Sabrina Gayhour described herself as “… not a chef, I’m the dorky events girl who liked food.” She’s proof that sometimes being made redundant can be the best thing that happens to you. I wonder, if she’d still been in events marketing, if she would’ve dug into her Persian heritage and set up her very successful, Sabrina’s Kitchen Supper Club? Or produced a wonderful cookery book, Persiana, full of glorious Middle Eastern flavours?
Usually when I review a cookery book, I cook several of the recipes first. I want to know how the flavours work, are the ingredients easy to get hold of? Would I want to serve the dishes to friends, either formally or for a casual supper? Horizon Bookshop’s almost monthly Literary Lunch and meet the author, was replaced this month with a Literay Tasting and a chance to hear Sabrina Gayhour talk about the influences that went into her book. Fantastic to be able to taste the recipes before buying them.
The tasting began with hummus, just the right balance of lemon juice, tahini and olive oil made this a delicious starter and as a sharing dish, perfect to break the ice at a table of people who didn’t know each other. This was followed by Kofte, juicy minced lamb, mixed with parsley, chilli flakes to give a kick and plenty of garlic. Between each tasting plate, Sabrina talked about food in Middle Eastern and British homes, now that we have the responsibilities of jobs, childcare, school runs and having to produce good food on little time. Her attitude to her recipes is enormously pragmatic, despite being Middle Eastern all the ingredients can be bought in major supermarkets and she sees the recipes as a guideline. “If you don’t like a spice, ditch it. Substitute it for another you do. I positively encourage it.”
As the owner of 650 cookery books, she knows that some only get pulled from the shelves for one off dinner parties, she entreated us to “use it….I want it covered in batter, scatter, matter” Many of my favourite recipe books look just like that and with pencil notes down the sides of the pages too
Sabrina explained that Persian/Iranian food isn’t like Mezze, it’s not small amounts of food constantly being refreshed with something new. But a “Big blanket service of a ton of food.” We were, however being served Mezze style and next came a lemony chicken dish, sweet with onions, mild from the yogurt and with a slight honey flavour from the saffron, which together with the turmeric gives the dish an amazingly vibrant sunshine yellow colour.
After lovely middle eastern inspired root vegetable ‘rostis’ with a gorgeous date and tamarind dip (which I’ll be serving constantly until the Glams yell STOP! ) we had a dessert. As desserts aren’t a part of a Persian meal, this section of the book has Middle Eastern inspired recipes such as Strawberry And Pineapple Carpaccio With Basil And Mint Sugars or Pistachio, Honey And Orange Blossom Ice Cream. We had spiced carrot, pistachio and almond cake with a rosewater cream. This modest looking cake was packed with flavour and wonderfully moist with just a hint of rose in the cream. This sounds like the miracle cake, you can sub the cinnamon for a spice of your choice or change the pistachios for pecans, or macadamias or whatever you like, add orange or lemon. I’m certainly going to be batter splattering this page.
Thanks Sabrina and Horizon Bookshop for a glorious interactive lunch full of foodie talk.
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