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Book review – Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour

The number of cookbooks purporting to reveal the secrets behind the aromatic food of the Middle East has been on the up for some time, as the West continues to whet its appetite for ever-more exciting gastronomic adventures from around the world.

When Persiana, by Iranian-born supper club star Sabrina Ghayour, was set to join their ranks the idea of a new, accessible and interesting tome dedicated to Persian cookery was intriguing to me*.

For this is still a relatively undiscovered food culture in the UK, beyond the independent restaurant scene welcoming Iranian ex-pats by the bucketload and a new casual dining venture called Dindin Kitchen in London.

Peckham shopkeeper Sally Butcher, among others, has made great strides in shining a spotlight on Persian food, but it still deserves a new champion; someone to enlighten the masses to its subtle spicing that's all flavour and no heat.

Persiana

Ghayour is self-taught, rather than having had the skills passed down from generation to generation, which could appear somewhat unusual for a culture in which the myth is that pretty much every woman can cook.

Though it should be noted that, in my experience, many of the men are perfectly capable in the domestic kitchen too, when push comes to shove - or perhaps that's just my family.

I certainly wouldn't like to say that it's Ghayour's self-teachings that have slightly watered down the Persian focus - in fact, it's quite the opposite.

Her hunger for finding out as much as she can about food from Iran and the surrounding regions has clearly set her tastebuds alight and she's keen to share her discoveries through faithful reproductions as well as personal interpretations.

This book makes no claim to be resolutely Iranian, hence the 'a' at the end of its name. Ghayour has taken the influences from the Arab, Turkish, Armenian and Afghani food and cultures that she experienced growing up and created something of a Middle East melting pot.

Persiana demonstrates the vibrancy of Middle Eastern food and would be great for those looking to pick up a few ideas and start experimenting on their own.

* Regular readers of Caterer's cookbook reviews will have recently learned that I'm half Danish - the other half is Persian. Now you know.

Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour (Mitchell Beazley, £25)

If you like this, you may enjoy these:

•Persia in Peckham: Recipes from Persepolis Sally Butcher
•Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes Ariana Bundy
•The New Persian Kitchen Louisa Shafia

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