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"Saha" by Greg and Lucy Malouf


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The Maloufs should be congratulated for many reasons, not least of all, their contributions to Melbourne's food culture. But I'd like to congratulate them on taking a risk with their new cookbook. They've already had two successful cookbooks, and the easiest and most low risk thing for them to have done would have been to play it safe and just present us with another collection of recipes. After all, playing safe has worked very well for the likes of Bill Granger and Jill Dupleix where one of their cookbooks looks and feels the same as any of the others that they've written. Their third cookbook, "Saha", falls into what I think is the hardest type of book to do - the cookbook/travelogue. Not only do the recipes have to be spot on, but the travel writing has to be worth reading, and the photography has to tie everything together. To my mind, only Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid have been able to master this type of book. Greg and Lucy Malouf's effort matches that of the Alford/Duguid team.

The cookbook covers their travels through Lebanon and Syria. There are seventeen chapter, each one opening with Lucy Malouf's writings about a place they visited, the people they met, and the food they encountered. Following that, there are recipes covering a given area of food, for instance, soups, mezze dips, meat mezze, dairy, savoury pastries, and so on.

Lucy Malouf's writing is a joy. She achieves a wonderful balance of history, how it relates to the present, the people, the food, and how it affected them as people. She is not afraid to put in their own personal opinions about the local politics, although sometimes, a degree of parochialism creeps in whenever they feel Lebanon does something better than anyone else. Overall though, you do get a deep insight into their experiences, and like all good writers, she leaves you wanting to start the next chapter.

The recipes are Greg Malouf's domain. He often starts off each recipe with a very brief introduction, writing about some aspect of the recipe, it's history, a serving suggestion, or sharing his joy about the flavours of the dish. I think all the recipes fall into the home cooking field, so whilst the ingredients lists may appear long, the techniques shouldn't be beyond anyone. I've already made mental notes on which dishes I'll be trying soon.

Finally, there is Matt Harvey's photograpy. His work is the photo essay that works parallel to the Malouf's words, and binds the whole work together. Not only does he use one photograph to show a given thing, he'll also use a series of photographs to show a process (the making of an arus bi labneh) and a series of photographs to show different aspects of a person, place or thing (as with the butchers of ballbeck). This high standard is also evident in his pictures that accompany the recipes.

This is a superb cookbook and travelogue. As I wrote earlier, these types of books are very hard to do well, but the Maloufs have done it. It's well worth the $69.95 retail price.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Totally agree with you Shin, we have seen Elizabeth David's book which combined travelling and recipe journals (without photos), I tend to treat them like reading a story book with their easy to handle size. With Saha, a stunning book by the way, is like a big heavy chunky coffee table book with beautiful sensuous black and white and colour photos, full of recipes that make me want to head straight to the kitchen to try. can't wait to try the barazak, been buying a lot of these short sesame and pistachio biscuits from Sydney Road, totally addictive.

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So I take it that the next book will be titled "Ra" seeing as they only called it "Saha" this time 'round...

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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  • 2 weeks later...
It's well worth the $69.95 retail price.

Ok, that freaked me out.

Amazon has the book priced at $10.17 (USD). Much better. Although that sounds too good to be true for a 352 page hardback.

Unfortunately, it doesn't get released in the US until September 1, 2006.

Amazon.co.uk doesn't even list the book. I wonder why.

Well, it's on my wishlist and I'm just going to be patient. Unless I wrangle a trip to Australia before then.

Thanks for the review.

- Kim

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. - Carl Sagan

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It's well worth the $69.95 retail price.

Ok, that freaked me out.

Amazon has the book priced at $10.17 (USD). Much better. Although that sounds too good to be true for a 352 page hardback.

$USD10.17???? Assuming postage of about $USD10.00 to Australia and an exchange rate of $AUS 1.00 = $USD 0.75, then the book would $AUS 26.90.

I know that for many cookbooks, it's between 10 to 20% cheaper to buy them from Amazon than from an Australian bookshop, but this price difference is too good to be true.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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It's well worth the $69.95 retail price.

Ok, that freaked me out.

Amazon has the book priced at $10.17 (USD). Much better. Although that sounds too good to be true for a 352 page hardback.

$USD10.17???? Assuming postage of about $USD10.00 to Australia and an exchange rate of $AUS 1.00 = $USD 0.75, then the book would $AUS 26.90.

I know that for many cookbooks, it's between 10 to 20% cheaper to buy them from Amazon than from an Australian bookshop, but this price difference is too good to be true.

List price is shown as $14.95. It has to be a mistake.

If I'm doing my math correctly, $AUS 69.95 is $USD 52.46. Ouch! I don't think I've ever spent that much money on a book. And you say it's worth it. I am definitely intrigued. Can you share a recipe?

- Kim

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. - Carl Sagan

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If I'm doing my math correctly, $AUS 69.95 is $USD 52.46. Ouch! I don't think I've ever spent that much money on a book. And you say it's worth it. I am definitely intrigued. Can you share a recipe?

Books (or for that matter, CDs and DVDs) in Australia tend to be expensive. For instance, the Alford/Duguid and Thomas Keller books cost around $AUD100 (or approximately $US75). A couple of years ago, they were $AUD120 ($US92).

Anyway, I'll post up a recipe in the next few days. Is there anything in particular (poultry, meat, pastries etc.?) that you want a recipe for?

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Books (or for that matter, CDs and DVDs) in Australia tend to be expensive.  For instance, the Alford/Duguid and Thomas Keller books cost around $AUD100 (or approximately $US75).  A couple of years ago, they were $AUD120 ($US92).

Have to disagree about some of that, Shinboners. Low-volume (high price) imported books are the ones that really show a difference, and it's regrettable but understandable, given the import costs. Many other books, and in my experience especially UK books, seem to be fairly similar at RRP. What AU lacks is the might of something like Amazon to press prices - a win for consumers, or a distortion of the market and destruction of the local booktrade? Tough one.

And CDs in AU can hardly be called expensive - they're generally cheaper than anywhere in Europe or the US (with the exception of some deep-discounted items on, eg, Amazon).

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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Have to disagree about some of that, Shinboners. Low-volume (high price) imported books are the ones that really show a difference, and it's regrettable but understandable, given the import costs. Many other books, and in my experience especially UK books, seem to be fairly similar at RRP. What AU lacks is the might of something like Amazon to press prices - a win for consumers, or a distortion of the market and destruction of the local booktrade? Tough one.

Yeah, that's a fair point with the low volume leading to a high price on books.

It is a hard decision on where to buy books. Generally, I'll buy locally if there isn't a great price gap. But I've found that in the past few years, I've bought most of my overseas produced books from Amazon. For me, the pricing difference is too great to ignore. For instance, the other week, I received a package containing "Charcuterie", "Mangoes and Currey Leaves", and "The Cooking of South West France". All up, it'll cost me around $135. I think Charcuterie will retail here for around $50, the 2nd book is for sale at $100, and I saw the re-issued Wolfert book for $57.....$207 vs $135.

On UK books, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The new River Cottage book is retailing here for $65. I know I can get it from Amazon UK (including postage) for around $50. But I bought the "Roast Chicken And Other Stories" book here for $35, which was slightly cheaper than buying it from Amazon UK.

And CDs in AU can hardly be called expensive - they're generally cheaper than anywhere in Europe or the US (with the exception of some deep-discounted items on, eg, Amazon).

CDs are another tricky one for me. Most of the stuff I buy doesn't get a general release here. Many are "imports" only....or if they ever get released, there's sometimes a 6 month gap between an overseas release and a local one.

In terms of general music, there wouldn't be that much difference, especially if you shop at places like JB Hi-Fi.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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If I'm doing my math correctly, $AUS 69.95 is $USD 52.46. Ouch! I don't think I've ever spent that much money on a book. And you say it's worth it. I am definitely intrigued. Can you share a recipe?

Books (or for that matter, CDs and DVDs) in Australia tend to be expensive. For instance, the Alford/Duguid and Thomas Keller books cost around $AUD100 (or approximately $US75). A couple of years ago, they were $AUD120 ($US92).

Anyway, I'll post up a recipe in the next few days. Is there anything in particular (poultry, meat, pastries etc.?) that you want a recipe for?

My husband says he hates chicken but if pressed, he would have to admit that many of his favorite dishes do indeed feature chicken. So, a poultry recipe would be nice.

I found a writeup on Saha that mentioned a few recipes. Potato kibbeh stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and pine nuts sounds really good. The only recipe I've seen for kibbeh calls for lamb. I might make that if you don't post the recipe as I like lamb. I've never had bulgar and I'm always interested in trying new ingredients.

Quails in fragrant rice with dates, ginger and pearl onions also sounds good. I have some quail (farm raised so I don't have high expections that they will have a lot of flavor) in the freezer and need to find something to do with them.

Or how about fassoula? I've been wanting to buy beans from Rancho Gordo and this would give me a reason to. I'm not sure if there's a recipe in the book but the author does mention it in an article about his travels prior to writing the book.

The more I read about this book the more I want it. Home cooking. Nothing could be better.

Saha (a blessing or toast to good health)

- Kim

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. - Carl Sagan

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Quails in fragrant rice with dates, ginger and pearl onions also sounds good. I have some quail (farm raised so I don't have high expections that they will have a lot of flavor) in the freezer and need to find something to do with them.

This one will do.

Fragrant rice:

1 fl oz olive oil

2 oz dried vermecelli noodles

14 oz medium grain rice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

22 fl oz chicken stock

8 x 7 oz quail, cut into quarters

salt and pepper

2 fl oz olive oil

1 leek, white part only, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 thumb fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

10 pearl onions, peeled and halved

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

18 fl oz chicken stock

1 tomato, seeded and diced

2 dates, seeded and diced

juice of 1 lemon

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Use your hands to roughly break the vermecelli noodles into the hot oil. Stir vigorously, until the yellow threads deepen to golden brown. Add the rice to the pan and stir so the grains are well coated with oil. Add the spices and stock and bring to the boil. Cover and turn down the heat. Cook for 18 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the quail. Trim them of their necks and wing tips then split each bird in half down the backbone and neatly slice out the breastplate in the middle. Season lightly. Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan, then drop in the quail pieces. Turn them around quickly in the oil until they colour, then take them out of the pan and putthem to one side while you make the sauce.

Put the leek, garlic, ginger and onions into the same pan and saute for a few minutes until the start to soften. Add the spices and stock and stir everything together well. Cover the pan and simmer gently until the pearl onions are tender and everything has deepened to a golden yellow.

Return the quail pieces to the pan with teh tomato and dates and season with salt and pepper. Bring the pan back to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the quail pieces have cooked through - it will only take a few minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice.

To serve, pile the rice onto a large serving platter and arrange the quail pieces on top. Spoon the sauce and vegetables over and around. Accompany with plenty of yoghurt.

Serves 4.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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This one will do.

It does indeed. Thank you very much.

I have never put vermicelli in rice. And I'm interested to see how that changes the mouthfeel.

I'll be making this over the holidays. Looking forward to it.

- Kim

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. - Carl Sagan

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Have to disagree about some of that, Shinboners. Low-volume (high price) imported books are the ones that really show a difference, and it's regrettable but understandable, given the import costs. Many other books, and in my experience especially UK books, seem to be fairly similar at RRP. What AU lacks is the might of something like Amazon to press prices - a win for consumers, or a distortion of the market and destruction of the local booktrade? Tough one.

Yeah, that's a fair point with the low volume leading to a high price on books.

It is a hard decision on where to buy books. Generally, I'll buy locally if there isn't a great price gap. But I've found that in the past few years, I've bought most of my overseas produced books from Amazon. For me, the pricing difference is too great to ignore. For instance, the other week, I received a package containing "Charcuterie", "Mangoes and Currey Leaves", and "The Cooking of South West France". All up, it'll cost me around $135. I think Charcuterie will retail here for around $50, the 2nd book is for sale at $100, and I saw the re-issued Wolfert book for $57.....$207 vs $135.

On UK books, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The new River Cottage book is retailing here for $65. I know I can get it from Amazon UK (including postage) for around $50. But I bought the "Roast Chicken And Other Stories" book here for $35, which was slightly cheaper than buying it from Amazon UK.

And CDs in AU can hardly be called expensive - they're generally cheaper than anywhere in Europe or the US (with the exception of some deep-discounted items on, eg, Amazon).

CDs are another tricky one for me. Most of the stuff I buy doesn't get a general release here. Many are "imports" only....or if they ever get released, there's sometimes a 6 month gap between an overseas release and a local one.

In terms of general music, there wouldn't be that much difference, especially if you shop at places like JB Hi-Fi.

This is all very nice - but lets bear in mind a couple of things, putting aside any nationalistic debate about retaining sales in Australia -

First - Amazon has only just turned a 'profit' after 10 years in circumstances where they continue to annually çhange'the accounting rules to redefine profit. Equally Borders are yet to establish a profit of any significance after almost 10 years of their presence here.

Second, in an amazingly unfair situation, Amazon don't pay local taxes on sales to Australia - although every other US book retailer and wholesaler I know of does - yet Amazon pay local state taxes in the US

Third, if you continue to spend direct - you may save money in the short term but what are the options in the long term? - no local resellers of books, no local knowledge, no local culture, a market dominated by one or two players who may no longer offer the 'deep discounts' they used to buy your market share - because they don't have to. The whole point of dominating a market is to enable you to set the price....

Finally, what price the discount on the author's royalties or the incentive for a publisher? Deep discounting is neither respectful of artistic input nor capable of sustaining artistic or publishing commitment. The increasing commoditisation of intellectual creativity is fundamentally unsustainable

Yes I've got a barrow to push - but a book like SAHA is not worth an hour's labour - its worth more - equally it should be worth more than the price of a meal - it sustains you longer....

What you pay for - you tend to value...like all things in life

:angry:

"The purpose of a cookery book is one & unmistakable. Its object can conceivably be no other than to increase the happiness of mankind - Joseph Conrad"

www.booksforcooks.com.au

new & old books about wine, food & the culinary arts bought & sold

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Third, if you continue to spend direct - you may save money in the short term but what are the options in the long term? - no local resellers of books, no local knowledge, no local culture,

{snip}

Finally, what price the discount on the author's royalties or the incentive for a publisher?  Deep discounting  is neither respectful of artistic input nor capable of sustaining artistic or publishing commitment.  The increasing commoditisation of intellectual creativity is fundamentally unsustainable

Hear, hear! Although recent history indicates that the "unsustainable" can endure :sad::sad:

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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First - Amazon has only just turned a 'profit' after 10 years in circumstances where they continue to annually çhange'the accounting rules to redefine profit.  Equally Borders are yet to establish a profit of any significance after almost 10 years of their presence here. 

Second, in an amazingly unfair situation, Amazon don't pay local taxes on sales to Australia - although every other US book retailer and wholesaler I know of does  - yet Amazon pay local state taxes in the US

Yes, it's unfair, but I doubt that either of these would register on the radar of most consumers.

Third, if you continue to spend direct - you may save money in the short term but what are the options in the long term? - no local resellers of books, no local knowledge, no local culture,  a market dominated by one or two players who may no longer offer the 'deep discounts' they used to buy your market share - because they don't have to.  The whole point of dominating a market is to enable you to set the price....

I don't disagree with any of that. If I earned more money, I'd be happy to buy my books exlcusively from local bookshops for the reasons you posted. But since I don't earn enough money to make that happen, I have to make choices. That $70 I saved by buying from Amazon means that I can now go out to dinner at a nice restaurant, or put that money into my beloved football club, or if I'm really sensible about it, help reduce the mortgage. In regards to bookshops, restaurants, and the footy club, I have to make a choice between which "local cutures" I wish to support and to what extent. And with the third option on what to do with the $70, I doubt any bookshop (or restaurant or footy club) is going to come to my aid if I happen to miss out on a mortgage payment.

Finally, what price the discount on the author's royalties or the incentive for a publisher?  Deep discounting  is neither respectful of artistic input nor capable of sustaining artistic or publishing commitment.  The increasing commoditisation of intellectual creativity is fundamentally unsustainable

You could argue the reverse and say that deep discounting makes the very same artistic efforts accessible to more people.

Yes I've got a barrow to push - but a book like SAHA is not worth an hour's labour - its worth more - equally it should be worth more than the price of a meal - it sustains you longer....

What you pay for - you tend to value...like all things in life

:angry:

So, are you saying that if one person pays $70 for Saha, they will value it more than someone who pays only $50? And would the person paying $50 value the book more than someone who pays $10 for it secondhand at a garage sale? Or how about the person who gets it as a gift, and thus, hasn't paid anything for it?

Ultimately, people value things for what they are, not due to what they paid for it.

Edited by Shinboners (log)
Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Finally, what price the discount on the author's royalties or the incentive for a publisher?  Deep discounting  is neither respectful of artistic input nor capable of sustaining artistic or publishing commitment.  The increasing commoditisation of intellectual creativity is fundamentally unsustainable

You could argue the reverse and say that deep discounting makes the very same artistic efforts accessible to more people.

Providing consumers with access to something which is deeply discounted usually provides little benefit to anyone other than the consumer (and that only in the short-/medium-term). The end result is that the creator receives less financial benefit and is thus deprived of the means to keep producing OR people become less willing to buy books at a price which sustains (1) the retailer, (2) the publishing house, and (3) the author (not to mention some additional intermediaries).

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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Back to the cooking for a moment, I did the crunchy sesame-pistachio biscuits from Saha tonight. My baking skills are somewhat ropey, so keep this in mind. I did two batches. The first was baked according to the 10-12 minutes as stated in the recipe. The vanilla flavouring was strong, but it dominated the flavour of the sesame seeds and pistachio nuts. And the biscuits were light, but not really that crunchy. The second batch was baked for 20 minutes (well, that's how long it took to get to golden brown). The vanilla, pistachio, and sesame seed flavours were much better balanced, and the biscuits were nice and crunchy.

And as Dim Sim said, these things are very addictive!

Kim D, how did you go with the quail recipe?

Edited by Shinboners (log)
Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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Kim D, how did you go with the quail recipe?

Thanks for asking...

The plan is to make it this weekend. Didn't I say I was going to make it over the holidays? :raz: Please don't say the holidays are already here because I'm not ready for them yet! :laugh:

- Kim

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. - Carl Sagan

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I have the $14 Saha on order (I'm sure someone is going to get in some hot water over that!) but who knows when that will finally ship. Of the other two books, do you have a preference? Thanks.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

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I did the crunchy sesame-pistachio biscuits from Saha tonight.  My baking skills are somewhat ropey, so keep this in mind.  I did two batches.  The first was baked according to the 10-12 minutes as stated in the recipe.  The vanilla flavouring was strong, but it dominated the flavour of the sesame seeds and pistachio nuts.  And the biscuits were light, but not really that crunchy.  The second batch was baked for 20 minutes (well, that's how long it took to get to golden brown).  The vanilla, pistachio, and sesame seed flavours were much better balanced, and the biscuits were nice and crunchy.

And as Dim Sim said, these things are very addictive!

Hi shin, I had a whole day of baking yesterday, made a loaf of sourdough, some scones for the street christmas, I thought I might squeeze in the sesame and pisstchio biscuits. I did a double batch, I have to baked them in 2 ovenloads, the first ones were nice and short, a bit brown on the edges on some of them (non convection oven ) , I baked the second load at a slightly shorter time, and took them out and removed them onto a cooling rack and back in the cooling oven to dry out the centre a bit, I am happy to say with good result. I don't know what the people in Sydney Rd. does to the biscuits, they are nicer. more crisp and more flavour, I suppose they make theirs thinner, therefore the nut to biscuit ratio is greater. overall I am happy with the result.

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Of the other two books, do you have a preference? Thanks.

I'd go for Arabesque ahead of Moorish.

The book's chapters are set out according to ingredients - Almonds, Apricots, Artichokes etc. 43 ingredients/chapters in all plus acknowledgements, introduction, cooking notes, bibliography, and index. Each chapter opens with a discussion on the ingredient with sections on selection and storage and how the ingredient should be used. Then you get four to six recipes featuring the ingredient. At the end of the chapter, the ingredient is cross referenced to other recipes in other chapters. There are a few colour photographs through the book on a few of the dishes.

Moorish is a more traditional cookbook. It has chapters on soups, salads, snacks, poultry etc. with around a dozen recipes for each chapter. There are colour photographs of some of the dishes.

I've used Arabesque more than Moorish. Personally, I think that if the Maloufs were based in the United States, they'd be as revered as Wolfert and Roden for their work on Middle Eastern food.

Daniel Chan aka "Shinboners"
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