We love a new cookbook in the bookshop (and get your signed copy here too), although I am the first to howl with outrage at yet another seasonal/local/chef-driven tome. Last week saw the arrival of Nadia Sawalha's first cookbook. Stuffed Vine Leaves Saved My Life - a whimisical, family-oriented meander through the Middle Eastern recipes that formed the culinary backdrop to her childhood.
Dotted with family pictures and suffused with a deep warmth that puts you right into the heart of her extended family, Nadia's recipes range from the traditional to Cheese, coleslaw and crisp sandwiches - whatever takes your fancy.
I've tried a couple so far and loved them. Mussakhan - roasted chicken on a bed of sumac-infused onions and bread - is fabulous with a minty cucumber yoghurt dip and my new breakfast for summer is a take on Zait wa Zaatar, Nadia's father's recipe.
Zait wa Zaatar means Oil with Herbs. You make Zaatar, which you can either buy in any Middle Eastern store or combine dried thyme and marjoram with sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Nadia's recipe then follows her father's precise instructions for the compiling of the ingredients of the breakfast, which include pitta bread, Greek yoghurt (Rachel's is best) or labneh, honey, olive oil and pitta bread.
This morning, in possession of some ripe figs and a loaf of ciabatta (oh the agony of fusion) I put an homage together. One one side of a white plate, put a spoonful of yoghurt and then one on the other side. In between arrange a couple of figs, quartered and roseate. Over one pile of yoghurt drizzle a little honey. In a little dish (for I lacked Zaatar) mix together some extra virgin olive oil, sumac and dried oregano (delicious, although not Zaatar). Bake the ciabatta in the oven until hot and crisp, then serve up with the figs, yoghurt and oil and a pot of sweetened mint tea on the side.