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Saudi Feast: Flavours and Recipies

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by Anissa Helou
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We are enormously partial to anything which Anissa Helou has written, including her magisterial Feast: Food of the Islamic World.

For this collection, Helou worked with the Culinary Arts Commission of Saudi Arabia to standardize traditional and contemporary recipes collected from cooks in the Kingdom, bringing an experienced cookbook writer’s hand to the preservation of foodways.

The recipes are organized by major ingredient. Rice, lamb, dates, and wheat seem predictable, but cardamom also gets its own chapter, revealing its centrality to Saudi ideas of generosity and hospitality. Each recipe is preceded by a full-page description of the finished dish that touches on its regionality, etymology, and religious and social significance, among other factors.

Labania, a thickened milk confection, we learn, is served year-round but has a special role in breaking the fast on the first day of Eid al-Fitr observation. Al-’ulawi soup is made from a tough green wheat harvested near Medina; it is so beloved that poets have celebrated it. Aish abou lahem is an open-face meat pie seasoned with tahini and leeks that comes from Mecca. It was once a household product but has now become largely a bakery item.

This is a careful and revealing book, and the fact that it is marked as Volume 1 makes us hope for future volumes, though we do not have any definitive information about when or if they will appear.

Cloth-bound hardcover. Color photographs throughout

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