anticipation to discover the dishes within. As to the dishes I allude to, well they are as you hope for, with exotic recipes like: Harissa-marinated Lamb with Spiced Mash and Cinnamon Onions, Greek Herb Pilaf with Prawns and Feta, Pearl Divers' Rice and Lamb and Orange Khoresh. As should be apparent there are some wonderfully tasting dishes for you to try in this lovely book.