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The Silk Road Gourmet: Volume One: Western and Southern Asia Paperback – Jul 13 2009
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My only real complaint is that this book desperately needs an editor. None of the recipes say how many people they serve. The format makes it difficult to find the sub-recipes like the sauces (Instead of the author's name and book title at the top of the pages, I think we'd be better served by having the country and food section listed, e.g. Afghanistan and Meat Dishes, so you can keep track while flipping between recipes, which is often called for. In fact, I made this change to my own copy, and it helped immensely.) Some of the instructions are rather vague or inconsistent and could be cleaned up, but I did muddle through to excellent results.
The index is atrocious; it is almost completely worthless.
If my review sounds harsh, let me say that I really like this cookbook, and can't wait to try volumes 2 & 3 when they come out. However, I sincerely hope the author hires an editor for the following books, preferably someone familiar with cookbooks.
However, several folks encountered problems with recipes that listed ingredients that didn't show up in the instructions (among them, the lemon meatballs -- there was a cup of water listed that was still sitting on the counter when the cook was finished), and one recipe for a dough (apricot crescents) where something was way off (the "dough" you are supposed to knead was more like pancake batter).
We had a number of quibbles about the book's editing, its organization, and the imperfect indexing, we questioned whether the spicing was authentic (foods we think of as very hot, like Vindaloo, were quite mild) and we would have liked more context for the recipes -- the head notes are more about the recipe itself than about how it fits into the culture it represents. But bottom line is, the food tasted great and was easy to prepare. I'd recommend the book, but for experienced cooks who know enough to work around any problems encountered.
As to the subject matter: it's fascinating. This is a part of the world I have never visited, and the cuisine is largely unknown outside the area. I live in Japan, so some of the ingredients are a little tricky to find, but happily, there are more and more Indians coming to work in Japan, which makes spices much easier to discover in Japanese stores than, say, ten years ago.
The recipes are clearly explained, with enough "front matter" to give you a clear idea of whether you want to try the recipe or not. For me, measuring in "cups" is very alien (in the UK, we always used grams or pounds and ounces for dry weight or cc or pints for liquid measure). I am still not totally clear what a "cup" means - but I approximate to 200cc, and it seems to work - these are not haute cuisine recipes, anyway. It would be nice to see how many servings are expected from the recipes, as well.
The real joy of the book, though, comes in the explanations of the culinary traditions and the histories and cultures of the different nations. More than just a cookbook. Recommended for anyone who wants to explore different styles of cooking and eating.
Cookbooks are about cooking, and The Silk Road Gourmet is a book for cooks. And historians. And ethnologists. But first and foremost, it is a book for people who like exotic aromas in their kitchens and new flavors for their palates.
I found her book in a Smithsonian gift shop, and unlike most new cookbook authors, her stature is growing with time. Tonight I prepared her chicken kebab with Afghan cilantro sauce. Hints of Turkey and Java wafting together in an out-of-the-park meal. It’s not her first dish that found favor with my discriminating better half, herself a powerful West European cook.
Kelly’s love and my joy comes from her simple recipes prepared in short times with ingredients found in most well-stocked pantries. I’m still wandering with her through the central Asian steppes, mountains and seashores of her volume-one gastronomic trek. Laura Kelly offers “mom’s cooking” from multiple cultures reeling from multiple histories.
Just as mystery novels are stories about a ‘place,’ cookbooks are stories about a ‘time.’ Few of them break out of introspection. Kelly’s tale is a silk carpet of spice-science insight warped and woofed into a collection of unforgettable recipes. Encore, please!